by Brent Bergherm
These two lenses are a joy to shoot for their own special reasons. I love the extreme shallow Depth-of-Field you get with either, as well as the beautiful images they can help you create. Read on for more about each lens and which may just be the right 50 for you.
Sigma 50 f/1.4 Art
Sigma’s 50 f/1.4 Art is a great lens that will delight you with brilliantly sharp images for a very reasonable cost, compared to the overall competition that is. I put it up against the “lowest” of the Zeiss lenses to see how it compares and it did well. There’s certainly plenty of reasons why you’d still choose the Zeiss, but the Sigma will likely be the more popular choice for at least a couple of reasons. It will usually come out a bit sharper than the Zeiss and the front element is large at 77mm. Many advanced shooters will already have a lens that size and any filters you have will work great on this one too. But it’s heavy and roughly twice the size as the competition here. As for the physical aesthetic and styling of this lens, it’s slick. The black finish matches any camera and the large MF ring is super easy to grip, even if it is slightly rough to turn compared to other lenses. But most folks shoot with AF anyway so that’s probably not an issue. Sharpness is key and this lens does not disappoint.
Zeiss 50 f/1.4 Planar
There’s certainly a lot of cachet (warranted or not) that comes along with the Zeiss brand. I love their lineup and am excited about this one too, but maybe for different reasons than their other lenses. This lens is small, very light weight for a Zeiss (but is still quite “hefty” thanks to all the metal in the barrel). But another reason to love this lens is the classic styling and the very smooth operation you experience with when shooting anything from landscapes to portraits. You may say that the styling has nothing to do with the quality of images it creates, and on the surface, you’re right. But I think the nature of this lens also changes the way that you shoot as well. It’s only manual focus so you will slow down a lot. And the focus ring… it’s just so smooth. When using a Zeiss lens I tend to soak in the scene a bit more than when working with other lenses. It’s one of those intangible things that is very difficult to describe and it may be different from person to person. But for me it’s there and I know that it slightly alters how I shoot.
Examples from the Sigma lens in this comparison.
These images are samples from the same scenes taken with the two different lenses. There’s a few important things to note, take a look at the differences in the bokeh and the overall sharpness in the berries and the leaves. The Sigma is slightly superior. Maybe post processing sharpening can make the Zeiss images look the same, but these are straight out of camera and most folks will simply go for greater sharpness, but there’s more to it than that…
While the Zeiss tends to have a bit more texture in the bokeh and the Sigma is a bit smoother with softer transitions, the Zeiss has great color too. But again, post production on the Sigma images can correct for that as well quite easily.
If you’re interested, you can download the RAW images a bit further down the page.
Examples from the Zeiss lens in this comparison.
Sigma 50 f/1.4 Art Tech Specs
Angle of View
86.36 mm x 99 mm / 3.4 in x 3.9 in.
813.6 g / 28.7 oz. / 1.793 lb.
Minimum Focus | Maximum Magnification
150cm – 250cm / 59.1 in – 98.4 in | 1:8.1
Zeiss 50 f/1.4 Planar Tech Specs
Angle of View
69 mm x 66 mm / 2.712 in x 2.598 in.
300g / 10.58 oz. / .661 lb.
.45 m / 17.72 in.