Sigma, the naughty boy
Updated: Dec 14, 2020
Sigma in photographic industries is akin to Subaru in the automobile industries. They do things their way, with a naughty approach in design, characterizing their corporation identity accordingly, and not being afraid to challenge the best.
The recent introduction of the 85mm F1.4 DG DN Art for SONY E-mount and L-mount cameras is one of such example. It carries a rich list of optical specifications, very well-made and assembled, a bold claim to rival or even surpass the highly acclaimed SONY 85mm F1.4 G Master in the optical performance, which I also owned and shoot since 2016, and charge a lot less. All the nice descriptions of the new Sigma 85mm DG DN Art lens are available from Sigma's official website and numerous lens review/marketing websites that I do not need to repeat or endorse! I intend to find out by myself by taking pictures with it.
I am a photographer, and this is a personal blog with the images I took, sometimes with some personal and subjective opinions on the tools I use. I love taking pictures, and I'm not too fond of lens test, so I will go directly to the conclusion on questions that ordinary users may have, after shot a few hundred pictures with the Sigma 85mm DG DN Art with my SONY A7R IV ;
Lens optical performance - excellent, will comment more on the pictures in this blog.
Lens AF and MF performance - both are excellent. AF is very snappy when using SONY A7RIV, which is the camera I use to shoot this series of pictures. The Sigma 85mm DG DN Art is AF faster than the SONY 85/1.4 G Master. The 85 GM was a bit slow with SONY A7RII cameras but improved very much with A7RIII, and even faster with A7RIV, especially shooting eye-focus in continuous mode for portraiture; it is more than acceptable. You don't complain a lens can AF faster, and the Sigma has the edge in this regard.
Lens design - it is like a SONY G Master redesign in Sigma design language since their new Art series lenses. It has all the G Master's feature elements, focus mode, physical aperture ring, de-click switch, and programmable button. The lens looks smart. The lens is said to use more expensive optical elements to keep its size down, similar to many Leica M lenses' claims.
Size and weight - If you are a professional photographer, then you need to figure out how to use a camera and lens no matter how big and heavy for no concern how long. However, lighter and more compact is still preferred, provided no compromise to the performance, as the new Sigma. Some photographers may not prefer lighter and smaller, and they will make their pick. My SONY G master is a tab bigger but not uncomfortable to hold and is 190g heavier (820g vs. 630g), it is not a deciding factor for me, or to most photographers, I suppose. It could be a more significant factor for traveling and camera bag size; each can decide his own.
Liza Kaylee & Maria Klepikova at the Fotoclub Bangkok
August 13, 2020
This series of images stook with the Sigma 85mm F1.4 DG DN Art on SONY A7R IV with beautiful Liza Kaylee and Maria Klepikova at Fotoclub Bangkok. Special thanks to Jate Pokmangmee to allow me to use his facility fitted in the Any Warhol inspired style that I use for the shoot.
A reflective surface is always a challenge to shoot, especially involving using artificial light. The camera sensor's dynamic range depends on the lens in front of it for the broadest range of information it is designed to deliver, and the Sigma 85/1.4 DG DN Art is not disappointing. Organic gradation, even on the reflective highlight area with the smallest detail and texture kept.
The Sigma lens defines the skin tone and highlight texture of the foil interior exceptionally well - suggesting the new Sigma lens of good contrast and tonal transition. I imagine the lens will do fantastic jobs outdoors, judged by how it reacts to this shooting condition. I would find out later.
Both are exceptionally well-made lenses; the SONY 85/1.4 GM is made in Thailand to SONY standards, and the Sigma 85/1.4 DN DG Art is made in Japan. It is not a suggestion or hint of anything to craftsmanship or optical quality may differ by its manufacturing country, as long as each's original specification is met. The metallic rear lens collar on the Sigma is similar to the other Art series lenses and is easy to pick up fingerprints. It has nothing to do with the lens performance, it just looked a bit dirty after a hot day of use, and I prefer Sigma to apply different finishes to get rid of such annoyance eventually. This is a purely subjective opinion and not a reason for anyone not to buying it as it is easy to wipe clean.
Back to the shoot! Liza has such a "nice girl" look that I am sorry to have to ask her to act "сука" (bitch in Russian) each time I shoot her, so I can get a little more of edginess out of her.
There are some examples of the shots I captured with the SONY 85/1.4 G Master here! It is not a direct comparison because I don't test the lens that way unless a paid assignment with good commercial incentives. Honestly, I would rather just do real photography. However, everyone who reviews the image can make up their mind and there will be many lens reviews available soon anyway.
The SONY 85/1.4 G Master is a great lens, and the Sigma 85/1.4 DG DN Art is also a great lens. If budget is a factor, go with Sigma; if the money of this level is no object, go with whatever, or buy both.
The Andromeda - Messier 31 Dream
Lovely Maria selfie with the 1954 Leica IIIf RD, a camera two generations older than Maria, is one of the oldest Leica in my collection. The original Leica IIIf introduced in time for Christmas 1950 matches the red color of the bodysuit nicely. The old camera pairs with Maria and the Andy Warhol space theme very well and thanks Maria's beautiful pose to connect all the elements that work well as a picture. More on my blog Behind and in front of my camera.
More photos from Sigma 85/1.4 DN DG Art coming...
The size of the lens shall factor together with the camera for practical comparison and, if necessary, including the lens shade for those who use it regularly. The Sigma is visibly more compact than the SONY G Master, but the difference drew much closer with lens shade attached.
Similarly, the handling of the lens shall be judged on the camera and lens as a unit. I have been using cameras for more than 30 years, and I like all the cameras I used because handling is something of getting used to, and it is a photographer's job to get familiar with the tools he uses, any tool. However, it is fair to say the combination of this Sigma 85/1.4 DG DN Art on SONY A7R IV fits my hand very well, and I suppose every photographer shall feel comfortable shooting with this combination all day long if he loves photography enough.
Sigma has delivered what it claimed for the 85/1.4 DG DN Art. The lens works flawlessly, sharpness is right there with the best, ie. the G Master, and I did not miss any focus from a couple of hundred of images from the shoot. It is a dependable tool!
Sigma has a new design for the lens shade release, which deserves some applauses. It is a careful design detail that one may question why it takes so long for any lens maker to figure it out? The release embedded as part of the lens shade design, so it won't get knock-off easily while allowing very fast disengagement.
Sigma art lens as the more compact and lighter one also feels more metallic. The Sony G Master is a magnesium lens chassis hybrid with an engineering plastic shell. As an industrial designer, I have no preference for a lens that feels metallic or not because engineering plastic is very forgiving and durable and does not conduct too much cold if to use it in Russian winter, which I often do. I like both.
Sigma introduced three lenses to join the first Full frame Contemporary lens -45mm F2.8 DG DN launched with the cine-oriented Sigma fp -back in July 2019.
The 24mm F3.5 DG DN is, IMHO, the most interesting one among the three lenses because it can close focus to 11cm with a max magnification of 1:2 (0.5X), making it a handy macro lens.
The other two, the 35mm F2 and 65mm F2 presented quite interestingly in Sigma's introduction material in metallic appearance - for the statement of the Contemporary lenses being all-metal construction. Still, it won't be such a bad idea if such a chrome-metallic finish is available!
The Sigma Contemporary lens design appeared taking some cues from the Zeiss Loxia and ZM lenses to blend with the Sigma recipe and finished a stylishly compact lens that provides snappy autofocus and excellent optical performance on my SONY A7R IV.
The 65mm F2 DG DN gives a slightly more natural perspective for close range portraiture, as the one I shot with this man in front of a park.
Cycle of life
"Death is the start of a beginning, life is the start of the end, and the cycle continues forever."
~ Tim I. Gurung, Afterlife
6-month old Grace and her mom
65mm is naturally a preferred focal length for general portraiture, but 45mm is most close to the full-frame diagonal measurement (approx. 43mm). It is still an excellent alternative for a portrait in a limited space.