The Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art lens for Sony provides creamy bokeh and background separation that I was quite impressed with. But with so many 85mm lenses for the Sony system, how does Sigma’s version stack up?
The Sigma 85mm (B&H | Amazon) is a redesign of its original 85mm DG HSM Art Lens. What resulted was a much lighter and more compact lens — certain to please mirrorless users. And it certainly does make a difference — I was able to put it in my backpack standing up, which isn’t something I can say about most of the lenses I have for Sony.
While my Sony 85mm f/1.8 lens is certainly smaller and lighter, there’s something different about the Sigma. It was well-balanced on my camera, which I always appreciate. While it is a little chunky, it was easy to work with if you’re used to Sigma’s lens design. If you have larger hands, you might want to rent this one first, as the lens doesn’t leave a ton of room to grip the camera.
Like all of Sigma’s other Art lenses for Sony, the 85mm features a good size focus, which are in the same position as Sony’s native lenses. It also has an aperture ring. Personally not my cup of tea, but those who like old-school lenses will appreciate this design.
- Aperture: f/1.4 to f/16
- Minimum focus distance: 2.79 feet
- Optical design: 15 elements in 11 groups
- Diaphragm blades: 11, rounded
- Image stabilization: No
- Weather sealing: Yes
- Filter size: 77mm
- Dimensions: 3.26 x 3.78 inches
- Weight: 1.38 pounds
The 85mm is one of the most popular portrait focal lengths on the market. So naturally, I used the Sigma 85mm for a lot of portraits.
But it’s also a great lens for when you need that boost during low-light situations.
While the lens doesn’t have built-in image stabilization, it does take advantage of your camera’s in-body image stabilization. Given the smaller size of the Sigma 85mm, you should have no problems going down to 1/60s handheld.
As I mentioned, I used the Sigma 85mm for some portraits. My first assignment with this lens was to photograph a wood furniture craftsman, who was making wine stands. Here, the lens performed beautifully, keeping the subject sharp while also separating him from a busy background.
Autofocus was fast with his moving hands, and I was able to get some tack-sharp shots of him holding the equipment.
The result were some beautiful environmental captures — both close and far away — to help promote the business.
I used the lens with some other environmental portraits, and it performed quite well, giving the background separation I was looking for between the subject and the scene.
In terms of traditional, posed portraits, it really showcases the bokeh and background separation well.
But this lens performs well beyond just portraits. I took the lens to a couple events I was photographing at night. And despite having some rain, the Sigma 85mm helped me get some great shots without having to throw on a flash.
One thing I did notice is that, for low-light situations, it seemed to struggle a bit with focusing when it came to capturing musicians moving about on a stage. But, there was very little available light for me to work with, and I probably didn’t have my ISO high enough for the lens to focus correctly. For the shots I did capture in-focus, the photos were better than I expected.
Is it worth it?
The Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art lens (B&H | Amazon) is certainly a lens that Sony photographers should consider. Sigma’s Art lenses in general provide a beautiful view that is hard to achieve through other lenses. The background separation and beautiful bokeh make this a “win” in my book.
That said, if you have already invested in an 85mm lens for the Sony system, I don’t see enough here pushing me to upgrade. Don’t get me wrong — this is a fantastic lens. But there are other 85mm lenses out there that are just as fantastic, some at half the price.
All in all, if you want the Art series look, get the Sigma. Hands down. If you don’t need an f/1.4 aperture or aren’t crazy obsessed with bokeh and background separation, the Sony 85mm f/1.8 (B&H | Amazon) may be a better bet.