The Sigma 105mm F1.Four Artwork is the obvious results of what occurs when engineers are given carte blanche on a challenge. Designed with out the restraints of practicality, it’s a gorgeous brute of a lens that cares solely about one factor: being one of the best portrait lens cash should buy. It weighs 3.6 kilos — a full pound heavier than the longer Sigma 135mm F1.eight Artwork — and the entrance ingredient is so hilariously enormous that it attracts expressions of bewilderment even from skilled photographers. It’s unwieldy and unapologetic, and it calls for a typically exhaustive consideration to element on the a part of the photographer. However in case you put within the time to tame it, it is going to reward you with spectacular sharpness and buttery clean bokeh, the likes of which you’ll’t get elsewhere.

As a class, the 105mm f/1.Four full-frame lens remains to be in its infancy, and Sigma’s entry represents simply the second such lens available on the market, following Nikon’s AF-S Nikkor 105mm f/1.4E in 2016. In typical Sigma style, the third-party producer has launched its model properly beneath the price of the Nikon, at simply $1,600 in comparison with $2,200 (the lens is out there for Canon, Nikon, Sigma, and [E] mounts). Nonetheless, constructed for the calls for {of professional} use, it’s hardly a price range different. Like most issues, it’s not completely excellent, however after testing it in a wide range of settings, from an informal images meetup to a 12-hour wedding ceremony shoot, we will attest that Sigma has as soon as once more delivered a high-end lens with distinctive worth.

Skilled design and craftsmanship

On the skin, essentially the most placing function of the 105mm Artwork — aside from the large entrance ingredient — is the tripod collar. That is one thing often reserved for longer focal lengths, however the front-heavy nature of this lens makes it helpful right here. Along with having a regular 1/4-inch thread, it gives built-in compatibility for Arca-Swiss tripod heads. For causes we’ll get into later, we extremely advocate utilizing a tripod with this lens — however in case you don’t, the tripod collar will be eliminated and changed with a protecting cowl, primarily a flowery rubber band that covers up the mounting factors and offers it a completed aesthetic. Eradicating the collar will shave off 0.28 kilos, though most of that weight is regained in case you connect the lens hood.

Like each different Artwork-series lens we’ve examined, the construct high quality is excellent. With a water repellent coating on the entrance ingredient and a gasket surrounding the rear mount, it’s mud and splash proof — a function that truly got here in useful when it rained on us throughout certainly one of our check shoots. The supplies all really feel wonderful, and the lens hood is even made out of carbon fiber bolstered plastic, which presumably saves a number of grams — not that it helps a lot on a 3.6-pound lens.

As with different Artwork-series lenses, the aperture diaphragm is constructed from 9 rounded blades for extra round bokeh even when stopped down.

From an goal standpoint, the 105mm F1.Four Artwork borders on perfection.

The optical design itself makes use of 17 parts in 12 teams, which is kind of complicated for a major (the Nikon 105mm f/1.Four makes use of 14 parts in 9 teams). Whereas this contributes to the lens’ heavy weight, it additionally permits Sigma to right for a wide range of optical issues. That giant entrance ingredient, for instance, helps scale back vignetting.

Nonetheless, that ingredient additionally offers the lens an infinite filter measurement of 105mm — sure, the filter diameter is similar because the focal size. Nonetheless, in case you’re a Nikon shooter debating between this and the Nikon model (which has an 82mm filter thread), the additional price of a bigger filter will go solely a small method towards making up the sizable price distinction between the 2 lenses.

Picture high quality that’s merely beautiful

From an goal standpoint, the 105mm F1.Four Artwork borders on perfection. It’s tack sharp from the middle to the sting, with minimal vignetting that has all however vanished by f/2 and is definitely eliminated in publish, regardless.

Pattern pictures shot utilizing the Sigma 105mm F1.Four Artwork lens on a Nikon D750. Daven Mathies/Digital Developments

Distortion is imperceptible whereas chromatic aberration is mainly not current in any respect, apart from a really slight quantity within the defocused areas of the picture. From hair to nice textiles, it’s as if this lens was tailored to render high-frequency particulars flawlessly, and sure out-resolved the 24-megapixel Nikon D750 on which we had it mounted. It’s a incredible selection for life-style and style images, significantly for full-length portraits once you want element in every thing from the hair to the footwear, however nonetheless need a shallow depth of discipline to separate the topic from the background.

On the finish of the day, this is among the most succesful portrait lenses we’ve ever examined; it’s simply not the simplest to make use of.

From a subjective standpoint, we completely beloved the photographs we obtained from this lens. It’s not simply how shallow the depth of discipline will be, however the precise high quality of the out of focus areas that impressed us. Blur circles are rendered with softer edges, making them much less distracting when taking pictures towards an in any other case busy background. Broad open, these blur circles tackle a barely elongated form, however stopping right down to f/2 constrains them to almost excellent circles.

For all sensible functions, f/2 is the candy spot for this lens. Not solely does it clear up the vignetting and make the bokeh “extra excellent,” it offers you barely extra leeway with the depth of discipline whereas nonetheless providing ample topic separation. For close-ups, don’t be afraid to cease right down to f/Four and even f/5.6 — that nine-bladed iris ensures nice-looking background blur even at these smaller apertures, whereas the extra depth of discipline will make it simpler to maintain your topic in focus.

Sigma 105mm F1.Four DG HSM | Artwork In contrast To

Definitely worth the weight?

This can be one of the best portrait lens we’ve ever used — and if it’s not, that title possible goes to a different Artwork-series Sigma, maybe the 135mm f/1.eight or the 85mm f/1.4 — however it left us with one admittedly unusual criticism: Does it actually should be this good? We might have simply lived with extra intrusive vignetting if it meant shaving off a number of ounces from that entrance ingredient. We might have endured closing the aperture down by a cease to sharpen up the sides if a less-perfect optical system might decrease the complexity and weight.

This isn’t simply us reaching to seek out something fallacious; the dimensions and weight of the 105mm Artwork are an actual downside. Past the house it takes up in your digital camera bag and associated backache of carrying it round, it truly complicates the taking pictures course of. Bear in mind once we talked about needing a tripod? In our expertise, we had to make use of a shutter pace of at the least 1/250 second so as to guarantee constantly sharp outcomes — something slower, and we merely couldn’t maintain the lens regular sufficient.

Fatigue is an actual drawback right here. We regularly obtained sharper outcomes taking pictures at f/1.Four than f/Four because of the movement blur from the ensuing slower shutter pace. An optical stabilization system might have helped, however this could have additional elevated the burden of the lens (to not point out the value).

Moreover, whereas autofocus pace was fairly quick, we did discover the lens back-focused fairly incessantly, which, naturally, was extra noticeable the nearer we have been to the topic. We shot a whole collection of portraits at f/1.Four the place the mannequin’s ears have been in focus however not her eyes. This can be solvable utilizing Sigma’s USB lens dock, which helps you to manually dial in focus changes to match your particular copy of the lens to your particular digital camera physique, however be certain you do loads of testing earlier than you modify something.

To be clear, not one of the issues outlined above are essentially deal-breakers, however we do really feel you will need to spotlight the problems we confronted in the true world whereas taking pictures this lens. On the finish of the day, this is among the most succesful portrait lenses we’ve ever examined; it’s simply not the simplest to make use of. If in any respect doable, we’d advocate renting it or testing it out in a digital camera retailer to see in case you can stay with the dimensions and weight earlier than you commit. In case you don’t thoughts placing within the effort, you’ll get wonderful outcomes that you just can’t get with another lens.

Our Take

To say we have been blown away with the Sigma 105mm F1.Four Artwork is an understatement, however it’s additionally a response we’ve come to count on from Sigma Artwork glass. That is an impressively sharp, subjectively lovely portrait lens that’s primarily with out peer. Like different Sigma lenses, it additionally gives unimaginable worth for the cash; however whether or not or not one leads to your digital camera bag relies upon largely on how properly you’ll be able to deal with the dimensions and weight.

However as irritating because it was at occasions to work with a 3.6-pound prime lens, we’ve to admire Sigma’s engineers for going all-in on the design, and its managers for permitting it to occur. Our preliminary response on seeing it might need been to ask, “Why?” Sigma’s response is an easy but proud, “Why not?”

Is there a greater different?

This relies on how carefully you’re married to the idea of a 105mm lens with a most aperture of f/1.4. In case you demand each of these issues and shoot something aside from Nikon, then the Sigma is de facto your solely selection. However even for Nikon customers, we doubt the $2,200 AF-S Nikkor 105mm F/1.4E outshines the Sigma by $600 — it’s, nevertheless, far more compact and lighter weight.

In case you can “settle” for an 85mm f/1.4, you’ll discover a lens that’s a lot simpler to work with. The Sigma Artwork model is superb, though we’ve additionally been impressed by first-party choices. We do have a slight choice for the 105mm focal size in the case of portraiture, however that is largely subjective.

How lengthy will it final?

There isn’t a motive to count on this lens shall be outmoded or bested anytime quickly, and with its wonderful construct high quality it ought to simply final for years to return. Now we have some issues about retaining that humongous entrance ingredient protected, however in case you take excellent care of your tools, it shouldn’t be an issue.

Do you have to purchase it?

Sure, in case you shoot portraits. From weddings to headshots to style, we will wholeheartedly advocate the Sigma 105mm F1.Four Artwork to primarily any stroll of portrait photographer. You do should be able to endure working with such a heavy lens — and we additionally recommend buying the $60 USB dock so you’ll be able to modify the focusing, if vital — however in case you’re okay with that, or don’t thoughts utilizing a tripod, then it is a wonderful funding. You received’t discover a higher worth or, actually, a greater lens.

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