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Field Review: Sigma 85mm F/1.4 EX DG HSM (Day 2)

by Mike Pouliot on 04/09/2011

EXIF Info: ISO100, 1/2000sec, F/2.0

I don’t know about you, but this winter is killing me. I know that it’s technically spring, but it sure doesn’t feel like it in New England. It really takes a lot for me to bundle up and get my butt outside to shoot when it’s cold. Luckily, I’ve been having a blast using the Sigma 85mm F/1.4 so the cold is no longer an excuse to stay inside.

Gear Used

Editor’s Note: The only post processing done to these images was either minor exposure adjustment or crop/straighten.

Around Town

EXIF Info: ISO100, 1/400sec, F/2.0

If you take a look at my Flickr photostream, you’ll notice that I shoot a wide variety of subjects but I’m mostly fond of city and still life. A lens of this length is a bit too long for what I usually shoot but I figured I’d give it a try around town. As I stated in my last post, the Sigma 85mm F/1.4 feels balanced mated to my Canon 5D. The combination of the Sigma 85mm and the Canon 5D makes for a slightly heavy setup but it was hardly noticeable when slung across my chest with the Black Rapid RS-7, I love this strap.

EXIF Info: ISO100, 1/1600sec, F/3.5

While I would personally prefer to shoot with something slightly wider (e.g. 50mm), the Sigma 85mm F1/.4 was actually a joy to use. Shooting at focal lengths that you’re not used to forces you to think differently about your composition. When I get in a slump, I’ll often rent or borrow a lens that I have never used just to see things from a different perspective. Because my Canon 50mm F/1.8 is basically glued to my 5D, I kept instinctively wanting to take a step back to get into my 50mm frame of mind. After shooting for awhile my brain adjusted and the 85mm length became more natural. I found that instead of focusing on something large, like an entire building, I would focus on a specific part of the building like a door or a window.

EXIF Info: ISO100, 1/2500sec, F/2.0

 

As you’ve probably noticed, most of these images are shot at a pretty wide aperture and that was done for a two reasons:

  1. Personally, if I was going to buy a lens like this it would be too shoot it wide open as much as possible and I’m guessing the photographers reading this would most likely agree. Why drop a bunch of money on fast glass if you’re going to shoot it at F/5 or F/8 all of the time? The Canon 85mm F/1.8 is probably just as sharp at F/5 so why not just save yourself some money and go for that if you don’t have a need for F/1.4. It’s like buying a Ferrari and never getting it out of 2nd gear.
  2. This lens shines at F/3 and wider. While it does look good when stopped down, I feel like the engineers that designed this lens to really shine when shot at wider apertures.

EXIF Info: ISO100, 1/8000sec, F/2.2

 

Observations On the Sigma 85mm F/1.4

EXIF Info: ISO100, 1/2000sec, F/1.4

 

As you can see from the shots above, this lens is no slouch. Again, the only edits done to the photographs in this post were basic exposure adjustments and/or crop and straighten.

  • Color, saturation, sharpness and contrast are all excellent. I did notice some color fringing in areas of extreme contrast but it was hardly noticeable, even when reviewing images at 1:1. Color fringing seems to be all but gone by F/2.2. Anyway, it’s nothing a little post processing can’t fix.
  • I haven’t noticed any hints of distortion, even when shooting brick walls and buildings.
  • Noise from the AF system is hardly noticeable when shooting, especially when out on the street. This is key when trying to capture a candid moment. I would put it on par with Canon’s USM lenses as far as noise goes, Canon still has the edge on Sigma when it comes to AF focus speed.
  • For all of the Lightroom users, the latest version of Lightroom does have a lens profile for the Sigma 85mm F/1.4. I tried applying the profile with the default corrections to a few images and from what I can tell it is only corrects vignetting.

EXIF Info: ISO1250, 1/125sec, F/5

 

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