Lens Guides

Team Tests: Trying Out the SIGMA 85mm F1.4 DG DN Art Lens

When the SIGMA 85mm F1.4 DG DN Art lens was released, the Sigma America office was abuzz with the potential for portrait sessions. While it took some time for most of the photographers on staff to give the lens a try (thanks, 2020), we eventually circulated some samples around so everyone could experience the lens for themselves. Here are some of the results!

Brian Linhoff – SIGMA Technical Representative

I was so excited to receive the 85mm F1.4 DG DN Art lens and put it through its paces. Shortly after getting a copy of the lens, I had the good fortune to be visiting Precision Camera where they had a model set up for portraits. I was able to get a couple quick shots with the L-mount version of the lens mounted to a Panasonic S1R. The sharpness and detail is simply stunning.

SIGMA 85mm F1.4 DG DN Art on Panasonic Lumix S1R – 1/250s, F1.8, ISO 200
SIGMA 85mm F1.4 DG DN Art on Panasonic Lumix S1R – 1/250s, F1.8, ISO 200 (tighter crop)

Around my house, I have only one willing model, our ever-growing puppy, Texas. He was lounging under my desk while I was working, when the window light hit just right. The detail and sharpness of this lens allows you to see every hair and whisker. This lens is definitely a keeper. The “technical” MTF charts say it’s amazing, but real-world testing shows it’s more than that. It’s a tool that lets you expand on what you thought was previously possible.

SIGMA 85mm F1.4 DG DN Art on Sony A7R III – 1/200s, F1.4, ISO 100

Aaron Norberg – SIGMA Technical Representative

The 85mm focal length has long been a favorite for portraiture. It’s long enough to offer good visual compression for a more flattering rendition of your subject, but short enough to offer a closer working distance than a 105mm or 135mm focal length. These same attributes that make a lens like the 85mm F1.4 Art a great choice for photographing people also makes it ideal for photographing animals, too. When the 85mm F1.4 DG DN Art became available, I put it to the test with the models I had ready access to… namely, my two cats with whom I’ve been housebound during recent months.

SIGMA 85mm F1.4 DG DN Art on Sony A7R III – 1/60s, F1.8, ISO 640

The 85mm F1.4 DG DN Art’s combination of longer focal length and fast maximum aperture painted my otherwise ordinary felines with an amazingly dream-like effect, melting away the decidedly unexciting backdrop of my home into a lovely swirl of indistinct colors, while simultaneously keeping the eyes of my subjects tack sharp. The compact profile of the new lens and its moderate working distance made it a breeze to maneuver around my subjects without disturbing them, and full compatibility with Real-Time Eye AF for animals offered by the attached Sony camera body almost made getting the shot too easy. If you’re ready to take your furry friend’s social feed to the next level, the 85mm F1.4 DG DN Art has what it takes to make your pet portraits really stand out.

SIGMA 85mm F1.4 DG DN Art on Sony A7R III – 1/640s, F1.8, ISO 8000

Marc Farb – SIGMA Technical Representative

I have been a Tech Rep/Photographer with Sigma for more than 8 years, and in that time, I have seen many product transitions. That said, the wildest for me is the 85mm F1.4. The original design was a kick-butt lens that I knew would elicit a very special response any time I put it in the hands of a customer shooting the OEM verison. When Sigma introduced the DG HSM Art version of the lens, the performance got even better and image quality even sharper. Now we have the next-generation 85mm F1.4 DG DN Art designed specifically for mirrorless cameras that performs better yet again!

SIGMA 85mm F1.4 DG DN Art on Sony A7R III – 1/1600s, F1.4, ISO 100

With a combination of sharpness, speed and weather sealing, I know that I can count on this new addition to my kit for portraits, editorial shooting, still life, pretty much anything. It’s a serious performer in the current Sigma lineup, and a must-have tool for anyone looking for a top-notch 85mm prime.

SIGMA 85mm F1.4 DG DN Art on Sony A7R III – 1/100s, F1.4, ISO 250

Brett Wells – SIGMA Education Coordinator

That Sigma can continually improve upon the optical performance of their previous generation lenses is truly incredible, given the outstanding performance that they achieve. That Sigma has been able to do that in a smaller, lighter lens with even more features than the 85mm F1.4 DG HSM Art would be hard to imagine without holding the 85mm F1.4 DG DN Art in my hands and putting it on a camera. This is an amazing lens with mind-blowing optical performance.

SIGMA 85mm F1.4 DG DN Art on Sony A7R III – 1/30s, F16, ISO 400
SIGMA 85mm F1.4 DG DN Art on Sony A7R III – 1/160s, F8, ISO 800

Mike Hill – SIGMA Technical Representative

Whenever I am running errands or walking around town, I try to take my camera and one fast prime lens. This is a fun way to keep my attention on whatever I’m shooting and compose specific to a single focal length. The toughest part is deciding which Sigma lens to choose. In the past, I usually brought the SIGMA 35mm F1.4 Art because it has a fast aperture, compact size, and is great for street photography. However, when portrait opportunities presented themselves, I always wished I had brought the larger 85mm F1.4 Art, but seldom wanted to carry it around all day.

SIGMA 85mm F1.4 DG DN Art on Sony A7R III – 1/125s, F1.4, ISO 100
SIGMA 85mm F1.4 DG DN Art on Sony A7R III – 1/500s, F1.4, ISO 400

The new SIGMA 85mm F1.4 DG DN Art is a completely different story. Compared to our previous 85mm Art for E-mount, this new 85mm DG DN is a full 1.1 pounds lighter and 1.3 inches shorter. The smaller build and incredible sharpness make this 85mm my go-to portrait lens and new favorite prime.

SIGMA 85mm F1.4 DG DN Art on Sony A7R III – 1/4000s, F1.6, ISO 250

Brian Matsumoto – SIGMA Technical Representative

The SIGMA 85mm F1.4 DG DN Art lens is smaller and lighter than its SLR brother in the Art lineup. I have always enjoyed shooting with a prime lens, as it challenges me to think about the perspective of the lens and the subject matter that I am trying to photograph. Shooting with the 85mm F1.4 DG DN Art lens makes me slow down and look for a good angle on the subject.

SIGMA 85mm F1.4 DG DN Art on Sony A7R III – 1/250s, F6.3, ISO 800

I love the slight compression of an 85mm lens on a full-frame sensor. This lens is super fast to focus and does an amazing job of tracking action and fast-moving subjects. It reveals stunning detail and is great for architecture. It is super sharp, and when one needs shallow depth of field, the bokeh is simply beautiful. It is what one has come to expect from a Sigma Art lens.

SIGMA 85mm F1.4 DG DN Art on Sony A7R III – 1/640s, F5, ISO 800

Nick Vrona – SIGMA Marketing Specialist

Long before I began working at Sigma, I was an enthusiastic proponent of the 85mm F1.4 Art. Despite the HSM version’s considerable heft (especially mounted on the relatively small A7 series bodies), I never went on a gig without it. The 85mm Art has been my “money making lens” for years, so when the new version was announced, I couldn’t wait to get a sample to see if it would be worth a switch.

SIGMA 85mm F1.4 DG DN Art on Sony A7 III – 1/100s, F2.8, ISO 320
SIGMA 85mm F1.4 DG DN Art on Sony A7 III – 1/100s, F1.4, ISO 125

Right out of the box, the difference is stunning. It’s so much smaller and lighter, so much easier to wield, and so nicely balanced on a full-frame Sony mirrorless body that even if it had no other advantages, I would upgrade to the new one. That said, it’s just as sharp as the HSM version if not more so, autofocuses just as quickly and accurately as any lens I’ve used, and the additional weather sealing gives me the confidence to take it out of the studio without worrying about dirt, dust or splashes. The SIGMA 85mm F1.4 DG DN Art — like its predecessor — will absolutely be with me on every job, but from now on I’ll be packing a whole lot lighter.

Comments (5)
  1. Troy Phillips says:

    Wow the rendering of this lens is beautiful ! I am a Sigma fan for sure . The Sigma look can sometimes be almost too clinical without a special character. I had the Sigma art 50mm and felt that way . Then the 40 art came out and that 40mm fov works better for me . I sold the 50 and got the 40 . I love the 40 but now feel the 50 wasn’t so clinical because of the 40s so perfect side to side sharpness. I also got the 28 art and there is something very special about this lens . I’m shooting on a Nikon d850 dslr and the 28 in low light or high contrast light has a front and back focus problem . Th 40 is a little better and I’ve had this issue with every art lens . I’ll be moving to Nikon mirrorless and was hoping to resolve this issue with the mirrorless system. It may not but either way I’m still going be purchasing Sigma lenses. I just love them . I have Nikon and a single Tamron and these lenses don’t have any better hit rate . Even my Uber expensive Nikon 70-200 e fl vr.
    This 85 in this article seems to have that perfection but character. This is hard to have and it just seem Sigma is getting better and better.

  2. Avatar photo Nick Vrona says:

    Hey Troy, you can likely resolve the front/back focusing issue by calibrating your lens with the Sigma USB dock, or alternatively, you can fine tune the AF in the menu of your D850. Here is a video that can help with dock use:
    However, if you move to mirrorless, there is no separate AF sensor to deal with (autofocus is on the sensor itself) so back/front focusing should be a non-issue.

  3. Troy Phillips says:

    I see i left a comment back in October about this lens . I did not move to Nikon mirrorless but to Sony . I just purchased the Sigma I series 65mm f/2 contemporary lens . And am loving it . This 85mm f/1.4 Art is next on the list . I’m building up a light weight kit for shooting live music video and stills. And have plans for lenses from ultrawide to 135mm . I love the rendering of the Sigma Art 135 and have for a while now though of getting it for my Nikon dslr kit . I’d rather have that focal length in a compact mirrorless design. Hint hint Sigma ….. e mount .

  4. I have had this lens for almost a year now and have been loving it. The IQ, size, build, buttons and price are all great! I used it to take most of the images on my website page on squirrels and it performed really well!

  5. Avatar photo Nick Vrona says:

    Great to hear! Thank you so much. 🙂

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