Sigma 85mm F1.4 ART review vs Wedding Photography

Introduction

We trusted Sigma with their promises and we pre-ordered a long-anticipated Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art. This lens isn’t as cheap as its little brothers (24mm, 35mm & 50mm) but since we have been photographing weddings with Sigma primes over the last few years we decided to add this bad boy (or two to be precise) to our clan. We promised ourselves that 2016 season will be the last for using the extensive and heavy equipment. In other words the longer we are in this industry the more we learn and realise that there is absolutely no need for tons of lenses, cameras, flashes (you name it) to photograph weddings. In fact, the less is better especially with the style of photography we offer. We are documentary wedding photographers and since we do not pose our couples (except for must haves and creative portraits of the bride & groom) we are always on the hunt. We need to be ready for fast and very often unexpected moments, therefore we decided to strip down our equipment so that we can focus more on shooting without worrying about carrying bags full of equipment. We love how lenses of a different focal length give us the ability to create a ‘different look’ or composition. What we don’t like on the other hand is the fact that it usually takes about three days to recover after each wedding (especially when we photograph two or three back to back) simply because of the weight we carry on our shoulders all day. We made the decision to buy one anyway and we absolutely love it.

Oh boy this lens is so sexy!

The new Sigma 85 Art looks great and you immediately realise you carry a pro lens! This wasn’t the case with its predecessor. Sigma 85mm f1.4 EX had a very solid but somewhat plasticky feel so the new Art is a fantastic improvement – well done Sigma. We knew (from other online sources / reviews) that this lens is going to be big and heavy but we were still a bit shocked when it arrived, it’s massive! We just so got used to Nikkor 85mm and Sigma 85 EX that the new Art felt more like 70-200 once on a camera.

sigma-85mm-art-review-wedding-photography

Sigma fulfilled the exacting standards of the Art line, this lens is built to last full stop. Weighing in at 1130 grams and measuring 12.6 cm in length, the Sigma 85mm F1.4 Art is a true winner in gluttony! It feels extremely well built and leveraged with latest innovations and materials.

Why Sigma?

As mentioned above we have been using both Nikkor and Sigma lenses for quite some time now and the Sigma 85 F1.4 EX has been one of our favourite work horses. We use / have Nikon F1.4G, Nikon F1.8G and Sigma F1.4 EX (and the new Art of course). The main reason behind using its older brother (Sigma 85 EX) over the Nikon versions wasn’t the price but the AF speed. We have been using the Nikon 85mm F1.4G and Nikon 85mm 1.8G and although we love the build and image quality of the two, the auto focus speed was always a huge disappointment. Due to our shooting style we choose the AF speed over the picture quality. This may sound a bit odd but we rather prefer sharp (in focus) pictures.

Unless we can have it all!

We had big expectations from the new Sigma 85mm F1.4 Art lens and it certainly did not disappoint. Not only is it faster, the image quality and sharpness is truly outstanding. It was a massive surprise to be honest. Since it has more glass to shift we thought it would be slower than the EX version, We were wrong! (The below image is not a size comparison).

sigma-85mm-art-review-wedding-photography-03

Image quality / AF speed

Many people don’t see the difference and after seeing poor wedding quality images online we often wonder why pro wedding photographers (including us) invest in expensive equipment. Well the answer in our case is simple – our clients come first, and we only use tools that get the job done well. Ever since we started photographing weddings we were always willing to pay extra for fast 85 primes that will perform well in all aspects. We always wanted the speed of the Nikon Holy Trinity (14-24, 24-70, 70-200) in an 85mm lens. The AF of the three is out of this world and we wish to have speedy primes too (I hope Nikon & Sigma reads this). Anyway, the new 85 Art is the fastest of all the 85 primes we have tested and we already can say that it will be on our camera body all day and for the action shots. We tried the 85 EX at F1.4 and it was way too soft for our liking especially under poor lighting conditions such as in churches, ceremony (barns) rooms etc. where use of flash is forbidden. We would always shoot at higher F stop. You probably heard it in the past – the fact that you have a F1.4 lens doesn’t mean you should have to shoot at F1.4 We totally agree however that we want to be able to take awesome and sharp pictures at F1.4 too – that glass is there for a reason, the new Sigma 85mm F1.4 finally gives you that freedom and the images look spectacular. Below are a few examples from a recent wedding we photographed. The F number varies from 1.4 to 2.5 in the below examples.

Sigma 85mm F1.4 ART review vs Wedding Photography 1
Sigma 85mm ART ISO 800 F/1.4 1/250 sec
Sigma 85mm F1.4 ART review vs Wedding Photography 2
Sigma 85mm ART ISO 200 F/2.5 1/400 sec
Sigma 85mm F1.4 ART review vs Wedding Photography 3
Sigma 85mm ART ISO 200 F/2.0 1/320 sec
Sigma 85mm F1.4 ART review vs Wedding Photography 4
Sigma 85mm ART ISO 800 F/2.0 1/160 sec
Sigma 85mm F1.4 ART review vs Wedding Photography 5
Sigma 85mm ART ISO 200 F/2.0 1/250 sec
Sigma 85mm F1.4 ART review vs Wedding Photography 6
Sigma 85mm ART ISO 800 F/1.4 1/250 sec
Sigma 85mm F1.4 ART review vs Wedding Photography 7
Sigma 85mm ART ISO 200 F/2.0 1/320 sec
Sigma 85mm F1.4 ART review vs Wedding Photography 8
Sigma 85mm ART ISO 800 F/2.0 1/160 sec
Sigma 85mm F1.4 ART review vs Wedding Photography 9
Sigma 85mm ART ISO 200 F/2.0 1/250 sec
Sigma 85mm F1.4 ART review vs Wedding Photography 10
Sigma 85mm ART ISO 200 F/2.0 1/250 sec
Sigma 85mm F1.4 ART review vs Wedding Photography 11
Sigma 85mm ART ISO 200 F/2.0 1/320 sec
Sigma 85mm F1.4 ART review vs Wedding Photography 12
Sigma 85mm ART ISO 500 F/2.0 1/160 sec

Action Shots

Nothing to worry about we would say! You don’t get every single shot in focus as you would get with 70-200 VRII for example but the 85 definitely creates art! Below we include some movement / action shots for you to look at.

Sigma 85mm F1.4 ART review vs Wedding Photography 13
Sigma 85mm ART ISO 200 F/2.0 1/250 sec
Sigma 85mm F1.4 ART review vs Wedding Photography 14
Sigma 85mm ART ISO 200 F/2.5 1/400 sec
Sigma 85mm F1.4 ART review vs Wedding Photography 15
Sigma 85mm ART ISO 200 F/2.0 1/800 sec

Chromatic Aberration

Thanks to three types of exclusive low-dispersion glass the chromatic aberration seems to be reduced to the minimum. (Still visible, however much better than the EX lens – the middle image – shirt / collar and mobile phones – bottom image).

Sigma 85mm F1.4 ART review vs Wedding Photography 16
Sigma 85mm ART ISO 200 F/2.0 1/800 sec
Sigma 85mm F1.4 ART review vs Wedding Photography 17
Sigma 85mm ART ISO 200 F/2.0 1/500 sec
Sigma 85mm F1.4 ART review vs Wedding Photography 18
Sigma 85mm ART ISO 200 F/2.0 1/800 sec

Bokeh

The out-of-focus parts of an image produced by Sigma 85mm F1.4 Art are very aesthetic. In our personal opinion the way the lens renders the light is very pleasant to an eye.

Sigma 85mm F1.4 ART review vs Wedding Photography 19
Sigma 85mm ART ISO 200 F/2.0 1/320 sec
Sigma 85mm F1.4 ART review vs Wedding Photography 20
Sigma 85mm ART ISO 400 F/2.0 1/400 sec
Sigma 85mm F1.4 ART review vs Wedding Photography 21
Sigma 85mm ART ISO 200 F/2.5 1/500 sec

The conclusion

We absolutely love the new Sigma 85 Art and we would recommend it to anyone. However, this lens is not for everyone. In our case, instead of stripping down the equipment we will probably need to attend more gym / cross fit classes to carry the lens every Saturday on our shoulders ? As we mentioned above we put the speed and quality over weight of the equipment we use and we are going to keep it for the next few years. If you’re happy with your 85mm whether it is Nikon or Sigma and it produces great results for you then my advice would be don’t buy the new Art. For us the technology jump from the old EX is significant and we are over the moon with the new glass.

Keep an eye on this blog post, we will soon update it with AF speed video of the above lenses and will also include more images and a link to a full wedding story for you to look at. Stay tuned!

A Few more Sigma 85mm F1.4 Art sample images below:

Sigma 85mm F1.4 ART review vs Wedding Photography 22
Sigma 85mm ART ISO 800 F/1.6 1/160 sec
Sigma 85mm F1.4 ART review vs Wedding Photography 23
Sigma 85mm ART ISO 200 F/2.0 1/320 sec
Sigma 85mm F1.4 ART review vs Wedding Photography 24
Sigma 85mm ART ISO 200 F/1.6 1/200 sec
Sigma 85mm F1.4 ART review vs Wedding Photography 25
Sigma 85mm ART ISO 200 F/2.0 1/320 sec

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42 Comments

  1. Very nice colors and sample images. Which Nikon camera are you using? Based on the editing I can presume you used Lightroom only. I’m correct? If so did you use a Lightroom filter like VSCO? Angain great job!

    • Thanks Luis. Correct – I edit in Lightroom. I wish there was a preset I could use for all my work. Unfortunately, every wedding is different (weather, venue, colours, people – skin tones etc) I tweak it to my liking.

  2. Awesome photographs. I adore the colors and contrast. I have the 20mm, 35mm and 50mm. I love them all and I can’t wait to get my hands on the 85mm.
    I’m just curious what body you had it mounted on? The D810?

    • Thank you! I have 24mm, 35mm & 50mm too. Very good and sharp lenses indeed. I had it on D3s – my favourite camera since 2011. I’m upgrading it after New Year though.

      • Did not expect that. But now that I think about it it makes sense. I really loved the d3s. I own a d750 and I am very curious how the 85mm will perform on it.
        thank you for the review!

  3. Nice photos! and amazing tone. The only problem I faced with Sigma (when I bought 35mm Art) AF was not perfect. Hope it worked fine out of the box?
    It missed AF occasionally. Later, got it corrected. However I later got it replaced with Canon 35mm 1.4L (Which is cool).
    For 85mm 1.4 Sigma art, as of now, We do not have any canon Alternative; (heard Canon is releasing 85mm 1.4 L IS soon). It make sense to get a Sigma in USA; outside USA, Sigma is not an option.

    • Thank you Prasanth. I had to adjust all my Sigma lenses before first use. +17 Body 1, +6 Body 2, +11 Body 3, +13 Body 4. We never had any problems with 35mm to be honest. However, I know many people experienced some focusing issues. As I mentioned in my review there is nothing wrong with Canon and / or Nikon glass. I just found them too slow for what I do / how I shoot. Also, Sigma Art is much sharper – just my personal opinion.

      • great review. very nice images. with the dock I can adjust my 85mm for different af values on my 3 different bodies?

        d3/d3s/d4

        if I use one adjustment with the lens on a d3, the adjustment may need to be different on a different camera.

        also, does the dock allow to disable the full time manual focus override? Im certain that holding the lens by the large focus ring there are minute movements. id rather not have the override control and use the body switch to make manual focus adjustments. I think the design of the large focus ring was a big mistake.

        btw did you purchase this lens or was rented for testing?

  4. Awesome review Jarek, who knew when I lent you my 35mm ART you’d become a super sigma fan! amazing pictures as always :) I’ll have to test one at the photography show to see how this will balance on my D750!

  5. Hello, I’ve had a dilemma ever since this lens came out whether to get the nikkor or this one. what would you suggest?

  6. In my opinion, the focus on this lens is a little bit problematic. I’ve shooting with it 2 days and the output was little bit better than on my 85mm f1.8, which costs half the price and is substantially more compact. I ‘m curious about the new 135 F1.8 art.

  7. I’ve been waiting for this lens for wedding work. Your samples are the best that I’ve seen so far. I love the sharpness, contrast and colors of this lens. My biggest reason for not jumping is that the bokeh seems to be just a bit better than the nikon 1.8g and not as good as the 1.4g. Have you made any direct comparisons?

  8. As a ex wedding photographer now 81 years just to give you some idea how long ago it has been ,but i am still very much into taking pictures ,and i did enjoy reading your report on the Sigma lens . I have been a Nikon man for many years and I use a 24-70-2.8 Sigma and it has won me many first at my local camera club .
    If you would allow me to make just a little comment i did find that the blue was a little too blue ,but having said that i was not there and well may the true colour, but did like your work well done.
    I also use lightroom.
    I wish you both well for the future.
    Terry Price

  9. HI and thanks for a good Review! I wonder, do you Think it´s enough with the 85 mm taking photos in the Church?

  10. Great review, I have the Nikon 1.8G and find the focus shifts a lot and can be slow and ureliable when the subject is back lit. How did you find this lens? I really don’t need any more convincing ;)

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