Sigma 85mm F/1.4 EX DG HSM Review


Model: 85mm F/1.4 EX DG HSM
Specifications: Optical Construction - 11 elements in 8 groups
Aperture Blades - 9 (circular)
Min Focus Distance - 0.85m
Filter Size - 77mm
Hyper-Sonic-Motor Autofocus System
Pricing: R13 799

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Ease of Use: 5 / 5

Pricing: 5 / 5

Video Quality: 5 / 5

Photo Quality: 5 / 5

Features: 5 / 100

For a very long time Sigma has been the leader when it comes to the “grey brand” lenses for DSLRs. They have always relied on decent optics and good build quality in their lenses coupled with relatively cheap prices. It’s a formula that has served them well over the years. In fact, Sigma is currently the largest lens manufacturer for DSLR lenses worldwide. Until now though, Sigma hasn’t had an 85mm lens to compete with the “genuine” manufacturers. Sigma is changing that with the new 85mm F/1.4 EX DG HSM.

The 85mm lens is a full frame lens that is part of Sigma’s professional grade “EX” excellence line-up. Build quality is excellent. The metal casing makes this lens a very well built work-horse. It seems as though this lens could last forever. Even the rubberized coating feels very good quality and durable. I much prefer this new smooth finish to the previous crinkle finish that Sigma employed.

Sigma lens review
Sigma lens review

The lens’ physical length stays the same and the front element doesn’t rotate. This means you can mount a polarizing filter without issue.

The HSM AF worked well. Focus was relatively fast, and very accurate. The AF wasn’t as fast as I expected, but it was true and accurate. Having such a wide open maximum aperture means that manual focus is a bit tricky, especially wide open. I’d stick to the AF.

Sigma lens review

Photo quality is of very high quality. Make no mistake; Sigma is taking the fight to the big boys with this lens. It must be said though that the lens isn’t perfect. This sort of focal length should make for a great portrait lens.

Wide open at F/1.4 the lens is at its weakest. Chromatic aberrations are quite pronounced and the lens does exhibit some distortion around the edges. On a cropped frame sensor camera like the Nikon D7000 the edge distortion is minimized though.

The resolution figures of this lens are very high. Even at F/1.4 the centre is very sharp with a lot of detail. When stopped down to F/5.6 – F/8.0 the lens reaches its sweet-spot. CA’s are barely visible; distortion is negligible and photos extremely sharp. Most of the issues seem to be around the edges. This means that the lens’ weaknesses will be more pronounced on full frame cameras. The lens should perform better on cropped frame cameras.

Although not perfect or very cheap, this lens offers a very interesting alternative to the Nikon and Canon versions of the 85mm F/1.4 lens, at half their price. With rock-solid build and good optical performance (when stopped down to F/5.6 or more) this should definitely be a lens you look at when looking to buy an 85mm lens.

Pricing: 3/5
Build Quality: 4.5/5
Optical Quality: 3/5
Overall: 3.5/5

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