SIGMA 105MM F1.4 DG HSM ART
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.