If you’re a portrait photographer, the question of Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art vs Sigma 135mm f1.8 Art has most likely come up. The two lenses are portrait photography powerhouses designed to be some of the best lenses in the world and have attractive characters to portrait photographers of all types. Typically, choosing one lens over the other has had to do with the amount of space that you’re working in, but with trends in modern photography that can change pretty easily just by switching locations. Both lenses have different image quality characteristics and different body characteristics. So which one is right for you?
For reference, you may want to open up both our Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art lens review and our Sigma 135mm f1.8 Art lens review.
Ergonomics and Build Quality
Both the Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art and the Sigma 135mm f1.8 Art lenses have fantastic build quality and just a little bit of weather sealing. The 85mm tends to be shorter and fatter while the 135mm is thinner and longer. Personally, the 85mm lens is a bit too heavy for me to use for prolonged periods of time despite my natural predisposition to that focal length when working in small NYC apartments. Both lenses have the carbon-plastic-metal-like material on the outside and both lenses also use a big rubber ring to give the user a bit of extra grip when handholding the lens.
Assuming that the reader has a full frame camera in hand, you’d be fine reaching for either lens. When it comes purely to feeling though, the Sigma 135mm f1.4 Art lens wins the round for me.
Winner: Sigma 135mm f1.8 Art
Years ago, Sigma lenses couldn’t focus with Canon and Nikon bodies that well. But all that has changed. Both lenses will focus fuss free with cameras from both manufacturers going back even into the film days. Both are quick; and I’m actually pleasantly surprised as how fast the Sigma 135mm f1.8 Art lens is to focus. However, due to the Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art lens being a shorter focal length, it’s faster to focus and also more efficient when it comes to ensuring a higher hit rate.
Winner: Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art
Ease of Use
Now here is where things get obviously tricky. The clear winner here is the Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art lens, but here’s why. Location shooting photographers will often reach for zoom lenses just because they’re more versatile. But if you’re shooting with a prime lens then you NEED a larger space to make the most use of the 135mm f1.8 Art. This is because you’ll have to move around to get variety. With the 85mm f1.4 Art, you can do that within a smaller space while still also getting similar compression.
Winner: Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art
In very similar situations, I’m pretty positive that most photographers wouldn’t be able to tell apart the output from the Sigma 135mm f1.8 Art and the Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art lens. They’re both damned good. One is better for skin tones than the other is. One is sharper than the other.
Here’s the bokeh from the Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art lens. As you can tell, it’s very nice.
Here’s some Bokeh from the Sigma 135mm f1.8 Art lens. Truthfully they’re both good and if I didn’t tell you which is which, I’m sure lots of photographers would have difficulty figuring it out.
In my opinion, the Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art is slightly sharper than the Sigma 135mm f1.8 Art lens. Perhaps Sigma did this because they knew it would be more popular.
Now here’s where I feel the Sigma 135mm f1.8 Art takes the cake. The Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art tends to be a bit more saturated in color than I’d like it to be, but the 135mm f1.8 Art tends to be a bit more muted. It’s the difference between Kodak Portra and Ektar.
Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art
Winner: My personal choice is the 135mm f1.8 Art Lens
Here’s where I’m incredibly torn. The Sigma 135mm f1.8 Art lens lets me get better photos that suit my personal look more so I spend less time in Capture One Pro. But I need more shoot to shoot with it and so my apartment is tough to work in but outdoors can be alright. On the other hand, the Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art is fantastic when it comes to workability, but it doesn’t quite give me the image quality I like. If you’re into the more sterile, character free look that it all the rage with Japanese lens makers these days, then the Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art may be for you. But if you like something with a tad more character, the Sigma 135mm f1.8 Art could be your choice.
Of course, I could work with the files from the Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art in Capture One to get what I want. But the Sigma 135mm f1.8 Art just requires me to step outside of my apartment in Brooklyn, find a spot, shoot, and then come home happy.