Sigma 85mm F1.4 DG HSM Art Review

By Yvonne

Sigma 85mm F1.4 DG HSM Art, a large prime lens, features a bright f/1.4 design and a focal length that is perfect for portraiture. It also offers exceptional image quality.

Sigma 85mm F1.4 DG HSM Art Review

Sigma 85mm F1.4 DG HSM Art

Let's get to the bottom

Sigma 85mm F1.4 DG HSM Art, a large prime lens, features a bright f/1.4 design and a focal length that is perfect for portraiture. It also offers exceptional image quality.

The pros

  • Extremely sharp.
  • A bright f/1.4 aperture.
  • No distortion.
  • Even illumination.
  • Multiple systems are supported.


  • Heavy and large
  • Omits image stabilization.
  • Focus may require adjustment.

Sigma's Art Series of prime lenses produces sharp images even when taken wide open at a lower price than other options. It continues this trend and costs $1199 less than the Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G ($1,599) or the Canon EF85mm f/1.2L (1,899). However, it does not compromise on performance. Even though image stabilization is not included, it's Editors Choice. You may prefer that feature to an f/1.4 design.

Related Reading: Voigtlander Ultron 21mm F1.8 Review


The 85mm Art lens ($1,037.00 on Amazon) (Opens in new window) is big and bulky. The lens measures 2.5 by 5.0 inches (HD) and can hold 86mm front filters. The barrel is black and comes with front and rear caps. It also includes a lens hood that can be reversed and protective cases. Although it is larger than the Tamron85mm f/1.8 at 3.6 inches by 3.3 inches and 1.5 pounds, this lens captures 50% more light and produces images with shallower depths of field when used at maximum aperture f/1.4.

You can buy the 85mm Art in a Canon EF, Nikon F, Leica/Panasonic/Sigma L, Sigma SA, or Sony E version. For review, we received the Nikon edition. A manual focus ring takes up most of the barrel. The ring is made of textured rubber, which provides enough resistance to allow for true manual focus. The transparent window displays the focus distance and depth of field in an indication.

The toggle switch at the side allows you to choose between autofocus and manual operation. My test copy was not perfect, so I had to fix it. Even if your camera body doesn't support focus adjustments, you can calibrate the lens using the Sigma USB Dock ($54.99 at Amazon)(Opens in new window —it's a very solid purchase if you own Sigma lenses, as it also lets you upgrade lens firmware.

Minimum focus is at 2.8 feet (0.85-meter), which doesn't put the lens anywhere near macro territory—at its best it projects images at 1:8.3 life-size. That's pretty typical for an 85mm lens—it's a fine working distance for most subjects, including head-and-shoulders portraits.

Image stabilization is not available. This is not an issue if you are shooting outdoors or in bright lighting. The challenge for outdoor photographers will be to lower your ISO to allow the camera to focus at f/1.4 and f/2 in these conditions. It is an issue for event photographers, who may need to slow down to capture more detail and handheld video. If your photography style requires stabilization, the Tamron 85mm will be a good choice.

Related Reading: Samsung NX3000 Review

Image quality

The Nikon D810 full-frame 36MP camera was used to test the 85mm Art. The image quality is outstanding at f/1.4, with 3,222 lines per picture in a center-weighted testing. However, the weighting doesn't matter as our test shot has sharp edges as well as its center. This isn't the sharpest 85mm we've seen at f/1.4—the Zeiss Otus 1.4/85 manages 3,376 lines on the same D810 test body—but it's a manual-focus-only, $5,000 lens. Sigma is cheaper and supports autofocus.

Sharpness is slightly improved at f/2 at 3,259 line. As you stop down further the lens takes better advantage of the D810's high-resolution image sensor—3,728 lines at f/2.8, 3,943 lines at f/4, 4,054 lines at f/5.6, and peak performance (4,194 lines) at f/8. At f/11, diffraction occurs, which reduces resolution to 4,087 lines. It is worse at f/16 (3,756 line). The Tamron 85mm actually delivers crisper images at its best—it approaches 4,800 lines at f/8. This is about the highest resolution we have seen with any lens when it's paired up with D810.

Images shot at f/1.4 with the Sigma show almost no visible Vignette. Imatest Uniformity shows corners trailing the center by less that one stop when the lens is wide opened (-0.9EV), within our tolerance of 1EV. This is one area where the Sigma betters the Tamron—it captures images with a noticeable vignette at wider apertures. The deficit is negligible at narrower apertures. The lens also shows no distortion.

Related Reading: Pentax K-3 II Review


There are no complaints to be made about the Sigma 85mm F1.4 DG HSM Art from an optical perspective—it's an impeccable performer, capturing images with loads of detail, even when shot wide open at f/1.4 It's the big f-stop that will draw photographers to the lens. The build quality is comparable to Nikon and Canon lenses, while the cost is significantly lower than those of Nikon and Canon. Image stabilization is the only thing that's missing. The Tamron SP85mm, which is less expensive, can be used if image stabilization is a top priority. The Sigma 85mm, Editor's Choice for those photographers looking to get an f/1.4 lens is a great choice.