Field Review: Sigma 85mm F/1.4 EX DG HSM (Day 3)

Sigma 85mm F/1.4
Sigma 85mm F/1.4

EXIF Data: ISO 100, 1/500 sec, F/2.0

If you’ve been following this review of the Sigma 85mm F/1.4, then today is probably the day that most people have been waiting for…portrait day. I enjoy taking portraits but, for the most part, my family and friends aren’t too fond of me sticking a camera in their face and then posting photographs of them up on the The Oh, well…they are going to have to deal. You can also catch up on Day 1 and Day 2 in the according links.

Gear Used

Editor’s Note: The only adjustments that may have been made to the photographs in this post were minor WB, exposure or crop/straighten. The images in this post are meant to represent the performance and capabilities of this lens in the most accurate way possible.

Outdoor Portraits

Like I said in the Day 2 post, I prefer to shoot city or still life but the Sigma 85mm F/1.4 is truly made for portraits so I took it out for a spin. The 85mm length and the fast F/1.4 maximum aperture are excellent for waist up style portraits. Just look at that bokeh…smooth and creamy.

Sigma 85mm F/1.4

EXIF Data: ISO 100, 1/2500 sec, F/2.0

I’m not sure if it was national take your dog out for a walk day, but everyone was out with their furry friends. I didn’t mind as it was nice to have a few subjects that didn’t seem to mind me sticking a camera in their face. Dogs are actually excellent subjects to use when testing a lens. Their fur/hair will give you an idea of the amount of detail the lens can capture while their wide range and contrasting colors will help you see contrast and saturation. Take the shot below for example. This little guy was so dark that I really had to bump up the exposure compensation to capture his eyes and the detail of his black fur. If you look along the left side of his face you will see a slight hit of chromatic aberration (CA). This can be fixed easily in post processing (PP).

Sigma 85mm F/1.4

EXIF Data: ISO 100, 1/1600 sec, F/2.0

Some of you may notice that a few of these images look slightly washed out or like they may be lacking a bit of contrast and saturation. I was slightly disappointed by this when I pulled these up in Lightroom but then I remembered that these images where shot in the early afternoon on a day where there were zero clouds in the sky. I think any lens/camera combo in these conditions is going to require some post processing to get optimal results. Take a look at the first image in this post and images from Day 2. Most these were shot inside or in the shade and, like all of the images in this review, the only adjustments made were minor adjustments (WB, exposure & straighten). I’m very happy with images straight out of the camera when using the Sigma 85mm.

I was impressed with the images I had produced with the Sigma 85mm up to this point, but once I saw these portraits I gained even more respect for the Sigma 85mm F/1.4. It’s actually quite difficult to think of anything I don’t like about this lens.

Sigma 85mm F/1.4

EXIF Data: ISO 100, 1/800 sec, F/2.0


Shooting Inside

SIgma 85mm F/1.4

EXIF Data: ISO 400, 1/250 sec, F/2.0

Above is a shot taken inside under less than ideal lighting conditions. The Sigma 85mm actually holds up quite well in low light shooting. AF speed, while not fast to begin with, is not noticeably slower and AF accuracy is spot on. I actually used a Canon Speedlite 580 EX II on camera to get the above shot. Using E-TTL, I bounced the flash off of the wall and onto the subject. I was even able to use an exterior focus point without issue which is not always possible on my Canon 5D.

Observations from Shooting Portraits

  • AF accuracy seems to be accurate, even at wide apertures and in low light conditions. I did miss focus on a few shots, but I’m going to chalk those up to operator error as the majority of them seem to be spot on. Take a look at the big black dog. I ended up getting his nose instead of his eyes. Luckily, he was pretty far away and I wasn’t shooting wide open so it wasn’t a total loss.
  • For you speedlite users, E-TTL works well with the Sigma 85mm F/1.4.
  • Like I’ve already stated in the other posts this lens is a great performer. Color, contrast and sharpness are all very good.
  • CA is present but it is manageable (for the most part) and drops off as you stop down the aperture. One area where I did notice some more pronounced CA is actually in the bokeh or out of focus areas. Take a look at the big black dog next to the street lamp. Look at the street lamp on the right just above his head; that’s a good amount of CA. If you look at the other side of the dog, you will see some purple fringing along his fur. This is less less evident and is easier to clean up but it is still visible.

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