Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG DN Art Review

It’s been a while since I posted a review. Work has been busy, and I’ve barely had enough time for photography, let alone reviews. I have, however, had access to a couple of new toys, hence this review.

Sigma has been doing some amazing things in recent times. Gone are the days of big heavy, oversized monsters that required you to have a Sherpa with you at all times. Some of the bags taken up Mount Everest are smaller than the old Sigma ARTs.

The modern-day Sigma DG DN range is more BMW than Kia, but it still comes in at a Kia price tag that is so impressive. Okay, maybe an expensive Kia, but it’s nearly half the Sony GM’s price in most cases.

I’ve had a Zeiss Batis 85mm, and for the most part, I’ve been happy. There is absolutely no reason other than GAS to replace it. The f/1.4 vs f/1.8 is such a poor excuse that I’m not going to try to use it to justify the Sigma.

The Sigma looked really good, I wanted it, so here we are.

Build Quality/Construction

First impressions last and in this case, the Sigma created quite a big first impression. The Sigma is provided in their usual white box, but the box is much smaller than what you’re accustomed to with Sigma.

Inside the box, you’ll find a semi-hard pouch, the lens and hood and the usual assortment of paperwork you never bother to read. I’m pretty sure they could have inserted a winning lotto ticket in there, and nobody would know.

Like most of the newer DG DN lenses, Sigma has done an amazing job on the 85mm f/1.4. It’s actually tough to fault this lens when it comes to size, weight, or construction.

The previous generation was big, heavy, sluggish, lacked features on the lenses, and had cheap hoods and terrible lens caps, but was optically outstanding and cheap. The new lens retains absolutely none of these negatives. Okay, maybe that’s a lie, their lens caps are still terrible.

Yes, we might actually have a brand that listens to the consumer instead of telling them what they want. Maybe some of the brands like Apple and Sony could learn a thing or two from them.

Hey Sony, thanks for that action camera no one asked for, but how about actually providing a small and medium raw that everyone has been asking for. Seriously!

When I first took the lens out, I panicked thinking they had sent me the wrong lens. I had to find the 85mm DG DN label on the lens to make sure because the size and weight seemed too good to be true. It’s that small, almost the same size as my 24mm GM.

As with the rest of Sigma’s DG DN range of lenses, the construction is impeccable. It’s premium level, and on a par with most of the OEM Pro glass (Sony, Fujifilm, Nikon) I have tried.

Side by side with the Sony 24mm f/1.4 GM, you’d be hard-pressed to find any discrepancies in manufacturing. They have a different texture and feel, but none of them is more premium than the other.

Features

Compared to the Sigma of old, the new DG DN range is feature-rich. The 85mm offers:

  • a focus ring.
  • An aperture ring.
  • A button on the lens, similar to that found on the Sony GM range, can program to do anything from eye detect to focus lock.
  • An autofocus/manual focus lock.
  • an aperture ring lock (only works in auto)
  • a switch to turn the aperture clicks on or off, assumingly for those doing video work where the sound may be heard.

Overall, it’s on a par with any of the premium lenses on the market.

Focus Performance

As mentioned above, the Sigma’s of yesteryear suffered from some less than stellar performance issues. It wasn’t bad per se, my 135mm is fairly good, but it didn’t match the Sony 135mm in the focus department.

With the DG DN range, that started to change. My 35mm f/1.2 and 24-70mm f/2.8 are both outstanding in the focus department.

The 85mm continues in this line, and the performance is up with the best. Whilst I can’t test the DG DN alongside the GM, the other reviews claim the 85mm matches it, and in some cases exceeds it, and I have no reason to doubt that. It’s fast enough for sports.

Image Quality

One word to describe the image quality: incredible. This thing is super sharp, and I would potentially say it’s the sharpest non-macro lens I have tried possibly exceeding my 35mm f/1.2. However, the comparison is difficult to make due to the different maximum apertures and focal lengths.

Chromatic Aberration is well controlled, and Sigma has done an amazing job with flare resistance. While not perfect, it’s definitely one of the best in class which will keep owners happy.

There is mild vignetting, but it’s easily corrected and not the sort of thing I would be concerned about. It’s correctable in camera and standard lens profiles in Lightroom or Capture One will make this unnoticeable to most owners.

There is also some distortion concerning users, but, like the vignetting, it’s easily corrected. I know some users will be concerned about this because it looks bad uncorrected, but it’s really a non-issue with lens correction.

Overall, the lens’s strengths are in the right place, and the weaknesses are easily corrected, which are acceptable compromises.

Value for money

Port Melbourne

By comparison, the Sony GM retails for nearly $600 more. I honestly cannot think of a reason to spend that extra $600 given the Sigma matches the Sony in every category.

However, let me be clear: If you’re planning to sell your GM for the Sigma, don’t waste your time. The Sigma hasn’t mysteriously made the GM into a bad lens. It’s

Conclusion

Sigma seems to be kicking goal after goal with their latest range of DG DN lenses. Sigma has moved from being the ugly duckling to a beautiful swan, which is good for everyone.

Some people think that Sony may not be happy, but I think the opposite is true. This is a win for the consumer and Sony.

Canon is Sony’s biggest competitor right now. One of Sony’s single biggest selling points over Canon is a range of cheaper pro-quality lenses. Canon doesn’t have an 85mm f/1.4 for $1200 unless you look at DSLR glass which doesn’t offer the same performance.

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