Sigma has been challenging the competition with its Global vision line-up. The combination of “no compromise” image quality and fair price is exhibiting quite a bit of pressure on such brands as Canon and Nikon. And the recent launch of Sony E mount lenses will surely disturb Sony’s glass business as well (might simultaneously drive Sony’s mirrorless business by providing true 3rd party lens support). In 2013, I bought my first Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art prime and till this day, it never leaves my camera bag. Since then, I have added Sigma’s 85mm f/1.4 and 135mm f/1.8 Art lenses to my arsenal.
This Saturday, I was eagerly waiting for the postman to deliver my newest toy, the Sigma 105mm f/1.4 Art. Around noon, I heard a knock on the door and it was the UPS guy with my package from Adorama. As soon as I opened the box, I knew this was no TOY – the lens means business!
First, let’s get it out of the way – the Sigma 105mm f/1.4 Art should be nicknamed Bokeh “Monster” instead of “Bokeh Master”. This lens is huge – not quite as enormous as the Nikon 200 f/2 but it is still big and heavy. If you use this lens in the field, you might have people come up and ask about it (yes, it happened as soon as I took it out for test shots).
Let’s go through the (not so boring) specs. I will be comparing Sigma’s three prime lenses which are in the mid to short telephoto range. They are best used for portraits, which is what I use them for, but you can obviously shoot whatever you would like.
|Description||85mm f/1.4 Art||105mm f/1.4 Art||135mm f/1.8 Art|
|Lens Construction||14 Elements in 12 Groups||17 Elements in 12 Groups||13 Elements in 10 Groups|
|Minimum Focusing Distance||85cm / 33.5″||100cm / 39.4″||87.5cm / 34.4″|
|Weight||1,130g / 39.9oz||1,645g / 58oz||1,130g / 39.9oz|
By now, I have had some time shooting with all 3 lenses and I can say this from experience – you will NOT be shooting all-day weddings with 105mm f/1.4 Art unless you spend a few hours every day at the gym (I don’t). I will be using this lens for my 1–2 hour portrait and pre-wedding / engagement sessions (and whenever I feel like working out).
If you are thinking of buying any one of these lenses, you can not go wrong with any of them. As we have size and weight out of our way, I can think of three other factors that can help you decide: Price, Aperture, and Focal length.
Price: The cheapest of the bunch is the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art – almost $400 (25%) cheaper than the most expensive lens in our list. If the price is your concern, go with the 85mm and you will be happy. Buying the 105mm f/1.4 Art might not give you 25% better images. Comparing the Sigma prices to Canon and Nikon equivalent lenses, you can clearly see that Sigma will definitely give you better bang for your buck (Nikon 105 f/1.4 retails for $2,196.95). Some people might be worried about the value depreciation of 3rd party glass. But rest assured that my 5+ year old Sigma 35 f/1.4 still sells for $550–650 used on eBay )and I paid $799 for it brand new).
Aperture: I am not going to talk numbers and get all technical here – 135mm is f/1.8 vs 85 and 105 both having f/1.4 aperture. All three lenses let in lots of light and will give you creamy bokeh.
Let’s now check out some sample images.
Note: All images are shot with the Nikon D850 in RAW format and then converted to JPEG with minimal correction for exposure and exported with ‘camera portrait’ profile in Adobe Lightroom 7.4.
Blind Test: Before reading the description which image you like the best?
From left to right we have: Sigma 85mm f/1.4, 105mm f/1.4 and 135mm f/1.8 Art.
In all 3 shots, I tried to keep the exact same frame by changing my position from the model. No lens correction was applied. You can clearly see how each focal length and aperture affect the background and distort the subject.
Let’s take a look at another example:
Again, the sequence from left to right is: Sigma 85mm f/1.4, 105mm f/1.4 and 135mm f/1.8 Art.
Focal Length: Changing focal length can have a dramatic effect on your pictures. In our case, all three lenses are under short to medium telephoto range which is best suited for portraiture. As you can see in the first image samples, changing focal length from short (85mm) to long (135mm) makes the subject look slightly thinner or less distorted in the middle of the frame. This can be somewhat corrected with lens profiles in Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop. As of now, there is no lens profile available for the Sigma 105mm f/1.4 Art, but it is just a matter of time – it will probably be updated soon. In the meantime, you can create your own lens profiles or experiment with the correction sliders.
Another aspect of the image which will be affected by the focal length is the size of the background relative to the subject. As you can see from the above comparison, in the first image (135mm), the background appears larger compared to the last image (85mm), where we can see a lot more of the background elements.
The last effect of the focal length is reach. Zoom lenses have their place in my collection. Most of the weddings and events I shot with my Nikon 24–70mm f/2.8, which covers all the “run and gun” situations. But I always carry a prime lens on my second body or have the second shooter with a tally prime lens. For almost a year, I have been using either 85mm or 135mm on my second body, but it looks like the 105mm will fill that perfect middle position for me.
Here are some sample images where the subject and camera locations are static, and the only variable is the lens:
From left to right: Sigma 85mm f/1.4, 105mm f/1.4 and 135mm f/1.8 Art.
Image Quality: All three lenses are super sharp with minimum vignetting and negligible chromatic aberration. If I had a gun to my head and I had to choose strictly based on Image Quality, the Sigma 105mm would be my top choice due to its amazing sharpness, least chromatic aberration and the least amount of vignetting thanks to its optical design comprised of a total of 17 elements and a huge (and I mean HUUUGE) front element.
From my initial impression based on using the lens in the field, I can say with confidence that Sigma has a winner in their hand. If you are in the market for a portrait telephoto lens and don’t mind spending $1,600 on a lens, look no further – the Sigma 105mm f/1.4 Art is a stunner.
Which photos do you like in the blind test? Please let me know in the comments section below. Happy clicking!
Honestly, all those 3 lens can be named as “bokeh monster”, even though only the 105 1.4 is entitled as that, which I presume it is due to Sigma’s marketing strategy that tries to differentiate it among all those bokeh beasts. Personally, if money no object, I would love to buy the 105, and I buy it only for the size. I feel spiritually satisfied already by simply staring into the lens. However, I would also consider getting a Samyang 135mm, which has a minimum focal distance of 69CM, 11CM closer than that of Sigma, and that would provide more flexibility when shooting.
Its really good to find a proper comparison. I bought 135 F/1.8 before 105 came out. Love this lens but obviously background compression is huge when compared to shorter focal lengths. Which one did you end up keeping? or just jumped the Sony Alpha train like everyone ;)
could you like please have a test from 3 sigma art 35 vs 40 vs 50?
Testing should be done with the subject the same size because unless you have an issue getting closer to your subject, you will frame you subject the way you envisioned it no matter which of the 3 lenses you are using.
I have both the Sigma 135 f`1.8 and the Nikon 70-200 f2.8 FLD. Wide open, at 135 focal length the Sigma is a little sharper than the Nikon at 135 f2.8. Stopped down to f4, the Sigma is notably sharper than my Nikon at f4, but that said, the Nikon is very very sharp, 135 being its sharpest focal length. If you aren’t pixel peeping, you’ll be very happy with either lens. Sharpness and contrast are superb for both lenses. Certainly the Nikon 70-200 FLD is the more versatile lens. But the Sigma can blow out a background while giving your subject extreme sharpness in those areas in focus.
Is that what you see? Looks like this thread is more loaded with Nikon fanboys all holding hands and singing “I don’t care, I my dated Nikon”. LOL
hahaha true. But with the clear undeniable proof from Lens Rental testing of both lenses they have NOTHING to argue. All they have is a smaller lens that is more expensive, and not even close in Resolution and corrections.
In dilemma, 105 or 135. i do alot of low light night time sports photography of run crews and i was thinking which lens is better. longer focal length 1 stop lesser light or shorter focal length with 1 stop more light. I know they are not sports lenses so focusing might be an issue. the other alternative is to get a nikon sports lens 200 f2 that would break the bank. Decisions, decisions… ?
If I already have the Sigma 85 F1.4 and Sigma 105 F1.4 Should I get the Sigma 135 F1.8?
I recently purchased the Sigma 105mm F1.4 Art to use professionally for stage photography (photographylife.com/stage…raphy-tips).
The question of whether I would have bought the Nikon 105 F1.4 was academic since it’s an additional $1,000 in Australia. I already have the 24, 35 and 50mm art lenses respectively. I think they’re wonderful, I had an opportunity to buy the 135 for about half what I paid for the 105 but the focal length is not quite right for my work. Nothing can quite prepare you for how massive this lens is. The quality of the lens is stunning and to my surprise, it has perfect focus right out of the box (a first for my Sigma Art lenses). I suspect they have their best technicians assembling this one. My advice is to put it on the dock, update the firmware, and reset it to factory default even if you haven’t touched it. It’s very special indeed, but you have to accept that it weighs a ton.
This is just a preliminary test shot out of camera at F1.4 indoors, no flash. The Sigma Art series of lenses are things of beauty, and the 105 is the king of them.
I was wondering, if somebody owns, or used both sigma 135 art and the Nikon 70-200E FL? Although I sold my sigma 135, I was in love with it and now I’m considering the nikon 70-200 FL, would be important for me AF accuracy and speed, on my D750 I had to fine tune the sigma, but on +5 was perfect, if somebody has some experience regarding the nikon 70-200 FL, please share, thank you!
I do…it is awesome and soooooo sharp… I still love my 135… not as useful as fl lense but still awesome lense… have both…