One Big Problem. Sigma 85mm F1.4 DG DN Art Review

The Sigma 85mm f1.4 DG DN Art is a nearly perfect portrait lens for photographers shooting E or L Mount mirrorless cameras.

Portrait shooters are in for a treat with the Sigma 85mm f1.4 DG DN Art. It’s the spiritual successor to Sigma’s much-loved, mammoth 85mm f1.4 DG HSM Art. Designed initially for DSLRs, Sigma eventually released it for E and L Mounts, but its performance on mirrorless cameras is lackluster. The new Sigma 85mm f1.4 DG DN Art is designed for mirrorless cameras. It aims to address both the size and performance issues that plagued its predecessor. We reviewed the E Mount version of the lens, but it’s available for L Mount too.

This lens competes directly with Sony’s excellent 85mm f1.4 G Master. They share numerous similarities: both have 11 rounded aperture blades, an aperture range from f1.4-f16, a minimum autofocusing distance of 2.79 feet, and a filter diameter of φ 77mm. The 85mm f1.4 DG DN Art is also the lightest of the bunch. Let’s see how it stacks up against the competition.

Sigma 85mm f1.4 DG DN Art Pros and Cons

Pros

Cons

  • Significant pincushion distortion
  • Lacks optical image stabilization

Gear Used

We tested the Sigma 85mm f1.4 DG DN Art lens with the following:

Sigma 85mm f1.4 DG DN Art Tech Specs

Tech specs for the Sigma 85mm f1.4 DG DN Art lens taken from Sigma’s official product page:

Lens construction15 elements in 11 groups
Angle of view (35mm)28.6°
Number of diaphragm blades11 (Rounded diaphragm)
Minimum aperturef16
Minimum focusing distance85cm / 33.5in.
Maximum magnification ratio1:8.4
Filter sizeφ 77mm
Dimensions
(diameter x length)
L-mount: φ 82.8mm × 94.1mm / φ 3.3in. x 3.7in.
Sony E-mount: φ 82.8mm × 96.1mm / φ 3.3in. x 3.8in.
WeightL-mount: 630g / 22.2oz.
Sony E-mount: 625g / 22.0oz.
Edition numberA020
AccessoriesCase, hood (LH828-02) included.

Ergonomics

Sigma put the Sigma 85mm f1.4 DG DN Art on a serious diet. It’s roughly 50% lighter and much more compact than the older HSM version. As a result, it feels way better balanced when mounted onto A7 series camera bodies.

The Focus Mode Switch, AFL Button, and Aperture Ring Click Switch are all located on the left side. You can toggle between Auto or Manual Focus modes without going into the menus. Plus, custom functions can be mapped to the AFL button. It’s set to Focus Hold by default. The Aperture Ring Click Switch lets you de-click the aperture ring. Hybrid shooters will love this.

The opposite side has much less going on. The Aperture Ring Lock Switch is the only thing on this side. When engaged, it keeps the aperture ring locked in “A” mode. This lets photographers set the aperture via their camera’s command dials. Alternatively, you can disengage the lock and adjust your aperture manually using the aperture ring.

Here’s a look at Sigma 85mm f1.4 DG DN Art’s front end. Its 11 rounded aperture blades are on full display here. Like the Sony 85mm f1.4 G Master, the Sigma has a 77mm front filter thread.

Build Quality

The Sigma 85mm f1.4 DG DN Art is smaller and lighter than its DSLR predecessor. However, it feels every bit as well constructed thanks to the aluminum and thermally stable composite materials. It’s also dust- and splash-proof and features coated lens elements that repel water and oil. The manual focusing ring offers ample resistance when turned, helpful when making pinpoint focus adjustments.

We got stuck in a sudden rain shower during one of our shoots with the Sigma 85mm f1.4 DG DN Art. Thankfully, the lens kept working without issue. While some rain droplets ended up on the front element, they wiped away easily. Short of taking the lens for a dive, we’re confident it can withstand most of what Mother Nature can throw at it.

Ease of Use

Overall, the Sigma 85mm f1.4 DG DN Art has been a joy to shoot with. Simply mount it onto your camera, dial in your aperture, ensure it’s set to the correct focusing mode, and you’re good to go. Being nearly 50% lighter, it’s much more manageable than its predecessor too. It didn’t feel front heavy when mounted onto the Sony A7R III or Sony A7R IV.

Switching between auto and manual focus is easy with the Focus Mode Toggle. It’s way quicker than navigating the camera menus. The de-clickable Aperture Ring can be set between f1.4 to f16. You can also adjust the aperture via command dials on your camera by setting the aperture ring to “A” mode. Finally, the AFL button is conveniently located near where your thumb naturally rests when holding the lens. You can map custom functions to it to suit your shooting style. This is a workhorse lens that portrait shooters can rely on.

Autofocus

The Sigma 85mm f1.4 DG DN Art’s autofocus is significantly faster than its HSM predecessor and on par with the Sony G Master. It is both accurate and precise, even when wide open. The AF motor is very quiet. Advanced AF capabilities like Eye-AF and Expanded Flexible Spot Tracking worked without issue as well. The only thing to be mindful of is the minimum autofocusing distance (85cm / 33.5in). There’s really not much else to worry autofocus-wise.

Image Quality

The Sigma 85mm f1.4 DG DN Art delivers excellent image quality overall. The results are on par with both it’s predecessor and the Sony 85mm f1.4 G Master. It’s an ideal portrait lens for E or L mount shooters. Some minor niggles keep it from perfection, however. Let’s break them down.

Bokeh

Sigma Art lenses are known for their beautiful bokeh. This continues to hold true for the Sigma 85mm f1.4 DG DN. The transition from in to out of focus appears gradual and pleasant. We’ve got the 11 rounded aperture blades to thank for this. Fans of perfectly circular bokeh balls will be left wanting, though. As you move towards the periphery of your frame, bokeh balls will become increasingly oval. See the example below:

Chromatic Aberration

Chromatic aberrations are very well-controlled with the Sigma 85mm f.14 DG DN Art. We did notice very slight purple fringing in some high-contrast, backlit images. However, this can be easily remedied during post-processing. The Sigma also does an excellent job of resisting flares as well. With the lens hood installed, flares are all but eliminated unless you’re shooting directly at the Sun.

Color Rendition

This lens produces images with a warmer tone. Colors also tend to appear saturated. While some photographers prefer this, those with color-critical workflows may find this problematic. You’ll have the best results when shooting with custom white balance. Consider using flash as well for even more control.

Distortion

Distortion is one area that the Sigma 85mm f1.4 DG DN Art falls short. Make sure you’ve got lens distortion compensation enabled when shooting with this lens. The above image was taken with lens distortion compensations disabled. The pincushion distortion is rather significant. This can be problematic when photographing scenes with lots of straight lines. The Sigma 85mm f1.4 DG DN Art is also prone to vignetting, particularly towards the wider end. Thankfully, both issues can be remedied in post with relative ease. Below are some additional comparisons:

Lens Distortion Compensation enabled, f1.4 | ISO 100 | 1/2000s

Sharpness

It’s ridiculous how sharp this lens is, even when wide open. Sigma really knocked it out of the park in this regard. In some cases, things can actually be too sharp if you stop down to around f2.8 to f4. For portrait photographers, this could lead to extra skin retouching.

Extra Image Samples

Here are some additional sample images using the Sigma 85mm f1.4 DG DN Art lens on the Sony A7R III and the Sony A7R IV. All of these images were processed using Capture One 20 Pro (Build 13.1.2.35). Processing ranged from color grading, levels adjustment, cropping, and/or perspective correction. As a matter of ethics, however, none of the sample images seen within this review have been retouched. We’ve done this to let you judge the image quality produced using this filter system for yourself.

Conclusion

Likes

  • Excellent build quality
  • Weather sealing
  • Compact size
  • Snappy autofocus performance
  • Remarkable image quality
  • Gorgeous bokeh
  • Much more affordable than the G Master (it’s nearly US $600 cheaper!)

Dislikes

  • Significant pincushion distortion
  • Vignetting towards the wider end

The Sigma 85mm f1.4 DG DN Art offers tremendous value for just $1,199. It retains the excellent image quality of its predecessor while addressing many of its shortcomings: It’s smaller, lighter, and features markedly improved autofocus performance. In fact, this lens performs on par with the highly-rated Sony 85mm G Master. Talk about punching above its weight. Be sure to check out our upcoming direct comparison between these two lenses. Unfortunately, the Sigma falls just short of perfection due to its severe pincushion distortion. Otherwise, it would have been a shoo-in for the Phoblographer’s Editor’s Choice Award.

The Sigma 85mm f1.4 DG DN Art lens earns four out of five stars. It’s available now in both E and L mounts for US $1,199.