Before I start with this experience sharing post, I would like to thank and appreciate Mr Lawson from Sigma Marketing (Singapore) for providing me with the loan of Sigma 56mm f1.4 Contemporary DC DN.
Fujifilm has never lacked of lens choices for portrait shooters to choose from. And there are even massive options available from the 3rd party manual lens manufacturers but not so much for autofocus lenses. I think this is the right time for Sigma to jump into the Fuji X-mount bandwagon with its trio lenses, especially the 56mm f1.4.
56mm (85mm in 35mm format equivalent) is one of the popular focal lengths among portrait lovers. That’s because the mid-tele focal length gives good compression and shallow depth of field. But before going down further. I have to confess that I do not own the XF 56mm f1.2 or any 3rd party autofocus lenses of the same focal length. Hence, I am unable to make a good comparison between them. But what I can do is share my experience using this lens with the readers and hope the readers will have a good perspective of this lens.
I have reviewed the Sigma 16mm f1.4 and Sigma 30mm f1.4 and now the Sigma 56mm f1.4 Contemporary DC DN is on the table. This is the last piece of the trio prime lenses and let’s see how good the lens performance is.
Design & Build Quality
The lens built shared the same design elements as its brothers, giving us a low key minimalistic look. I get more enjoyment with the looks, especially the black labelled wordings on it. Similarly, this lens is also made of “Thermally Stable Composite” (TSC) polycarbonate material. Overall, it provides a very well-built lens body that is easy and lightweight to hold. Something to note, the lens does attract some fingerprints on the glossy material. Although it can be easily wiped off with a piece of cloth, it can be a little annoying and hard not to notice it.
In my opinion, when I talked about the compact lens, a reasonably small filter thread size and weight are part of the elements. This lens comes with a 55mm filter thread and weighs only 280 grams. So I think this lens qualifies as a compact lens.
Likewise, this lens is also equipped with dust and splash resistant sealing that helps to protect the lens from certain weather/environmental conditions. Last but not least, it does not come with an aperture ring either.
According to Sigma Marketing, each and every part of this lens was designed in 2018 (except the mount). Fast forward to 2022, how does the optical quality perform in real-world situations? If you read about how well the Sigma 30mm performed, then you can conceivably conclude that this is as good as that piece of glass or possibly even better. At wide open, the sharpness, details and contrast produced by this lens are comfortably good for my liking.
I do observe some mild vignetting when I shoot at f1.4 but I think that is acceptable. If vignetting is a problem, you can either stop down to lower aperture or remove it via post-processing. As for the chromatic aberration, I do not think I observe any or I barely notice it during my tests. I think Sigma engineers are really doing a great job in this department.
For the sunny star result, the shot taken at f8 produces a softer and less rounded result. Contrastingly, the result looks sharper at f16 and more pronounced than that of f8.
For a portrait lens, what a photographer wants from a portrait lens is bokeh. Who doesn’t love beautiful bokeh? This lens probably does not produce the best bokeh but rather a pretty decent and comfortable to the eyes. Although the bokeh ball is lemon-shaped like at wide open, it does not distract me from looking at the main subject.
Thanks to the stepping motor, the focusing experience is a great one. It is silent, fast and *accurate. I cannot hear a single motor sound produced by the stepping motor while I am focusing. Apparently, my shutter is louder.
Unlike its brothers, this lens does not inherit the focusing accuracy issue. On the flip side, I do encounter some rare auto-focus hunting at times. It does not matter whether I used it during the day or night, indoor or outdoor. While I tried to replicate the focus hunting issue right from the moment I experienced it, I failed. The lens somehow just does not has this hurdle anymore.
But do not worry about it. As I understand from Sigma Marketing, their team is constantly updating their lenses to improve the focus quality and accuracy.
Minimum Focus Distance (MFD)
This lens’ MFD is at 50cm. For a glimpse comparison, XF56mm f1.2 is 70cm, XF50mm f2 is 39cm and the XF50mm f1 is also 70cm.
While it is not as close as the XF50mm f2, it is definitely better than the other 2 Fuji lenses have to offer. Does MFD matter? In my case, the answer is yes. It allows me to have a shallower depth of field between the subject and the background.
Certain lenses have some level of softness when you shoot at wide-open and at MFD. Fortunately, this lens is otherwise, it is surprisingly sharp & usable. I actually like how it renders and it does not have very harsh bokeh results.
Okay, this is “straightforward” and also “challenging” at the same time.
Let’s talk about “straightforward” first, if you are on a budget and compare it with the XF50mm f2 (*SRP SGD749, USD449). I think the Sigma 56mm (SRP SGD688, USD479) is pretty worth it. Hear me out. While you sacrifice the weather resistance that Fuji 50mm f2 offers, you have one full stop of light at your disposal. It is always an advantage when you have that extra stop of light, it will come in handy when you need it. More light is a higher priority in my case.
Here comes the challenging part, Sigma is actually priced right between another 2 third party manufacturers, Viltrox and Tokina. I believe you know which one costs higher and which one is more pocket friendly. I cannot speak on behalf of these 2 manufacturers about their portrait lenses because I did not try them out before. What I searched online is that they shared some similarities (with a little 10% difference) like weight, filter size and MFD. I think it is best for you to visit your local stores to have some hands-on experience with these 3 lenses.
*SRP – Suggested Retail Price
This is a decent portrait lens for its price and compactness. In these few weeks of hands-on, I enjoy shooting with this lens a lot. I mean, I actually used it for street photography and cityscape besides shooting portraits. It gives me a new perspective and sees things differently from my usual 23mm and 35mm focal length.
The optical quality does not tell this lens is actually designed in 2018 and the results are truly usable and sharp and contrast at wide open. In short, Sigma delivers great results in its “Contemporary” series. I am actually excited and looking forward to that one day when Sigma updates its “Contemporary” lenses and distinguishes itself among the third party manufacturers.
Who is this for?
For photographers who are just picking up and want a portrait lens with a modest budget, this might be a wise choice for you. This lens gives you an extra stop of light as compared to XF50mm f2 and is more economical than XF56mm f1.2. It really strikes a good balance in terms of price and performance while minimising the compromise that it has.
For street photographers who love to shoot at a distance away from the subject, this is also a good choice but, of course, it does not have as much flexibility as the Sigma 30mm has.
Thank you for reading.
1. The lens is a loan unit from Mr. Lawson from Sigma Marketing (Singapore). By the time this review was online, the lens had returned back to Sigma Marketing (Singapore).
2. The lens firmware that I am using is version 1.00.
3. Some of the shots are straight out of the camera while others are edited via In-Camera Raw Processing and Adobe Lightroom Classic & Capture One.
4. The opinions are based on my experience. If there is any mistake, please kindly drop me a message and I will gladly make the amendment.
5. All the shots taken here are shot by me. I reserve ownership of these images, if you wish to use my images, please notify me.
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