This is Part 1 of the review; Part 2 (focusing on a portraiture shoot and samples) is here .
Unlike some other sites referring to this lens, this is a hands-on review of the Sigma 56mm f1.4 DC DN for Fujifilm X-mount. This means I have handled and will share real-life samples from the lens and not writing a ‘sharing my thoughts on a piece of equipment I have never held’ style here 😉, which seems to be the trend for some nowadays.
When Sigma announced their new Contemporary series of lenses for the Fujifilm-X series of cameras on 21 Feb 2022, many users were excited at the prospect of another experienced lens-maker supporting Fujifilm X-mount.
a big question next on everyone’s minds was: “Is it worth getting these lenses?”
Though Sigma also announced the 16mm f1.4 DC DN and 30mm f1.4 DC DN, all from their Contemporary series, to me the 56mm f1.4 holds the highest potential for consideration due to the closest being the now pretty aged Fujifilm XF56mm f1.2, the slower XF50mm f2, and maybe.. the XF50mm f1 (my review here).
too long;didn’t read
Sigma has expertly navigated Fujifilm’s extensive lens range in a very nifty manner, with the Sigma 56mm f1.4 (USD479) filling the gap between the XF50mm f2 (USD449) and the XF56mm f1.2 (USD999). Users considering the XF50mm f2 will likely spend the USD30 on improving the largest aperture from f2 to f1.4, while users who demand a no-compromise optical performance will look at the XF56mm f1.2 and XF50mm f1 instead.
The time-tested optical performance of the Sigma 56mm f1.4 may not be as great as 2014 released XF56mm f1.2, but it provides excellent value by demanding half the price with an aperture range larger than the XF50mm f2 and is definitely worth considering for enthusiasts or those with a tight budget.
Let us unpack the word ‘Contemporary’ to start.
Keen to ‘reinvent’ its optics catalog into 3 quality categories (Art, Contemporary, and Sports), the Sigma 56mm f1.4 and the 16mm and 30mm siblings belong to the mid-range Contemporary line, which in Sigma’s words – Contemporary speaks of ‘high-performance’ while Art speaks of ‘sophisticated-performance’. Essentially the Art series is akin to Fujifilm’s ‘red-badge’ series, while the Contemporary aligns with the standard XF/XC Fujifilm lens series, differing in build and optical performance.
The Sigma 56mm f1.4 comes with an 10 elements in 6 groups design with a 9-bladed rounded diaphragm. The minimum focusing distance is approximately 50cm, with aperture values from f1.4 to f16.
The lens takes 55mm filters, measures φ66.5mm × 59.8mm, and weighs 280 grams. For easier reading, the Sigma 56mm f1.4 is only 69% the weight of the XF56mm f1.2 and 52% cheaper in comparison. There is no mention of weather-sealing; hence hold on with the plans to take this lens out to shoot in adverse weather conditions.
One interesting piece of information I learned was that as Sigma refreshes the optical formula for the same lens model across the years, Sigma actually stamps the year of the optical design directly on the lens body itself.
Lastly, there is no physical aperture ring on this lens series. Therefore any aperture adjustments have to be made using the front/back dials on the camera body. Fujifilm cameras, in general, come out of the box set up to have the front dial work with aperture adjustment, but these can be mapped under settings.
Performance, handling, and Image Quality
The Sigma 56mm f1.4 handles very well with its compact size and weight of only 280 grams. A pretty well-made hood with rubberized ends was provided (nice job with the hood Sigma). I believe this lens will balance well on most Fujifilm bodies.
Auto-focus speed and reliability wise, the Sigma 56mm f1.4 is relatively fast but does feel slower than the newest Fujifilm second-generation series (XF18mm f1,4, XF23mm f1.4 WR, and XF33mm f1.4 – my reviews linked) but easily on par or slightly better than the XF56mm f1.2 (A.F speed wise). The autofocusing was perfectly silent and with no ‘clicked’ aperture ring, making this lens suitable for videos.
Below are a few image samples shot wide open at f1.4, which is pretty pleasant and shows that the Sigma representative I spoke to was right about Sigma’s belief in providing image quality above the price-point of the lens.
The ‘bokeh’ spectrum
For the word-specialists who are allergic to the word ‘bokeh‘, relax. I am only sharing how the lens renders at various aperture sizes, which I am sure some readers are keen to know. Samples below are at f1.4, f2.8, f4 and f5.6 respectively.
The lens will not be (bleedingly) sharp at the widest aperture; however, it quickly gets plenty sharp. A practical point is that most people do not go to 100% or 200% when sharing or printing their photos.
Instead of sharing only portraiture shots (which I understand is the prime usage of the 56mm focal length), I decided to go a different tangent and took the lens out for a half-day trip, documenting the entire trip at the Sigma 56mm f1.4’s focal length to show its versatility across different subjects and environments, and some samples are below.
*I will share part 2 of the review later, focusing on a portraiture shoot.
The overall optical performance of the Sigma 56mm f1.4 provides a great deal of value for its price point. The out-of-focused areas are rendered pleasantly, with good sharpness levels at the center. While the Sigma will not be as sharp as the newest offerings from Fujifilm, experienced users will know that sharpness as a factor only forms part of any optical equipment’s drawing.
Of course, the lens will flare if you try hard enough, and having the hood on does help. The lens performs and handles well as long as one can work with using the camera front/back dials for aperture adjustments.
it is important to note that being ‘cheaper’ while key to some users, the Sigma 56mm f1.4 definitely has its own set of strengths to offer.
Congrats if you have reached here; I understand that while I love to provide an information-packed review, this translates to more words and thus, requires more patience to read.
To conclude on the Sigma contemporary series for Fujifilm X-mount, I think we have to see that Sigma’s entry heralds a positive situation for everyone. Users get more choices with auto-focus (beyond Fujifilm, Viltrox, Tamron), and competition will spur more value for users.
A reason why I chose to review the Sigma 56mm f1.4 instead of the 16mm f1.4 or 30mm f1.4 is that I feel this addresses a real gap between the XF50mm f2 and XF56mm f1.2, and in this sense, the Sigma 56mm f1.4 is a very worthy consideration based on not only its price point but also its relative performance. For one, I would surely pay an extra USD30 for an aperture improvement from f2 to f1.4. While the Contemporary series is not as well-built as Sigma’s ART series, the lens is sturdy enough with no flex, and the build of the Sigma’s hood alone puts current Fujifilm bundled hoods to shame.
Those who expect zero compromises will have the XF50mm f1, XF56mm f1.2 (note it does not autofocus as fast) to look at, while at the other end, the Sigma 56mm f1.4 promises to be an excellent consideration for the enthusiast looking to choose between the XF50mm f2 and similar offerings.
Will you get one?
Thank you for reading.
- The Sigma 56mm f1.4 DC DN Contemporary is a loan from Sigma and will be returned; the lens used for review is a pre-production model running firmware version 0.63.
- The Fujifilm X-Pro3 is my personal set and running firmware version 1.31.
- All images shared are photographed by me and processed in LR CC Classic to my preferences. All product photos were photographed using the Nikon Z 6II.
- I take pride in not being a writer who earns through selling affiliate links and as such, able to provide a neutral point of view.
- If you like my content and would like to support me, here is a link to buy me a cup of coffee.