Sigma has had two distinct strategies when it comes to mirrorless lenses. On the full-frame side, they simply ported their DSLR lenses to Sony E-Mount (and later the L-mount) by basically building in their mount adapter logic into the lens and extending a tube to make up the flange distance, though this is beginning to change, with the introduction of three newly designed lenses for full-frame E-mount that were recently announced.
For APS-C mirrorless, they have designed two series of three prime lenses that focus on small size and high image quality. The lenses are designed for APS-C, but they also produce the same lenses in the Micro 4/3 mount as well. Their first foray into mirrorless was the high quality and very low-cost series of Art primes with f/2.8 apertures. The 19mm f/2.8, 30mm f/2.8 and 60mm f/2.8 all had very good image quality at rock bottom prices, but had a few compromises with regards to autofocus (phase detection is limited to the center point).
Later, Sigma began producing f/1.4 lenses, which belong to their Contemporary line, beginning with the 30mm f/1.4, and later expanding to the 16mm f/1.4 and now the lens reviewed today, the 56mm f/1.4. Despite the Contemporary badge, this line is perhaps better constructed than the f/2.8 Art DN lenses, and the 30mm f/1.4 and 16mm f/1.4 are widely considered some of the very best lenses available for APS-C Sony E-Mount. The new 56mm f/1.4 has the same field of view as an 85mm on full frame, and with the wide f/1.4 aperture, will yield depth of field similar to an f/2 lens on full frame, which provides plenty of subject separation. The 56mm f/1.4 is extremely affordable at only $479, which is half of what the Fuji 56mm f/1.2 costs. Can this 56mm complete the f/1.4 trio and become the portrait prime that Sony APS-C users have been waiting for?
If you haven’t read my reviews before, I review from a real-world shooting perspective. You won’t find any lens charts here, as there are plenty of reviews that feature that information. I review how a lens or camera works for me in my daily shooting.
Construction and Handling
Despite being the longest focal length of the three Sigma DN f/1.4 primes, the 56mm f/1.4 DC DN is actually the smallest of the three lenses. It’s remarkably compact for a highly corrected 56mm f/1.4, and creates a compact package with Sony’s APS-C cameras. The lens is roughly the same diameter as the E-mount itself, and only a couple of inches long. In comparison to a very similar lens for Fujifilm, the Fujifilm XF 56mm f/1.2, the Sigma 56mm f/1.4 is considerably smaller. It’s constructed of high-grade plastics with a bit of metal thrown in around the focus ring, with a metal mount. There are no creaks or wobbles anywhere on the lens, and it feels like a very solid piece of kit. Below is the lens next to the 30mm f/1.4.
The focus ring on the 56mm f/1.4 is covered with ribbed, grippy rubber, and is nicely damped. Manual focus is by wire, of course, but feels nice when the need arises.
The lens comes with a plastic lens hood that is rimmed with a fine rubber around the end, and engraved with the lens name. It’s not the best hood I’ve ever used, but it’s better than the typical hood included with sub-$1,000 lenses. The hood is reversible for storage, though I wish it was a little tighter to the lens body when reversed, which Sigma has done on many lenses in the past.
The Sigma 56mm f/1.4 has a very quiet and quick autofocus motor. Focus acquisition is generally pretty fast, and in single shot mode, accuracy is fairly good as well. On firmware 1 of my a6400, I has some instances where the lens would occasionally miss focus by just a bit, but I found it to be more consistent than the 30mm f/1.4, which seemed to miss more often. The recent a6400 firmware update, though, seems to have improved accuracy with this lens, putting it essentially on-par with my native Sony lenses.
In continuous autofocus, especially when using the great new real-time Eye AF and real-time tracking modes of the a6400, focus was outstanding, yielding consistently in-focus shots with excellent speed, and this was the case both before and after the firmware update.
3 thoughts on “Review: Sigma 56mm f/1.4 DC DN Contemporary (Sony E-Mount)”
Thanks for the excellent review!
Hi Jordan, that last picture with the kids on swings is golden. Also technically it sums up the focusing speed, bokeh and colour.
Good review, beautiful photos, well done.