As we were discussing the performance of the Sigma 135mm Art lens with N.J. photographer and director David Patiño, he repeated an observation he made recently when shooting with a number of new third-party lenses. These vendors, he says, “have really stepped up their game. They no longer need to be judged by a different standard.”
The 135mm f/1.8 Art lens fills a fairly unusual niche in the market and, interestingly, commands a slightly higher price tag than one of its brand-name competitors (though that lens is an f/2). Is it worth it?
This new prime lens features an acceleration sensor which detects the orientation of the lens—information which is used by the AF system to compensate for speedier, more accurate performance. There’s also a focus limiter and full-time manual focus override.
Like other models in the Art line, the 135mm’s mount is dust and splash proof. The lens has a minimum focusing distance of 34.4 inches and a maximum magnification of 1:5. Its nine aperture blades stop down to f/16. It’s compatible with Sigma’s USB dock for firmware updates and supports Sigma’s mount conversion service. It’s available for Canon and Nikon DSLRs.
The 135mm lens carries the Art line’s sleek design with a large focus ring that turns smoothly. As you’d expect, it’s a weighty chunk of glass, though we appreciated the weather sealing.
“It’s a heavy lens. Don’t expect to be hand-holding it very long,” Patiño says. Indeed, the Sigma is heavier than both Canon and Nikon’s 135mm f/2 lenses.
Image Quality and Performance
Patiño shot portraits with the 135mm on his Canon 5DS outdoors, using natural light, and in a studio setting. He tells us the lens is “razor sharp” at the center at f/1.8 with a beautiful, “creamy” blurred background. Between the contrast and the color, Patiño says even his first shots with the lens told him “it was something special.”
We didn’t spot any signs of chromatic aberration, however vignetting is quite strong when shooting this lens wide open. Patiño says the effect wasn’t immediately noticeable when reviewing images on the back of the camera but was quite prominent when the files were brought into Lightroom. Fortunately, the Lightroom lens profile made short work of it. Using that profile also revealed some pincushion distortion (which was also easily removed) at the center of the frame.
However, Patiño says he was more than satisfied with the images the lens produced.
The lens lacks image stabilization, which is unfortunate, though autofocusing was rapid and responsive.
Both Canon and Nikon offer 135mm prime lenses in their portfolio, but both are f/2 and slower than Sigma’s, and neither are weather-sealed. That said, Canon’s lens is less expensive—though Nikon’s has about the same price tag.
We asked Patiño a familiar question when we wrapped up our test—would he buy the lens? His answer was an unequivocal yes. “It’s a phenomenal lens.”
Sigma 135mm Art F/1.8 DG HSM A
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