Hands-on with the Sigma 85mm F1.4 DG DN Art

The Sigma 85mm F1.4 DG DN Art is the latest in the company’s ‘DN’ (Digital Native) lens lineup, designed specifically for use with mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras. Like previous DN-series lenses, the 85mm F1.4 is available in two mounts: L (Sigma, Leica and Panasonic), and Sony E-mount.

Click through this article for a closer look at Sigma’s latest portrait prime lens.

New optical formula

The Sigma 85mm F1.4 DG DN Art might share a focal length and maximum aperture with the older 85mm F1.4 DG HSM Art (released in 2016) but the similarities end there. This is a completely new optical design, comprising 15 elements in 11 groups, with five SLD (super low-dispersion) elements and one aspherical element.

Sigma claims that this combination results in excellent sharpness at all apertures, and very well-controlled flare and ghosting: claims that appear to be born out in our initial shooting. Like all of the lenses in Sigma’s ‘Global Vision’ line (Art, Contemporary and Sport) each copy of the 85mm is tested using Sigma’s proprietary ‘A1’ MTF measuring system prior to shipping.

Smaller and lighter than previous 85mm F1.4 Art

Despite its ambitious optical construction, the new 85mm F1.4 is more than an inch shorter (94mm/3.7″, compared to 127mm/5″) and more than a pound lighter (635g/1.4lb), compared to 1.1kg/2.5lb) than the previous-generation 85mm F1.4 Art. Many of Sigma’s Art-series primes have felt rather heavy and bulky, but the new 85mm gives an impression of compactness and light weight, helped by its tapering barrel.

Build quality has not been sacrificed for the sake of weight though, and construction is in-line with what we’d expect: a mixture of aluminum and Sigma’s TSC (Thermally Stable Composite), complete with a brass mount. The lens is rated as ‘dust and splash-proof’.

Physical aperture ring

All of Sigma’s ‘DN’ lenses have been designed with video, as well as stills, in mind. As such, the new 85mm features a ‘clicky’ physical aperture ring, which can be ‘de-clicked’ if desired, for video use. If you’d rather adjust aperture via the camera, this ring can be locked in the ‘A’ position using a dedicated switch, to avoid accidental inputs.

This image also shows the lens’s ‘AF-L’ button, which locks autofocus by default, but can be customized via the menu system on a compatible camera.

Stepping motor for autofocus

The 85mm F1.4 is optimized for use with both contrast detection (Leica, Sigma and Panasonic) and phase detection (pretty much everyone else) autofocus systems, and uses a stepping motor, coupled with a small, lightweight focusing group. Unlike some other fast 85mm lenses we could mention, autofocus is fast, and it’s also quiet enough for use during video shooting. Although we haven’t been able to perform a side-by-side test, our impression is that focus is a little faster than the previous-generation 85mm F1.4 Art.

77mm filter thread and included hood

With the generously-sized hood attached, the 85mm F1.4 suddenly looks a whole lot bigger, but it can be reversed on the lens when you’re not shooting. The front filter ring is a very reasonable 77mm.

Sigma is aiming this lens at enthusiast and professional portrait photographers, and as such, it is equipped with 11 rounded aperture blades, to ensure circular apertures at wide-to-medium F-stops. Don’t plan on many closeups though: Much like its peers, minimum focus is 85cm (33.5″) and the maximum magnification ratio of 1:8.4 (0.12x) means you’re not going to be using the Sigma 85mm F1.4 DN for macro photography.

Compatible with Sigma USB DOCK UD-11

The L-mount version of the Sigma 85mm F1.4 DG DN is compatible with Sigma’s UD-11 USB dock (not pictured). This mounts like a camera body onto the lens, and provides an easy way to update lens firmware and customize some aspects of operation.

The Sigma 85mm F1.4 DG DN will be available later this month, in L and E-mounts, for $1199.

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