- Aperture range of f/1.4 to f/16
- 14 elements arranged in 12 groups
- One aspherical element
- Two low dispersion elements
- Super multi-layer coating
- Hypersonic AF motor with manual override
- Minimum focus distance of 33.3 inches
- Rounded 9-blade diaphragm
- Brass bayonet mount
I know what you’re thinking…
How could I possibly think that Sigma has the best portrait lens out there?
Well, I’ve got news for you - the Sigma of old is no more.
What used to be an inexpensive alternative to the “big boys” like Canon, Zeiss, and Nikon is now producing lenses that are making a lot of photographers see the light (so to speak) and get on the Sigma bandwagon.
So, with that said, let me make my case for Sigma, and let’s just see if you’re not totally convinced that it’s a superior lens!
It’s a Great Focal Length
At 85mm, you have a lot of flexibility in how you approach your portraits.
On the one hand, it’s long enough that you can step back and take half or full body photos - or even environmental portraits at that - while also giving you the ability to get in close for a tightly framed headshot without being right in the subject’s face.
Since many people aren’t completely comfortable in front of the camera, that extra bit of personal space that the 85mm lens offers the subject can make a huge difference in how comfortable they appear in the portrait.
Better still, this lens will create distortion-free portraits, something you have to be careful of when shooting with a wide-angle lens.
The 85mm focal length is also a dream to work with for creating gorgeously blurred backgrounds. The bokeh is buttery smooth and will help you create a portrait in which your subject stands out beautifully.
Beyond that, 85mm isn’t just a great focal length for portraits. Use it for weddings and events, street photography, landscapes - you name it, and this lens will help you get phenomenal results. That versatility alone should be enough to warrant purchasing one of these bad boys.
It’s Oh So Fast and Sharp
With a maximum aperture of f/1.4, this lens gives you tons of flexibility for low-light shooting without having to use an ISO that will induce too much digital noise.
That’s advantageous for all types of portraits, whether it’s a candid shot of the bride and groom at their wedding reception in a dimly lit ballroom or a portrait of your kids playing in the backyard as the sunlight fades.
Better yet, this lens is incredibly sharp. And that’s not just in its sweet spot.
Prime lenses tend to be sharper than zooms simply because there are fewer elements. But, even shooting wide open at f/1.4 you see excellent sharpness throughout with very little chromatic aberration (and less so than its competitors from Canon and Nikon). That’s quite a feat!
Get a better look at this incredible lens in the video above, in which Digital Goja offers us a hands-on review.
It’s Breaking Barriers
Simply put, there are a lot of photographers that believe that you need to use the same brand of lens as your camera.
That means Nikon shooters buy Nikon lenses, Canon shooters buy Canon lenses, and so on.
There’s plenty of solid reasoning behind this position, not the least of which is the argument that no one will understand the camera and lens and how they work together better than the manufacturer.
From that standpoint, it makes sense to use lenses that match the camera’s brand.
However, Sigma is making significant gains in this arena, and their lenses are becoming ever more attuned to use with a variety of major market camera brands, as Matt Granger discusses in the video below:
Consider these specs for the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 ART lens:
Two SLD elements - one aspherical and one anomalous partial dispersion/high-refractive index - work to minimize aberration throughout the range of apertures to produce incredibly sharp, crisp images.
The super multi-layer coating further helps image quality by working to minimize ghosting and flare. And, with a super smooth hypersonic AF motor, you get lighting fast focusing for rapid acquisition of the subject.
If there’s any doubt about the build quality, just set that aside as well.
This lens is beautifully constructed with thermally-stable composite materials. Though that makes it a bit heavier than comparable lenses from Canon and Nikon, it just feels like a high-end lens. The brass bayonet mount with rubber sealing to prevent dust and moisture intrusion is a nice touch as well.
If You’re Still in Doubt…
If I haven’t yet convinced you that Sigma’s 85mm f/1.4 ART lens isn’t the best portrait lens available, just consider the results of a recent review from DxOMark:
Note that the Sigma is at the top of the heap, outperforming several lenses from Zeiss, which is widely regarded as the best lens manufacturer in the world.
In fact, not only did the Sigma f/1.4 ART take top honors in this test, it received the highest score ever given by DxOMark:
“A DxOMark score of 50 points and peak sharpness of 36-Mpix for the new Sigma 85mm F1.4 DG HSM A is the highest in our database, improving on the high-performance Zeiss Milvus 1,4/85, and even surpassing the ultra-high performance of the Zeiss Otus 1,4/55 and 1,4/85 in our metrics. In short, the new Sigma is one of the best-performing full-frame 85mm lenses we’ve seen.”
So, it’s not just me that thinks Sigma is really onto something here. The fact that this “third party” lens absolutely outperformed several high-end lenses from Zeiss says a whole lot!
Speaking of saying a lot, if you need more convincing that this is an awesome lens, just check out what people are saying about it on Amazon:
But Wait, There’s More!
This brings me to my final point…
This lens is incredibly well priced.
Consider this: The Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G Lens will set you back about $1,600. The
Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM Lens is even pricier at $1,900.
And the Sigma?
So, just to review, the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 ART is versatile, fast, sharp, well-built lens that outperforms lenses that are hundreds of dollars more.
If you ask me, that’s a recipe for a fantastic lens, one that I think you’ll now agree is one of the very best portrait lenses available today.