Lens Review: The Sigma 85mm
*updated January 2022 – we no longer shoot with the Sigma 85mm because we switched from Canon to Sony…we now use the Sony 85mm 1.8 and its even better but Sigma is still an amazing lens that served us well for YEARS*
Move over, Jay, because I have a new lover and its name is the Sigma 85mm 1.4!
For the longest time (like, years) I was very wary of purchasing non-Canon lenses but I could never afford those coveted red ring prime lenses that I wanted. I mean, $1,950 for the Canon 85mm 1.2 USM II lens is a hefty price. And if you know anything about me you know that I love keeping money in my own bank account. My parents thought I was going to go in to finance when I was a kid (sorry to disappoint you, ma!) because I was so tight with my money. Don’t get me wrong, I could drop $20 at the candy store like no ones business, but if my dad borrowed $20 for gas for the week and told me he would pay me back on Friday, I would ask him on Saturday for my $30 because, you know…interest and all that. I was 8!
Anyway, this year is the Year of the Lenses. I had purchased a few lenses that we needed (the 70-200 for Jay, and a 135mm for me, I got a Sigma 35mm that I’ll also do a review on) and on my list was an upgrade for my Canon 85mm 1.8 that I’ve had for probably close to 4 years now. Its my favorite lens because I love that focal length and it catches focus pretty quickly which is great when you’re a wedding photographer. I use my 85mm for about 90% of the wedding day and almost 100% for engagements.
Last year, when I decided to start listing out the lenses we needed and the ones to upgrade, I knew that I had to retire my 85mm. It had done me well, and when I sell it, I know it will make some other photographer proud too. Thus began my research. I even test shot my friends Canon 85mm 1.2 at 1.2 and guys, it was like butter. It was amazing. I was in love. But the price!!
“Oh I’ll just second shoot a lot and save up” I told myself.
But every time I hit the goal, I would research the lens to double check that it was a good idea. And I never ended up buying it. 1.2 is amazing and I would totally shoot at that aperture all the damn time, but the thing that made me always hold off on the purchase?
Its too slow.
Thats everyones biggest complaint on the Canon 85mm 1.2. The bokeh is gorgeous. Its the perfect portrait lens. But the focus is so slow that you cant use it for anything else. But I need it for everything else! So I kept putting it off.
Then I purchased the Sigma Art 35mm 1.4 because I needed a 35mm and didn’t really care too much about that focal length so I surely wasn’t about to drop $1500 on Canon lens. The Sigma version (which I bought used) only cost me $700!
And y’all…I fell in love.
So when it came time to upgrade the 85, I knew Sigma wouldn’t let me down. I still researched the ever loving crap out of it for almost a year, reading any article I could about the Sigma 85 vs the Canon 85, looking at compare and contrast photos, searching for images on Pixel-Peepers.com and scrutinizing every image to find a flaw.
The only ‘flaws’ I found according to these articles were that the images tend to be more contrasty & lean towards a more magenta hue and that the chromatic aberration was worse than Canon. Ok. I can deal with all of that, and its all fixable in Lightroom. To be honest, I have found all of that to be true. Oh lord, the chromatic aberration is awful. But its fixable in Lightroom.
My first subject of this lens was Falkor and I shot off about 2 frames at f/1.4 of Jay holding him and I knew in that moment that this lens and I were going to get along just fine (-;
Since acquiring the lens, I pretty much haven’t taken it off the camera (well, I did say I use it 90% of the time). The lens I use the other 10%? The frickin Sigma 35mm! I used to hate the 35mm look and now I love it!
Maybe Im crazy, but since using both of these Sigma lenses, I really feel my photos have gone up a level in the ‘looks like film’ category, which is ok with me since thats what I want my photos to look like (-; I absolutely love how fast it, how sharp it is (to me, it doesn’t look like that digital sharpness, but more of a filmy sharpness. Again, that is what Im aiming for in my photos), and I personally love the colors.
Here’s my TL;DR version:
- Super fast focusing
- Very sharp even at f/1.4
- Gives my images a better ‘film’ like look
- Bokeh so buttery you could spread it on a bagel
- Heavy but not too heavy (the Canon 85 1.2 is a beast and would break my spine)
- Very cost effective. Brand new, I bought it for $950 on Amazon!
- No red ring, which Im hoping will deter people from wanting to steal it :-p
- Pretty awful chromatic aberration when shooting wide open. Luckily, this is fixable in Lightroom
That was the con I could think of (-;
So if you’re a new photographer, or a seasoned one who’s looking to upgrade, seriously…keep your money in your pockets and buy the Sigma 85mm! For the price of the Canon 85mm, you could buy the Sigma 85mm and the 35mm!