If you’re considering upgrading your photography kit by adding a few fast prime lenses, then you’ll want to consider the Sigma 56mm lens. In this review of the Sigma 56mm lens, you’ll get the low-down on this lens and why I have added it to my bag!
NOTE: Most of my references and notes below are in reference to the X-mount version of the Sigma 56mm. But it is available for several other camera mounts as well including Sony, Canon, and Nikon. Make sure to read the full review, in particular the section about other comparable lenses.
Let’s talk about third-party lenses
Before we dig into the specifics of the Sigma 56mm lens, let’s talk about third-party brands in general. If you’re not familiar with that term, it just means a brand other than the camera manufacturer.
There are several lens-making companies now on the market, but some are better than others. These are the main three, they make lenses that are very similar to camera brand offerings but usually at a significant saving.
- Sigma (top-ranked, often rated higher than the brand name versions)
- Tamron (make some very good lenses as well)
- Tokina (not as highly rated currently)
You’ll also find several others like Rokinon (I have their fish-eye lens), Samyang, 7 Artisans, Bower, and more. Just browse Amazon or B&H Photo’s listings and see how many options are available.
So don’t be afraid of buying a third-party lens, there are many good brands. Just do your due diligence, check reviews (I use and recommend DPReview for that), and be open-minded.
Sigma 56mm lens physical specs
The dimensions and weight will vary based on the camera mount. The specs listed below are for the Fuji X-mount version. It also comes with a lens hood.
|Focal Length||56mm (35mm Equivalent Focal Length: 84mm)|
|Lens Mount||FUJIFILM X|
|Lens Format Coverage||APS-C|
|Angle of View||28.5°|
|Minimum Focus Distance||1.6′ / 50 cm|
|Optical Design||10 Elements in 6 Groups|
|Diaphragm Blades||9, Rounded|
|Filter Size||55 mm (Front)|
|Dimensions (ø x L)||2.6 x 2.4″ / 66.5 x 59.8 mm|
|Weight||9.9 oz / 280 g|
Most interesting to note is how this Sigma lens differs from the Fuji version (see below), other than the obvious difference in maximum aperture (the Fuji is f/1.2).
Notice that it is significantly larger and heavier (almost double) than the Sigma lens. That is due to the Fuji lens having 3 more lens elements (more glass). It also has a much larger filter size which means they will cost you quite a bit more.
|Fuji brand 56mm lens||Maximum aperture f/1.2|
|Optical Design||13 Elements in 8 Groups|
|Diaphragm Blades||11, Rounded|
|Filter Size||67 mm (Front)|
|Dimensions (ø x L)||3.1 x 3″ / 79.4 x 76 mm|
|Weight||15.7 oz / 445 g|
Build and feel
One of the biggest differences with the Sigma 56mm is that it is not a WR (weather-resistant) lens. For me, that’s not a deal breaker because I will be using it mostly for portraits. As such I will not be photographing during bad weather.
If you want to do street photography or other things, it might be an issue for you. So just be aware that the Sigma lens is not weather resistant so you have to be more careful of water and the elements.
The lens feels solid and the barrel has an attractive matte black finish. However, it does feel a bit more plastic-y than the Fuji lens, but I don’t think it’s an issue. Again, I will mostly be using it for portraits in a controlled environment and based on my past experience with Sigma lenses I expect it to hold up well to regular use. It in NO way feels cheap or flimsy though.
I rented the Fuji 56mm f/1.2 previously and it’s an amazing lens. However, it also comes with a much heftier price tag. So for me, the choice was easy to make and I went with the Sigma lens.
Cost and value
Value and bang for your buck are where the Sigma lens really delivers! As I said, it was a no-brainer for me. The Sigma lens was brand new so they had an introductory price, plus I got an extra discount at the camera store because the rep was there demonstrating it.
In the end, I paid $379 CAD ($283 USD) for the Sigma 56mm, while the Fuji f/1.2 was $1274 CAD ($952 USD). BIG difference right?!
Here is a comparison chart of a few of the other Sigma 56mm lens mounts, compared to the brand lens in terms of price:
|Brand name price (USD$)||Sigma price (USD$)|
|Fuji f/1.2 $999||Sigma f/1.4 $419|
|Canon EF-M – doesn’t exist but the RF f/1.2 one is $2099||Sigma EF-M $379|
|Sony FE 50mm f/1.2 GM Lens $1995||Sigma E-mount $479|
|Panasonic Lumix S PRO 50mm f/1.4 Lens $2129||Sigma Micro Four Thirds $479|
So if you have the funds, you can stick with the brand-name option from your camera manufacturer. But if you want great value for your buck – try the Sigma lens!
Whenever you get a new lens, sharpness is going to be on the list of requirements. I haven’t made a head-to-head comparison with the Fuji one, but the Sigma 56mm X-mount lens is really sharp!
In fact, it’s SO sharp that I use Lightroom and Luminar Neo to soften the skin on all my portraits. Today’s high-megapixel cameras and sharp lenses like this one are not all that flattering or forgiving for us mere humans. Notice how I keep the eyes sharp though!
Like any lens with a large aperture, if you shoot wide-opened you need to make sure you nail your focus. So make sure that any sharpness issues aren’t caused by user errors before you point a finger at the lens as the source of the problem.
Look closely at the two pairs of images below. They were all shot at f/1.4 but the focus is slightly off in the images on the left. We’re literally talking about millimeters.
Can you see how my cat’s eye and nose are both sharp in the right image, as compared to her eyebrows in the left one? In the B/W portrait, both eyes and eyelashes are sharp in the right image, they are not in the left.
Nine times out of ten, lack of sharpness is caused by other things like incorrect camera settings, movement, not using a tripod, etc. Read more here: How to Get Sharper Photos – 6 Essential Settings You Need to Know.
Here are a few example images taken under different lighting conditions and situations. As you can see, it works great for pet photography too!
But the main reason I have this lens is for portraits. It’s great in the studio and outdoors. It’s a bit cold outside here currently but I’ll be making good use of it in the spring onward. It’s also already in my bag ready to come to Cuba with me!
NOTE: One thing to be aware of is that just because the lens has a maximum aperture of f/1.4, that does not mean you have to only use that aperture. When the situation dictates that you need more depth of field, close it down a few stops.
So it all depends on the look you want to create with your image. The one below was taken at f/1.8 because I wanted just her eyes and lips sharp and the rest to blur. You can see that even her hair and shoulders are out of focus.
Likewise with the following image. Just her face is sharp and the beads on her outfit are so blurred they have turned into bokeh. I love that!
Then I adjusted my aperture to f/3.6 which resulted in the following image. Can you see the difference in the depth of field? The beads on her far shoulder are still not 100% sharp, but they are sharper. Overall there is more sharpness back-to-front.
You need this lens if . . .
Next, let’s talk about the benefits of this lens and why you might want to get a 56mm f/1.4 lens.
Who is the Sigma 56mm f/1.4 lens for?
This is not a lens for everyone, but if you say yes to any of the following, then I’d recommend you get one:
- If you photograph in low light situations often and want a companion to your 35mm lens (meaning you already have a 35mm f/1.4 and want to have another lens that’s slightly longer or more telephoto).
- You enjoy doing portraits and have an APS-C crop sensor camera – this is the ideal focal length for headshots and ¾ portraits (if you shoot full-frame, check the section below for other options).
- Macro photography is something you enjoy doing but you don’t want to invest in a dedicated macro lens (the 56mm pairs really nicely with extension tubes for a low-cost, lightweight macro kit).
- Having lots of options for different lenses in your bag appeals to you and cost and total bag weight aren’t an issue.
- You have been coveting the brand name version 50mm f/1.2 but can’t justify the price tag.
The images below were all taken on a movie set under low light conditions. Being able to use such a large aperture, in this case, f/1.4 is essential to keeping the ISO lower and minimizing noise and grain. I also had to be totally silent on the set when they were filming and the lens served that purpose well too!
Overall, it’s a great lens to have in your bag. If you have the budget and room for it – I highly recommend getting one.
Who is the Sigma 56mm f/1.4 lens NOT for?
If you already have a similar focal length lens, especially the 60mm or similar macro lens from your camera manufacturer – then you’re all set. You don’t need to have lens duplication and the macro works just as well as a portrait lens too.
But if you do NOT have a macro lens already, then I’d say grab this one and some extension tubes. I created the following images using that setup on my Fuji XT3.
Munch was a good model, and she got some cat treats for posing! We were both very pleased in the end!
Comparable lenses for DSLR cameras
As I mentioned above, if you have a full-frame camera Sigma has another option for you, the 85mm f/1.4. The slightly longer focal length is perfect for full-frame sensors.
Where to buy it
Click here or on the box below to see the full list of all the Sigma lenses in the 56mm and 85mm range.
Make sure you select the right lens for your camera as the mount for each brand is different. Then choose your preferred retailer from the links below your chosen lens.
Any drawbacks or cons?
The only drawback or con of the Sigma 56mm F/1.2 lens for the Fuji X-mount is that it does not have an aperture ring on the lens itself. If you are a Fuji shooter you’ll know what I’m talking about. If you’re not, then you won’t miss it because you likely don’t have it on your other lenses either.
One of the things I loved about the Fuji cameras is that they have the look and feel of old 35mm film cameras. No need to go into a menu or push a button to adjust the main exposure settings.
Back in the day, there were no fancy buttons and menus to adjust the exposure. The film you loaded was a set ISO. The shutter speed was adjusted using a dial on the top of the camera, and the aperture was set with a rotating ring on the lens.
Since switching from Canon to Fuji in 2014, I’ve become really used to having that ring again. So now I miss it a little on this lens, but it’s not a huge deal. It’s easily adjusted using the front dial on my XT3.
Do I wish the Sigma had an aperture ring? YES, I do, but it would just be the icing on the cake.
Final thoughts and rating of the Sigma 56mm f/1.4 lens
Overall, I give the Sigma 56mm lens 4.5 out of 5 stars, only deducting half a point for lack of an aperture ring and weather resistance. Otherwise, I can find no other faults.
It’s well made, tack sharp, really silent, lightweight (as compared to the Fuji 56mm), and is great value for your dollar. So much so in fact that I chose the Sigma 56mm over the Fuji one!
So if you said YES to a few of the items in the section above on who this lens is for – I highly recommend you get one. You won’t regret it!