Sigma 105mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art review

This new ‘bokeh master’ lens from Sigma aims for portrait perfection, putting competitors in the shade

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Our Verdict

There’s no denying this is a big, heavy and expensive lens, but the Sigma 105mm f/1.4 Art delivers sumptuous image quality with immense sharpness and clarity, along with beautifully soft and creamy blur. For portraiture, it’s spectacular.

For

  • Incredibly sharp and clear
  • Bokeh is near-perfectly smooth
  • Addition of weather seals

Against

  • Will dent your wallet
  • As heavy as a telephoto lens

Competing in the ring of ultimate portrait primes, Sigma’s latest Art lens is up against pro-grade favourites, including the Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM, Nikon AF-S 105mm f/1.4E ED and Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 G Master. The Sigma overshadows them all, if only in physical size and weight: it’s heavier than most 70-200mm f/2.8 telephoto zooms.

The optical design is based on 17 elements, laid out in 12 groups. These include three top-performance FLD (Fluorite-grade Low Dispersion) elements, two SLD (Special Low Dispersion) elements, and one aspherical element. Multi-layer coatings are applied and a fluorine coating is added to the front element, to repel moisture and fingerprints. Unlike many of Sigma’s older Art lenses, this one has weather seals, including a rubber gasket on the mounting plate.

As well as concentrating on sharpness and contrast, in conjunction with smooth bokeh, the optical design aims to minimise sagittal coma and astigmatism across the entire frame, so that points of light are reproduced naturally with, as far as possible, a circular shape. The well-rounded nine-blade diaphragm helps to retain this, and to maximise the overall quality of bokeh.

A portrait of a statue's head taken using the Sigma 105mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art lens

Performance

True to its claims, the Sigma delivers excellent image quality in terms of sharpness and contrast. Sharpness is impressive right out to the corners of the frame, even when shooting wide-open. Vignetting is noticeable at f/1.4 but isn’t overly severe, thanks in part to the wide physical diameter of the lens. Distortion is negligible, and chromatic aberration is minimal.

The Sigma delivers fabulously smooth bokeh, and the transitional areas between focused and defocused areas within images are impressively seamless. Defocused pinpricks of light are well-rounded across the whole image frame, but can be a little prone to taking on a slight onion ring effect.

Bokeh taken using the Sigma 105mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art lens

Lab tests

Centre sharpness graph for a Sigma 105mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art lens

Sharpness  

Sharpness remains impressive across the entire image frame, even at the widest aperture of f/1.4.

Fringing: 0.69

(Nearer 0 is better) Lateral chromatic aberration is negligible, and bokeh fringing is also very well-controlled.

Distortion: 0.39

(Nearer 0 is better) It’s not quite a ‘distortion-free’ lens, but it comes very close, with only the slightest hint of pincushion.

Specifications

• Full-frame compatible: Yes
Elements/groups: 17/12
Minimum focus distance: 1.0m
Max magnification factor: 0.12x
Manual focus override: Yes
Focus limit switches: No
Internal focus: Yes
Filter size: 105mm
Iris blades: 9
Weather seals: Yes
Supplied accessories: Hood, soft case, tripod mount
Dimensions: 116 x 132mm
Weight: 1,645g

Verdict

There’s no denying this is a big, heavy and expensive lens, but the Sigma 105mm f/1.4 Art delivers sumptuous image quality with immense sharpness and clarity, along with beautifully soft and creamy blur. For portraiture, it’s spectacular.

Read more:

The best portrait lens: Three lenses every portrait photographer needs to consider
10 fantastic lenses launched at Photokina 2018
23 things you should check when buying a new lens