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Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG DN Art Lens Review

The Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG DN Art is a new lens from Sigma that's designed to be used with full-frame mirrorless cameras so John Riley's paired it with the Sony A7R III to find out how it performs.


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Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG DN Art
 

85mm is of course the classic focal length for a portrait lens, the working distance being perfect to ensure a pleasing facial perspective. It also means that the photographer is not crowding the model, but is close enough for proper communication. This represents an excellent balance of properties that have always been seen as ideal. 85mm lenses have also been the pinnacle of the lens makers' art within any range, and what better marriage than this basic ethos coupled with the Art designation in Sigma's new lens. The Art range of lenses also aspires to be the pinnacle of Sigma's lens making abilities, which have been well established for many decades. Here we couple the new lens with the 42MP Sony A7R III full-frame body, so let's see what that combination is capable of.

Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG DN Art Handling and Features

Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG DN Art
An 85mm f/1.4 lens is inevitable a chunky item and this lens is no exception, but it is more compact than many other lenses of the same specification. It also weighs in at a relatively modest 625g (Sony FE fit) or 630g (L mount fit). Balance and handling are very satisfactory.

A large round bayonet fit lens hood is provided. This offers excellent shading of the front element and also good protection against accidental knocks to the front of the lens. The hood bayonets securely into position and a locking catch ensure that it stays put. The catch does not protrude so there is no danger of it being accidentally pressed, for example in a camera bag. Within the bayonet, fit is a standard 77mm filter thread.

There is a wide manual focus ring that operates electronically. It is very nicely damped. AF is virtually silent and very snappy, using a stepping motor to achieve efficient and accurate focusing. The minimum focus distance is 85cm, or 2.79 feet, giving a maximum magnification of 1:8.4. This is exactly what we would expect from a traditional 85mm lens.

There are a number of switches. The AF/MF switch is self-explanatory. The AFL button locks the focus position in AF mode. Some camera bodies may make this button programmable. There is a click on/off button that controls the aperture ring. The off position gives seamless, smooth and silent aperture control, making it ideal for videographers. On the opposite side of the lens barrel, there is an aperture lock ring. When set to “A” this lock makes sure the setting does not move off A. When set outside the A mark, the lock prevents the A setting from being inadvertently engaged when the aperture ring is being used.

Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG DN Art
 

Closest to the camera body is the aforementioned aperture ring, beautifully engineered. One-third of a stop click stops are available if required, engraved with very high precision. Finally, the brass bayonet fitting is well made and fits securely on the camera body.

Optical construction is 15 elements in 10 groups. There are 5 SLD (Special Low Dispersion) and 1 Aspherical element. For the environmentally aware, the glasses used contain no lead or arsenic. The diaphragm comprises 11 blades, to give a rounded aperture and the best possible bokeh. As well as Sigma's usual multi-coating the front element has a water and oil repellent coating.

The lens is billed as being dust and splashproof, and for once we have an explanation of what that means. Sigma states that it is usable in light rain but not waterproof. We are still left to define light rain for ourselves, but let's give credit where it is due and at least Sigma has provided a guideline.

There is no built-in vibration reduction and this is covered by the Sony SteadyShot feature within the camera body.

Handling in a general sense is pretty well faultless. AF is nice and snappy, exposure is spot on, all the operations are smooth and slick. Like all good lenses, the Sigma is also a pleasure to handle, a gorgeous tactile experience. It's a lovely lens. The only negative is that the features available from programming seem to be dependent on the camera body used and on the A7R III these are blocked out of the menus. It is probably a small price to pay for the other advantages of the lens.


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