A new benchmark


Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

I enjoy every image I take: I hope you'll enjoy looking at them.
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A new benchmark

29 Nov 2020 11:32AM   Views : 434 Unique : 317


This weekís Amateur Photographer proclaims the new Sigma 85mm f/1.4 as setting a new benchmark for mirrorless lenses Ė though as they also say that itís slightly better than the existing Sigma Art lens, I think that means that thereís just a new benchmark for full frame portrait lenses.


Iíd already read the EPZ review, and compared the performance graphs with the Sony f/1.8 lens Iíve owned for nearly three years, as well as with the old Art lens and the Ďcheapoí Samyang 85/1.4, which is pretty directly comparable with the Sigma in many ways, though a couple of years older, and very much a budget lens, until you use one. Resolution is lower than the other 85mm lenses listed here, but it is definitely not a poor lens by any stretch of the imagination, and it is beautifully and solidly made.

My conclusion is that the Sony f/1.8 is not only smaller and lighter, but nearly as good: for carrying about, itís just a better lens than any of the competition, and outstanding value for money. Iím not sure that Sonyís marketing people really approve of it, given how much it undercuts the G-Master f/1.4 in price and weight. The Zeiss Batis costs more, and the inbuilt IS is only really necessary for first-generation Alpha 7 bodies.


If you detect some inner doubt Ė well, maybe youíre right. Iíd actually like to own all of them. And I want to offer you some thoughts that are more around the affordable and APS-C sensors.


So I went out with a Nikon D7000 with a 50mm f/1.8 lens and my Alpha with a Samyang 85. The comparison is between the results that the Nikon gives at f/1.8 (top) and at f/5.6 (next down), because thatís the typical maximum aperture of a kit zoom lens. If you want an out-of-focus background, effortlessly, you need the fixed focal length lens.

If itís become an addiction, then you WILL want to move to full frame, where the equivalent lens is around 85mm. The upper shot of the lock gate is from the Nikon at full aperture, the next shot from the Samyang at f/1.8. The picture at the end of the blog is the Samyang at f/1.4 Ė if that 2/3 stop difference in differential focus matters to you, youíll be wanting an f/1.4Ö


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dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
29 Nov 2020 11:33AM
No, don't tell me. I spotted it as soon as I opened the RAW files. The AF on the Nikon hasn't picked up the lock gates properly.

I shall head up the road and try again...
altitude50 Avatar
altitude50 19 23.9k United Kingdom
29 Nov 2020 1:31PM
Literally a 'Lockdown!'
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
29 Nov 2020 2:24PM

And try again. A closer subject, so that the differences are greater between focus point and background. Nikon 50mm @ f/1.8 above. Samyang f/1.4 @ f/1.8 immediately below: f/1.4 at the bottom.


I had to use live view to get the focus on the white top of the winding gear with the Nikon lens and body: that reflects around nine years' development of AF technology (and the mirrorless advantage).

Robert51 Avatar
Robert51 14 12 147 United Kingdom
29 Nov 2020 4:00PM
I have a Sigma 60mm DN Art lense on my 4/3rd camers which has you know takes it to a around the 85mm and I just love it.

I also think if you have something that works for you why change.
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
30 Nov 2020 4:10PM
Sigma Art lenses are magnificent: though most of the ones I've seen are big and heavy.

I've not met the 60mm, though I have an Olympus 60mm macro, which is great: I think on MFT it equates to 120mm on full frame, and there's nothing wrong with that for portraits.

I entirely agree that sticking to what works is a good idea: though over time, one's interests and style may change and evolve, and that may mean that other kit is useful. There's also something to the idea that - in any given situation - you will tend to take different images with other cameras. Certainly, it's true that a really good photographer will make fine images regardless of the kit, but it may take the skill and technique of a Bailey to achieve it. (And he's an advocate of the idea that changing the camera alters the images you take, by the way. Imagine a sports photographer with a Speed Graphic plate camera: or an Ansel Adams shooting epic landscapes on MFT...)

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