The Fi­nal­ists: EBC Fu­ji­non XF 200mm f2.0 RLM OIS WR, Sigma 105mm f1.4 DG HSM Art, Samyang AF 14mm f2.8 EF/F, Samyang XP 50mm f1.4,


Such is the amount of ac­tiv­ity hap­pen­ing in in­ter­change­able lenses that, as with last year, both our lens cat­e­gories are again the most hotly con­tested of any in these awards. It was a chal­lenge to even get down to a work­able short­list… which, in­evitably, again in­cluded a Sigma Art lens. And when one of these is in con­tention, things get very harder for ev­ery­body else, such are the ex­cep­tion­ally high stan­dard set for both op­ti­cal per­for­mance, me­chan­i­cal dura­bil­ity, en­hanced by the com­par­a­tive af­ford­abil­ity.

So this year… yes, an­other Sigma Art lens wins and, as it hap­pens, it’s per­haps one of the best yet. The 105mm f1.4 com­bines a sur­pris­ingly ver­sa­tile fo­cal length with a su­per-fast max­i­mum aper­ture, mak­ing it the ideal lens for ap­pli­ca­tions such as por­trai­ture and as­tropho­tog­ra­phy. The in­her­ently shal­low depth-offield at f1.4 al­lows for the cre­ative use of se­lec­tive fo­cus­ing, with a cream­ily smooth and lin­ear tran­si­tion from the in-fo­cus ar­eas to the out-of-fo­cus ar­eas. The op­ti­cal de­sign op­ti­mises sharp­ness, con­trast and bright­ness across the image frame, while also min­imis­ing dis­tor­tion and aber­ra­tions. The op­ti­cal con­struc­tion com­prises 17 el­e­ments in 12 groups and six of these are spe­cial types, in­clud­ing three made from FLD (‘F’ Low Dis­per­sion) op­ti­cal glass and two made from SLD (Spe­cial Low Dis­per­sion) glass to min­imise ax­ial chro­matic aber­ra­tions. The FLD el­e­ments have been for­mu­lated to give sim­i­lar anoma­lous dis­per­sion char­ac­ter­is­tics as flu­o­rite types.

The ex­ter­nal con­struc­tion em­ploys metal bar­rel tubes with full seal­ing against the in­tru­sion of dust or mois­ture, with a rub­ber gas­ket around the lens mount. The mount it­self is machined from solid brass to en­sure long-term pre­ci­sion and dura­bil­ity. Ad­di­tion­ally, the ex­posed sur­face of the front el­e­ment has a spe­cial coat­ing to help bet­ter re­pel wa­ter and grease. The lens hood is made from CFRP (car­bon­fi­bre reen­forced plas­tic) to re­duce weight with­out com­pro­mis­ing strength, and the de­tach­able tri­pod-mount­ing col­lar has an Arca-Swiss type plate which is com­pat­i­ble with a wide se­lec­tion of plat­forms and clamps. Yes, it has a tri­pod mount col­lar be­cause it’s a big and heavy lens… but no pain, no gain.

While the de­sign and specs cer­tainly look im­pres­sive on pa­per, it’s how it all trans­lates into a su­perla­tive image qual­ity that makes the 105mm f1.4 Art a win­ner. The uni­for­mity of sharp­ness across the frame is ex­cep­tional, even at f1.4 and the same is true of bright­ness with very min­i­mal fall-off when shoot­ing wide-open. Ex­cel­lent con­trast fur­ther en­hances the crisp def­i­ni­tion of even very fine de­tails. Ax­ial chro­matic aber­ra­tions are ef­fec­tively min­imised and there’s no dis­tor­tion to speak of. Sagit­tal coma flare is vir­tu­ally non-ex­is­tent, en­sur­ing point light sources are ren­dered as points, which is very good news for as­tropho­tog­ra­phers. In brighter con­di­tions, flare is well con­trolled and the out-of-fo­cus ef­fects are sim­ply beau­ti­ful which has earned this lens the ep­i­thet of “The Bokeh Mas­ter”. It’s a ti­tle that’s well-earned… as is this award.

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