HANDS-ON BY THEANO NIKITAS
There’s no lack of fast prime 85mm
lenses these days and that’s a
good thing, particularly for
wedding and portrait photographers.
Sigma has recently added its own Art lens
to the mix, the 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM.
This lens isn’t just exceedingly sharp;
at $1,200, it’s also the most affordable
85mm f/1.4 lens on the market. Available
in Canon, Nikon and Sigma mounts, the
lens is solidly built and comes with a
lens hood and a padded soft case with a
On the technical side, it’s constructed
of 14 elements in 12 groups, including two
FLD glass elements. The lens, with its 86mm
filter size, provides a minimum aperture of
f/16 and a minimum focusing distance of
33. 5 inches. I tested the lens on a Nikon
D5 and a Nikon D500 and was extremely
pleased with the results from both cameras.
Hold your breath when you’re shooting
this lens wide open. At f/1.4, there’s a thin slice
of depth-of-field and any camera shake will
be noticeable. That said, what’s in focus at this
aperture will be extremely sharp, backed up
by smooth and silky bokeh. Details, down to
otherwise difficult-to-see skin pores, are visible
and sharply focused.
The downside to shooting wide open—
other than holding the lens steady (there’s no
image stabilization)—is chromatic aberration.
I occasionally found green outlines along
high-contrast edges. But stop the lens down
to around f/4 and any CA totally disappears.
The lens also delivers excellent edge-to-edge sharpness, virtually no distortion and
no real noticeable vignetting, even on a
cropped sensor camera body. The lens is
also admirably resistant to lens flaring, even
when pointed toward the sun.
Built like a tank, the Sigma 85mm has
a size and weight profile to match. It’s hefty
at 39. 9 ounces and large at 3. 7 x 5 inches.
In fact, it’s even larger and heavier than the
3. 7 x 4.2-inch/34.8-ounce AF-S NIKKOR
105mm f/1.4E ED as well as the 3. 4 x 3.3-
inch/21-ounce AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G.
Paired with the Nikon D5, you’ll need some
serious upper body strength to shoot with it
for extended periods of time, but autofocus
is responsive, quiet and accurate—even in
relatively low light.
The broad, textured focus ring is
comfortable to grip and turns smoothly.
Manual focus override is possible without
having to move the AF/MF switch and it
was easy to manually focus at f/1.4. A focus
distance gauge and a depth-of-field scale are
available on top of the lens barrel, but I found
it easier to use AF when shooting wide open.
A POWERFUL PORTRAIT PRIME
The Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art lens.
PICTURED: The 85mm f/1.4 DG
HSM Art lens is as sharp as it is