A Couple of Holiday Sigmas….. The NEW 56F1.4 DC and 40F1.4 Art!

Welcome back to the end of another year on this disk globe called Earth.  As we approach the holidays some photographers speed up, with all the talk of Santa and all kinds of Christmas events and such, photographing people with Holiday Cheer and or just photographing the aforementioned Claus himself.  I, however, tend to start slowing down a bit around now and I can’t complain too much about that.  I still have a few projects on the books for 2018, but they are mostly low impact stuff.  This was not the case about two weeks ago though when I received the NEW Sigma 56F1.4DC and NEW Sigma 40F1.4 Art in the mail for review.  Now.  I don’t usually review two lenses at once as I feel like parts of each might get lost, and this is not the first time I have received two at the same time.  However, this being the Holidays and both of these lenses being at very different price points, I thought I’d give it a go since Christmas is right around the corner and this means there is something for everyone.

(Look at that pile of stuff! From left to right, Nikon Z7 with Sigma 85F1.4, Nikon 70-200F2.8E, Canon 5D3 with Sigma 40F1.4Art, Sony A6500 with Sigma 56F1.4DC and the Nikon D850 with Sigma 24-70F2.8Art with Elinchrom Skyport Pro)

Even though this is kind of a “Christmas Special” I need to point out that I was not paid by Sigma or Roberts Camera for this review.   This is also not a comparison between the Sigma 56f1.4 DC and the Sigma 40F1.4 Art.  As I mentioned before these are two different price points, two different styles of lenses.  They are not direct competitors, and will not be treated as such here. The opinions I have here are my own, and I greatly appreciate Sigma sending me the lenses to Review, and Roberts for stepping up and loaning me cameras, but otherwise no money has changed hands here. (Except to UPS who I paid to take the lenses back to Sigma).

So let’s start with the NEW Sigma 56F1.4 DC.  The first thing to notice is how tiny the lens is.  Which for a lens that costs $479 at the time of this writing seems about right. This lens is of Sigma’s Contemporary line and is also a lens for a Crop Frame camera.  Does that mean you cannot use this lens on a full frame body like the A7r2 or A73?  You totally can, you just lose some resolution.  This lens really shines on a body like the Sony A6500 though, which is Sony’s competitor some of the smaller Fuji mirrorless bodies out there. Roberts had a Sony A7R2 available for me to use with the Sigma 56F1.4, but it was needed back after about 36 hours.  I was lucky enough that my good friend Tommy Kim loaned me his A6500 for the week to put the 56F1.4 through its paces.  Tommy uses the a6500 on a gimbal for video mostly because of its small size, however, I will be focusing primarily on the still image aspects of this lens for this review.  Speaking of things used for this review, it’s worth noting if you are an Elinchrom user your Skyports will work on any camera system even if they aren’t branded for them.  You lose things like HSS, and TTL if you are using your ELB500, but otherwise, they will trigger all your cameras for the 1/250th sync just fine.  More on that (ish) in a bit.

(Sony A6500, 160ISO, NEW Sigma 56F1.4DC, 1/1000th@F1.4.)

The lens itself is small but seems very well built.  It fits perfectly in both fitment balance and size on the front of the A6500, almost as if they were meant for each other.  The autofocus was quick enough to raise eyebrows and was also incredibly accurate.  How much of this can be attributed to the ballet of electronics between the Sony A6500 and the NEW Sigma 56F1.4 I am not sure, but I can tell you I never shied away from the body/lens combo for fear of it missing the shot.  Being that the NEW Sigma 56F1.4 is for a crop body like the Sony A6500 that means that its true field of view is more like 85F1.4 instead of 56 making this thing a standout as a portrait lens.  I am definitely of the opinion that you do not buy an F1.4 lens to shoot it at F5.6 or F8.  There are lots of lenses that are less expensive that you can do that with, and you buy an F1.4 lens to shoot at F1.4.  While I know this F Stoppers article wasn’t at all aimed at me, I definitely identified with it.


(Sony A6500, 2500ISO, NEW Sigma 56F1.4DC, 1/60th@F1.4)

(Click to Biggify)

As a portrait lens, the NEW Sigma 56F1.4 did not disappoint.  I shot this while working on a job the week I had the lens.  I can’t share the shots from the job, but I shot this after everything was finished as an example of what this lens can do.  If I owned an A6500, I’d have this lens as for $479 it really is a fantastic 85F1.4 Portrait lens example.  It never seemed to hunt for focus, always just snapping into place where I had the green focus square in the viewfinder.  Definitely makes you rethink a small mirrorless body like the A6500 if you haven’t looked into it further already.  Remember that thing about the Elinchrom Skyports?  Super good.

(Sony A6500, 100ISO, NEW Sigma 56F1.4, 1/160th@F1.4. Elinchrom ELB1200 to above camera right set to 1.5 (20% power) with an Elinchrom Rotalux 39″ Deep Octabox)

OK so lets switch tracks here since I did promise to talk about two lenses today for the holidays, but also don’t let price point fool you about the 56F1.4C, it’s not just for amateurs as the experience I had with it garnished acceptable results for most of the work that I do.  So now let’s talk about the NEW Sigma 40F1.4 Art.  This is a full frame lens and it is NOT a replacement for Sigma’s 35F1.4 Art (to my knowledge).   The first thing you’ll notice about this lens though is that unlike the 56F1.4 the NEW Sigma 40F1.4 Art is a MONSTER!

This lens reminds me of my Sigma 85F1.4 it’s so big.  It’s not quite as big as the Sigma 105F1.4, but it’s pretty substantial to say the least.  That said, if the thing provides unequaled quality do you care how big it is?  I don’t.  The folks at Sigma and the other reviewers on the internet say this lens is one of the sharpest they have ever tested.  I wasn’t sure I’d find a lens sharper than my Sigma 85F1.4, which to my knowledge is still the benchmark of sharpness, even over the Zeiss Otus.  But I stuck this Sigma 40F1.4 Art onto a Canon 5D Mark III and let it rip.  Boy, was I in for a surprise.

(The NEW Sigma 40F1.4 next to my Sigma 35F1.4)

SO first of all, why is this thing so massive?  That’s easy actually.  This lens is so massive because the design started out as a Sigma Cinema lens.  Fun fact.  In photography, 50mm is considered the “Normal” Lens.  Normal being the equivalent field of view of holding an 8×10 sheet of paper at arm’s length.  For Cinema, however, 40mm is considered the “Normal”.  Has something to do with the aspect ratio of the frame for movies I do believe but I’m not exactly sure.  Regardless, more and more people are using their DSLR bodies to make movies these days, so porting the 40mm Cine lens into still photography just makes sense right?

(Canon 5D Mark III, 100ISO, NEW Sigma 40mmF1.4 Art. 1/100th@F1.4)

You should be glad that they did this.  If you look at Sigma’s cinema lens site, you’ll notice a lot of similar focal lengths to some of your favorite prime and zoom lenses.  Some of these things, only Sigma makes.  The Cinema lenses are significantly more expensive than lenses for still cameras, but the lessons learned optically translate over.  Every Cinema lens they design gives benefit back to the Still shooters and that’s a really good deal.  Without a doubt, we see this inside the NEW Sigma 40F1.4 Art.  From image quality to little construction differences like the screws on the inside of the lens hood, or the button to release the hood from the lens.  Really nice quality touches.

(Canon 5D Mark III, 100ISO, NEW Sigma 40F1.4 Art, 1/400th@F1.4)

So the NEW Sigma 40mmF1.4 Art is stupid sharp.  Wide angle lenses can be difficult to make sharp, and for years all manufacturers struggled to make them such.  The last few years all the R&D has started paying off though as there have been some really great offerings on the market.  The NEW Sigma 40mm though.  It’s so sharp you have to go back and make sure your sharpening isn’t turned up kind of sharp.  So sharp that even if you aren’t shooting on lights you have to wonder what happened that you got your frame to be as sharp as it is kind of sharp.  This is this frame of my buddy Michael Hickey shot after we both got done shooting the Purdue vs Maryland Basketball game a few weeks ago.


(Canon 5D Mark III, 2500ISo, 1600ISO, NEW Sigma 40F1.4 Art, 1/100th@F1.4)

(Click to Biggify, see the real sharpness.)


It’s insane how sharp this 40mm is, even in that frame up there at 1600ISO, and honestly, I dropped the ball because I don’t have a ton of media that I can share from the week I had the lenses due to the nature of the work I was doing.  I have a tighter frame of Michael, but there was a pole coming out of his head so I decided to go with this one.  I digress though. I own the Sigma I never thought there was anything wrong with my 35F1.4 until I played with this 40mm, and still, not that there is anything wrong with my 35 but it appears as though there is in fact grass on the other side of the fence as it comes to needing that extra 5mm…..  That brings up a good point though.  Is it worth the upgrade if you already have the Sigma 35F1.4 Art?  At the time of this writing at Roberts Camera, you can get the Sigma 35F1.4 Art for $799 (including a $100 instant rebate).  The Sigma 40 F1.4 Art, on the other hand, is expected to be available for $1399 when readily available.  That’s a bit steeper than the $799 for the 35, but if you want the best or if you don’t own either I think the price difference is absolutely worth it.  What if you own the 35 Art already? (Like I do).  As I recall the Sigma 35F1.4 was the first review I did on a Sigma.  The Sigma 35F1.4 Art was the lens that made me realize that Sigma was serious about staying in the market, so honestly, I have a special attachment to my 35F1.4 since I bought it after my review 6 years ago.    Yea read that again, 6 years ago.  The Sigma 35F1.4 is 6 years old.  Well heck.  Maybe this IS here to replace the 35f1.4 Art whether Sigma says that or not.  Guess I didn’t realize so much time had passed since I got my 35.  So if you already have the 35 is it worth the upgrade?  Only you can decide that.  All I can tell you is that the NEW Sigma 40F1.4Art is, in fact, an excessively sharp lens.  Much sharper than I’d have ever thought possible for a relatively wide angle lens.

So there you have it.  A quick one-two, on both the NEW Sigma 40mm F1.4 Art (left) and the NEW Sigma 56F1.4DC.  Both available in Canon, Nikon, Sigma and Sony Mounts.  If you have a photographer on your shopping list for this holiday season, you can’t really go wrong with either.  If you are looking, give Roberts Camera a call, they are good people and I buy almost all my stuff there.  Otherwise, Happy holidays, and More Soon.