Sigma 85 1.4 Art vs Sigma 85 1.4 HSM ( old model ) – on D810 – What am I doing wrong ??
So – I recently received my Sigma 85 1.4 Art after a 1 month waiting time as the supply is low and they sell like hot bread. In fact I have been waiting for this lens way before it was even announced. I’ve been a very happy owner of the old Sigma 85 for the past 3 years, shooting it extensively at 1.4 and found it to be EXTREMELY sharp and all in all a great lens.
In fact pretty much ALL of my images found here were shot with the 85 and ALL of them are shot at 1.4 ( except of course from the ultrawide images which were shot with the 16-35 VR ).
I have also been using the 35 Art every since it came out, I had 2 copies and both of them were absolutely insanely sharp and precise so I was very very anxious to get my hands on the 85 Art.
My first impression ( apart from the sheer amazement of how MASSIVE it is ) was that it’s pretty nice and naturally I wanted to see how it performs compared to my old one. I currently own 2 Nikon D3 bodies and a D810 which ( as opposed to what other users say ) I find a slower and less snappier and precise in focus then my D3 so I am not using it much ( in fact I mostly use it for video and verrrry rarely I take it out from some product/food shots where resolution and DR are more needed ). So getting the big boy on my D3 I really couldn’t tell a big difference between the Art and the EX one. Looking at the reviews, the MTF charts show that the Art lens should demolish the old 85 in terms of sharpness. I first thought it’s a matter of resolution so I figured if it truly is a resolution difference between the 2 lens – it should be more obvious on my D810 so I developed some ( unscientific tests ).
Got my D810 on a sturdy tripod, mounted both lens – and did some tests. Center performance, and both left and right edges, not quite in the vert extremes but where I usually get my subject’s eye when I shoot vertical portraits. All were shot in RAW ( + JPG ) – what you are seeing are 100% RAW crops from Lightroom with no adjustments made whatsoever. I am only interested in the 1.4 results because that’s how I roll, and this is pretty much why we pay the price for the fast glass.
So what do we have here ? The Artsy is on the left, and the old EX is on the right side of the image. All of them are at 1.4 – focusing was done on the text area below the laptop photo. You can actually see the thumbs and figure out what’s what but just in case :
1 – the “big” picture
2 – center 100% crop
3 – some bokeh circles from my decorated tree in the back ( I only have cold blue lights in my christmas tree – so go argue with my wife if you wanted some other colors 😀 )
4 – right 100% crop
5 – left 100% crop
( Btw you do have the option of seeing the full-size photo which is a 2560 x 1600 screenshot ).
Center wise – apart from the obvious purple tint/fringe on the EX lens ( they are famous for it but it’s pretty easy to remove in LR ) – I am REALLY hard pressed to see much “detail” differences between the two. There is a tiny different if you look at the small harddrive image next to the laptop – the drive enclosure has some “dots” that are more visible on the left photo. However I focused on the text area but the box looked pretty straight and flat, and so the whole box should be in the focus area… anyway the difference is not that big. Online figures show that in center the old Sigma reaches about 30 lpmm and the Art should hit about 42 lpmm – that’s quite a big difference and I don’t see it in the images.
The edges though should a more obvious difference but still nothing earth shattering.
To make things a bit more interesting I have also included the Samyang 85 1.4 – which I love. I know it’s softer but it’s really a gem to use on video. Here’s a center crop of the Sammy compared to the Art ( as usual Art is on the left ) 🙂
Here the difference is pretty obvious and there’s no need to go any further ( also don’t ask about the edges difference 😛 ).
So, one thing is certain – I have a VERY GOOD copy of the old EX 85 lens.
Question is now, do I have a slightly softer 85 Art ?? Is this the best there is ?
Am I doing something wrong with the testing ? In real world shots I really cannot tell any difference between the two, especially on my beloved and trusted D3.
What exactly is making the Art so damn HUGE, heavy and expensive ?
Are we paying for some marginal edge performance increase at the expense of such size increase ?
I still have about 1 week to decide if I return the Art or not, and it’s pretty hard for me to try and find another copy to see if I have a lemnon ( it doesn’t seem like one tho ).
Unrelated to the actual test, here are a few shots taken earlier today ( D3 + 85 Art @ 1.4 – JPG, STD Profile with sharpness set to 3 and everything else on default ).