When Sigma released their 85mm Art late in 2016, it was a hit. They were flying off the shelves, and even today, it is hard to keep in stock. This hasn't stopped Sigma though. They announced 4 new lenses at CP+ in late February. We were lucky enough to get the new 135mm f/1.8 Art for a few days to test out.
At first look, the Sigma looks and feels like their other Art Primes. It is well built, the focus ring is smooth and has a nice amount of resistance to it. The focus mechanism features Sigma's floating system, and it is perfectly happy on high resolution cameras. Like the 85mm Art, the 135mm Art features the updated HSM motor, which has 1.3x more torque to help move the big elements.
The only other 135mm lens we had at the time of testing was the Canon 135mm f/2L. With the Sigma being a Canon mount, we decided to do some comparisons between the two.
Often times, Sigma's Art series lenses are less expensive than the comparable CaNikon offerings. This time it's not the case. The Canon 135mm f/2L is only $999, while the Sigma is $1,399. The Nikon DC 135mm f/2D comes in at about $7 less than the Sigma. It should be noted though, that both the Canon and Nikon are 11 years old.
Sharpness & Close Focus
The close focusing distance for the 2 lenses is almost identical, with the Sigma being able to focus about 1.5 inches closer. Below are 2 photos taken of a yard-stick using the Sigma, then the Canon (images were only cropped vertically):
I decided to grab 2 quick shots of a brick wall wide open with both lenses. No profile corrections applied as Lightroom doesn't have it available yet for the Sigma, but vignetting is pretty similar for both lenses (hoods attached). When looking at images taken with a Canon 5D Mark IV, the Sigma definitely has an advantage in both center and corner sharpness wide open.
Depth of Field:
Distance from the left-most crayon to the right was about 3 inches deep.
Like the rest of the Sigma Art primes, this lens is designed to be sharp wide open. There are plenty of lenses out there that are f/1.8, f/1.4, and even f/1.2 that seem appealing, but don't perform too well wide open and often times need to be stopped down to f/2.2-f/2.8.
Induro ballhead box - original and extreme crop.
While shooting at f/1.8 the majority of the time, none of the images looked soft, though many shooters may want to stop down simply to increase the depth of field. When shooting wide open the lens has an extremely narrow depth of field. I ended up with several shots where the tip of the eyelashes were in focus, but the eyes themselves were slightly out of focus.
When shooting directly into the sun, I managed to get 1 or 2 photos out of about 50 where there was some flaring. But unless you're shooting extremely backlit portraits all the time, it's not something to worry about. I personally rarely shoot backlit portraits, but with a closed road and a setting sun, decided to fire off some test shots.
The majority of shooting was done with a Canon 5D Mark IV, and a few test photos were taken on an 80D. The speed and accuracy of the autofocus on both the Sigma and Canon 135mm's was essentially identical in our testing. When going back and forth between 3 objects (1 @ ~4ft, 1@ 20ft, and 1 @ 200ft) in random fashion, the lenses focused fast and there was no back and forth hunting when focusing at close distances. The only time I had issues with focus locking on was when I was when shooting some extremely backlit portraits. Most of the time it would lock on fairly quickly, but a few times it would hunt back and forth until I repositioned myself and hid the sun behind the subject or some branches. Using the focus limiter switch to reduce the amount of focus hunting helped the Sigma focus a bit faster. In lower light conditions the Sigma had no issue grabbing focus, but that can vary quite a bit across different Canon/Nikon bodies.
Other Sample Photos:
This lens is not for everyone, especially at $1,400. A 135mm prime may not be the ideal lens for a lot of shooters, especially when you have a lot more versatility with a 70-200mm lens. But, for those that shoot with primes, and want a little more reach, this lens is definitely a solid choice. The sharpness is right there with Sigma's 85mm f/1.4 Art, which has a spot at the top of DxOMark's charts. If you're looking for a portrait/wedding/street lens that will melt any background, focus both quickly and accurately, and can product razor sharp images - the Sigma 135mm f/1.8 Art is definitely a lens to keep an eye on.
It will be interesting to see what Canon and Nikon will do in the coming year(s), and whether or not they will update their 135mm offerings. Maybe Tamron will surprise us all and introduce a 135mm f/1.8 VC? One thing is for sure - Sigma is sitting on top of the battle of 135's.
To Pre-Order the Sigma 135mm f/1.8 Art - click below. Estimated shipping date: 4/7/17
To view these images and more in higher resolution, click HERE