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Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art Review

John Riley reviews the new Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 DC telephoto zoom lens with a bright aperture and APS-C coverage.

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Handling and Features

Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art Review: Sigma 50 100mm F1,8 Art Front Oblique View

Sigma has been introducing some very impressive lenses in their Art range and the latest addition is this 50-100mm f/1.8 DC lens. Designed for APS-C cameras and with a very useful constant f/1.8 maximum aperture, this gives a “35mm equivalent” of around 75-150mm. The first really high quality zooms were this range, albeit it at a more modest f/4, so it will be interesting to see how this new lens performs as it brings that specification into the modern arena.

Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art Handling and Features

Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art Review: Sigma 50 100mm F1,8 Art Top View

For the purposes of this review, the lens was matched with a Canon EOS 600D body, a combination which offers good balance in the hand. The rotating tripod collar is placed at the centre of gravity and offers a secure attachment, plus the ability to quickly move from landscape to portrait format. Mount options are available for Nikon, Canon and Sigma and the lens is also compatible with the MC-11 adapter for Sony FE cameras, at least in its Canon and Sigma versions. If we change our mind at some point, Sigma offers a mount changing option so a change of system need not mean changing all our lenses.

Forward of the tripod collar is the zoom ring, which is nicely damped, firm in operation but smooth. Moving on towards the front of the lens we find the AF/MF switch and the distance scales. The latter are located under a reasonably sized plastic window and values are offered in both feet and metres. Focusing is down to a minimum distance of 0.95m (37.4”), which equates to a maximum magnification of 1:6.7. This is reasonable, but not as close as we have become used to with many lenses. Closer focus would have been a benefit. The lens does not rotate or extend during focusing or zooming as these functions are carried out internally.

The manual focus ring is very generously sized and has positive end stops. Action is, again, well damped and very smooth, just right for finger-tip fine adjustment of the AF, which is possible after the system has locked onto a focus point. Finally, the filter size is 82mm and a bayonet outer fitting allows the efficient petal lens hood to be quickly attached.

The lens is constructed with 21 elements in 15 groups, with 3 FLD (“F” Low Dispersion, with properties similar to fluorite), one SLD (Special Low Dispersion) and one high-refractive index, high dispersion element. The diaphragm has 9 rounded blades to ensure as round as possible an opening, for improved rendering of the out of focus areas, the bokeh. The constant f/1.8 aperture means that more control over depth of field is possible, as well as helping to ensure faster shutter speeds can be used as the light levels fall.

Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art Review: Sigma 50 100mm F1,8 Art With Hood On Canon 600d

There are many discussions on the idea of “35mm equivalent” and although we usually refer to field of view as the comparison, it is also valid to consider the effect on depth of field. This would make the Sigma 50-100mm equivalent to the effect of an f/2.8 aperture on a 35mm format camera, offering a useful degree of differential focus. The exposure remains the same though, as f/1.8 is always f/1.8, regardless of the format. The only downside to the fast aperture is the weight of the lens, which is 1490g, which makes the original 1970s 75-150mm lenses positively svelte by comparison.

Focusing is achieved using Sigma's HSM (Hyper Sonic Motor) system, which is quiet and efficient. Manual tweaks to the AF position are possible and, of course, manual focus is also available via the AF/MF switch. I did find that it was possible to accidentally nudge the switch, so a slightly firmer one could be a good idea, or maybe relocating it to somewhere less likely to coincide with the natural grip on the lens barrel. This is, however, a minor point as in general the lens handles very well.

There are a couple of omissions, though. There is no weather resistance, a feature that would definitely be advantageous. Also, there is no vibration compensation, so no assistance with camera shake for those whose cameras rely on lens-based compensation.

Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art Review: Sigma 50 100mm F1,8 Art Rear Oblique View

Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art Performance

Sharpness reveals a very exciting performance. At 50mm the centre is outstanding from f/1.8 through to f/4, excellent from f/5.6 to f/11 and still very good at f/16. The edges are excellent from f/1.8 through to f/5.6 and are very good from f/8 to f/16.

70mm starts off centrally with an excellent performance at f/1.8, becoming outstanding from f/2.8 to f/4, excellent from f/5.6 to f/11 and remaining at a very good level at f/16. The edges are also a very high standard, very good at f/1.8 and f/2.8, excellent from f/4 through to f/8 and very good at f/11 and f/16.

85mm is centrally outstanding from f/1.8 through to f/5.6, excellent at f/8 and f/11 and very good at f/16. The edges start off at a very good degree of sharpness at f/1.8 and f/2.8, excellent from f/4 to f/11 and are still very good at f/16.

There is a similarly high performance at 100mm, with central sharpness being excellent at f/1.8, outstanding from f/4 to f/5.6, excellent at f/8 and f/11 and remaining very good at f/16. The edges are very good at f/1.8 and f/2.8, excellent from f/4 to f/11 and still very good at f/16.

Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art Review: MTF@50mm
Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art Review: MTF@70mm
Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art Review: MTF@100mm

How to read our charts

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution as LW/PH and is described in detail above. The taller the column, the better the lens performance.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Canon EOS 600D using Imatest.


CA (Chromatic Aberration) results in colour fringing, and centrally the lens puts in a very fine performance. The overall values are mostly less than one tenth of a pixel, which is very creditable for any lens, never mind a zoom. The edges are not quite so well corrected, but still offer a very sound performance that can easily be corrected further in software.

Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art Review: CA@50mm
Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art Review: CA@70mm
Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art Review: CA@100mm

How to read our charts

Chromatic aberration is the lens' inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.

Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements (aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc) to minimise the problem, hence they usually cost more.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Canon EOS 600D using Imatest.


Bokeh is the quality of the rendition of out of focus areas, some lenses offering a smooth gradation in sharpness, others being more ragged in appearance. Telephoto lenses do have the advantage in that depth of field is naturally more restricted. The Sigma 50-100mm falls half-way between the extremes, although admittedly we have here a subjective assessment. Bokeh is pleasant, not the smoothest ever seen, but certainly very acceptable, especially in the light of the lens's other qualities.

Shooting against the light, flare was not apparent apart from a very slight reduction in contrast, and this only in the most extreme circumstances. It was basically not a problem.

Distortion affects the ability of a lens to render straight lines as straight lines, something particularly important with architectural subjects. The amount of correction is certainly very impressive. At 50mm there is -0.788% barrel, at 70mm +0.441% pincushion, at 85mm +0.964% pincushion and at 100mm +1.25% pincushion. Further correction in software is, of course, possible, but even as is the result is excellent.

Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art Sample Photos

Value For Money

Most lenses in the telephoto zoom bracket have much wider ranges than the Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 DC Art lens, so its £829 price tag is hard to relate to any direct competitor. The Tokina 50-135mm T3 Cinema lens (£4499) is the closest in terms of focal length range, but hardly an easy alternative.

Of course, there are plenty of approximately 50-200mm and 55-300mm lenses available at less than half the price. With the new Sigma we lose out on the focal length, but what we do gain is exemplary performance and that bright f/1.8 constant aperture. Based on that performance, it's a fair price.

For more options have a look at the Top 10 Best Sigma lenses

Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art Verdict

The Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 DC Art lens is a fine example of the lens maker's art. The zoom range is limited, it's heavy and it could perhaps focus a little closer, but apart from that it would be difficult to find fault with any aspect of its performance.

The sharpness reaches outstanding levels across the range of focal lengths, distortion is low, CA well controlled and the overall appearance of the images is very appealing. The clincher is, of course, that f/1.8 aperture, which opens up a realm of possibilities in low light and for control of depth of field. A lovely lens that's a pleasure to use.


Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art Pros

  • Outstanding sharpness
  • Low distortion
  • Well controlled CA
  • Highly flare resistant
  • Pleasant bokeh
  • Fast and silent AF
  • Good ergonomic design

Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art Cons

  • No weather resistance
  • Could usefully focus closer
  • No vibration reduction
  • Heavy

Overall Verdict

Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art Specifications

Lens Mounts
  • Nikon AF
  • Canon EF
  • Sigma SA
Focal Length50mm - 100mm
Angle of View16.2° - 31.7°
Max Aperturef/1.8
Min Aperturef/16
Filter Size82mm
35mm equivalentNo Data
Internal focusingNo Data
Maximum magnificationNo Data
Min Focus94.9cm
Box Contents
Box ContentsNo Data

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ElSid Avatar
ElSid 15 11 United Kingdom
31 Aug 2016 11:01AM
While I feel fairly certain that the lens will perform as well as you say I'm afraid the image quality is not evidenced by your sample images, all of which appear to be suffering from aggressive noise reduction and gross over-sharpening with bright halo lines along many of the mid to high contrast edges - particularly so in the 3rd picture of the pithead winding gear.

Either something was wrong with the camera settings or the processing settings as I doubt the quality shown is typical of a 600D...
johnriley1uk Avatar
31 Aug 2016 12:06PM
In general, things like noise reduction and lens correction are switched off, but next time I use that particular camera I will double check to make sure nothing has been inadvertently switched on again. I did check, but you never know. The third picture you mention was a deliberately challenging shot and it does do what it sets out to, that is, show the CA that is quite evident at the edges. Many thanks for the comments, all duly noted.
aardvark7 Avatar
aardvark7 16 1
31 Aug 2016 3:01PM
I think your choice of subject for the 'lego duck' was rather unfortunate and gave me quite a start...I thought there was some dreadful pixellation going on!
It took me a few seconds to realise what I was looking at. LOL
cfreeman Avatar
cfreeman 19 1.3k United Kingdom
1 Sep 2016 11:20AM
Do you know if they will release this with a m4/3 fitting like they did with their 30mm f1.4 Art lens?
ChrisV Avatar
ChrisV 17 2.3k 26 United Kingdom
6 Sep 2016 1:19PM

Quote:Do you know if they will release this with a m4/3 fitting like they did with their 30mm f1.4 Art lens?

Doubt it - there's no M4/3 for the 16-35 Art that's been out a good while now. A shame because I'd definitely consider buying one myself. I'd hazard a guess they're designed mainly to work with PDAF, so may not focus fast enough on mirrorless in general - as well as being very big of course... I know you can buy metabones adapters for them, but the only material I've seen on that is video shooting [on a GH4] and that was unsurprisingly shot manual focus [most pro video shooters do that anyway]. Would be interesting to see how it performed general-purpose.

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