This was taken in Seattle, WA late one afternoon as the sun was setting on the city. Black and white conversion in ACR. Photo by Chris Williams

Sony a7R II, Metabones smart lens adapter, Sigma 85mm F1.4 HSM DG A, 85mm, F1.4, 1/1600, ISO 100

The Sigma 85mm F1.4 offers some exceptional performance for the money. Coming in at just under $1200, it's the least expensive 85mm F1.4 option on the market (Tamron makes another 85mm, but that's an F1.8). This lens reaffirms the point that 3rd party lenses have come a long way in terms of overall performance over the past few years. It's dangerously sharp when shot at F1.4 and even more so by F4. DxO and Lenstip have both rated this lens as the sharpest 85mm lens that they've ever tested. There's definitely more to a lens than sharpness alone, but it really is a feat of engineering to accomplish what Sigma has been able to with this lens.

There isn't a distinct difference in overall bokeh characteristics between the Sony and the Sigma, and both the subject isolation and bokeh that the Sigma offers are extremely pleasing to the eye. The Sony GM tends to yield slightly more blurred backgrounds and produces slightly larger out-of-focus highlights than the Sigma. This can lead to what could be interpreted as more pleasing overall bokeh, but both lenses produce very nice results.

This image exemplifies just how sharp this lens is when shot wide open. This was taken in Seattle, WA, edited to taste in ACR, no lens corrections enabled. Photo by Chris Williams

Sony a7R ii, Metabones smart lens adapter, Sigma 85mm F1.4 HSM DG A, 85mm, F1.4, 1/8000, ISO 100

Longitudinal chromatic aberration is just about the only area where the Sigma struggles. In harsh lighting conditions, at F1.4, intense purple fringing and some green fringing (a sure sign of LoCA) can be observed. It should be noted that the fringing all but disappears by F2.5 and even begins to clean up nicely as early as F2.0. The Sony GM also suffers from fringing when shot wide open at F1.4 (red or magenta instead of purple), but not to the same extent seen in our copy of the Sigma lens.

It should be noted that shooting the Sigma 85mm isn't for the faint of heart. The lens is built like a tank and it's extremely heavy, especially when compared to the much lighter Sony 85mm F1.4 GM and even the Canon 85mm F1.2L. The Sigma also isn't weather sealed (dust and splash proof only) like the Sony, so that's definitely something to keep in mind. In terms of autofocus the Sigma is a pinch slower than the Sony 85mm (as we would expect from a non-native vs native lens mount comparison), but the differences really are negligible for shooting stills.

Final Word

This portrait really exemplifies the image quality that is possible with this lens. Photo by Sam Spencer.

Canon 5D Mark IV, Sigma 85mm F1.4 Art, 85mm, F1.4, 1/200, ISO 400

How did the Sigma 85mm F1.4 Art compare with the G Master? The answer, in short, is that the Sigma beat out the Sony in nearly every category. Sharpness, vignetting, distortion and the handling of lateral CA (though not LoCA, in harsh lighting situations, wide open) all went to the Sigma. It simply outperformed the Sony across the board. In terms of lens character the Sigma does an excellent job in subject isolation and overall bokeh presentation, but so does the Sony. In fact, it's really difficult to see any major differences in this respect. 

So, where do the differences outside of performance lie? The most glaring difference is in price; the Sony is a good deal more expensive, coming in at $1800 as opposed to the Sigma's price of $1199. The next and most obvious difference is the size, the Sigma is large and very heavy compared to the Sony, (and even the Canon L for that matter). To be more specific, there's a 311g (11oz) difference between the Sony and the Sigma. Lastly, weather sealing; the Sigma doesn't have any (dust and splash proof) whereas the Sony does. Now that the pros and cons have been laid out, what's the final verdict?

Personally, I would choose the Sigma over the Sony, or even the Canon for that matter. Sure it's heavy, but it out performed one of the best modern 85mm prime designs in almost every category, and at 2/3 of the price, which makes it an absolute bargain for the performance. Now, off to find the nearest gym, so I can get used shooting with it.

Sigma 85mm F1.4 DG HSM Art
Category: Normal Lens
Optical Quality
Build Quality
Ergonomics and Handling
The Sigma 85mm F1.4 Art offers some incredible image quality for the price, with outstanding class leading sharpness, excellent subject isolation and bokeh performance. The F1.4 aperture makes it a fantastic choice for low-light events and portrait shooting. The lens does experience some purple and green fringing when it's shot wide open at F1.4 in harsh backlit conditions, but stopping it down to F2.5 eliminates it entirely. All in all this lens is one of the best portrait lenses we've seen to date and at a bargain price for the performance.
Good for
Portraiture, low light event shooting, street photography and architecture photography
Not so good for
Harsh lighting conditions when shot at F1.4
Overall score

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