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11-10-2010, 08:57 AM   #1
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Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Review

SLRgear has released their review of the new Sigma 85mm f/1.4

"Conclusion
Sigma has produced an excellent lens here: as sharp as any of its contemporaries, even wide open at /1.4. As well, the lens offers remarkable tolerance to chromatic aberration, marred only by the presence of longitudinal chromatic aberration that seems to be common with fast glass. Distortion and corner shading are also excellent. With the Sigma 85mm /1.4 producing results on par with its competitors, it's easy to recommend, especially given the cost savings that will result."

Sigma Lens: Primes - Sigma 85mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM (Tested) - SLRgear.com!

11-10-2010, 11:04 AM   #2
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i have tested this lens in comparison with the samyang 85mm and the canon 85mm 1.8

AF on the sigma is slow, very slow- 1.8 is lighting fast

both sigma and samyang are razor sharp wide open, the 85mm is pretty sharp wide open too. The sigma and samyang don't improve much on stopping down, they're sharp enough wide open tbh.

the sigma is basically an AF version of the samyang, I couldn't really tell the lenses apart optically

fwiw 85mm lenses are nearly always sharper than a 50mm, 50mm are never sharp wide open, at least i'm yet to find one.

i'd probably still recommend the samyang, AF at 1.4 is so difficult, and unless you have a focus point right where you want it then focus and recompose is going to be difficult. The samyang has the stopping down focus shift issue, but then if you consider the 85 as a wide open portrait lens you have a good excuse to buy a 100mm macro lens to fill in the AF/stopped down gap


sigma is very expensive though, but on k mount there are few alternatives
11-10-2010, 04:04 PM   #3
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Hmm, I wonder if the Sigma will be good enough for farfisa to buy two...
11-10-2010, 05:13 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by clark Quote
AF on the sigma is slow, very slow...
Could it be your camera? Which camera did you use?

With all due respect but AF speed is not the only aspect where your assessment and the slrgear review differ quite significantly.

11-10-2010, 05:26 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by clark Quote
i have tested this lens in comparison with the samyang 85mm and the canon 85mm 1.8

AF on the sigma is slow, very slow- 1.8 is lighting fast
Sigma is not very slow. it is in fact, has good AF considering that it is an HSM lens and is significantly faster and better than the 1.2.

QuoteQuote:
both sigma and samyang are razor sharp wide open, the 85mm is pretty sharp wide open too. The sigma and samyang don't improve much on stopping down, they're sharp enough wide open tbh.
this is also suspect, basing from what owners were saying and from the images shown, the Sigma improves a lot when stop down on smaller apertures. the 85/1.8 does not even put up a good fight from wide open, much more at smaller apertures. however, the Samyang might be slightly less sharp and definitely less contrasty, although I like it's bokeh better.
QuoteQuote:

i'd probably still recommend the samyang, AF at 1.4 is so difficult, and unless you have a focus point right where you want it then focus and recompose is going to be difficult. The samyang has the stopping down focus shift issue, but then if you consider the 85 as a wide open portrait lens you have a good excuse to buy a 100mm macro lens to fill in the AF/stopped down gap
AF function is not only limited at f1.4 as you should know. AF function was made to make the lens flexible and convenient for other uses aside portraiture, which means, the lens is also used at smaller apertures. I'm not sure what focus shift issue you were referring to regarding the Samyang. the 100mm macro is a great lens for portraits as well and other uses, but you are limited with the aperture speed of f2.8.



QuoteQuote:
sigma is very expensive though, but on k mount there are few alternatives
which AF 85/1.4 lens costs below $900? unless of course Samyang decides to build one with AF, but there isn't.

Last edited by Pentaxor; 11-10-2010 at 05:33 PM.
11-10-2010, 05:31 PM   #6
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For what it's worth, the few minutes I played around with the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 on Canon mount at Hunt's Photo and Video in Melrose, MA the other day it seemed plenty quick... but I was spending more time looking at build quality, and looking at the photos I took on the back of the camera than I was worrying about AF speed.
11-10-2010, 07:47 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Class A Quote
Could it be your camera? Which camera did you use?

With all due respect but AF speed is not the only aspect where your assessment and the slrgear review differ quite significantly.
canon 1dmk3

seriously, the af is much slower than the canon 85mm 1.8 USM- I have not tried pentax mount as I only shoot MF on pentax. But from my (albeit) brief experience with the sigma 85mm I felt like the AF was slow while the 85 1.8 was lighting quick, I have never even seen an 85mm 1.2 but i've heard it's even slower than the sigma. But hell I used to shoot portaits with manual focus so anything has to be quicker than that.

QuoteOriginally posted by Pentaxor Quote
Sigma is not very slow. it is in fact, has good AF considering that it is an HSM lens and is significantly faster and better than the 1.2.
agreed- but there is physically more glass in the 1.4 compared to the 1.8, so that's the reason for the slower AF, i'm sure the sigma is quick enough- I didn't put it through a proper test, but the 85 1.8 focusses before i've even engaged my brain, the sigma on the other hand I can see things slowly coming into focus.
Maybe the shop I was in had a duff copy. A few minutes shooting a model would tell me if the AF is quick enough or not, unfortunately I did not have a model to hand at the time

I also have no plans to spend 600 on a lens so the sigma is not really in my wish list

QuoteQuote:
this is also suspect, basing from what owners were saying and from the images shown, the Sigma improves a lot when stop down on smaller apertures. the 85/1.8 does not even put up a good fight from wide open, much more at smaller apertures. however, the Samyang might be slightly less sharp and definitely less contrasty, although I like it's bokeh better.
I never said that it doesn't improve on stopping down, I said that it's sharp enough wide open to consider it able to be shot wide open, the canon/sigma 50mm on the other hand is so soft wide open that (artistic merit withstanding) i'd have to really think about opening that aperture wider than f2.8 (maybe f2 at a push), if shot at 1.4 they produce images that make me regret not pushing the iso a little higher to shoot at f2

also the 85 1.8 is very sharp wide open, terrible purple fringing though

QuoteQuote:
AF function is not only limited at f1.4 as you should know. AF function was made to make the lens flexible and convenient for other uses aside portraiture, which means, the lens is also used at smaller apertures. I'm not sure what focus shift issue you were referring to regarding the Samyang. the 100mm macro is a great lens for portraits as well and other uses, but you are limited with the aperture speed of f2.8.
the samyang changes focus when you stop down, it's a widely documented problem and i'm surprised you haven't read about it. But stopping down with the samyang causes the focal plane to move forward (so i've heard), requireing you to back focus to compensate. On canon/nikon the lens stops down automatically so this isn't a problem, but as I said the 85mm 1.4 are made for portraits so if you treat it as a portrait lens (in the sense that you're shooting at >3m and between wide open and 2.8) you'll get the best out of it

and as for the comment on AF accuracy at 1.4, the depth of field is so thin that if you focus on an eyebrow the eye will be blurry- I wouldn't trust the autofocus system of even the 1dmk3 to get it focussed where I want it so i'd always be shooting live view with 5x mag to nail the eyes (at least for close up portraits), for more distant work the AF would be fine, but i guess the lens is optimised for portraits so i guess it performs best at close distances rather than infinity, hence you might want to use a different lens for anything other than typical portrait distances




QuoteQuote:
which AF 85/1.4 lens costs below $900? unless of course Samyang decides to build one with AF, but there isn't.
I said that there 'are very few options for K mount', the only option we really have is the fa*85mm, which costs a lot more than $900, assuming you can even get one.

Last edited by clark; 11-10-2010 at 07:54 PM.
11-10-2010, 08:17 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by clark Quote
also the 85 1.8 is very sharp wide open, terrible purple fringing though
you said it. UGH ! Truly Nasty.


QuoteQuote:

the samyang changes focus when you stop down, it's a widely documented problem and i'm surprised you haven't read about it. But stopping down with the samyang causes the focal plane to move forward (so i've heard), requireing you to back focus to compensate. On canon/nikon the lens stops down automatically so this isn't a problem, but as I said the 85mm 1.4 are made for portraits so if you treat it as a portrait lens (in the sense that you're shooting at >3m and between wide open and 2.8) you'll get the best out of it

and as for the comment on AF accuracy at 1.4, the depth of field is so thin that if you focus on an eyebrow the eye will be blurry- I wouldn't trust the autofocus system of even the 1dmk3 to get it focussed where I want it so i'd always be shooting live view with 5x mag to nail the eyes (at least for close up portraits), for more distant work the AF would be fine, but i guess the lens is optimised for portraits so i guess it performs best at close distances rather than infinity, hence you might want to use a different lens for anything other than typical portrait distances
I haven't read it. I just didn't understand what you meant by focus shift issue, although I did experience such phenomena.

personally, I don't just want to use the 85 exclusively for portraits. I missed a lot of shots in the open because of no AF. this made me decide to sell my copy. it's great for portraits though. MF though is not as easy and smooth as the Pentax.

11-10-2010, 09:19 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by clark Quote
fwiw 85mm lenses are nearly always sharper than a 50mm, 50mm are never sharp wide open, at least i'm yet to find one.
I find the Super-Tak 50/1.4 to be sharp wide open. I'd be surprised if it were easier to make sharper 85s than sharper 50s. And I'd be surprised if they are generally sharper, given the historical preference for soft portrait lenses.
11-10-2010, 09:27 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Pentaxor Quote
I haven't read it. I just didn't understand what you meant by focus shift issue, although I did experience such phenomena.
Focus shift is also mentioned in this article from Zeiss: Manual Focusing with AF Camera Systems - see towards the end.

I remember reading that some Zeiss lenses suffer from this too (their 85 or their 50 - I can't remember), so it's not something you only find in budget lenses.
11-10-2010, 09:32 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Pentaxor Quote
you said it. UGH ! Truly Nasty.
for the price the 1.8 has great AF performance and optical quality is decent, for the price

for the price the samyang is optically a great buy

for the price the pentax is a lovely piece of engineering

for the price the sigma is cheaper and compares favorably with the 85 1.2, as long as you consider the AF speed benchmark to be the 85l and not the 85 1.8

you pay your money and take your choice
personally it's the samyang that takes it for me

I would take a jupiter 9 to complete the russian trio (helios, and tair 11), but soft corners weren't an issue on aps-c, but present a problem on a 1.3 crop- i've also heard scathing reviews about the jupiter 9's sharpness, the helios and the tair are tack sharp- i've heard the J9 isn't quite there- i'd still like to own one though, for KMZ collecting reasons
11-10-2010, 10:01 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Laurentiu Cristofor Quote
I find the Super-Tak 50/1.4 to be sharp wide open. I'd be surprised if it were easier to make sharper 85s than sharper 50s. And I'd be surprised if they are generally sharper, given the historical preference for soft portrait lenses.
fair point about the softness of 'portrait' lenses

i've never shot a super tak, i've got a pentax M 1.7 which is reputed to be sharper than the 1.4 (pentax m 1.4 anyway), and I never use it wider than f2.8 because the difference is so great, 1.7 is sharp, but 2.8 is tack sharp- 5.6 is sharper still but nothing a little sharpening can't make up for. So with that in mind I think of the 50mm's i've shot (the sigma/canon 1.4 included) as being f2.8/f2 lenses. Where as the 85's i've shot have been sharp wide open
not that sharpness is the be all and end all, but I have to think about whether I can take the sharpness hit by dropping below 2.8, with an 85 I don't have to do that I can shoot wide open and not wish for any more sharpness- maybe I just need a better 50mm...
11-10-2010, 10:51 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by clark Quote

I would take a jupiter 9 to complete the russian trio (helios, and tair 11), but soft corners weren't an issue on aps-c, but present a problem on a 1.3 crop- i've also heard scathing reviews about the jupiter 9's sharpness, the helios and the tair are tack sharp- i've heard the J9 isn't quite there- i'd still like to own one though, for KMZ collecting reasons
I understand you purpose for owning one. I'm sure you'll find some on eBay for a cheap price. it is true that the J-9 is not at par with other 85's, atleast at wide open. it is soft but significantly sharp after a stop and much more sharper as you go down further. f4 and f5-6 are it's sweetspot and still able to retain some very good blur. although the bubble gum bokeh effect at wider apertures and very nice isolation makes it different and is only unique to some handful of lenses. I can only think of two but I forgot which lens was it.

Last edited by Pentaxor; 11-11-2010 at 01:11 AM.
11-11-2010, 01:01 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by clark Quote
I would take a jupiter 9 to complete the russian trio (helios, and tair 11), but soft corners weren't an issue on aps-c, but present a problem on a 1.3 crop- i've also heard scathing reviews about the jupiter 9's sharpness, the helios and the tair are tack sharp- i've heard the J9 isn't quite there- i'd still like to own one though, for KMZ collecting reasons
I just acquired a Jupiter-9 today. It *is* soft - in fact, it should be the example you find in a dictionary when you're looking up "soft". Mine is made by LZOS. I heard the softness is a design point, not a defect. Anyway, if you're expecting wide open performance similar to the Helios 44, you should skip this one. Sharpness is not its selling point.

QuoteOriginally posted by clark Quote
i've never shot a super tak, i've got a pentax M 1.7 which is reputed to be sharper than the 1.4 (pentax m 1.4 anyway), and I never use it wider than f2.8 because the difference is so great,
If we're moving away from 50/1.4, the SMC Tak 55/1.8 is also pretty sharp at 1.8. I haven't used the M50/1.7, so I can't comment on that, but from what I read about it, I'm surprised you find it soft wide open.

QuoteOriginally posted by clark Quote
with an 85 I don't have to do that I can shoot wide open and not wish for any more sharpness- maybe I just need a better 50mm...
Yes, interesting. Focusing with an 85@1.4 is more challenging than focusing a 50@1.4 - it's interesting you get better results with the 85. I don't have the Samyang, but a friend has just ordered it, so I'll finally get a chance to see how sharp it is. I'm really curious if it is indeed sharp wide open - from reviews, it doesn't seem amazingly sharp.
11-11-2010, 01:18 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Laurentiu Cristofor Quote
I just acquired a Jupiter-9 today. It *is* soft - in fact, it should be the example you find in a dictionary when you're looking up "soft". Mine is made by LZOS. I heard the softness is a design point, not a defect. Anyway, if you're expecting wide open performance similar to the Helios 44, you should skip this one. Sharpness is not its selling point.



If we're moving away from 50/1.4, the SMC Tak 55/1.8 is also pretty sharp at 1.8. I haven't used the M50/1.7, so I can't comment on that, but from what I read about it, I'm surprised you find it soft wide open.



Yes, interesting. Focusing with an 85@1.4 is more challenging than focusing a 50@1.4 - it's interesting you get better results with the 85. I don't have the Samyang, but a friend has just ordered it, so I'll finally get a chance to see how sharp it is. I'm really curious if it is indeed sharp wide open - from reviews, it doesn't seem amazingly sharp.
Yes, that would be what is considered to be as soft. other than the soft lenses.

the 50mm lenses that I find sharp at wide open are the Super Tak, 55/1.4, 50/1.7, Voightlander 58, 55/1.8 and f2, and of course the 50mm macros.
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