Sigma 50 Art Lens Compared With The Canon 50mm F1.2L

s50a-50l-01Up until recently the question of getting an original branded lens (e.g. Canon, Nikon) vs a 3rd Party lens (e.g. Sigma, Tamron) was not really a question. If you could afford the original brand lens, the answer was, go for the original.

However, with Sigma’s recent ART lenses things may have changed. Photographer Will Chao took both the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 ART lens and the Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM Lens for a head to head battle and the results are not as conclusive anymore.

The photo at the top of the post and the photo below are an easy daylight test for the lenses.

s50a-50l-02And the inevitable Bokeh comparison

s50a-50l-013Stacked up against an older Sigma lens and a 50mm/1.8 you can get some clues on the quality of both the top lenses:

s50a-50l-08 s50a-50l-10Another interesting aspect that Will brings up is the coating and contrast of the lens. Here is his observation:

Another thing I have noticed is that although F1.2 is only 1/3 to 1/2 of a stop faster than F1.4, the exposure difference is in fact around 3/4 of a stop, this is likely due to lens coating that may have affected transmission (? need confirmation), but let’s see how it fares against the sun.

And the photos to match it:

s50a-50l-flare3 s50a-50l-flare12Will has some more samples over at his post, which I recommend checking out (some are mildly NSFW).

For me this puts the question mark back in the question that opened the post (not to mention that the Sigma is $700 cheaper than the Canon).


  • Armmy De Cook

    i like 50L

  • Sarah L Smith

    She is not looking at the lens in the S50A, her whole head is bent more.
    Most will like the 50L cause she is looking at you.

    • Jabari Hunt

      I actually prefer the shot on the left…partially because the colors or more vibrant, and partially because you can’t see the bags under her eyes (specifically because she isn’t looking directly at the camera).

    • echomrg

      i agree. pictures shot for comparison should be as similar as possible.

  • Craig Hudson

    Sigma all the way simply. Much better with lens flare and cleaner bokeh IMO

    • silver_dot

      Silly people comparing two different things not comparble: a lens opening at 1.2 to an other one opening just at 1.4.

      You’re taking people just for nuts.

      • joe_average

        nit-pick all you want, but the results clearly show the sigma is the winner.

      • scatterbrained

        So by your logic the Canon 50L can’t actually be compared to anything then? Ok. . . . . . .

      • [email protected]

        absolutely! let’s get real and post images at f/1.4 from both lenses.

  • William Bruno

    what can i use as DIY ND filter?

    • Sepali

      I lol’d. Literally.

  • Andor Konrát

    Despite the trick with poses (as Sarah L Smith mentioned) I take Sigma

  • Kvandt

    Quite confusing the last comparison pictures swapped left to right…. But anyhow interesting comparison!!

  • Lei
  • Thiago Souza

    Hey Udi! Transmission is aka the T-stop, the amount of light that hits the sensor. These F1.2 from Canon transmit like F1.4, with more bokeh

  • gtvone

    I’m using the Sigma 50 Art, I was using the Canon 50mm f/1.4 before that (still have it, but it’s crunchy) and I love it…

  • Eric Jaakkola

    The 50L seems to encourage eye contact better

  • Jeremy Blake

    There’s really nothing to compare or discuss. The Sigma is much better. Same for the 35L vs 35 Art. Sigma is blowing Canon away with their recent lenses. I went from an “L only” guy to a “I’ll take the L as long as there isn’t an Art version.” kind of guy.

  • John Hryniuk

    The only problem is the Sigma lense is made of plastic and the Canon one is made of metal.

    • scatterbrained

      Funny, my 100L is made of plastic, and it’s my most used lens. My 35 art feels more solid and substantial than the 100L, and feels every bit as solid as the 10 other L lenses I own. I would have no qualms with the 50A.

      • Will Chao

        My 100L is very wobbly and you can hear the internals clinking when you move around, I heard it’s part of the design but scares the crap out of me!

    • Will Chao

      Sigma ART series are made of half metal and half plastic, JUST like the newer L series (100L and 24-70 II both feel very plastic)

      The exterior feels very metallic and solid in the hand, it actually feels more robust than the Canon L lens possibly due to its size.

  • Ahmet

    I can’t see the reason to put the question mark back. Sigma is better. Not a little. The insignificant difference between 1.2 or 1.4 well, not enough to justify the higher price when in every other aspect the Sigma visibly beats the Canon. These are not lab tests, the difference in flare is enough… And it’s sharper as well…

  • Naptunian

    Wow, I’m very impressed with Sigma now. Hoping they release an 85mm

    • Peter Bower

      Not likely. They already have a non-Art 85mm in their line up that is not that old. I dare say we’ll see longer focal range prime, such as a 135mm or 105mm next :)

      • Naptunian

        I’d be happy with either a 105mm or a 135mm as well

  • Lars

    Please read the original article from Will. 2 things caught my attention:

    – “Another thing I have noticed is that although F1.2 is only 1/3 to 1/2 of a stop faster than F1.4, the exposure difference between both lenses is in fact around 3/4 of a stop”. He guesses its the lens coating, but whatever the reason is, the light difference in pratice is larger than on paper.

    – I think the headshot used here he might _slightly_ missed the focus. Dunno, but the 50L shot seems kinda mushy. Yes the sigma is sharper, yes its visible, but take a look at the other headshot from the same model. In terms of sharpness the difference is noticably lesser than in the first example (IMO).

    I also agree with what a few fellows mentioned here, if you are going to compare shots, make them as similar as possible.

    Apart from that good job Sigma & Will.

  • rowstar

    I prefer the Canon lens simply because it is clearly more flattering as a portrait lens. The Sigma is amazing and sharp..but too sharp for a portrait lens. Ask the girls in the images and i’d say they will always pick the canon lens images.

  • Frank Nazario

    Ladies and gentelmen… I VOTE SIGMA…. I am renting this lens this weekend and if it does this with my work… im getting the Nikon version in a heart beat.