Nikon 135mm f2 vs Sigma 135mm f1.8 vs.. future possibilities?

Started 1 week ago | Discussions thread
voider Senior Member • Posts: 2,948
Re: Nikon 105 1.4 is epic

that is a longwinded response

anotherMike wrote:

Thanks for explaining. Not going to say more than this one last longwinded response, as there are better things to do than argue in forums.

I will end with this: I test for a living. Been doing it for 20+ years. No, not lenses, but hardware, software, processes, pretty much anything. One learns the discipline of testing over that time. Also a published photographer. I completely and fully understand the testing process. When I test, I always use real life scenarios, but I use a lot of them, and I repeat tests over to make sure I've removed as much potential test error from things. I also keep an open mind, because in order to find the "truth", one must be skeptical of one owns opinions from time to time. So when all that "modern lenses render flat" nonsense came out, even though I knew what I thought I knew, I also knew I would have to do a long series of PITA testing to truly find out - to question my own beliefs. That meant taking the trouble to do properly controlled blind print tests, reading a bit about lens design, so on and so forth. And I get not everyone wants to go that deeply, but I did. Even in my own lens evaluation, there have been days where, in a run of tests across a few days, one test series will be an outlier - was running a long series of 85mm tests, one day the Tamron, the Sigma Art, and the Milvus all looked much closer in performance, at distance, than they had over the past 4 test runs. So I questioned it. Thought about it, and then realized the atmosphere on that shooting day was poor - hazy humid, not very clear. The conditions of the test limited the actual resolution potential on that day (and thus that test run), and therefore, that series had to be eliminated. I could have come in here and stated "all 85mm lenses are the same, just get the Tamron" if I based my opinion on that one, outlier of a test. But I didn't. I go the extra step. I question things like 'all lenses are the same stopped down' by taking the time to do print tests (including blind tests) to see what happens. Because then I am much more comfortable with the results indicating closeness to the truth for the scenarios I shoot. (Now sure, if you're shooting in situations where something is most assuredly going to limit your resolution each and every time you shoot, well, then that answer of the all the 85mm lenses being the same might be correct, right?)

So, let's say I was the one doing your exact test. I know from manufacturer provided MTF that the Sigma art is theoretically (because manufacturer provided MTF from Nikon and Sigma is coming off their design software, not actual lenses like Zeiss) quite a bit sharper wide open, at infinity, than the Nikon. The general consensus of tests in other distances indicate the Sigma is sharper. In my own experience, I haven't shot the 135/2 DC in years, but when I did, it was an awesome bokeh lens, but not one I could consider "tack sharp" by my own standards. I don't own the Sigma 135/1.8 Art either (so I have no skin in this game either way), but I've evaluated it (I have a Zeiss 135/2 Apo Sonnar, and that lens clearly is better than the Nikon DC lenses, and the Zeiss and Sigma are close in performance), so if I ran into a scenario which showed a 10+ year old film-era lens sharper wide open or one stop down than a modern optic designed to be extremely sharp, whose manufacturers MTF indicates it should be sharper, I would IMMEDIATELY start to question the test and double check the areas to see what, in the test itself, went sideways.

Sure, you could have had the worlds worst, de-centered Sigma. Or, more likely, something in the test itself wasn't well controlled. This is why I test multiple times, on multiple days, with multiple scenarios, and when I state an opinion on a lens, it's because I've put that much time into testing it - for the very reason of eliminating the outliers and having a defensible stance. In your case, possibly the test scene did not offer sufficient fine structure detail to be able to tell the difference (this happens more than you think). It could be numerous things. And proper, thorough testing likely would ferret those out. Or maybe they wouldn't and I'd look like a donkeys rear end, but without that level of testing, we won't know.

But that's the difference between you and I. I'm a tester and a photographer, because I like knowing as much about my gears performance as possible - not because I like testing. You're not interested in spending the amount of time it takes to test. I would hope that if we weren't sitting here in a forum, and we ran into each other at a conference over the buffet dinner, that if I, a studio/landscape photographer who occasionally shoots theater/dance), had a wedding photography question that I would be open minded enough to learn from you, since even though we both might have decades of experience, this would be an area where you could teach me something. Conversely, I would hope that you can learn something about how to test properly, because that's MY specialty, and why I have stated what I stated.

Note that this in any way does not mean that the Nikon isn't the right lens for you: anyone who has read my commentary on lenses knows that I feel, for specific situations involving people, the two DC lenses are incredibly well tuned towards that task, and I'm always preaching tool-to-task, but at the same time, neither is what I would term a truly reference level sharp lens. So a landscape shooter or studio shooter might prefer other options. Tool to task. Bokeh is obviously a great, grand strength of the two DC lenses, and there really isn't anything else like that. So I'm not saying you "must" like the Sigma, but I still to this day question the results, because to me, with my experience, those results strongly seem like an outlier. If I had the time (and I clearly don't), I'd rent both and put the week+ in to prove it you, but I've got another lens evaluation project coming up, and a lot of other things on the plate far more important than playing in forum land.

That's that, I'm out.

-m

 voider's gear list:voider's gear list
Nikon D800E Nikon AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G ED Nikon AF Nikkor 135mm f/2D DC Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200mm f/2G ED-IF VR Nikon AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/2.8G ED-IF VR +7 more
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