Sony Versus Sigma: Which 50mm f/1.4 Reigns Supreme?

Sony Versus Sigma

When Sony and Sigma launched lenses with practically an identical specs (or not less than practically an identical goal prospects), photographic gear scheduling marked a uncommon alignment. Photographically talking, the concurrent launch of those two related lenses is the equal of a full photo voltaic eclipse—extremely uncommon and in addition superb to see.

The Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 G Master lens and the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG DN Art lens symbolize the top of each corporations’ optical expertise. They’re additionally aimed on the high-end portrait, wedding ceremony, occasion, and video prospects on the lookout for very good picture high quality, quick autofocus, and beneficiant background defocus.

On paper, this contest was a slam dunk for Sigma, with an $850 value versus $1,300 for the Sony, because it boasted not solely a less expensive value but in addition related specs throughout the board. However evaluating merchandise by specs and value alone usually wants to incorporate refined variations between competing merchandise.

For a very long time, my lens third-party lens opinions had a phrase like, “it gives 75 p.c of the efficiency of the producer lens for half the worth.” That distinction stays, however within the comparability of those two lenses, the margin between the 2 has reduced in size.

Some folks put the greenback determine first whereas others purchase producer lenses over third-party lenses, irrespective of the worth distinction.

With the Sigma and the Sony 50mm, the equation turns into nearer to, “the Sigma gives 90% of the efficiency of the Sony lens, however for 65% of the worth.” However there’s a catch, that 10 p.c distinction may be a dealbreaker for a few of the goal prospects.

Head-to-Head Has Modified

Most 50mm wide-aperture lenses are massive and heavy. You can also make a lens transmissive to gentle by making the weather bigger or by making them with extra subtle methods than most lens parts.

When you consider the thick “coke bottle” glasses related to nerds and geeks in exhibits concerning the Nineteen Seventies and Eighties, that’s utilizing the brute drive of utilizing massive chunks of glass to change incoming gentle.


We see fewer of these massive glasses as a result of it’s simpler to make optics utilizing superior manufacturing and engineering to resolve the optical issues these chunky glasses solved.

Sigma’s high-end Artwork lenses have historically been giant, heavy beasts. One technique to make wide-aperture lenses extra inexpensive is to make use of giant lens parts as an alternative of mechanically subtle ones. That’s additionally why the Sigma Artwork lenses have had sluggish autofocus; shifting massive glass requires massive motors, and the heavier the glass, the slower it strikes.

In most opinions of third-party lenses like Sigma, the big sizes and sluggish focusing has been the tradeoff for the lower cost. Most opinions have mentioned how the Artwork lenses are so massive and sluggish that they produce a gorgeous picture.

Sigma 50mm

Most opinions of high-end third-party lenses level out that the producer lenses provide related or higher optical high quality at a a lot smaller dimension and with higher AF however at a better value.

That’s why this new Sony and Sigma head-to-head are so attention-grabbing — Sony’s 50mm is shockingly tiny, however Sigma’s 50mm is barely a contact bigger and heavier.

So, that’s a brand new twist.

The Lenses: On Paper and In Hand

Trying on the spec sheets, the lenses are remarkably related, and we’ve reviewed each the Sony 50mm and the Sigma 50mm. On paper they’re practically an identical.

The Sony 50mm has 14 parts in 11 teams, together with 2 XA (excessive aspherical) parts and one ED (Additional-low Dispersion) component. Sony says these specialised lenses are designed to cut back aberrations. The corporate’s Nano AR II coating can also be utilized to lens parts to attenuate flare and ghosting. The Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 GM has 11 aperture blades designed for easy bokeh.

In the meantime, the Sigma 50mm has 14 parts in 11 teams, together with one SLD (Tremendous Low Dispersion) and three aspherical lenses. It additionally has an 11-bladed aperture for easy bokeh.

The Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG DN Artwork has Sigma’s Tremendous Multi-Layer Coating to cut back flaring and ghosting and a front-element coating to cut back fingerprints, grease, and mud contamination.

All through the remainder of this overview, I’ve organized a little bit of a comparability of pictures taken with each lenses. See should you can guess which one is Lens A and which one is Lens B. I’ll reveal which is which on the backside of this story. These photos aren’t coloration corrected or edited, other than some minor white stability fixes and the pictures are as straight out of digicam as attainable.

See should you can spot the variations — a number of high-quality parts, linear motors, 11-blade aperture, and flaring-reducing coatings.

Operation and Photographs

Generally use, it’s virtually inconceivable to inform these lenses aside both. Whereas not a lot greater, the Sigma is noticeably heavier in hand than the Sony, however this nearly disappears on the digicam.

Focusing can also be remarkably related; in some cases, the Sigma appeared to outperform the Sony in sure backlighting conditions and the Sony edged out the Sigma in shifting topics. That is laborious to say definitively with out each cameras side-by-side capturing the an identical topic. However normally, there’s a sufficiently big distinction between a producer lens and a third-party lens that’s important.

In my exams, I might swap backwards and forwards between the 2 lenses between pictures and I wanted assist to inform which lens I used to be utilizing. I might inform from the sensation of the lens, but when I didn’t maintain the lens physique whereas capturing, it was laborious to know from the pictures.

Lens B
Lens A
Lens A
Lens B

The Sony lens did appear higher at all-around focus. To attempt to put a quantity on it, the Sony was 10% higher than the Sigma at eye acquisition and equally higher at monitoring shifting topics, however that may be beneficiant.

From a picture standpoint, the lenses are nearly an identical. Since all of my pictures had been on the identical digicam physique, I loaded them into each Lightroom and Seize One and displayed them with none seen metadata.

Lens B
Lens A

I couldn’t inform the distinction between the pictures, apart from a barely totally different “feeling” bokeh between the 2. Neither was higher; they simply weren’t an identical. The softness of the subtle gentle from home windows and lighting parts was refined however distinctive.

I didn’t spend as a lot time capturing movies with these lenses as nonetheless photos; the 50mm focal size isn’t prevalent in video capturing. Nonetheless, I did shoot in-studio YouTube movies with each, and each tracked my eyes constantly and precisely, even vast open. In my few video exams, each pulled focus with repeatable outcomes and tracked topics nicely.

Velocity Distinction and Future Proof

There are two areas the place the Sony lens is considerably higher than the Sigma: tangible and intangible.

The primary is in body charge. As will all Sony lenses, the 50mm f/1.4 GM can function on the full 30fps charge of Sony’s quickest cameras. The Sigma is restricted to the medium 15fps AF velocity. It’s nonetheless unclear if this velocity limitation is an precise {hardware}/firmware one or a limitation imposed by Sony to make sure good efficiency on the excessive body charges.

In different phrases, whereas Sony opened its mount to different builders, it nonetheless has extra details about digicam focus alerts and {the electrical} connectors than it provides the third-party builders. The 30fps speeds of Sony lenses may be as a result of Sony sends extra info throughout the connectors. In spite of everything, its lenses can decode it.

Lens A
Lens B
Lens A
Lens B

Alternately, Sony limits third-party body charges as a result of much less highly effective rotational motors wouldn’t be unable to maintain up and would lead to many missed frames. That is why Sony’s older lenses also can not shoot at 30fps. It’s attainable that since Sony can’t know what third-party lenses are quick sufficient to hit 30fps, it limits the velocity of all third-party lenses.

After all, it’s additionally attainable that Sony limits the velocity of third-party lenses to assist the worth of its first-party lenses. This feels much less more likely to me than the opposite choices, however it’s nonetheless attainable.

The second space the place Sony has a bonus in these lenses is said to the primary benefit. As a result of Sony’s digicam and lens divisions work collectively, Sony can future-proof its lens designs.

Lens A
Lens B
Lens A
Lens B
Lens A

When and if Sony cameras hit forty frames per second or quicker, it’s wager all of the lenses that assist 30fps at present will assist that quicker body charge.

Buy Choices

At this level, you most likely need to know which lens is Lens A and which is Lens B. The reply? Sigma is Lens A and Sony is Lens B. Actually although, you most likely had a tough time telling the distinction.

Usually in comparisons of high-end lenses, the suggestions are easy, as I discussed originally. Usually, if you need the quickest efficiency attainable and the very best picture high quality, spend the cash on the producer’s lens. When you’d like to economize, however lose some efficiency, get the third-party lens.

On this case, the reply is extra nuanced. With related specs and picture high quality, the Sigma is a greater deal by a a lot wider margin than different lenses it has made. When you’ve got no intention of capturing quicker than 15fps (portrait shooters, panorama photographers, astro shooters, I’m you), the Sigma is hands-down the higher deal.

When you’re capturing sports activities, fast-moving topics, wildlife, or some other scene requiring the quickest, most correct efficiency, the Sony is your alternative. And if you wish to guarantee your lens is suitable with something Sony releases sooner or later, the Sony is a more sensible choice.

Maybe it’s good right here to border this in Sony’s digicam choice. Customers of the Sony Alpha 1, Alpha 9, and Alpha 9 II, plus any high-speed digicam that comes down the street, ought to get the Sony lens.

Shooters of the Alpha 7R sequence, Alpha 7 IV, and earlier would do higher with the Sigma.

For video shooters, this may be a extra advanced choice. With the 50mm focal size being unusual and the f/1.4 aperture, one thing used to create a specific-looking shot, I might personally choose the Sony, as I do know it would have the best-possible autofocus in video because of the collaboration between digicam and lens engineers.

However all that stated, for the primary time in my reminiscence, there are two practically an identical lenses with practically an identical efficiency. Irrespective of which lens you choose, you’re getting a few of the finest, most correct, most detailed photos ever attainable in images.