Sigma 85mm F1.4 EX DG HSM A-mount lens review by a850

reviewer#9835 date: Jan-23-2012
sharpness: 4.5
color: 5
build: 5
distortion: 5
flare control: 5
overall: 4.9
tested on:
  • film camera:Film camera
  • APS-C: 6MP6 MP; 10MP10 MP; 12MP12 MP; 14MP14 MP; 16MP16 MP; 20MP20 MP; 24MP24 MP
  • full frame: 12MP12 MP; 24MP24 MP; 36MP36 MP; 42MP42 MP; 61MP61 MP
ownership:I own this lens
compared to:Sony 35/1.4
Minolta 50/1.7
Zeiss 16-35/2.8CZ
price paid:750GBP (new)
positive:Build quality
Image quality
Lens hood
Flare resistance
negative:Purple fringes at 1.4
comment:I've had this lens over a year and used it on film, a580 and a850 full frame. Sharpness is great across the board.

At 1.4 you will have purple fringes around highlight edges (i.e. text on white background). It isn't much of a problem in real life use. If you're shooting at 1.4 in low light, you'll never see it. If you want to generate maximum smooth bokeh, f1.7 or f2 does this with no purple fringes.

f2 is as sharp as you could want, and f2.8 all the way through to f11 is extremely sharp across the whole full frame.

I use this lens for portraits and it's beautiful. It focuses quickly, although not super quick. You'll struggle with continuous focus if the subject is moving directly towards or away from you. But for portraits, or weddings, no problem. People don't tend to run around or move erratically!

It needed +8 microadjust on my camera, which is quite a lot. But now it's consistently accurate. The depth of field is VERY thin at 1.4, especially if your subject is close. For a headshot you can easily have the front eye in focus and bridge of the nose and rear eye totally out of focus. Personally, I'm not a fan of that look, but if you want bokeh and subject isolation, you definitely get it.

The lens hood is large, light and shades the lens brilliantly.

I haven't used the CZ85, but most reviews say that the Sigma is pretty comparable. For a budget price lens, I'm thrilled with the performance. Allegedly the CZ is sharper on average across the whole frame than the Sigma at 1.4, but the Sigma has slightly better center performance. I've never found cause to complain about sharpness. The main limitation of 1.4 is purple fringes along bright edges, which you'll never encounter in most circumstances.

rating summary

lens image
  • total reviews: 14
  • sharpness: 4.82
  • color: 5.00
  • build: 4.36
  • distortion: 4.93
  • flare control: 4.64
  • overall: 4.75 - Home of the alpha system photographer
In memory of Cameron Hill - brettania