Portraits with the Sigma 56mm f1.4 DC DN on Fujifilm X-mount – a visual review

Introduction

After my in-depth review of the Sigma 56mm f1.4 DC DN on Fujifilm X-mount here, quite a few readers have asked specifically about the performance of the Sigma 56mm f1.4 in a portraiture shoot. And of course, I will be glad to share, and thus, this photo essay here forms review #2.

*I will share two sample sets – one photographed in Classic Negative and one in Provia standard.

X-Pro3, Sigma 56mm f1.4 – Classic Negative

Equipment used – Fujifilm X-Pro3 and Sigma 56mm f1.4 DC DN.

Notably, the size & weight of the Sigma 56mm on X-mount makes it very attractive for outdoor walk-about portrait sessions.

Simplifying the post-processing process for a true to life sharing.

I decided to simplify the photography process (outdoor in natural light) and post-processing process (film simulation applied in-camera, minimal post-processing) for this review for an as-far-as-true representation of what one will get.

While I will prefer to work with raw files, a part of what makes Fujifilm unique is its ability to produce beautiful ready to use straight-out-of-camera images. Thus, in the spirit of this, other than that, obviously, all images shared here were photographed by me. Only the JPEGs were worked within Lightroom Classic CC if they were post-processed.

X-Pro3, Sigma 56mm f1.4 – Classic Negative
X-Pro3, Sigma 56mm f1.4 – Classic Negative

While the X-Pro3 is hardly the ‘fastest’ among latest Fujifilm bodies but yes, the setup’s autofocus and eye/face detect was plenty reliable enough.

Auto-focus reliability and eye/face detect

Though the X-Pro3 is one of Fujifilm’s flagship models, the pacing of performance updates for it has been slow to show this. The much more wallet-friendly Fujifilm X-S10 (my review of it is linked) and the Fujifilm X-T4 leads ahead in the number of film simulations available and auto-focus performance.

However, the positive twist is, if I can find the X-Pro3 sufficiently fast and reliable enough, there is no reason why anyone with the more recent models will find them not reliable enough, and frankly, if one is comparing the auto-focus reliability and speed of 2014 released XF56mm f1.2 versus the Sigma 56mm f1.4, one can be assured that this setup will perform up to one’s demands.

X-Pro3, Sigma 56mm f1.4 – Classic Negative

For this portrait shoot, I had easily a ‘keeper rate’ of more than 90% if one is counting eye-detected, spot-on focused on subject photos. 100% would have been perfect, and I do still find myself doing a double-shot of the same scene for what-if purposes (which I never really need to do for some other brands) but then 90% is already excellent by my standards, especially taking into account that most samples here were photographed wide-open at f1.4 to f2.0.

X-Pro3, Sigma 56mm f1.4 – Classic Negative

X-Pro3, Sigma 56mm f1.4 – Classic Negative

Portrait Set 2 in Provia film simulation

Provia is my go-to film simulation for portraits most of the time, with Pro-Neg High being another favorite of mine. Being defined as the ‘standard’ film simulation for Fujifilm cameras, I hope this will be useful for you when checking out the imaging performance of the Sigma 56mm f1.4.

X-Pro3, Sigma 56mm f1.4 – Provia
X-Pro3, Sigma 56mm f1.4 – Provia
X-Pro3, Sigma 56mm f1.4 – Provia

Rendering and Sharpness

An interesting point about portraits is that I want a specific combination of sharpness and bokeh rendering. While some of us will spend time staring at pixel after pixel, what is important for me is that the optics will render a level of detail and sharpness between ‘sufficient’ and ‘not too much, and the Sigma 56mm f1.4 falls into this category with its 2018 optical design.

The Sigma 56mm f1.4 renders smoothly from the focused to out of focused areas very gently (with the opposite being harsh), and I find this very pleasant. If one is very particular, the Fujifilm XF56mm f1.2 APD and the XF50mm f1.0 will provide a higher quality of ‘bokeh’ and sharpness, especially the XF50mm f1.0. (but do note that the XF50mm f1.0 is around 4 times the price of the Sigma 56mm f1.4)

Conclusion

This is similar to what I have concluded in the first review of the Sigma 56mm f1.4 for X-mount; the lens fits very snugly into a gap within Fujifilm’s portrait lenses. It is significantly cheaper than the XF56mm f1.2 but close to its performance and yet much faster than the XF50 f2, and easily delivers the level of performance that most photography enthusiasts demand. (for the most demanding professionals, my take is they will be likely considering between the XF50mm f1 and XF56mm f1.2 APD instead)

I am confident that the Sigma 56mm f1.4 will find itself in the kits of many photographers, and it is one of the most attractive and best value for money options for portraiture within Fujifilm X-mount. The most exciting part, in fact, for me is what if one-day Sigma decides to release its ART series for X-mount other than the Contemporary series? Seeing the best of Sigma going toe-to-toe versus Fujifilm’s best is definitely worth seeing.

thank you for reading.

The model in this review is Ms. Phun Phattamaporn. You can find her on IG as @phun_rsc

Disclaimers:

  1. The Sigma 56mm f1.4 DC CN Contemporary was a loan from Sigma and has been returned. It was running pre-production firmware version 0.63. Thank you, Audio & Photo Distributor FE Pte LtdSingapore, for generously arranging the loan.
  2. The Fujifilm X-Pro3 is my personal set and running firmware version 1.31.
  3. I take pride in not being a writer who earns through selling affiliate links and can provide a neutral point of view.
  4. if you like my content, sharing them with keen others is the best way of support.

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