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Sigma is saying.

01.10.2018

Intro

Like a refined sports car, the new Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG HSM art lens is all about high performance. Great for portrait, wedding, travel, nature, and event photography, the new Art optic is set to win your heart and turn lots of heads.

Built like a tank but luxurious to operate, the 135mm Art lens is must-have glass for those whose photographic style embraces fine bokeh, fast glass, and a narrow field of view.

 

The Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG Art lens produces spectacular portraits. With its super-wide f/1.8 aperture, it focuses fast in low light. Here, the 135mm captures the spritely Annabelle, Wildflower Queen. Malabar Farm State Park, Lucas, Ohio. To see the amazing detail this lens resolves, click on the image below to see a 200% crop of this image. Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG HSM Art. f/5.6, 1/125 second, ISO 800. Hand-held. Photo © 2017 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.

Annabelle, Mount Jeez, Malabar Farm State Park, Lucas, Ohio, USA. Nikon D800E, Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG HSM Art lens. f/5.6, 1/125 second, ISO 800. Hand-held.

As the Wildflower Queen spun through the meadows, the Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG HSM Art lens quickly captured her expressions of joy. Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG HSM Art. f/5.6, 1/125 second, ISO 800. Hand-held. Photo © 2017 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.

Sure, small apertures are fine for traveling light, but, if you’re ready to take your photography to another level, add this beauty to your favorite camera body and buckle up. You’re in for a super-fast tele joy ride!

Design & Features

The Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG HSM is one of the newest offerings in the lineup of Sigma Global Vision (SGV) optics. The 135mm finds its stable mates in the Art series of lenses. Sigma’s Art (“A”) lenses are known world-wide for their innovative optical designs and professional-level construction. Sigma’s Art lenses have set the bar for quality construction, sharp optics, and ground-breaking designs.

The 135mm F1.8 features 13 lens elements arranged in 10 groups. Two lenses are made of Special Low Dispersion (SLD) glass, and two are made of “F” Low Dispersion (FLD) glass. FLD has performance equal to fluorite glass. The lenses of the 135mm are treated with Super Multi-Layer Coatings to improve image quality and minimize flare.

Sharp and contrasty, the Sigma 135mm excels at landscape and architectural photography, such as this sunset skyline scene of Columbus, Ohio, from Confluence Park. Click on the picture below to see a 100% crop of this image. Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG HSM Art. f/11, ISO 100. Gitzo GT2541EX tripod and ball head. Photo © 2017 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.

A crop of just 2.66% of the image above shows the details the Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG HSM Art lens can resolve. Notice the individual limestone blocks and carvings on the top of the LeVeque Tower. Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG HSM Art. f/11, ISO 100. Gitzo GT2541EX tripod and ball head. Photo © 2017 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.

The Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG HSM Art lens is designed for use on full-frame cameras. For APS-C shooters, it becomes equivalent to a 200mm f/1.8 lens.

Measuring 3.6” in diameter and 4.5” long, the Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG HSM Art is medium-size lens. A plastic lens hood (included) adds another 2” to the overall length. Total weight is 40.9 ounces.

The Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG HSM Art lens is built from metal and Thermally Stable Composite (TSC) material. TSC reduces weight and resists expansion with changes in temperature. The mount is made of brass, and a rubber ring seals the lens against the camera body.

The Sigma 135mm isn’t just a portrait, wedding, and event lens. With it’s tack-sharp optics and super-fast aperture, this medium-telephoto Art lens is a great travel lens, here capturing the moon jellies moving throughout a cylindrical aquarium illuminated by green LED lights at the Toledo Zoo and Aquarium, Toledo, Ohio. Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG HSM Art. f/1.8, 1/320 second, ISO 3200. Hand-held. Photo © 2017 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.

The aperture of the Sigma 135mm is made from 9 blades. The rounded construction of the diaphragm blades helps to create pleasing out of focus highlights.

Narrow depth-of-field, bringing attention to the subject’s eyes, and smooth bokeh, rendering background elements pleasingly out-of-focus, make the Sigma 135mm an exquisite portrait lens, here capturing Sarah pensively posing at the Toledo Zoo & Aquarium. Toledo, Ohio. Nikon D800E, Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG HSM Art lens. f/1.8, 1/160 second, ISO 100. Hand-held. Photo © 2017 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.

The left side of the lens barrel sports two switches. The top one allows photographers to select Autofocus (AF) or Manual Focus (MF).

The bottom switch controls three autofocus-distance modes:

  • Full, i.e., 34 inches to infinity
  • 5 feet to infinity
  • 34 inches to 5 feet.

The minimum focusing distance for the Sigma 135mm F1.8 Art lens is 34.4 inches. While the 1:4.3 magnification ratio does not provide true macro focusing, the lens does proved for good close-up photography of moderately small subjects, from wedding couple’s hands with rings to roses blossoms and butterflies.

At its closest focusing distance, the Sigma 135mm is useful for depicting moderately small subjects, such as this Owl Butterfly, photographed at Cleveland Botanical Garden, Cleveland, Ohio. Shooting multiple images at f/1.8 and stacking them in Helicon Focus allowed the lepidopteron to be rendered incredibly sharp while the background remains softly out-of-focus. Nikon D800E, Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG HSM Art lens, f/1.8, 1/30 second, ISO 100. Gitzo GT2541EX Tripod and Gitzo ball head. Photo © 2017 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.

In AF mode, the Sigma 135mm utilizes Sigma’s Hyper Sonic Motor (HSM) for quick and quiet autofocus. Photographers can override AF by turning the generous 1 5/8 inch rubber ribbed ring while framing.

In MF mode, the 135mm focus is adjusted by turning the rubber ring through 150° of rotation from 34.4 inches to infinity. Manual focus is smooth and well-damped.

Phoebe sports a crown of Queen Anne’s lace, clover, and small sunflower blossoms at sunset on Mount Jeez, Malabar Farm State Park, Lucas, Ohio. Nikon D800E, Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG HSM Art lens. f/2.8, 1/125 second, ISO 800. Hand-held. Photo © 2017 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.

The Sigma 135mm DG HSM Art lens comes with a front cap, an end cap, a hood, and a padded lens case. As with all the Sigma Global Vision lenses, the 135mm can be mounted in the Sigma USB dock to change lens characteristics and update firmware.

All Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG HSM Art lenses are hand-crafted in Sigma’s single factory in Aizu, Japan. The 135mm DG HSM Art lens is covered by a four-year manufacturer’s warranty.

What?! This doesn’t look like a 135mm shot? You’re right…sort of. The superlative sharpness of the 135mm Art lens lends itself well to high resolution panoramas. Five portrait-orientation shots, stitched together in Photoshop, comprise this view Cincinnati, Ohio, and the Ohio River, as seen from Devou Park in Covington, Kentucky. For an example of the amazing detail this lens resolves, click on the image below to see a 100% crop showing 1% of this cityscape. Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG HSM Art. f/4, 2 seconds, ISO 100. Gitzo GT2541EX tripod and ball head. Photo © 2017 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.

This 100% crop, just 1%, of the panorama above shows the bar-setting details this lens can capture. The full-size image (above) is comprised of five portrait-orientation shots stitched together. Cincinnati, Ohio, and the Ohio River viewed from Devou Park, Covington, Kentucky. Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG HSM Art. f/4, 2 seconds, ISO 100. Gitzo GT2541EX tripod and ball head. Photo © 2017 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.

Handling in the Field

Shooting with the Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG HSM Art lens is akin to driving a fine sports car. Every operation is finely tuned, and taking it for a spin is pure pleasure.

Even better is what you are left with afterward: supreme satisfaction. In the case of the Sigma 135mm, that supreme satisfaction comes from stellar images.

The moderately compressed perspective of the 135mm allows photographers to limit their angle of view, here tightly framing Annabelle against a coral reef exhibit at the Toledo Zoo and Aquarium. The focal length helps make the redtail butterflyfish (top) and lined surgeonfish (bottom) appear quite close to Annabelle. Toledo, Ohio. Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG HSM Art. f/1.8, 1/160 second, ISO 3200. Hand-held. Photo © 2017 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.

Looking through the bright f/1.8 viewfinder is the first reward of shooting with this Sigma Art lens. Bucking the recent industry trend of producing smaller and smaller maximum apertures, Sigma has shown its mastery in producing sharp, large-aperture optics that set the standard for sharpness.

The super-fast 135mm follows other Art lens gems, such as the 20mm F1.4 DG HSM, 24mm F1.4 DG HSM, 35mm F1.4, 50mm F1.4 DG HSM, and the 85mm F1.4 DG HSM, as well as zooms such as the 24-70mm F2.8 ODG OS HSM, 24-35mm F2 DG HSM, 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM, and the 50-100mm F1.8 DC HSM.

Wide aperture lenses work well for images of moving subjects, such as this cownose ray swimming by in the Gulf of Mexico exhibit at the Toledo Zoo and Aquarium, Toledo, Ohio. Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG HSM Art. f/1.8, 1/250 second, ISO 1600. Hand-held. Photo © 2017 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.

Rugged construction provides confidence while shooting with the Sigma 135mm. It is a significant but not-too-large optic, a lens that makes you feel like a professional shooter. The results confirm this feel.

The sense of quality construction comes from metal and TCM construction, as well as the nicely knurled, smooth-turning focus ring. Mounted to a body, such as my D800E, the weight distribution is well-balanced. Hand-holding is quite easy.

Sure, cameras now offer nicely reduced noise levels at high ISO settings, but shooting at your baseline ISO is always best. Having a telephoto option with f/1.8 instills confidence when heading out to shoot a portrait session, wedding event, or other photo opps. Shooting at ISO 100 is possible even at the ends of the day or for indoor events.

Autofocus is quick, even in low light. Testing the 135mm in the dark recesses of my studio, I was able to focus to EV -1.33. That’s an exposure of 8 seconds at f/1.8 and ISO 100. Even with the bright f/1.8 aperture, there’s no way I could manually focusing in such low light.

On August 21, 2017, people across much of the North America enjoyed viewing a partial to complete solar eclipse. Here, the author’s father, Mick FitzSimmons, enjoys the spectacle through specialized, eye-protecting glasses. Lucas, Ohio. Nikon D800E, Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG HSM Art lens. f/2, 1/250 second, ISO 100. Hand-held. Photo © 2017 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.

Portraits

While the Sigma 85mm 1.4 DG HSM Art lens is a great choice for portraiture (I’ve written about it here) [https://blog.sigmaphoto.com/2017/lens-exploration-sigma-85mm-f1-4-dg-hsm-art/], the Sigma 135mm F1.8 offers similar exquisite performance just with a narrower field of view, which is nice when you have distracting backgrounds.

The Sigma 135mm has a moderately narrow field of view, allowing portrait photographers to include some but not too much of a background, such as this busy but beautiful foliage behind high school senior Jackson. Shooting nearly wide open takes advantage of shallow depth-of-field and the 135mm’s nice bokeh. Malabar Farm State Park, Lucas, Ohio. Nikon D800E, Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG HSM Art lens. f/2, 1/200 second, ISO 100. Gitzo GT2541EX tripod and ball head. Photo © 2017 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.

This fall I did a senior portrait session at Malabar Farm State Park. We shot at the peak of fall foliage. My goal was to include the beautiful yellows and oranges in the background but not to allow them to become distracting from my subject, Jackson. In the shot above, I opened up the 135mm to f/2, allowing the lens’s fine bokeh to throw the tree trunks and leaves nicely out of focus. At the same time, Jackson is tack sharp.

The Sigma 135mm set at f/2 keeps Jackson’s eyes in focus but, only inches behind, the sandstone wall falls nicely out-of-focus. Pugh Cabin, Malabar Farm State Park, Lucas, Ohio. Nikon D800E, Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG HSM Art lens. f/2, 1/125 second, ISO 100. Hand-held. Photo © 2017 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.

For another pose, Jackson leaned back against a sandstone wall. Here, I shot at f/2, allowing the rock column to fall out of focus. The 135mm’s narrow depth-of-field at super-wide apertures helps direct the viewer’s attention to the subject’s face, especially the eyes.

In tighter for a head-and-shoulders shot, the Sigma 135mm set at f/2.8 renders Jackson’s face sharp, but the stone behind him drops nicely out of focus. Pugh Cabin, Malabar Farm State Park, Lucas, Ohio. Nikon D800E, Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG HSM Art lens. f/2.8, 1/125 second, ISO 100. Hand-held. Photo © 2017 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.

Moving in closer for a head-and-shoulders shot, I opted for down one more stop, choosing f/2.8 in order to provide just a bit more depth-of-field. This kept his eyes and face nicely in focus, yet, from only a few feet away, the wide aperture allowed the sandstone to drop nicely out of focus.

Later in the shoot, we lightened things up. Jackson changed into his football jersey, and we shot at his high school field. We worked on creating a fun image of him tossing a football into the air. I cranked up the ISO to 800 and went fully open at f/1.8. This allowed a motion-freezing shutter speed of 1/8000 second. Of course, the narrow depth-of-field meant that Jackson had to be careful to toss the ball up within the plane he occupied.

In the end, it all came together. The quick exposure froze the movement of the ball. The super-wide aperture threw everything in front of and, especially, behind Jackson beautifully out-of-focus. Our efforts resulted in a playful yet meaningful shot, emphasizing the Jackson and his interest in sports.

The concept: Jackson having fun tossing the football in the air. To accomplish this, I shot wide open at a fast shutter speed, making sure that Jackson tossed the ball upward within the plane he occupied parallel to the camera. The limited depth-of-field keeps the viewer’s attention focused on Jackson and the ball. Bob Wine Field, Lucas, Ohio. Nikon D800E, Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG HSM Art lens. f/1.8, 1/8000 second, ISO 800. Hand-held. Photo © 2017 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.

For one more football image, Jackson leaned against the home-team goal post. Stopping down to only f/2.8 allowed the field and surrounding trees to go out of focus while Jackson and the lettered pad appear tack sharp.

As these examples show, successful portraits more often than not depend upon a shallow depth-of-field. Nicely blurred backgrounds help directs viewers’ eyes to your in-focus subject.

The quality of the blur that a lens produces is described in terms of bokeh. The bokeh of the 135mm is quite nice. This is in part due to the design of the lens elements and in part due to the nine, thoughtfully curved diaphragm blades. Shooting with the 135mm allows for full artistic expression utilizing blur as a primary image component.

Stopped down to f/2.8, the Sigma 135mm keeps Jackson and the goal post pad in focus, nicely set off against the beautifully blurred field and surrounding trees. Bob Wine Field, Lucas, Ohio. Nikon D800E, Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG HSM Art lens. f/2.8, 1/200 second, ISO 100. Hand-held. Photo © 2017 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.

 Travel

The Sigma 135mm makes a fine travel lens. Being able to shoot at high shutter speeds and narrowing the field of view makes it great for locations from city streets to tourist attractions.

Peacock bass swimming in the Flooded Forest Amazon exhibit at the Toledo Zoo and Aquarium, Toledo, Ohio. Nikon D800E, Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG HSM Art lens. f/1.8, 1/200 second, ISO 1600. Hand-held. Photo © 2017 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.

On a recent trip to my favorite zoo, the Toledo Zoo and Aquarium, I photographed a number of aquatic animals with the 135mm F1.8. Despite low-light conditions in many of the exhibits, I got stellar results, frequently shooting wide open.

One particular exhibit features freshwater fish from South America. I spotted a colorful peacock bass swimming by. With the ISO on my D800E at a reasonable 1600, I was able to shoot at 1/200 second at f/1.8. The resulting close-up image of the painterly fish is sharp from its lips and forehead to its eyes and cheeks.

Similarly, I was able to capture shots of a graceful cownose ray, moon jellies illuminated by green LEDs, and a descending sea nettle. In all, having a superfast tele was just the ticket for the aquarium shots.

Pacific Sea Nettle photographed in the Sea Nettle exhibit at the Toledo Zoo & Aquarium, Toledo, Ohio. Nikon D800E, Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG HSM Art lens. f/2.2, 1/100 second, ISO 1600. Hand-held. Photo © 2017 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.

For something completely different, on a recent trip to Cincinnati, Ohio, I visited the Taft Museum of Art, which, though small in size, is chock full of amazing art by some of the world’s top painters, including James Abbott McNeill Whistler. His pensive “At the Piano” is full of texture and subtle color variations. In my capture of this painting, the Sigma 135mm preserves incredible details, from brush strokes to cracks in the paint. The reproduction is bursting with color and contrast.

The Sigma 135mm captures the subtle details of “At the Piano” (1858–59) by James Abbott McNeill Whistler (American, 1834–1903). Oil on canvas. The Taft Museum of Art, Cincinnati, Ohio. Nikon D800E, Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG HSM Art lens. f/8, ISO 100. Gitzo GT2541EX Tripod and Gitzo ball head. Photo © 2017 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.

Nature

The Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG HSM is a great tool for nature photography, too. From isolating elements of the landscape to shots of wildlife, the sharpness of this prime and its fast glass are great benefits.

During a visit to the Cleveland Botanical Garden in late summer, I spotted a red-eared slider basking in the sun along the edge of a small pond. Getting down low and hand-holding, I turned the ISO up a bit and produced a frog’s-eye view of this brightly painted terrapin.

Red-Eared Slider, Cleveland Botanical Garden, Cleveland, Ohio. Nikon D800E, Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG HSM Art lens. f/5.6, 1/2000 second, ISO 800. Hand-held. Photo © 2017 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.

Sometimes when I travel, I like to keep a telephoto lens mounted to a camera body, and riding shotgun. I keep the camera in auto mode, allowing me to grab it and start shooting at a moment’s notice, should I spot a bear, moose, or other nearby wildlife. The Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG HSM Art lens makes a great optic to keep on-the-ready, especially in low-light situations.

What better way to use the Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG HSM Art lens than to record a once-in-a-lifetime event, such as the first day of school? The narrow field-of-view of the 135mm captures Annabelle’s mixed expression of excitement and nervousness as she heads toward the welcoming doors of the academy. Nikon D800E, Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG HSM Art lens. f/7.1, 1/250 second, ISO 100. Gitzo GT2541EX tripod and ball head. Photo © 2017 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.

Conclusion

Like a great sports car, the Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG HSM Art lens is a top-level performer, whether shooting portrait sessions, weddings, travel images, or low-light events. Built with quality in mind from the ground up, it’s a sharp, fast, and durable optic.

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  1. BEAUTIFUL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!