Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art: The Art of The Matter

 

Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

K Madhavan Pillai field-tests the full-frame Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art, to find out if the very latest addition to the successful Art line-up has been worth the wait.

Rumour mills grinding for over a year now, expectations from the Sigma 85mm Art have been high. This couldn’t have been particularly easy on Sigma, especially considering that other manufacturers (Canon, Nikon, Tamron, Zeiss) have had widely accepted offerings for this focal length. The release of Sigma’s MC-11 mount converter (to mount Sigma SA or Canon EOS lenses on Sony’s E-mount APS-C or full frame mirrorless cameras) also draws the new Sony 85mm f/1.4 G Master and the Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 into the fray. Taking a practical view for anyone considering the Sigma 85mm Art as an option, this review intends to answer a few essential questions.

Features

The Sigma 85mm Art is rather complex with 14 elements in 12 groups, and includes three special elements and multi-coating to counter aberrations and improve image quality. The lens is rated for use with high resolution sensors. A 9-blade rounded diaphragm enables rounder bokeh. Seals, including a rubber ring at the mount, protects the lens against dust and splashes. A newly updated Hyper Sonic Motor (HSM) allows a 30 percent faster AF and Full-time MF override is available. The filter thread is a rather large 86mm. A petalshaped lens hood and a carrying case come included with the lens.

Sigma is the only lens company that offers photographers a way to both update firmware and calibrate AF via the Sigma USB Dock, purchased separately. An additional advantage is Sigma’s Mount Conversion Service. For a fee, you can change the mount of your Sigma lens, in case you happen to switch camera brands in the future.

Handling

Weighing well over a kilo, the Sigma 85mm Art is made of ‘Thermally Stable Composite’ materials along with traditional metals. It is bigger and heavier than any of its competitors (with the exception of the Zeiss Otus 85mm… about 10 grams heavier). I tested the lens on the Canon EOS 5DS. The lens feels rather good in the hands, with the weight contributing to steadiness while shooting. The handling highlight of the 85mm is the broad, rubber-encased, well dampened focus ring that works splendidly for both stills and video.

The sharpness at f/1.4 is exemplary, but the depth of field is extremely critical. The quality of bokeh is excellent too. Exposure: 1/320sec at f/1.4 (ISO 100). Photograph/ K Madhavan Pillai

The sharpness at f/1.4 is exemplary, but the depth of field is extremely critical. The quality of bokeh is excellent too. Exposure: 1/320sec at f/1.4 (ISO 100). Photograph/ K Madhavan Pillai

Performance

Optically, the Sigma 85mm Art resolves beautifully on the 50.6MP sensor of the Canon EOS 5DS, with superb rendition of detail. It controls flare rather well, and I enjoyed the contrast it delivered in colour, tonality and fine detail. For a portrait lens to be considered excellent, it needs to satisfy certain conditions. First… sharpness wide open. The Sigma 85mm Art is wonderfully sharp at f/1.4, and almost equally so across the frame, from centre to edge! Sharpness improves at f/2. And upto f/8, it is exemplary! Second… control over aberrations at f/1.4. There is some perceivable longitudinal chromatic aberration, in the form of fringing in the out of focus areas, against highlights, but it is slight, and it all but disappears at f/2. Third… quality of bokeh. The 85mm Art shows creamy, well-rounded bokeh. There is some coma visible at the edges as your stop down, but this is also very well controlled. Fourth… autofocus. Moving that volume of glass to achieve AF is not easy for any motor. The Sigma 85mm shows this slight reduction of speed if it has to focus from its closest points to infinity. While it is fast enough to follow a regularly moving subject in continuous AF, it is the kind of lens best used with single shot AF with a selected point. Yet, at its least, the 85mm Art is as fast as newly launched lenses in its genre. It locks focus convincingly and is whisper quiet.

Conclusion

With a price tag of Rs. 1,04,000, the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art is less expensive by varying degrees than its immediate counterparts in Canon, Nikon, and Sony, and immediately makes a rather sound buying proposition. For some photographers though, the deciding factor may be its weight and bulk. Nikon’s 85mm f/1.4G, for instance, is smaller, half a kilo lighter, decidedly less sturdy… and a lot more expensive. Of course, other inexpensive f/1.8 options exist, but these are not in the same league optically (the only noteworthy exception being the Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8). All things considered, the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art must certainly be amongst your top choices.

FINAL RATINGS
Features
Fast max aperture of f/1/4, silent AF
17/20
Performance
Superlative sharpness wide open,
excellent bokeh characteristics
33/35
Build Quality
Superb MF ring, otherwise bulky and heavy
23/25
Ergonomics
Superb MF ring, otherwise bulky and heavy
11/15
Warranty & Support
Two year warranty, wide service network
4/5
MRP Rs. 1,04,000
OVERALL 88%
VALUE FOR MONEY 4/5
Who should buy it? Portrait specialists who use highresolution
full-frame DSLRs or Sony’s mirrorless cameras.
Why? Optical quality, sharpness and the bokeh formed
by this lens is quite brilliant, especially at f/1.4
Tags: 85mm, Art Series, better photography, February 2017, full frame, K Madhavan Pillai, Lens review, photography, Review, Sigma, Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art