Sigma 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM vs Sigma 50mm F1.4 DG HSM | A

The Sigma 50mm F1.4 DG HSM | A sets the new benchmark for fast standard prime lenses for full-frame DSLRs, and is offered at a very fair price for its total performance. The Sigma 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM, originally introduces in 2008, is still in production; and it remains an exceptional fast fifty designed for both the performance and build expectations of professional photographers at a price that puts it well within reach of enthusiasts looking for both fantastic optics, and a pro build quality. Choosing either one of these full-frame Sigma 50mm F1.4 stablemates over an OEM lens is a wise choice. Choosing which one is exactly right for your bag really is basically a matter of budget, plus weight and size considerations. But either way, adding one of these Sigma 50mm F1.4s to your kit is a great idea.

The original high-performance 50mm F1.4

To repeat, the Sigma 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM is still in production, and ships for a pretty fantastic street price, especially right now with $100 Instant Savings through October 31st. At 3.3” x 2.7” and weighing in at 17.8 ounces, this lens is heavy and stocky. Packing eight elements in six groups, it close focuses to 17.7 inches at 1:7.4 magnification. Nine rounded aperture blades and an aspherical element make for pleasing defocused and focused image elements, while a full-time manual-focus ring allows for on-the-fly adjustments.

The world-beating 50mm F1.4

The Sigma 50mm F1.4 DG HSM | A was announced earlier this year and has been the talk of the photography world ever since. Pairing world-beating optics and imaging performance with a hypersonic motor for fast, quiet AF, along with four zone microtuning, wrist-flick Manual focus override and firmware updates via the USB Dock, this lens has already gained a number of prestigious awards, and earned tons of positive reviews from the most demanding photographers around the world. Physically, it is a very large standard lens, at 3.4” x 3.9 inches and weighing in at 28.7 ounces. Much of that weight comes form the 13 elements in 8 groups, so it is a more complex optical design. Super low dispersion glass and super multi-layer lens coatings, along with nine round aperture blades renders photographs with extraordinary image quality. Field distortion is virtually non-existent. Demand is incredibly high, and supplies are still very limited thanks to its very fair street price.

Head to Head Comparison

The Sigma 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM at F/2.0, close-focused on a beach umbrella shows great focal plane sharpness, and very shallow depth of field with pleasingly rendered defocused areas.
The same image as captured by the 50mm F1.4 DG HSM | A lens, again at F/2.0. Overall, the Art 50mm is sharper, has higher maximum magnification and closer focusing than the original 50mm F1.4 EX.

Overall, the Art 50 does outperform the EX 50, but are far and away a superior purchase decision to the nearest competitors. Independent testing shows that on a crop sensor camera, both Sigma 50s best the top-of-the-line Canon, the 50mm F1.2L. And remarkably, both of the Sigma 50s come in at a street price below the heavy Canon pro standard prime offering. Switching to the top-of-the-line full-frame sensor for Canon, it’s virtually a dead heat for silver between the 1.2 L and the EX; while the Art 50 is way ahead of the pack. (Exhaustive independent testing on top-line Nikon sensors is lagging slightly behind Canon reports, but everything so far points the 50 Art seriously outpacing the Nikon F1.4 choices as well on all sensor formats.)

The Art 50 has the edge in close-focusing over the original EX 50mm. At F4 here both lenses show great focal plane sharpness on the flowers in the foreground and lovely background rendering. But when going wide open to F1.4, the Art lens definitely outperforms the EX version.
The same scene as captured by the 50mm EX lens.

So, really, what it comes down to is total performance, budget, physical size considerations, and availability to determine which Sigma 50mm F1.4 is right for you. Especially when offered with Instant Savings, like it is right now, the 50mm EX DG HSM is an incredible bargain for a lens of this caliber. And it is ten ounces lighter, and overall noticeably smaller, both in the hand and when hauling a camera bag.

A herring gull on the beach, captured by the Sigma 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM at F2.0 for very shallow depth of field. Even close to wide open, this lens is very sharp on the focal plane.
The EX lens, focused a bit farther afield, at F4. This lens feels solid in the hands, and is more compact than the Art version.

The 50mm F1.4 DG HSM | A lens is larger and heavier, as it is designed with an eye first and foremost at performance above all else. It is heavy, but it is balanced, and even though it is priced significantly more than the 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM, it is still more economical than the OEM lenses it leaves in the dust in terms of overall performance and value.

The Sigma 50mm F1.4 DG HSM | A lens is a long lens, and weighs over one and a half pounds. It is razor-sharp and has virtually no field distortion. Here, we see the Shark River Inlet bridge at 1/800 F4.5.
And the view from the top of the same bridge, this time at 1/2000 F4 on the Art 50mm. This lens is designed for exceptional performance.


And then when you add in everything about what the Sigma Global Vision lenses offer: USB Dock for multiple-zone microfocus adjustment and firmware updates, Mount Conversion Service, A1 MTF testing for every single unit before leaving the Aizu factory, it makes that $949 street price that much more incredible. This is a world-class lens. And that’s why it is so hard to keep in stock. Worldwide demand remains incredibly high, because photographers and videographers have truly fallen for all this lens offers.

So which Sigma 50mm F1.4 lens is right for you? Ask yourself these questions to decide

Am I looking for the absolute best standard prime camera lens with autofocus I can buy at any price and at any size for my super-high resolution DSLR? If you say “YES!” to both of these, you definitely want to order the 50mm F1.4 DG HSM | A right now, even if it means waiting some time for backorders to fill!

Am I looking for the absolute best optical performance and pro-quality build  in a standard prime for my DSLR, but I am on a limited budget? Well, in this case, how is your budget defined? The 50mm F1.4 Art is more economical than any of the three top-line 50mm primes it competes directly against and has significantly better image quality. And the 50mm F1.4 EX also competes incredibly strongly in this class as well, at a fraction of the price of the OEMs.

Am I looking for a 50mm F1.4 that will give the best possible performance wide open at F1.4? In this case, it’s the 50mm F1.4 DG HSM | A lens that’s got the edge.


This farm market scene was captured at F1.4 through the Sigma 50mm F1.4 DG HSM | A lens and focused on the word “farm” on the sign in the tent. Wide open, the lens is still super-sharp with well-controlled high-contrast edges.
Here’s the same image shot through the 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM, again at F1.4. As you can see, wide open, the Art lens has the edge in total image quality.


Am I looking for the best 50mm F1.4 I can buy right now, but I am on a very limited budget? In this case, the 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM is a great choice, especially with the $100 Instant Savings now through October 31st.

Whether you choose the original high-performance 50mm EX or the incredible new Art 50mm, you’ll be adding a fantastic fast F1.4 standard prime to your kit, and both ship with a four-year warranty through authorized retailers.



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