Sigma 56mm f1.4 DC DN Contemporary Lens Review L Mount:
The Leica CL is one of my favorite APS-C mirrorless cameras but truthfully, I wish there were more native lenses. I don’t think I am alone in this wish. Yes, there are M mount lenses, and full frame L mount lenses. Those are great alternatives, of course. However, I don’t always want to rely on manual focus lenses, and full frame L mount lenses are often huge on the CL, especially ones made by Leica. The good news is Sigma has released three APS-C lenses that come in L mount. I’ve had the pleasure of using all three, and right now, I’ll be reviewing the short tele: the 56mm f1.4 DC DN Contemporary lens. Here’s what I think of it.
Sigma 56mm f1.4 DC DN Contemporary Lens Build Quality:
Let’s start off with the build, which is excellent. The Sigma 56mm f1.4 is a solid lens that’s made of TSC (Thermally Stable Composite), so it’ll match the CL’s solid structure perfectly. It comes with a brass bayonet mount that incorporates a rubber sealing for dust and splash resistant construction. The overall design is clean and understated, which again, matches the CL well but this time, aesthetically. There is a rubberized focus ring, which offers good grip, and to top it off, the 56mm f1.4 also comes in Canon EF-M, Micro Four Thirds, and Sony E mount.
↑ Sigma 56mm f1.4 DC DN Contemporary Lens mounted on the Leica CL.
Now, the beauty of this lens is it’s actually compact and light! Look at the photos, and you’ll see what I mean. It weighs just 285 g, and feels more like a normal lens, such as, a 35mm than a short tele with an f1.4 aperture. In fact, out of the three Sigma APS-C lenses currently out for L mount, which include the 16mm f/1.4 DC DN Contemporary Lens, and the 30mm f/1.4 DC DN Contemporary Lens, the 56mm is the most compact. It’s worth noting that according to Sigma, the 56mm f1.4 is currently the smallest mid-tele in its class.
↑ Top view of the 56mm f1.4 attached to the CL.
All this results in pretty much a perfect match with the CL ergonomically. In fact, during my time with all three APS-C Sigma lensese, I ended up using the 56mm f1.4 more than I did the other two focal lengths because I just loved the size. Normally, I expect to be burdened with some weight, and bulkiness when I shoot with something like an 85mm f1.4 equivalent. It’s one of the reasons why I don’t use a short tele as much but this is completely different. To me, the 56mm f1.4 is just about perfect, in terms of size considering its an 85mm equivalent f1.4 lens (really an 84mm). This lens was simply a joy to use on the CL, and it’s not something that you’re going to wish you left at home at the end of a day’s worth of shooting. Even if you know you won’t need a short tele that much on a day you decide to go out shooting, it really doesn’t hurt to bring this little guy along. As you can see in my photo below, it’s not much larger than the Summilux-M 50mm f1.4 ASPH yet the 56mm f1.4 also has autofocus.
↑ This is for size comparison (from left to right): Sigma 16mm f1.4, Sigma 30mm f1.4, Sigma 56mm f1.4, Leica Summilux-M 50mm ASPH, and 75mm Summilux.
In addition, the 56mm f1.4 DC DN Contemporary lens comes with a lens hood as you can see in the photo below. I tried it for a few days but for the most part, I shot without one for nearly the entire time that I had the lens to review.
↑ The Sigma 56mm f1.4 does come with a lens hood.
Sigma 56mm f1.4 DC DN Contemporary Lens Autofocus:
Let’s now go over the autofocus. The 56mm f1.4 DC DN Contemporary lens uses a stepping motor, which I’m happy to report provides fast and near silent operation. There definitely does not seem like there are any issues with this lens operating on the CL. I tried the focusing in all types of lighting, and for the most part, it was on point. In other words, no drama here at all.
The autofocus is also very accurate, which is exactly what you want from an f1.4 lens. I rarely experienced any misses in my photos, and I actually used this lens quite a bit at f1.4.
It’s worth noting that the face detection on the CL also worked superbly with the 56mm f1.4 DC DN Contemporary lens. I did several shoots with the 56mm f1.4, and in all of them, I used only face detection (I have not finished those edits but when I do, I may post a few here on my blog). The eyes were always perfectly in focused even at f1.4. You could see all the details in the eye lashes. I shoot a lot of boudoir (you can find it on my Instagram), and often times, I use only available light. I have some very dimly lit areas in my studio space that are great for moody shots. I also am a huge fan of using hard light and shadows, which can be difficult to focus for some lenses/camera combos but I’m happy to say that this lens performed quite well in these areas and situations.
Sigma 56mm f1.4 DC DN Contemporary Lens Image Quality:
Now, so far, I’ve been raving about the 56mm f1.4 DC DN Contemporary lens, so there has to be a downside, right? Maybe in the image quality department? Well, it’s definitely not here because this lens produces superb images. The optics here are fantastic.
↑ Here’s a photo taken at f8 and 160 ISO.
↑ This photo was taken at f8 and 200 ISO.
↑ This photo of Michelle (Instagram), who’ve you probably seen on my blog many times, was taken at f1.4 and 100 ISO. Like the other model pics I posted here, this was taken on my roof. With the rise in Covid cases, I don’t do much street fashion right now.
For one, this lens is razor sharp. The photos are just so crisp, and three dimensional. At f1.4 this lens is tack sharp in the center with even the corners doing well. Stopping down, of course, sharpens things up a bit but overall, the quality is good enough here that, in my opinion, you’re not going to see much of a difference stopping down in real world shooting. In other words, you do not have to worry about using this lens at f1.4 or at any of the larger aperture settings. This is one of those lenses where you should feel free to use it throughout its aperture range, and expect excellent results.
↑ Here’s a photo taken at f1.4 and 125 ISO.
↑ Here’s a 100% crop of the photo above.
↑ Here’s a photo taken at f8 and 160 ISO.
↑ Here’s a 100% crop of the photo above.
Other features include great color and contrast throughout the aperture range. There is vignetting at f1.4, which is to be expected. Nothing here is out of the ordinary. However, stopping down to just f2 reduces the vignetting significantly, and by f4, it’s pretty much gone. In terms of flare, I didn’t experience much of it at all except for one case when I was on a roof during a model shoot. The sun was super bright that day, and at the angle I was shooting, I’m sure most lenses would’ve been affected in some way, so the case is an extreme example. Overall, I felt comfortable enough with this lens’ performance that I capitalized on it’s compact size, and left the lens hood at home for most of the the time.
↑ This was taken at f8 and 1250 ISO.
↑ This photo of Stephanie (Instagram) was taken at f1.4 and 100 ISO.
↑ This was taken at f8 and 160 ISO.
Sigma 56mm f1.4 DC DN Contemporary Lens Bokeh:
In addition to just plain out fantastic optics, the bokeh from the 56mm f1.4 DC DN Contemporary lens is buttery smooth, which is super important considering most will probably buy it to reap the benefits from the f1.4 aperture. Its 9-blade rounded diaphragm produces images with backgrounds that simply melt away. While we all have different preferences, especially when it comes to bokeh, as far as I can tell, this lens does not produce any harshness in its backgrounds when you want that ultra thin depth of field. Overall, I feel this lens’ bokeh is up there with the best in its class. It’s also so easily achievable meaning the autofocus is super accurate, so you’ll get your subjects in sharp focus with beautifully blurred backgrounds.
↑ This is a photo I took with the 56mm f1.4 at f1.4.
↑ This was taken using f1.4 and 100 ISO.
↑ Here’s a close up of Stephanie (Instagram) shot wide open with 100 ISO.
↑ Here’s another photo of Stephanie (Instagram) taken at f1.4 and 100 ISO but this time, from a further distance away.
Sigma 56mm f1.4 DC DN Contemporary Lens Pros And Cons:
Sigma 56mm f1.4 DC DN Contemporary Lens Pros:
- The Sigma 56mm f1.4 is well-built.
- Compact and light.
- Balances beautifully on the Leica CL.
- Fast and accurate autofocus.
- Superb image quality.
- Ultra sharp lens.
- Great Bokeh.
- Price makes this lens a steal.
Sigma 56mm f1.4 DC DN Contemporary Lens Cons:
- No image stabilization, so depending on the conditions, it may be difficult to hold an 84mm equivalent steady.
Sigma 56mm f1.4 DC DN Contemporary Lens Verdict:
Overall, the 56mm f1.4 DC DN Contemporary lens is a wonderful lens that just about scores perfectly in all areas. It’s seriously hard to fault this lens. In terms of build, the 56mm f1.4 is rock solid, and to top it off, it is very compact and light. Ergonomically, it’s a perfect match for the CL. In addition, the autofocus is both reliable and fast. Lastly, the image quality is superb.
↑ Here’s a shot I took in the morning. The settings were 125 ISO and f8.
To top it all off, the current list price of this lens is only $479, which in my opinion, is a steal. I’ve used lenses double the this price that I don’t believe perform as well. The Sigma 56mm f1.4 can easily compete with lenses well above its price range. Here’s an example: I’ve owned the XF 56mm f1.2 APD lens for my Fujifilm system since its release date, so I have long term experience with it. It currently retails for $1,499, and it’s one of the best Fuji lenses that I’ve ever used. While I have not done a direct comparison between the two, after shooting with the Sigma, and comparing it to the years I’ve shot with the XF 56mm f1.2 APD, I think optically, the Sigma has a slight edge. Don’t get me wrong; there are other factors that go into a great lens, and each lens does have its own unique rendering. So, the Fuji lens is still up there in the optics department but I’m mentioning it just to show how good I think the optics are. It can definitely compete with the best in its class. Combined with the CL, you’ll get some fantastic results.
↑ Here’s one more shot of the Sigma 56mm f1.4 and CL combo.
So, if you’ve been looking for a fast short tele to use with your Leica CL, the Sigma 56mm f1.4 should definitely be on top of your list. I can not praise it enough.
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