Sigma 105mm f/1.4 Art Review

Sigma 105


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This is a guest review of the Sigma 105mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art by wedding photographer Megan Allen.

One of my favorite lenses has always been a mid-length telephoto prime. Back when I shot on Canon, the Canon 135mm f/2 was a staple in my bag.

When I switched to Nikon, I fell in love with the Nikon 105mm f/1.4 when it was released, and its slightly shorter focal length proved to be far more utilitarian for my style of photography.

My Switch to Sony

Comparison

Size comparison of Nikon 105mm f/1.4, Sigma 105mm f/1.4, and Sony 85mm f/1.4 | Sony A9 & Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA | 1/125 f/2.8 ISO 800

When I jumped into the Sony waters, I realized there were simply no comparable native lenses with such a shallow depth of field. That made me reevaluate how I photographed a wedding day.

I adapted my gorgeous Nikon 105mm f/1.4 to my Sony cameras for a year and a half as I waited not-so-patiently for a native lens of that length to manifest for the Sony Alpha lineup.

Sure, there’s been the Zeiss Batis 135mm f/2.8, but I dedicated that particular focal length to buttery smooth bokeh-licious portraits for clients, as well as creating Brenizer Methods.

Besides, for me, the shallower the depth of field, the better. That’s why the Zeiss 135mm was never even an option.

Now, Sony is quickly developing their own arsenal of lenses, and Sigma is doing the same to ensure the ever-growing army of Sony shooters have what they desire in the lens department.

The one focal length that has been missing for me since my switch to Sony has always been that 105-135mm f/1.4-2.0 range… until now.

Enter the Sigma 105mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art. Touted by Sigma as their “bokeh master,” the Sigma 105mm f/1.4 lens has a big job to do, albeit a very specific one.

But how does it stand up to its counterparts from other brands, and is it worth the cost? Read on to find out!

Fast Stats on the Sigma 105mm f/1.4

Sigma 105

The Sigma 105mm | Sony A9 & Sony FE 28mm f/2 | 1/1250 f/1.4 ISO 64

• Retails for around $1.5k (see latest price here)
• Available for Canon, Nikon, and Sony cameras
• Aperture range of f/1.4 to f/16
• Three FLD Elements, Two SLD Elements
• One Aspherical Element
• Super Multi-Layer Coating
• Hyper Sonic AF Motor, Manual Override
• Weather-Sealed, Protective Front Coating
• Rounded 9-Blade Diaphragm
• Removable Rotating Arca-Type Tripod Foot
• Compatible with Sigma USB Dock

The Unboxing

Unboxing

The Sigma 105mm f/1.4 Art is a premium product, packaged in a premium way

When I received my box from B&H with this beauty inside, I was instantly greeted with a surprising amount of heft.

Yes, I’d heard this was a big lens, but I hadn’t been fully prepared for just how BIG this thing would be.

Being a mirrorless shooter, I have become accustomed to a smaller load, and even attaching a 70-200mm feels clunky at this point.

As a former Nikon 200mm f/2 wielder, I never would have imagined that.

After the initial shock of the size wore off, I took a look at the accessories Sigma provided with the 105.

Inside was a strap for the lens case (which was a genuinely beefy thing, padded extremely well) and a screw-type lens hood that could double as a small salad bowl (according to my brother).

There was also a silicone band that swaps out with the Arca-Swiss tripod collar.

Overall, the packaging was nice, the carrying case is impressive, and I felt I was about to use a quality product.

RATING: 10/10

Ergonomics

Sigma 105 on Sony A9

The Sigma 105mm on a Sony A7RIII | Sony A9 & Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA | 1/125 f/5 ISO 2000

Let’s get something straight: this lens is MASSIVE. Yes, it is as massive as everyone says, and it weighs in at a whopping 3.6 lbs (1.63 kgs), just over half the weight of Nikon’s heralded 200mm f/2.

That’s the lens I thought of as I connected the 105 to my suddenly extremely small Sony A9. I was curious to see how it felt to wield such a lens again, and whether it would be worth the heft.

Before we dive into the image quality, though, I do want to say that Sigma was smart to include an Arca-Swiss tripod collar with this behemoth.

While it didn’t bother me to hand-hold this lens, I can imagine many will value the tripod option it provides – especially those that aren’t of the barbell-curling, gym rat variety.

I found the tripod collar nice for simply managing the weight of the lens as I held it, as the base of it fit well in my hand.

For those who would prefer not to have it, however, Sigma did think ahead and also provided a silicone band that fits in the space that the collar resides, should you opt to remove it.

Along the left hand side of the lens you’ll find an AF/MF focus switch that’s easily accessible but built well enough to not accidentally move.

I also enjoyed being greeted with just the right amount of resistance on the manual focus ring. It helped me to avoid being overzealous and miss focus by wrenching the ring too quickly.

Overall, once you get over the fact that you’re now wielding a mini t-shirt cannon on the front of your camera body, it really is a nice lens and feels sturdily built.

RATING: 7/10 (docked because of size)

Build Quality

Lens Hood

Sigma 105mm and lens hood | Sony A9 & Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA | 1/160 f/2.8 ISO 640

When you pull this lens out of the box and begin using it, you’re comforted by the sense that you’ve invested in quality glass.

I love the feel of brushed metal, which makes up most of the lens except for the back piece, which is smoother.

Sigma has definitely packed this monster full of great elements. Even so, I question how much of the bulk is truly necessary.

With the lens being weather-sealed, I didn’t fear taking it to Iceland with me, but its sheer size deterred me from hauling it in my backpack on the long hikes.

Nikon’s 105mm f/1.4 is just over 2 pounds, and Sony’s new 135mm f/1.8 is an ounce lighter than that.

So, with the Sigma coming in well over a pound heavier, I have to wonder what they’re feeding this beast in the warehouse before shipping it out.

All that being said, when you hold this lens, you know you’re holding a quality product. I just don’t know if we need SO MUCH of said quality product.

RATING: 9/10

Field Performance

Beach Wedding

Sony A7RIII & Sigma 105mm f/1.4 Art | 1/1250 f/1.4 ISO 64 | Edited with DVLOP Presets

No doubt the Sigma 105mm f/1.4 Art is a beauty, and it is inevitably a talking piece when I bring it out at weddings.

The hilarity of the reactions from wedding guests has varied. Some simply stare or nudge a loved one to take a look at the camera, while others straightforwardly make comments on the size of the lens.

If you invest in this lens and intend to take it out in public, plan on having a new talking point to manage.

In addition to managing conversations, you’ll have to manage the weight of the lens!

While using it in brief spurts won’t be too annoying, having it hit my side as I walked with it on my Holdfast MoneyMaker reminded me why I switched from DSLR cameras.

Even more than that, attempting to find a way to fit it in my gear bags was tricky in itself.

It simply doesn’t fit in my ThinkTank Airport Navigator unless I completely rearrange my compartments.

That’s something I’m stubborn about, as I have a system that works for everything but this one lens.

Kiss

Sony A9 & Sigma 105mm f/1.4 Art | 1/125 sec f/2.2 ISO 50 | Edited with DVLOP Presets

Instead, I’ve taken to placing it in my HoldFast Sightseer Backpack. It takes up a fair amount of room in there.

All of that being said, I was absolutely thrilled to take this beauty into the wild and give it a go.

I took it to two weddings, one engagement shoot, and to Iceland, although it wasn’t obvious at first how I would factor it into shoots.

Since switching to Sony, I was forced to give up the longer telephoto primes due to no native options being available that suited my personal tastes.

If I used anything, I would adapt my Nikon 105mm f/1.4 to my Sony A9 with a Commlite Adapter. While that worked, the autofocus was much slower.

Over the past year, I’ve given in to using the 85mm as my go-to “long” lens, and if I really needed reach, I would use the Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 – something I own, though I much prefer prime lenses.

Smile

Sony A9 & Sigma 105mm f/1.4 Art | 1/125 f/1.4 ISO 100 | Edited with DVLOP Presets

So, I found myself no longer quite sure what to do with a true telephoto lens such as the Sigma 105mm at first, even though I desperately wanted to incorporate it.

Near the end of my time with this lens, it was like riding a bike. I found my groove with using the length again.

Despite its size and weight, I loved making images with this lens.

Combined with the superior eye AF of the Sony cameras, the Sigma 105mm nailed focus perfectly even at f/1.4, something I wasn’t expecting.

Without image stabilization you have to be sure to use a faster shutter speed, but even then, the in-body stabilization of the Sony lineup compensates beautifully.

If using either Nikon or Canon, though, this is a consideration to keep in mind. Another thing to note is that this lens needs quite a bit of space to focus.

I wouldn’t even attempt to use this during a processional unless the aisle was a respectable distance, simply because I’d find myself with those walking down the aisle too close to me to focus.

Golden Wedding

Sony A9 & Sigma 105mm f/1.4 Art | 1/1250 f/2.2 ISO 50 | Edited with DVLOP Presets

Keeping that in mind, if you have the space to use it in a processional situation, you’ll be quickly rewarded with some of the most beautiful falloff to bokeh goodness I’ve ever seen from a lens.

It gives you a great 3D feel.

Overall, the Sigma 105 and the Sony A9 is a deadly combo. I found myself reluctantly falling in love with it the more I used the lens.

It reminded me how much I truly love the compression of a telephoto prime, and how much I missed my Nikon 105mm as a native lens.

It was a joy to have a telephoto again. My overall impression is this: it’s a specialty lens, it’s a pain in the butt to haul around, but it makes such gorgeous images that you honestly don’t care.

You’ll carry it because of how beautifully everything turns out.

RATING: 8/10 (size, again, docks points)

Image Quality

Wedding Toast

Sony A9 & Sigma 105mm f/1.4 Art | 1/200 f/1.8 ISO 100 | Edited with DVLOP Presets

Here’s where things get wild. I’ve used multiple Sigma lenses on multiple camera platforms, dating way back to when I shot on Canon.

When I used the Sigma ART series on Canon, the results were superb; tack sharp, gorgeously vibrant colors, fast focus.

I couldn’t get enough of them, so much so that when I switched to Nikon, I opted for both the Sigma 35mm and 50mm ART lenses over the Nikon variations.

Oh, what a misstep that was. I quickly found myself battling extremely front- or back-focused images, no matter how much calibration I attempted.

I gave in and bought the Sigma calibration dock, which wound up doing nothing to solve the problem.

I was frustrated, and let those ART lenses go in favor of lighter, more reliable Nikon f/1.8 versions…something I’d never imagined doing.

Needless to say, I felt a bit of trepidation as I dipped my toes back into the Sigma waters, but I was pleasantly surprised. No more front- or back-focused images.

Instead, everything was tack sharp on my Sony, even wide open – just like it was on Canon!

Colors are a tad muted in comparison to Sony native glass, but extremely easy to push in post to taste. Then again, I prefer extremely bold colors, so Sigma’s colors may be spot on for most everyone else!

There’s minimal chromatic aberration—so much so, that I was only once able to discern any at all, though I’m not a pixel peeper myself.

Overall, the image quality is beyond impressive, and I am falling in love with the 105 length all over again.

RATING: 10/10

Sigma 105mm f/1.4 Art | Final Verdict

The Sigma 105mm f/1.4 Art is a massive lens. It’s cumbersome, it’s kind of a pain to lug around… but it makes such incredibly beautiful images that you find yourself just not caring about the extra muscle it takes.

Except for extreme low light situations, in which it slows down a hair, it’s quick to focus. The falloff is great, the images are tack-sharp, and the bokeh is stunning. I really can’t get enough of the look this lens renders.

It’s a focal length I’ve missed in my lineup, and it’s exciting to see it back in the arsenal.

If you’re willing to deal with the heft, it’s a great bang-for-your-buck lens. You can spend $600-800 more for native lenses if you’d like, but Sigma has made an incredibly compelling case for this lens.

Bottom line: if you’re on the hunt for a mid-length telephoto lens with great depth of field, you won’t be disappointed by the Sigma 105mm.

Are there a few cons? Sure.

Am I keeping this lens in my bag? Absolutely… and I can’t wait to use it more in the future!

PROS

Beautiful Bokeh
Solid Build Quality
Weather Resistant
Ridiculously Sharp
Perfect Length & Aperture for Portraits & Brenizer Methods

CONS

Lacks Image Stabilization
Ridiculously Large
Heavy for Extended Use
Long Focus Distance

Disclaimer: All recommendations are impartial and based on user experience, with no bias to the products or the brand. The products in this post contain affiliate links which help support Shotkit.

Megan Allen is an award winning wedding photographer based in Columbus.Megan Allen

Quality10
Ergonomics & Handling 
7
Build Quality9
Usability8
Image Quality10
Price/Value9

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2 Comments

  1. John on April 5, 2019 at 9:07 pm

    As a Canon/Hasselblad shooter I was under the impression that the Sony idea was meant to be light and portable. Everyone cries that Canon pro bodies and lenses are just too heavy but that’s killing that whole idea. That lens is nearly 200g heavier than my Hasselblad 500cm w/ 80mm lens and is 100g heavier than the Canon 1V w/ 50mm f1.2L which is a beast to lug.

  2. Simon on April 3, 2019 at 7:53 am

    Quality review. Thank-you for the experienced opinion. I ask if the ND filter cost comes in to play with the circular diameter matching the focal length at 105mm (to maintain open aperture) even if the Sigma comes in less than OEM equivalents with smaller filter (for solid ND) diameter?

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