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Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens Review

John Riley reviews the new Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art lens for full-frame cameras.

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Handling and Features
Sigma 85mm F1,4 Art Front Oblique View

Sigma has now well established the division of its lenses into Sport, Contemporary and Art. The Art range is aimed at the top end of the market, with lenses created to be masterful examples of the lens makers' art. Joining a long list of new fast prime lenses from several manufacturers, the 85mm f/1.4 has long been one of the most highly prized focal lengths, perfect for a variety of subjects, not just portraits. Let's have a close look at the new Sigma and see how it performs.


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

Sigma 85mm F1,4 Art On Canon 5d Mark IV

The Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM f/1.4 Art lens certainly looks the part. It balances well on the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV body used for this review, making its 1130g weight seem very easy to handle and carry for long periods. The quality of manufacture is of a high order and the finish looks impressive. The large plastic petal lens hood offers plenty of protection from stray light, clipping neatly into place via its bayonet fitting. There is also an 86mm filter thread on the front of the lens.

A satisfyingly wide focusing ring operates the internal focusing and although end stops can be felt, it will continue to rotate freely beyond. The lens has further focusing beyond the infinity mark to allow for expansion and contraction as the temperature varies. Focusing is down to 85cm, or 2.79 feet, which is typical for a traditional 85mm lens. This is a magnification of 1:8.5 and although this makes for a close head shot it would be useful if it focused closer. Focusing is via an HSM (hypersonic motor) and is virtually silent in operation, as well as being quick and accurate. This is no doubt aided by the new upgraded motor, which Sigma say has 1.3x the torque of previous models.

Full Time Manual Focusing is available for Nikon and Sigma mounts, where a final tweak can be given manually to the focus point by maintaining a half pressure on the shutter release. The ability to do this can be switched on and off for users who have the Sigma USB Dock and Sigma Optimisation Pro software.

Closer to the camera body we next find just one switch, for switching AF/MF, and the window revealing distance markings in feet and metres. There is a depth of field scale, albeit of limited usefulness in a short telephoto lens. This is because the scale is very short and the depth of field also quite narrow in telephoto lenses, making the scale not particularly accurate.

Sigma 85mm F1,4 Art With Hood On Canon 5d Mark IV

The nine bladed diaphragm is intended to provide improved bokeh by offering a virtually circular aperture. This is the smoothness and gradation quality that we see in out of focus areas in an image. In the Nikon version of the lens this is an electromagnetic diaphragm that improves accuracy and repeatability of settings, as well as smooth operation for videographers.

The optical construction is 14 elements in 12 groups. There are two FLD elements, which are claimed to have a performance equivalent to fluorite glass. There is also one element with anomalous partial dispersion and a high refractive index. This is a complex design for an 85mm f/1.4 lens, compared to lenses from the film era that might have had as few as 8 elements.

Sigma 85mm F1 4 Adjusted

There is no doubt that this is a beautiful lens to handle and use. It is though a pity that there is no weather sealing, nor is there any vibration reduction. However, handling wise it is very easy top focus manually when desired, the image snapping cleanly in and out of the focus point. When using AF the camera/lens combination locks on extremely crisply.

85mm lenses are ideal for portraiture, but also for other short telephoto applications. Landscapes, architectural details, close range sports, night shooting, all fall with the lens's capability. It is easy to see why the 85mm has always found a place in most manufacturers' portfolio of lenses.

Sigma 85mm F1,4 Art Rear Oblique View

Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Performance

Sharpness is almost universally excellent. Central performance falls into the excellent category from f/1.4 through to f/11, only falling to very good at f/16. What is also impressive is that the edges are very, very close and are also excellent from f/1.4 through to f/8. At f/11 and f/16 the edges are, just, in the very good category. To be fair there is not a lot in it, and the edge figures are incredibly close to the central ones. All in all, a superbly balanced performance and a lens Sigma can be proud of.


Sigma 85mm F1 4 Art Lens MTF Chart
MTF Chart

How to read our charts

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution as LW/PH and is described in detail above. The taller the column, the better the lens performance.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV using Imatest.

CA (Chromatic Aberration) is very low indeed, with a very high level of correction. Fringing will not be a problem and no software correction will be necessary.


Sigma 85mm F1 4 Art Lens CA Chart
CA Chart

How to read our charts

Chromatic aberration is the lens' inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.

Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements (aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc) to minimize the problem, hence they usually cost more.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV using Imatest.

Distortion is also very close to zero, with just -0.134% of barrelling in evidence. This is unlikely to be noticed even in the most critical shooting.

Flare resistance is generally excellent and backlit images not a problem. However, when the light hits at a fairly oblique angle across the front element, it is possible to find a spot where flare cascades over the whole image. If not looking for this it is unlikely that it would be a problem.

Bokeh is lovely with this 85mm, making it an ideal tool for portraiture. Beautifully smooth backgrounds can only enhance most portrait images.

Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Sample Photos

Value For Money

The Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art lens is priced at £1199. The previous DG HSM version might still be found at around £599.

For those prepared to manually focus, the Samyang 85mm f/1.4 IF MC is priced at £289 and also available are the Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4 (£1379) and the Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 (£3299). Otherwise, we have a variety of fast f/1.4 AF lenses available.

There are the Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.4 G (£1349), Sony Planar 85mm f/1.4 ZA £1109) and Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 G Master (£1649). Tamron make a slightly slower, but still excellent, SP 85mm f/1.8 VC at £749.

For more options have a look at the Top 10 Best Sigma lenses, or the Top 27 Best Portrait Lenses


Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Verdict

The Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art lens is a high class, highly competent design that performs confidently and efficiently. It is of the modern breed of 85mm lenses, sharp from open aperture, as opposed to older designs that were intended to be softer wide open for the purposes of flattering portraits. This new lens is sharp throughout, although not cruelly over-sharp, so subjects should be pleased enough.

It is also delightful to use, the only omissions being vibration reduction and weather sealing, but the performance itself is not in question.

Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Pros

  • Excellent sharpness
  • Virtually no CA
  • Generally low flare
  • Great handling

Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Cons

  • No Vibration Reduction
  • No Weather Sealing

Overall Verdict

Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Specifications

Lens Mounts
  • Nikon F
  • Canon EF
  • Sigma SA
  • L-Mount
  • Sony E Mount
  • Sony FE Mount
Focal Length85mm
Angle of View28.6
Max Aperturef/1.4
Min Aperturef/16
Filter Size86mm
35mm equivalentNo Data
Internal focusingYes
Maximum magnificationNo Data
Min Focus85cm
Box Contents
Box ContentsHood, front and rear caps

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