Review – Sigma 85mm F1.4 EX DG HSM

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Even among the highly rated Canon L lenses, the Canon 85mm f/1.2 L has an almost mythic reputation.  It’s combination of superior optics, focal length and fast aperture make the lens perfect for portraits and low-light photography.  Shooting with this lenses at f/1.2 turns distant backgrounds into buttery smooth colors with wonderful bokehs.  Sigma takes on this legendary lens with its new Sigma 85mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM lens for $1000 less!

sigma85mm-00 Sigma 85mm F1.4 EX DG HSM

  • Designed for both full frame and crop APS-C sensors.
  • Lens Construction – 11 Elements in 8 Groups
  • HSM (Hyper-Sonic Motor) ensure a quiet, high speed autofocus and full-time manual focusing capability
  • SLD (Special low Dispersion) glass element and glass mold elements for superior optical performance
  • Minimum focusing distance of 33.5”
  • Includes lens hood plus lens hood extender for APS-C cameras
  • Filter size – 77mm
  • Includes heavy-duty zipper lens case

The Sigma lens is lighter which makes it easier to handle.  In testing it on my Canon 7D, I found it to focus just as fast as the Canon 85mm f/1.2 L lens.  Sigma also includes a unique 2-part lens hood with this lens.  The standard petal hood is for use on a camera with a full-frame sensor.  For APS-C cameras like the Canon 7D, Sigma includes a lens hood extender (also included) which attaches between the standard lens hood and the 85mm lens for additional glare protection.  It’s a great idea that avoids hood vignetting on full-frame cameras like the Canon 5D Mark II.  Just like Sigma’s wonderful 50mm f/1.4 lens, this 85mm lens takes 77mm filters.  (Both the Canon 50mm f/1.2 L and the Canon 85mm f/1.2 take 72mm filters – which always annoyed me.)

But, any lens is only as good as its optics.  And, the Sigma performs just as well as the Canon L.  Take a look:





The Sigma 85mm produces beautiful bokehs just like the Canon 85mm L.  Both lenses are sharp producing images with great color and details.  Comparing the above images, it is really tough to tell which lens produced which image.  One thing you will notice is that the Sigma 85mm at f/1.4 produces a sharper edge than the Canon 85mm L at f/1.2.  This is to be expected, but bares saying.




The Sigma 85mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM is a wonderful lens and compares shoulder to shoulder with the Canon 85mm f/1.2 L.  In fact, the biggest difference between these lenses is the price.  The Sigma 85mm is over $1000 less than the Canon 85mm L.  Sigma has another winner on its hands.

The Sigma 85mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM is available in mounts for Canon, Nikon, Sigma, Sony/Minolta and Pentax for $899.


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15 Replies to “Review – Sigma 85mm F1.4 EX DG HSM”

  1. Didn’t you guys notice how much more CONTRASTY the sigma was? Dark midtones, blown highs on that sculpture. The Canon is much more neutral, which is a big important benefit in digital, IMHO. Is it a $1,000 difference? Personal opinion/finances, I guess…

  2. The only issue I had with the Sigma was exposure in RAW. The images with the Sigma 85mm on the Canon 7D when shooting RAW were much darker than the Canon 85mm L in RAW. I had to adjust the Sigma photos about half a stop in CS5 to balance the exposure with the Canon images. The statute scene was also more saturated with the Sigma than the Canon. (This was not the case with the antique glass scene. It was nearly a perfect match in exposure and saturation.) Both of these issues could be a problem with CS5 and Camera Raw 6.1 reading the file. I did enable Abobe’s Lens Profile in ACR for all of the test images. The preview images on the 7D’s LCD looked like a perfect match.

    Optically, the Sigma is a great lens, directly on par with the Canon 85mm L.

  3. As far as speed of focusing? That’s very subjective. If the Canon 85mm L is completely out-of-focus or goes “hunting” for focus, it takes forever. I did not notice that with the Sigma. Or, let me say, it was not as annoying with the Sigma.

    As far as AF accuracy, the Sigma was dead-on with the Canon 7D. But, I would expect that from this lens. It is a high-profile lens for Sigma and is already being promoted in Ads. I think it is another winner just like the Sigma 50mm f/1.4.

  4. It wasn’t clear to me whether the statue was a crop or a full photograph, but the Sigma does appear softer to me wide open–notice the statue’s hair. I don’t know whether the focus plane is different between the two shots or whether it’s a lens sharpness issue.

    Other than that it appears to be a winner!

  5. The statute photos are uncropped. The Sigma set was adjusted (as I stated in a previous comment) to match the exposure and saturation of the Canon set. That could explain what you are referring to. As for sharpness and detail, look at the other set of photos for the antique glass. The Sigma and Canon were almost an exact match. Pretty impressive considering the price of the Sigma lens.

  6. Thanks for the reply.

    Curious as to the exposure on the statue. Were they taken with identical manual settings, or was it on aperture-priority?

  7. Hi, i know its been a year since this thread started, but just wanna know if the inaccurate focusing of this 85mm lens can be fixed on the lens calibration? because i hear’ed that the lens is inaccurate focus some times..

    thank you!

  8. I have not had a problem focusing with this lens. Also, have not heard others complaining about it. It’s a great lens and a bargain compared to the Canon L As for micro-adjustments, the 7D can keep track of 20 lenses by serial number regardless of make. The option is located in C.Fn III -5 – Drive AF Microadjustment.

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