Not long ago, Sigma’s reps called me up to ask about my comparison of the Sigma 85mm f1.4 vs the Canon 85mm f1.8. While they thought the comparison to be fair and informative, they were curious to know why I didn’t compare it against the Canon 85mm f1.2; a lens that it is often compared to. After some talks, I decided to go ahead and do it.
This post is the first of a two part series and was conducted very quickly using my friend Katie in Midtown Manhattan.
The difference between the Sigma 85mm f1.4 EX and Canon 85mm f1.2 L is quite vast actually. The Sigma lens is a bit smaller and easier to hold with a slightly textured matte finish to the body. In the hand, it feels very balanced with the Canon 5D Mk II when using them together.
In contrast, the Canon 85mm f1.2 L has a very smooth finish and is quite large. It feels heavy when attached to the Canon 5D Mk II. However, the design of the lens gives the user a very big area to grip and hold. Indeed, it feels a bit as if you’re holding a giant glass orange or apple in front of your lens.
Both lenses focus at around the same speed; which won’t matter a whole lot when you’re shooting a stationary subject. The Sigma has manual override to it. In contrast, if you’ve never used the Canon 85mm f1.2 L before, note that it can only manual focus when attached to a camera that is turned on.
As it is, manually focusing at f1.2 is damn near impossible without a split focusing screen.
Real Life Results and Experience
First off, it should be said that using both lenses wide open can be quite tough to do. Chimping the LCD screen made me often think that the lenses may not be sharp or that I didn’t get the focusing perfectly correct. However, when I uploaded the images to my Macbook, that changed.
When using the Canon 85mm f1.2 though, I realized that I had the lens perfectly in focus on Katie’s eyes and then I may have shifted a bit, breathed or she shifted. This caused the image to be a bit out of focus. Focusing is extremely critical with the 85mm f1.2 because there is such a small sliver of a focusing plane.
When stopped down a bit though, the lenses really start to both show their true shining colors. The edge in this case though goes to Sigma for being sharper when stopped down.
In fact, the Canon 85mm f1.2 is one of the sharpest lenses that I’ve seen at f1.6. This gives the edge to Canon when shot at the more wide open apertures.
The color rendition from both lenses is fairly similar, which Sigma should pride itself on. Previously, Sigma’s lenses have been very neutral in their color rendition but the new 85mm is proving itself to be a great alternative to the Canon lenses, providing you get a good copy. Thankfully for consumers, their quality control seems to have improved over the years.
The Canon 85mm f1.2 seems to have more micro-contrast to it. Zeiss lenses have lots of Micro-contrast to them, which is why their areas in focus seem to pop with an almost 3D effect.
Impressions So Far
Though no real and finite conclusions can be drawn from this test, it is a preview of what’s to come in the full test:
– Both lenses have generally the same color rendering.
– Both lenses can be tough to focus.
– Both lenses are very sharp.
– The Canon lens seems sharper at the more wide open apertures, but the Sigma seems sharper when stopped down.
There will be more to come in the tests.
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