The Sigma 85 ART
The Red Ring Killer
After spending three years with one of the most mythical lenses in Canon's lineup, the 85mm 1.2L II, I figured it was about time for a change. Canon's 85 1.2 has been good to me over the years, creating some magical pieces, but always leaving something to be desired. Whether it be shooting wide open at 1.2 or trying to re-focus on your subject, the 85 1.2 was one of my least practical lenses in the field, due to its weak auto-focus, weak manual focus, and softness between f/1.2 - f/1.8. Don't get me wrong, I've grinded out a ton of great work with the 85 1.2, it is a pretty magical lens, but at the end of the day it didn't live up to the rest of the kit, which includes the 35 1.4 ART, and 135 2L. Both of which have zippy focus motors, are tack sharp wide open, and are workhorses in the field.
I knew that my next 85mm lens would more than likely be part of the ART series over three years ago, when I got my 35 1.4 ART. This became more and more apparent as new ART series lenses released, ranking near or on par with Zeiss consistently. I eagerly awaited the ART revision of Sigma's 85mm, or some ungodly rendition of a 135mm lens portrait. Then, last fall in a mass of headlines, I saw the best news I could ever see "Sigma announces new ART series lenses." Lo and behold, Sigma was finally unveiling my "unicorn lens"!
Fast forward to January, I finally got my hands on the 85 1.4 ART lens, and I have to say is "HOLLY CRAP!" Having been spoiled with some tack sharp lenses through my work history, I have to say that this thousand dollar lens blew up my mind. This lens is so tack sharp wide open, that Canon doesn't even have an 85mm lens to compare. The closest competitor to this lens is the Zeiss Otus 85mm, which costs a modest $4,500. The 85mm ART holds its ground rather well against the Otus in terms of sharpness, but you will notice more chromatic aberration and vignetting in high contrast situations. Personally, I could really care less about chromatic aberration and vignetting seeing how they're easily handled in post.
After spending a week with the lens, I can say that it is all I expected of it, and more. Color reproduction is on point, capturing bright colors and sharp contrast in every situation, even in backlit situations where the Canon 85 1.2 would start showing its age. As far as high contrast situations, with back lighting, you will definitely see chromatic aberration creeping into your shots, but the intensity is managed to a level where image quality won't be impacted dramatically. Ok, so it's sharp, colors pop, and it manages CA well, but does it bokeh? The answer to that is, yes, and it's creamy bokeh at that! You will notice light sources lemon in the corners wide open, but it's a tradeoff I'm willing to make for the overall quality of bokeh this lens produces. Bokeh is a large part of my storytelling style, as it creates a dreamy feeling while separating my subjects, making them the center of attention. Having a lens that allows me to use it at its extremes without massive tradeoffs in image quality, has made me fall in love with the 85mm once again.
If you're a beginner looking to start your glass collection, or a professional looking to upgrade glass, give the Sigma ART series a look. This overview of the Sigma 85 ART was not a paid post, and it represents my personal views on the lens. Sigma has been a cornerstone of my photographic journey, from the days of its gold ring lenses. I've stood by this brand from the beginning because it helped me tell my stories my way, without an entry premium. If you have any questions or opinions, please feel free to share them below in the comments.
I hope I've gotten your inner photo nerd excited, now go out and shoot something epic!