The Sigma 105mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art is one of the best portrait lenses money can buy. At a weight of 3.6 pounds, the lens boasts a huge front element which may draw stares, even from professional photographers, but you won’t find the impressive sharpness and smooth bokeh that it provides elsewhere.
The 105mm f/1.4 Art lens is the second such lens on the market in the same category; the first is Nikon’s AF-S Nikkor 105mm f/1.4E introduced in 2016. The Sigma 105mm f/1.4 has a price tag of $1,600 which is well below the Nikon priced at $2,200. It’s built for professional use and can hardly be regarded as budget alternative. It launched with a range of mount options that include Sigma SA, Canon EF, Nikon F, and Sony E.
This lens from Sigma may not be absolutely perfect, but after testing it extensively, we can wholeheartedly claim that the company once again has been able to deliver a high-end lens with remarkable value.
Sigma 105mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens Design
The 105mm f/1.4 has another noticeable feature other than its huge front element; and it’s the tripod collar that you will find on the outside. Generally, this is kept for longer focal lengths, but the heavy front element of the lens makes it quite handy here. It is highly recommended to use a tripod with this lens, but if you don’t have one, just remove the tripod collar and replace it with the protective cover.
The build quality of the Sigma 105mm f/1.4 is amazing. Water-repellent coating is applied to the front element and the rear mount is surrounded with a gasket, which makes the lens dust and splash proof. This feature helps you shoot in rain without any issues. The lens is built with good quality materials and feels excellent – carbon fiber reinforced plastic is used to make the lens hood, which certainly reduces some weight but it doesn’t help much on a 3.6-pound lens.
The Sigma 105mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art lens has a nine rounded blade diaphragm to create more circular bokeh. It uses 17 elements arranged in 12 groups (the Nikon 105mm f/1.4, on the other hand, uses 14 elements arranged in nine groups), which makes the optical design of the lens quite complex and adds extra weight to the lens – but the good thing is it helps correct a number of optical problems. For instance, that massive front element reduces vignetting effects.
However, the front element gives a filter size of 105mm, which means the filter diameter is the same as the focal length of the lens. The Nikon comes with an 82mm filter thread.
The center of the image frame is sharp at f/1.4 and the depth of field is razor thin, but you will lose a little sharpness as you go towards the extreme edges of the frame. However, this is rarely an issue when you shoot with a fast prime at maximum aperture. Overall, sharpness is great from f/1.4 through f/8. Diffraction starts to occur at f/11 and is more noticeable at f/16. At f/1.4 some vignetting also appears but it’s very little and can be corrected easily.
Generally, the Sigma 105mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art gives excellent bokeh performance. The out of focus areas in the foreground and background are rendered in a pleasant way. Furthermore, the depth of field becomes very shallow when shooting at f/1.4, which is useful sometimes. The shallow depth of field, on the other hand, can be challenging in real-world scenarios. For instance, when you photograph a portrait subject, even a little movement between “focus acquisition” and “the time of capture” can engender soft images.
Luckily, the camera still renders lovely backgrounds if stopped down to f/2.8 or f/4, so the in focus areas are very sharp, but more of the image remains in focus in general.
The nine rounded blade diaphragm produces soft, fabulously smooth and natural looking bokeh, and the transitional areas between in focus and out of focus areas within images are amazingly seamless. Distortion is negligible and chromatic aberrations are handled very well.
So, if we talk about image quality overall, the Sigma 105mm f/1.4 Art lens is an excellent portrait prime. It gives you a great optical performance with only a few minor issues, but if you look at the overall performance of the lens, these issues seem minor.
The Sigma 105mm F1.4 Art is an impressively sharp and beautiful portrait lens that offers excellent value for the money, but looking at its size and weight it’s totally up to the user how well they can handle it.
In terms of performance, overall build and image quality, the Sigma 105mm F1.4 beats its rival Nikon AF-S 105mm f/1.4E ED. It’s also less expensive to buy. Moreover, it won’t be easy for Canon users to choose between the Sigma and Canon’s EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM, which is another excellent portrait lens and comes with the same price; it also features image stabilization. Both the Canon and the Sigma perform equally when it comes to sharpness, but the bokeh quality of the Sigma is better.
The build quality of the Sigma 105mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art lens guarantees that it should easily last for many years to come. The massive front element, however, is not well protected as it should be, but there shouldn’t be any problem if you take good care of your equipment.