Sigma 56mm f/1.4 Review
The first thing to do when choosing a lens is decide what types of subjects you’ll be shooting. With the Sigma 56mm f/1.4, it’s clearly a portrait-oriented lens.
When it comes to shooting portraits, I love having a lens that can produce beautiful background bokeh and tack sharp eyes. For that, this lens stands out.
Most lenses capable of producing such results are large, heavy, and expensive but the Sigma 56mm f/1.4 is exactly the opposite!
If you want an amazing Sigma portrait lens for your APS-C Sony or Canon camera, I highly recommend this one.
I’ll dig into how this lens performs in a variety of situations below.
There’s little not to like about the Sigma 56mm f/1.4. The focal length and wide aperture make it an exceptional portrait lens producing sharp subjects and pleasing bokeh. Additionally, the build quality is robust and autofocus is excellent, particularly for the affordable price point. In all, this lens delivers great value.
Sigma 56mm f/1.4 Specs
- Focal length
- Slightly expensive
- APS-C / Crop Sensor Lens
- Aperture Range: f/1.4 – f/16
- Minimum Focus Distance: 1.64 ft (50 cm)
- Weight: 9.88 oz / 280 g
- Length: 2.34″ / 60 mm
- Diameter: 2.62 ” / 67 mm
- Filter size: 55 mm
Build & Ergonomics
As with the other two lenses in the Sigma prime trio, the Sigma 56mm f/1.4 has spectacular build quality.
The metal exterior is coupled with plastic interior components to be both durable and lightweight.
At a svelte 9.9 oz (280 g) this lens weighs very little for its performance.
I also love the short barrel length of just 2.34 in (60 mm). This is incredibly compact for the capability it offers in terms of focal length and minimum aperture.
The short length balances especially well with the compact mirrorless camera bodies it’s designed for.
As I expected, the barrel has a nice large rubberized focus ring that gives the lens a nice grippy and durable feel.
Along with the sturdy design of the Sigma 56mm f/1.4 comes a high degree of weather and dust sealing – another big advantage.
Not many cameras in this class offer a seal where the lens mount attaches to the camera body but I appreciated this feature since mirrorless camera sensors are already quite exposed without a mirror to protect them.
Ergonomically, this lens is very simplistic. The only moving part is the rubberized focus ring.
I would love to see Sigma include features like a focus hold button or an auto/manual focus ring but I appreciate that eliminating them likely keeps the cost of the lens to a minimum.
Overall, this lens feels great in my hand! I love the performance and functionality that it offers in such a small package!
As with the other Sigma lenses in the lineup (namely the 30mm f/1.4 and 16mm f/1.4) this lens has fantastic autofocus.
It appears that Sigma have figured out how to keep up with Sony, and having a non-native lens may no longer be a concern when it comes to autofocus speed.
I was able to quickly grab focus in low light, track fast-moving subjects, and even maintain sharp focus when shooting into golden backlight (one of my favorite ways to shoot portraits).
The fast f/1.4 aperture on this lens likely aids its ability to grab quick and accurate focus in low light.
If you’re coming from some slower focusing lenses of the past, the Sigma 56mm f/1.4 will feel nearly instantaneous at grabbing focus!
Image quality is where this lens really shines! Many people are concerned about sharpness when it comes to a portrait lens and the Sigma 56mm f/1.4 delivers!
The Sigma 56mm f/1.4 is among the sharpest APS-C lenses available and offers tack-sharp detail across the frame.
As expected, sharpness increases as the lens is stopped down a bit but I found this to be a clear winner in sharpness even at f/1.4.
The bokeh of this lens is the other area where it excels. With a full frame equivalent focal length of 84mm, this is what most consider to be the ideal portrait photography focal length.
Combined with the bokeh achieved at the minimum aperture of f/1.4, this lens creates some beautiful portrait images.
Aberration and distortion are well controlled after applying the Adobe Lightroom corrections.
I also love the compression that this lens has at the equivalent focal length of 84mm.
In addition to the properly proportioned portrait, it can also make backgrounds feel closer to the subject and isolate subjects in clean compositions.
Although this focal length may be a little too telephoto for most indoor shooting situations, I love using it to shoot landscapes. It forces you to narrow in on a subject and be more selective with your composition.
Overall, the image quality of this lens is spectacular. I love the bokeh and sharpness.
The common problems with less expensive lenses are non-issues with the Sigma 56mm f/1.4!
Value for Money
This lens is the most expensive in the Sigma prime trio (16mm, 30mm, and 56mm f/1.4) but it’s still excellent value.
I found the sharpness and bokeh it creates to be on par with much more expensive lenses that are also much bigger/heavier.
If you want a top-performing portrait lens for a great price, the Sigma 56mm f/1.4 is a great choice.
When compared to the Sony E 50mm f/1.8, it feels much more durable and rugged. In addition, the autofocus feels faster! With that in mind, the Sigma 56mm f/1.4 is a clear winner.
At under US$500, this lens is amazing value!
Sigma 56mm f/1.4 Review | Conclusion
Overall, I was very impressed with the Sigma 56mm f/1.4.
It seems to have all the qualities of a top-performing lens: great build quality, excellent autofocus, impressive image quality, and fantastic value!
I tried to find something negative about this lens but found very few things to dislike. It’s the most expensive of the three Sigma fast prime lenses for APS-C but not by much.
If you’re a portrait photographer looking for an inexpensive lens to make beautiful portraits, you can’t go wrong with the Sigma 56mm f/1.4. It’s designed to suit portrait work perfectly with excellent bokeh and sharpness!
Disclaimer: All recommendations are impartial and based on user experience, with no bias to the products or the brand. The products in this post may contain affiliate links.