One Year Creating Portraits With the SIGMA 85mm F1.4 DG DN Art Lens

When I initially heard about the SIGMA 85mm F1.4 DG DN | Art release, I was excited to know they were releasing a smaller, lighter version of their original model that wasn’t specifically designed for mirrorless cameras. As a creative who is known for using longer focal length lenses for my portrait photography, like my favorite SIGMA 135mm F1.8 DG HSM | Art, using a shorter focal length lens would be a different look for my style. In fact, I previously owned the SIGMA 85mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art, but it wasn’t my “go to” lens for portraits. But after testing out the updated 85mm F1.4 DG DN | Art, I immediately fell in love with the sharpness and the image quality it rendered.

The SIGMA 85mm F1.4 DG DN | Art in the field

The first time that I tested the 85mm F1.4 DG DN | Art was on location during one of my portrait workshops, where several students attended. Right away, I observed the build quality, weight, and ergonomics of the lens paired nicely with my Sony A7 III. For my first shot, I had three models pose in the middle of the road (below), while I used the Cheetahstand QPB-48 modifier. When I reviewed the image in the viewfinder, the bokeh was amazing, and the sharpness and accuracy were spot-on. Additionally, the super multi-layer coating enhanced my image by suppressing lens flare when I shot in backlit conditions, resulting in a more contrasted and colorful image.

The next shot I want to highlight from this workshop features the model Chloe “Coco” Gibson, posing at a local bus stop seating area (below left). I had Coco stand on the seats while holding on to the top of the seating area awning and pretend as if she was jumping off.

The final shot I want to discuss from this series includes Coco along with model Kris Luna (above right), while we were shooting along a sidewalk. As they were posing, two guys happened to be walking their Dobermans, and I politely asked them if they would allow the models to pose with their dogs. They were gracious enough to say yes, and the Dobermans just made this image even better! Both images were also achieved by using the SIGMA 85mm F1.4 DG DN | Art and the Cheetahstand QPB-48 modifier.

In another shoot later in the year (above), I collaborated with model Katie Kolbert to see how the 85mm F1.4 DG DN | Art would perform right at noon. I paired this lens with two Godox AD400pro strobe lights and two Cheetahstand modifiers. For the first shot (above left), Katie posed on the fence line, and the sun overhead acted as my second light. After reviewing this image, I was sold on the capabilities of this lens. The focusing is also superb, and I don’t have to fine tune the lens to the body of my Sony A7R IV. As a quick tip, make sure your firmware on the lens is up to date. SIGMA is always updating the firmware as the latest camera models are released.

The last shoot that I want to highlight during my first year owning the SIGMA 85mm F1.4 DG DN | Art took place when I headed out to Las Vegas for WPPI. I was extremely excited to use the lens out at Nelson Ghost Town, a tourist attraction located outside of Las Vegas.

I just knew this lens was going to render those brownish tones to perfectly match my vision, and it didn’t disappoint. I was able to create some cool images with the 85mm F1.4 DG DN | Art that you can see in my YouTube videos, “What Happened in Vegas Part 1” and “What Happened in Vegas Part 2.”

Performance and Quality

When it comes to being technical with lenses, that’s not who I am. I like to get hands-on and really see what the lens can do, which leads me to share how I feel the SIGMA 85mm F1.4 DG DN | Art performs with strobes. The lens’ five Special Low Dispersion (SLD) elements reduce chromatic aberration and fringing from the flash, especially if the subject is wearing something sparkly, which is a big benefit. One issue I heard people discussing was potential lens distortion, however, I haven’t observed this in my copy. The autofocusing is very responsive, along with being quiet, which is a major plus when I’m shooting interviews. In fact, the 85mm F1.4 DG DN | Art has quickly become a go-to lens for video, including getting that nice, cinematic B-roll for my YouTube videos.

Most importantly, the SIGMA 85mm F1.4 DG DN | Art has become an asset to my portrait photography because I have a shorter focal length lens that I can depend on to consistently deliver sharp images time after time. This is also a lighter and more discreet lens compared to the 135mm F1.8 DG HSM | Art, which tends to draw more attention.

Final thoughts after a year with the 85mm F1.4 DG DN | Art

In conclusion, in the year since I first tested it, the SIGMA 85mm F1.4 DG DN | Art lens has been used constantly to shoot portraits and for video productions, and I expect to continue using it for years into the future. For photography, this lens is versatile for whatever project arises, and if you’re into videography, I suggest trying this lens out in an interview setting or for just capturing some cool B-roll for your next project.

If you would like to see more of my work, check me out at @924photography.

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