Review: Sigma 105mm F1.4 DG HSM Art “Bokeh Master” (Nikon F Mount)

Portrait photographers will love the Sigma 105mm f1.4 DG HSM Art lens, and not just for the bokeh!

Marketed by Sigma as the “Bokeh Master,” the Sigma 105mm f1.4 DG HSM Art lens is one the latest additions to the Japanese optics manufacturer’s Art series of lenses. The ninth lens in Sigma’s Art series to feature a wide aperture of f1.4 (six for Full Frame, three for APS-C), it is also the longest focal length currently available in the series. Bokeh addicts will sing songs of praise about the Sigma 105mm f1.4 DG HSM Art lens, provided that they’ve got the adequate arm strength to wield it.

So with that said, start doing those arm curls–because you’re gonna need it.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Incredible sharpness
  • Superb image quality
  • Perfect portrait lens for all of you bokeh hunters
  • Dust and splash proof construction
  • Built-in, removable Arca-Swiss tripod mount
  • Doubles as a dumbbell for when you want to skip arms day at the gym

Cons

  • This lens is absolutely enormous
  • Sigma packed a lot of glass inside this behemoth, and it weighs it
  • Lacks image stabilization
  • You’re most likely going to want to mount this lens on a Arca-Swiss tripod if you’re one of those people that don’t even lift, bruh!

 

Gear Used

We tested the Sigma 105mm f1.4 DG HSM Art lens with the Nikon D850 and the MeFOTO Roadtrip Leather Edition tripod.

 

Tech Specs

The specifications for the Sigma 105mm f1.4 DG HSM Art lens was taken from the official Sigma page.

Lens construction 17 elements in 12 groups
Angle of view 23.3°
Number of diaphragm blades 9 (Rounded diaphragm)
Minimum aperture F16
Minimum focusing distance 100cm / 39.4in.
Maximum magnification ratio 1:8.3
Filter size φ105㎜
Dimensions
(diameter x length)
Φ115.9㎜ × 131.5㎜ / φ4.6in.×5.2in.
Weight 1,645g / 58oz.

The Nikon mount version of this lens includes an electromagnetic diaphragm mechanism.

 

Ergonomics

What you’re looking at here is rare photographic footage of the Japanese Mammoth–otherwise known as the Sigma 105mm f1.4 DG HSM Art lens. This aerial shot was done while the beast was calmed. We can observe its smooth exterior texture along with a large rubber-like ring ground around the front of it. The extended area is a hood that is used almost like a hat. It protects the front.

At one point, the Sigma 105mm f1.4 DG HSM Art lens reared itself on its legs and tried to attack our camera. Luckily we backed off just enough to snap this photo of its front element. It appears to be 105mm in diameter. This is quite remarkable for a lens of any size.

Here we see the beast resting on its side. We can spot a foot and a switch. Said switch is large and seems to function to control the autofocus. Given the ergonomics of the Sigma 105mm f1.4 DG HSM Art lens, we decided to continue putting this fascinating creature through a more careful review.

The rumors say that when the Japanese Mammoth mates with herds of Nikon D850s that the two produce many a megapickle together.

Build Quality

The Sigma 105mm f1.4 DG HSM Art lens is made to the same quality standard we’ve come to expect from lenses in Sigma’s Art series. You’ll be hard pressed to find a bulkier prime lens on the market, which is why I’m glad Sigma shipped the “Bokeh Master” with an Arca-Swiss tripod collar attached. It’s weight will definitely become an issue during prolonged use, so if you plan on doing marathon portrait sessions with this beast, do yourself and your arms a favor and mount it onto a sturdy tripod. Sigma states that the 105mm f1.4 DG HSM Art lens is dust and splash proof, although I never got to put that to the test as I didn’t encounter any inclement weather while evaluating this lens.

 

Autofocus

When paired with the Nikon D850, the Sigma 105mm f1.4 DG HSM Art lens consistently acquired focus quickly under most circumstances, only hunting or back focusing on rare occasions while shooting in extremely low light situations or when shooting directly into a light source. Note that when shooting the “Bokeh Master” wide open at f1.4, your focal plane is incredibly thin. With the Sigma 105mm f1.4 DG HSM and the Nikon D850 that we were testing it with weighing in at about as much as a brick, and compounded by the fact that both the lens and the camera lacked any image stabilization, we found ourselves missing more shots than we would have liked. This is no fault of the autofocus mechanism, but you’ll want to shoot at a fast enough shutter speed and probably mount the combo onto a sturdy tripod to reduce any human error.

 

Ease of Use

Sigma markets the 105mm f1.4 DG HSM Art lens as the “Bokeh Master,” but given its heft and massive size, I’d argue that it would be more appropriate to refer to it as the “Bokeh Monster” instead. When paired with the Nikon D850, it was one chunky combo to lug around. As we had previously mentioned, your best bet is to mount the Sigma 105mm f1.4 DG HSM Art lens to a tripod using the included Arca-Swiss tripod collar. Sigma advises against using Arca-Swiss tripods with lever clamp style locking mechanisms, recommending instead that you utilize Arca-Swiss tripods with screw knob style locking mechanisms.

Sigma will be releasing the 105mm f1.4 DG HSM Art lens for Sony E Mount as well, and we think that pairing this lens with one of Sony’s Full Frame mirrorless cameras with in-body image stabilization will make for one deadly combo. Imagine being able to use Eye-AF with this beast!

 

Image Quality

Having shot with the Sigma 105mm f1.4 DG HSM Art lens in a variety of lighting scenarios, this lens truly lives up to Sigma’s marketing claims of it being a “Bokeh Master.” Images produced by this lens are razor sharp as long as you’re able to nail focus, with beautiful fall off transitions and truly gorgeous bokeh. Photographing in a location with a lot going on in the background? The Sigma 105mm f1.4 DG HSM will make melt the background away as long as you’ve got enough separation between your subject and whatever else is going on behind them. I didn’t notice any perceptible chromatic aberration, even when shooting directly into light sources.

Bokeh

Just look at that bokeh! It’s not difficult to get that look with the Sigma 105mm f1.4 DG HSM Art lens. This is because it is a telephoto focal length and it has a very fast aperture. You’re probably wondering how this fares against the Nikon. Let’s take a look at some relatively close comparison shots.

Nikon

Sigma

In this loose comparison, it’s pretty difficult to tell the differences between the two. They look similar for sure when it comes to bokeh. But in this case, Sigma’s lens is more affordable. Keep this in mind if all you want is bokeh.

Chromatic Aberration

We really couldn’t find much of any problems with CA. Let’s move on.

Color Rendition

The colors from the Sigma 105mm f1.4 DG HSM Art lens are interesting for sure. They’re nice, but they’re muted as if Sigma really designed this lens for portraiture. Certain tonalities are pretty vivid, but those most attributed to skin color are more muted.

Sharpness

To get the best sharpness of any lens that we test, we often use a flash. There is no double in our mind that the Sigma 105mm f1.4 DG HSM Art lens delivers tack sharp images even when using natural light. Using a flash is just the icing on the cake. Practically speaking though, I’d use a high megapixel camera and perhaps worry less about the glass from Sigma. At the longer focal lengths, everything is going to be sharp. So just work with a focal length you like.

Extra Image Samples

Conclusions

Likes

  • solid build quality as we’ve come to expect from Sigma’s Art series
  • simply stunning bokeh
  • tack sharp even when shooting wide open
  • great focal length portraits

Dislikes

  • it’s a huge lens
  • it’s heavy as hell
  • lacks image stabilization

Is it massive? Of course. Does it weigh a lot? You bet. But the quality of the images this lens produces is simply gorgeous. If you are a bokeh addict, the Sigma 105mm f1.4 DG HSM Art lens is the fix that you’ve been after, and it will keep you crawling back for more. As of press time, the only other 105mm f1.4 on the market is Nikon’s own AF-S Nikkor 105mm f1.4 E ED, and it costs more than half a grand more. If you can manage the heft and size of the Sigma 105mm f1.4 DG HSM Art lens, you’ll be rewarded with some phenomenal images in return. It might even help you tone your arms in the long run.

The Sigma 105mm f1.4 DG HSM Art lens is also available for Canon EF mount, Sony E mount, as well as Sigma’s own SA mount, so more people can get in on this all you can eat bokeh buffet. Do I wish it weighed less and didn’t take up so much room in my camera bag? Sure, but even Sigma can’t bend the laws of physics. My only wish is for Sigma to incorporate image stabilization into the next revision of this lens.

The Sigma 105mm f1.4 DG HSM Art lens earns five out of five stars, earning it The Phoblographer’s Editor’s Choice Award. Want to add one to your kit? The Sigma 105mm f1.4 DG HSM Art lens is available on Amazon.