Comparing Sigma's Bokeh Master 105 f/1.4 Art with 85 f/1.4 and 135 f/1.8

Sigma has been crashing the competition with its Global vision line up. Combination of no compromise image quality and fair price is creating havoc in Canon and Nikon tents. And the recent launch of Sony E mount lenses will surely disturb Sony’s first party glass business. (will also drive Sony’s mirrorless business by providing true 3rd party lens support). In 2013 I bought my first prime lens Sigma 35 f/1.4 art till this day it never leaves my camera bag. Since then I have added Sigma’s 85 f/1.4 and 135 f/1.8 into my arsenal.

This Saturday I was eagerly waiting for the postman to deliver my newest toy. Around noon I heard a knock on the door and it was the UPS guy with my package from Adorama. As soon as I opened the box I knew this is no TOY this lens means business.

First, let’s get this out of the way this lens should be nicknamed Bokeh ‘Monster’ instead of ‘Bokeh Master’. This lens is huge not quite Nikon 200 f/2 but it is big and heavy. If you are shooting with this, people will come up and ask about it (yes, it happened as soon as I took it out for test shots)

let’s go through the (not so boring) specs. I will be comparing sigma’s three prime lenses which are in the mid to short telephoto range. Best used for portraits, at least that is what I am planning to use it for you can shoot whatever you like.

I have had some time shooting with all 3 lenses now and I can say this from experience you will NOT be shooting all-day weddings with 105 f/1.4 unless, you spend few hours at the gym every day (I don’t). I will be using this lens for my 1–2hr portrait and prewedding/engagement sessions (and whenever I feel like working out).

If you are thinking of buying any one of these lenses, you can not go wrong with either one. As we have size out of our way I can think of three factors that can help you decide. The price, Aperture, and Focal length.

Price The cheapest of the bunch is 85 f/1.4. Almost 400$(25%) cheaper than the most expensive lens in our list. If the price is your concern go with 85 and you will be happy. Buying 105 f/1.4 might not give you 25% better images. comparing the Sigma prices to Canon and Nikon equivalent lenses you can clearly see that Sigma will definitely give you better bang for your buck (Nikon 105 f/1.4 retails at $2,196.95). Some people might be worried about the value depreciation of 3rd party glass. But rest assure my 5+ year old Sigma 35 f/1.4 still sells for 550–650$ used on eBay (Original purchase price was 799$).

without the hood

Aperture I am not going to talk numbers and get all technical here, 135 is f/1.8 vs 85 and 105 both rock f/1.4 aperture. all three lenses let in lots of light and will give you creamy BOKEH. if you need more Tedious Explanation of the f/stop check this out.

I know why you are here, let’s check out some sample images. Full Res

All images are shot with Nikon D850 in RAW and then converted to JPEG with minimal correction for exposure and exported with ‘camera portrait’ profile in Adobe Lightroom 7.4.

Blind Test: Before reading the description which image you like the best?

From left to right we have First 105mm f/1.4 ISO100 1/1000sec in the Middle 135mm f/1.8 ISO100 1/500sec and Last 85mm f/1.4 ISO100 1/1000sec

In all 3 shots, I tried to keep exact same frame by changing my position form the model. no lenses correction was applied. you can clearly see how each focal length and aperture effects background and lenses distortion.

let’s look at another example.

From left to right we have First 135mm f/1.8 ISO100 1/650sec in the Middle 105mm f/1.4 ISO100 1/800sec and Last 85mm f/1.4 ISO100 1/800sec

Focal length Changing focal length can have a dramatic effect on your pictures. in our case all three lenses are under short to a medium telephoto range which is best for taking portraiture. As you can see in first samples changing focal length from short (85) to long (135) makes subject look thinner or less distorted in the middle of the frame. This can be somewhat corrected with the lens profiles in Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop. As of now, there is no lens profile available for sigma 105 f/1.4 art but the editing software will be updated soon in the meantime you can create your own lens profiles with this tool.

Another aspect of the image which will be affected by the focal length is the background compression. As you can see from above samples in the first image (135mm) background is super compressed compared to the last image (85mm) we can see lot more of the background.

The last effect of the focal length is the reachability. Zoom lenses have their place in my collection. Most of the weddings and events I shot with my Nikon 24–70 f/2.8 which covers all the run and gun situations. but I always carry a prime lens on my second body or have the second shooter with a tally prime lens. For almost a year I have been using either 85 or 135 on my second body but it looks like 105 will fill out that perfect middle position for me.

here are some samples where subject and camera locations are static and only variable is the lens.

From left to right we have First 135mm f/1.8 ISO100 1/500sec in the Middle 105mm f/1.4 ISO100 1/1000sec and Last 85mm f/1.4 ISO100 1/1000sec

135mm f/1.8 ISO100 1/500sec

105mm f/1.4 ISO100 1/1000sec

85mm f/1.4 ISO100 1/1000sec

Image Quality All three lenses are super sharp with minimum vignetting and negligible chromatic aberration. If I have a gun to my head and had to choose strictly based on Image Quality, the Sigma 105 will give you the sharpest, least chromatic aberration (fringing) and least amount of vignetting thanks to its 17 elements and huge (and I mean HUUUGE) front element.

Verdict From my initial impression and playing with it on a shoot I can say with confidence that sigma has a winner in their hand. if you are in the market for a new short telephoto lens and don’t mind spending 1600$ on a lens look no further Sigma 105 f/1.4 art is the lens for you.

You can check out all the full resolution images here. You can pixel peep as much as you want. (My first image with 105 is little front focused I realized it after we came back from the shoot :()

Which photos do you like in the blind test please let me know in the comments. Happy clicking!!!

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Special thanks to the model Manasi Joshi
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