Equipment

Lensrentals.com Review of the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art Series Lens

The most anticipated lens of 2016 didn’t come from Sony, Canon or Nikon. But rather, Sigma finally answered so many people’s request and released the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art series lens. While Roger will be covering the MTF charts and nitty gritty numbers of the lens once we get enough stock, we still wanted to look into the real life examples of the new lens. So we handed off the lens to a select few member of staff and gathered their thoughts (and photos) to put together a comprehensive review of the new lens.

Build Quality

One of the biggest changes Sigma has had in the last few years comes in the build quality of their lenses. Before the Art series and rebranding, Sigma was plagued with stories of back focusing, and inconsistent build quality. However, in the last few years, Sigma has risen to be one of the most respected and beloved third-party lens options. And that stellar attention to detail and build holds true with the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art.

The Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art is produced with the familiarities you’ve come to find in the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art, Sigma 24mm Art, and Sigma 50mm Art. The matte black look is sleek and modern, and the lens is heavy and built with premium materials. Nothing on the lens feels flimsy, and the general feel of the lens is every bit as good as you’d expect from a premium Canon, Nikon, or Zeiss.

Example Photos by Zach Sutton

That said, there is one stand out to this new lens from Sigma – it’s huge. As a reference, we’ve included photos above comparing it side by side of some of our favorite 85mm lenses. As you can see, it’s quite a bit larger in size than just about any other competitor. And it’s not just big in size, but big in weight too. At 3.8lbs, the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art outsizes the already substantial Canon 85mm f/1.2L II (at 2.9lbs), and the Sony 85mm f/1.4 G-Series (at 1.8lbs).

Features

The size challenge is continued in the features of the lens. With an 86mm filter thread on the front, the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art series is likely going to require a new filter if you plan on using NDs filters or a Circular Polarizer. While this might not be a problem for a lot of photographers, I found it to be a hiccup in my workflow. Since I’m mostly on Canon lenses, all of my filters are 77mm, and I’m able to use a 72mm>77mm Step Up Ring for my smaller lenses. Buying into the Sigma ecosystem means I’mm need to change out many of the filters I use and love, for larger, more expensive ones.

However, the size of the lens and filter ring is about it’s only limiting factor. Included with the Sigma 85mm Art lens, and all Art series lenses for that matter – is the ability to micro adjust and install firmware updates by the use of the Sigma USB dock. Hopefully, these are features you never need to experiment with, but the addition of them is a nice touch to lens maintenance, and something we’ll always give a nice nod to.

Example Photos by Nick Hall

The lens also allows for a 33″ minimum focusing distance, shortening the distance a few inches when compared to the Nikon 85mm f/1.4G and the Canon 85mm f/1.2 L II. While the ~5 inches may not seem like much, it certainly can alleviate focusing problems in small spaces.

However, the biggest feature comes in its performance. The Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art Series is sharp. Sharper than it’s more expensive competitors, in fact. And while we’re splitting hairs by making the comparisons (Because the 85mm focal length has some of the best and sharpest lenses available), the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art still managed to outperform and outshine the competitors, even if it’s only by a little bit.

Example Photos by Joey Miller

And perhaps what people most wanted to see here is a series of MTF charts, but sadly we don’t have them yet. The key component of our MTF charts is consistency. We don’t test a single lens since a single lens may be really great or a little soft, we test our lenses in a series of 10 lenses and average out the numbers to give us the most accurate reading. So to put it simply, we don’t have MTF charts on the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art yet, because we haven’t been able to keep them on the shelf for Roger and Aaron to adequately test 10 lenses. However, I’ve spoken privately to Roger, and the initial readings of the first five lenses show that the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art is every bit as sharp as the Canon, Nikon, Sony, and Zeiss counterparts – and at a fraction of the price. For the full results of these tests, check back in the next week or two, and we should have all of our data published on this new, hard to get your hands on, lens.

Example Photos by Nick Hall

 

When it comes to the focus of the lens, it’s good and fast when compared to the slow Canon 85L. While one of us experienced some slight seeking in little light, the consensus is that even at it’s worst, the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art Series focuses just as good as its competitors.

Price & Comparisons

Through our testing, the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art Series is every bit as good as the Nikon and Canon competitors, and at a smaller price point. At $1200 brand new for both Nikon or Canon, The Sigma transcends its competitors. For the value, there is no better 85mm for the prosumer and professional market.

What I Liked

  • Look and Feel is In Line with Art Series Lenses
  • Low Price for an Exceptional 85mm Lens
  • Ability to fine tune with the Sigma USB Dock

What Could Be Improved

  • It’s big and heavy, to a seemingly unnecessary degree.

Conclusion

So is the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art Series great? Yes…without question. If you’re looking for an 85mm lens, the Sigma should be an obvious choice. While it doesn’t give us that extra 1/3rd of a stop that you get with the Canon at f/1.2, it does out focus, and outperform it on every other level.

Want to try it for yourself? The Sigma 85mm f/1.4 is available for rental for both Nikon and Canon for as low as $74 for a week.

Author: Lensrentals

Articles written by the entire editorial and technical staff at LensRentals.com. These articles are for when there is more than one author for the entire post, and are written as a community effort.

Posted in Equipment
  • Arthur Meursault

    Zach loves himself some PortraitPro even given himself some smokey eyes and shadows.

  • Thuy Vu

    That is not a bad deal.

  • James Vitiello

    Maybe she uses coppertone.

  • sickheadache

    4 grand vs 1 grand and photo shop fixes all. Yep u don’t own an Otus.

  • f/64

    How is the microcontrast? I own a few ART lenses. While their sharpness is becoming legendary, their microcontrast could be improved. But I imagine the number of elements used by Sigma may make that a difficult challenge.

  • Ian Goss

    I hate stumbling over instances of *it’s* when it should be *its*β€”this slows me down every time as I analyse the words ahead. Please fix. They DO NOT MEAN THE SAME THING!

  • Munchma Quchi

    The Otus has that other problem (like the Apo-Sonnar) is that every single flaw and vellus hair shows up in portraits. If someone’s a bit sloppy with the tweezers the Otus 85mm will catch hairs they missed in their 10x beauty mirrors. Unless the subject is exceptional and there is a pro makeup artist, it’s just as well to use a Nikon 70-200 at f4. I save a lot of time in post when I use a lens that doesn’t catch everything.

  • Munchma Quchi

    Roger – You’re being too kind to Zeiss. They could have polished the aspherics to remove the OOF onion ring highlights on the 85mm. Never stops me from shooting but I know it’s always there.

  • Munchma Quchi

    After seeing the Alternative Facts released by DXO today on the Sigma 85, I came back here to see if there was any indication that this lens outperforms or even approaches the Otus 85. Nothing I can see here but these are all reduced files so it’s hard to get a real feel without 100% sizes/

  • FramerMCB

    That’s just the “3P” mode setting on Sigma’s new lens…stands for: Pro portraits with Pop! πŸ˜‰

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