The Sony FE 50mm f1.4 G Master is a standard prime lens with a fast aperture designed for full-frame mirrorless cameras. I tested a final production model and in my video review I’ll show you everything I learned about it and how it directly compares against the Sigma 50mm f1.4 DG DN Art. If you prefer to read the written highlights, keep scrolling!
Announced in February 2023, the 50 1.4 GM becomes the latest in a wide range of lenses with a standard focal length or thereabouts. Sony alone has multiple 50s, from the entry-level 1.8 costing around $250 to the high-end 1.2 GM at around two grand.
The new 50 1.4 slots roughly inbetween, still obviously a premium lens in the G Master series, but coming in smaller, lighter and cheaper than the 1.2 version.
In Sony’s own lineup, it most obviously goes up against the older Zeiss 50 1.4 ZA, launched six years previously and still selling somewhat optimistically for around $1500, but I’d say its biggest rival will be Sigma’s much more recent 50 1.4 DG DN Art, which came out only two weeks before the new Sony, and is priced more affordably at around $850.
Indeed the timing meant I was able to test both new 50 1.4 lenses side-by-side allowing direct comparisons between them, so if you’re looking for a standard prime lens for your Sony mirrorless camera, you’ve come to the right place!
In terms of design, the Sony 50 1.4 GM shares a similar style to earlier models in the series, and is almost the same size and weight as the 35 1.4 GM. Here’s the specs: Sony FE 50mm f1.4 GM: 81x96mm, 516g vs the Sigma 50mm f1.4 DG DN Art: 78x110mm, 670g.
Here’s the Sony 50 1.4 on the left with the Sigma 50 1.4 on the right, and while the Sony is 3mm wider in diameter, it’s 14mm shorter than the Sigma and 154g lighter too – something you notice when picking both up.
This also makes the new Sony smaller and a substantial 284g lighter than the old Zeiss 50 1.4, which coincidentally shares a similar size and weight to the Sony 50 1.2. Bottom line, the new Sony 50 1.4 feels fairly compact and light for its spec.
And now here’s the two new 50 1.4’s when they’re fitted with their supplied lens hoods, where you’ll also notice each has gone for a different approach: Sony’s opted for a rubber-tipped cylinder versus a petal design on the Sigma, and while I didn’t notice one being particularly more effective than the other, I can say the Sony hood allows you to securely stand the lens upside-down on a flat surface, something you wouldn’t try with the Sigma, especially mounted on a body. Both lenses are also supplied with padded bags.
Both lenses share similar controls too including an aperture ring from f1.4 to f16 which can be locked in an A position for body-based control, or declicked for smooth and silent operation. Sony however includes two focus hold buttons versus one on the Sigma.
Towards the end of the barrel is a very smooth and lightly-damped manual focusing ring with linear response. Sigma’s manual focus ring is wider, but stiffer in operation and requires a broader turn to get from near to far. It’s a personal choice, but I prefer the Sony ring.
At the end of the barrels is a 67mm filter thread on the Sony versus 72mm on the Sigma, and both lenses feature dust and weather-resistance that includes a rubber seal at the lens mount.
Now for autofocus and you’re looking at the Sony 50 1.4 GM on an A7 IV body set to single area and single AF mode, pulling focus between the two bottles. There’s a little wobble as it returns to the closest bottle, but I found switching the AF mode to Continuous AFC eliminated that and reduced the overall time to focus from one subject to another.
For comparison, here’s the Sony on the left and the Sigma on the right, both set to AFC where they focused fastest and they’re both looking good. Impressively the Sigma looks a tad faster here – it’s certainly not the poor cousin in terms of speed.
Now for the same test but for video where the camera is set to continuous AF. As you’d expect the focus-pulling is smooth and accurate, and I can confirm it was essentially silent in operation.
Place the Sony on the left and the Sigma on the right and you’ll see both are evenly matched here, with any speed or response time being adjustable in-camera if desired. You can also get an idea of focus breathing here which I’ll come to in a moment.
Next for face tracking, here filming video with the Sony 50 1.4 GM where you can see the camera and lens effortlessly keeping me in sharp focus as I move around the frame, while rendering the background into an attractive-looking blur.
And again here’s the Sony on the left and the Sigma on the right, proving both are equally adept at this task, capturing fine details on my face and providing plenty of background blur for isolation. I’ll show you a stills portrait comparison in a moment, but for now it’s clear how both lenses can be great for presenting pieces to camera.
Some of you may be wondering how the depth-of-field compares on the faster 50 1.2 GM, so I’ve swapped in an earlier test I made with it on the right, keeping the 1.4 GM on the left. These were filmed two years apart so aren’t directly comparable, but it gives you an idea none-the-less. As I move back and forth in these clips, you can also get an idea of focus breathing in a real-life environment.
As an extreme test of focus breathing though, I’ll now manually focus the Sony from infinity to the closest distance and back again here, where you’ll see a reduction in the field of view as I focus closer, almost like zooming a lens to a longer focal length.
While this won’t bother stills photographers, it can be a distraction in some videos as you pull-focus from one subject to another, and it seems to be a compromise Sony’s happy to make on many of its lenses.
But let’s compare it to the Sigma, focusing more slowly here due to its longer throw, and you’ll see it suffers from even worse breathing than the Sony when you’re focusing between infinity and the closest distance.
Sony also has an extra trick up its sleeve with digital compensation available on more recent bodies. Here’s how it looks on the left without breathing compensation, and on the right with the feature enabled on the A7 IV. You’ll notice a mild crop to the field of view, but as I adjust the focus from infinity to the closest and back again, the corrected version on the right exhibits virtually no change in magnification.
So for good measures, here’s my earlier bottle focus test, on the left without breathing compensation, and on the right with it enabled. Again, of course there’s a crop in order for the camera to work its magic, but the breathing compensation really does work in practice, but it’s only available on supported Sony lenses only and does not work on the Sigma. This could be a decider for some videographers, although again won’t affect anyone capturing stills and may not be an issue for video either if the change in focus is less extreme.
Now for my landscape quality test shot from about 140m away. I always like to test lenses with real-life subjects both near and far to see how they’ll perform in practice, and I’ve angled the view here so that details run into the corners.
I’ve used the Sony with Distortion Comp set to Off as the lens performed well without it.
You’re looking at the Sony 50 1.4 GM here wide-open at f1.4 on the A7 IV, and if we take a closer look in the centre of the frame – where I focused the lens – you’ll see crisp details right out of the gate.
Place the Sony on the left and the Sigma on the right though and you’ll see both lenses performing at a high-level here, and as I gradually close their apertures one stop at a time, there’s little to be gained in the middle.
Let’s return to the Sony lens at f1.4 before heading out into the far corner, where you’ll see the details soften a tad, but more noticeably a darkening due to vignetting.
Place the Sony on the left and the Sigma on the right though and you’ll see the latter suffers from even greater vignetting. It’s not unusual for large aperture lenses and you can see the effect gradually reduce as I close the aperture one stop at a time.
Note you’re seeing a slightly different part of the frame on the Sigma samples as it captured a fractionally smaller field of view, whether compensation was applied to both or not. It’s not unusual for two lenses of the same quoted focal length to capture slightly different coverage, so don’t worry.
I’d say both lenses are already looking good by f2.8, and there’s some improvements up to f5.6 if you’re looking across the entire frame. Bottom line, both are excellent performers in this test.
50mm lenses are a popular choice for close-range portraits or smaller group shots, and while they lack the compression and isolation of longer focal lengths, some photographers prefer their more engaging perspective, while a fast f1.4 aperture can still deliver decent blurring in the background.
You’ve already seen the 50 1.4 GM in action for video earlier, so here it is for a stills portrait, where it’s clear the degree of blurring you can achieve at f1.4 even when the background’s only a few meters distant.
Putting the Sony on the left and the Sigma on the right shows they share a similar style in terms of rendering with little to choose between them here.
But if you zoom-in for a closer look, the Sony on the left is definitely capturing crisper details. Some of this is down to what looks like more accurate focusing on my eyeball using the A7 IV’s eye detection, but even when the depth of field is increased as I close the aperture, the Sony on the left still looks sharper in this test than the Sigma on the right.
That’s not to say the Sigma’s soft, and when viewed in isolation or against other lenses it can look great. It’s just that Sony here is razor sharp, and working very accurately and consistently with the eye autofocus in the camera.
Just before moving on, a quick look at a similar portrait I took a few years earlier with the Sony 50 1.2 GM. Obviously I’m further from the camera, but it gives you an idea of how that lens renders the background at the maximum aperture. Oh, and it too is razor sharp on the details, as you’d hope for the price.
For a closer look at the potential for bokeh and rendering, here’s my ornament test, where I’ve positioned the lens near to its minimum focusing distance.
You’re looking at the Sony 50 1.4 GM with its aperture fully opened to f1.4 here where the fairly lights are transformed into large bokeh blobs with fairly well-defined edges and only the slightest hint of textures within if you’re looking really closely.
Place the Sony on the left and the Sigma on the right, both taken from the same distance, you’ll see their rendering style is quite similar at first glance.
Look really closely and you’ll notice the Sigma’s blobs have slightly softer edges which you may or may not prefer to the more defined outlines on the Sony, but I’d say there’s no deciding factor between them here. Both are capable of delivering good-looking bokeh blobs at their maximum apertures.
As the apertures are gradually closed one stop at a time, you’ll see both lenses lose the elongated blob shapes towards the corners for more uniform circular shapes across the frame. Both lenses employ 11-bladed diaphragm systems which occasionally become visible at certain apertures, but on the whole, both manage to produce mostly circular blobs at smaller apertures.
If you’re looking for bokeh blobs at more of a portrait distance, here’s how the Sony and Sigma lenses look when filming video with their apertures wide-open to f1.4, rendering the lights behind me into attractive blobs. Both lenses are ideal for presenting pieces to camera from a tripod with nice blurred backgrounds.
Moving onto macro, Sony quotes a closest focusing distance of 40cm for the lens in autofocus or 38 in manual focus, but I always check the performance at the minimum distance by simply photographing a ruler as close as I can manually focus on it.
This is the result with the Sony 50 at f1.4 where I could reproduce a subject measuring 193mm across the width of the frame. Let’s add the Sigma 50 1.4 above, again with the aperture wide-open and positioned as close as I could focus it, and the result is almost identical.
I measure 192mm for the Sigma here, but that’s within testing error. Sigma quotes a closest focusing distance of 45cm, but the effect of breathing and a slightly smaller field of view to start with has ended up delivering much the same magnification in practice.
You’ll notice both lenses become softer towards the edges from this distance at their maximum apertures, but close down the aperture, for example to f8 here, and they sharpen-up nicely.
Before my final verdict, I wanted to show a couple of examples at f1.4 where lateral chromatic aberrations could raise their ugly heads. Now while you can photograph charts to trigger this more obviously, I wanted to see what the impact would be in real-life, and I’d say there’s minimal evidence of any here to worry about.
Just briefly, here’s an enlarged view of the Sony at the bottom and the Sigma at the top, again both at f1.4, and while the Sigma is showing a fraction more colour than the Sony in its blurred areas, it really is minimal and I wouldn’t personally consider it an issue.Check prices on the Sony FE 50mm f1.4 GM at B&H, Adorama, WEX UK or Calumet.de. Alternatively get yourself a copy of my In Camera book, an official Cameralabs T-shirt or mug, or treat me to a coffee! Thanks!