Sigma 105mm f/1.4 – First Impressions

Sigma 105mm f/1.4 for Nikon – First Impressions

My very first prime lens was a Nikon 50mm f/1.8 lens, but, as a portrait photographer I’ve always wanted a prime f/1.4 lens. And so this past year, I spent months researching, considering and reconsidering my options. While there’re several prime f/1.4 lenses ideal for portrait photography, I decided that I wanted to focus on the 105mm f/1.4mm lens.

As a Nikon (shooter for a decade and counting) I first thought of the Nikon 105mm f/1.4 lens, but its price tag (almost $2,200) made me at least try to consider other options. But there were none. At the time the Nikon 105mm f/1.4 prime was the only one of its kind. Then I found out that Sigma was about to come out with a prime lens (105mm f/1.4) for Nikon, Canon, and then Sony. And so I waited, patiently.

Sigma 105mm f/1.4 for Nikon on tripod. Photo by Alina Oswald.

Sigma 105mm f/1.4 for Nikon on tripod. Photo by Alina Oswald. #iPhoneography. #iPhone7Plus.

Towards the end of last year, the new Sigma 105mm f/1.4 finally became available, first for Nikon and Canon, and soon afterwards for Sony. I spent even more time researching, comparing the two–Nikon and Sigma 105mm f/1.4. I watched online videos, read forums and reviews, talked to experts at Photo Plus and B&H, and so on.

Sigma 105mm f/1.4 for Nikon on tripod. Photo by Alina Oswald. All Rights Reserved.

Nikon body with Sigma 105mm f/1.4 on tripod. Photo by Alina Oswald. All Rights Reserved. Note: All images of the lens/accessories taken with my iPhone.

Two things stood out in particular:

Nikon 105mm f/1.4: about $2,200 and 2.2 lb (almost 1kg)

Sigma 105mm f/1.4: about $1,600 and 3.62lb (just over 1.6kg)

To be honest, making a decision regarding which lens became a debilitating task. It really frustrated me that I could not, for the life of me, make up my mind. My question was: if the quality was comparable, would the 1.42 lb (or 600g) [approx. 1.5 lb or 05. kg] justify the $600 difference? Honestly, I still can’t answer that question, since I couldn’t try out both lenses myself….

The Nikon cost, still costs, a fortune and I couldn’t, still can’t, quite justify (or afford) paying over two grand for a lens. The Sigma was/is less expensive, but still a small fortune. Also, reviews seemed to show that there’re two main teams: the pro-Sigma team and the pro-Nikon team.

So, I decided to wait even longer and continue my research, while also hoping for a discount. That meant, I had to wait until the holiday season.

Then it happened. Around the holiday season, while there were still no discounts in sight for the Nikon lens, Sigma offered a $100 off. B&H, being B&H (and for good and many reasons my favorite camera and lighting gear store) included even more goodies in addition to the $100 off. I ended up buying the Sigma 105mm f/1.4 for Nikon with Sigma adapter (and also a 105mm Sigma filter ) from B&H, making good use of the $100 off offer, free expedited shipping, and also my B&H coupon.

 

Sigma 105mm f/1.4 for Nikon with accessories. Photo by Alina Oswald. All Rights Reserved.

Sigma 105mm f/1.4 for Nikon with accessories–lens hood, rubber band (to use when the tripod collar is removed, and tool). Photo by Alina Oswald. All Rights Reserved.

So, here are my first thoughts on my new Sigma 105mm f/1.4 lens :

  • it’s heavy! get a wristband or wrist support of some sort for both hands if possible and especially for longer photo shoots
  • it’s a 105mm lens, but does, indeed, have a tripod collar that can be somewhat in the way, when shooting hand held; the collar can be removed
  • the lens hood does not screw in around the lens, like most lens hoods do; rather you have to tighten a screw (see image) to hold the hood in place, tight around the lens
  • it looks like a small, chunky, telescope
  • it slows you down, but I think that’s not a bad thing, because it makes you think and think twice as you photograph
  • it can change the way you go about photographing, to start off, because you have to (re)learn how to zoom on your feet (Sigma 105mm f/1.4, just like Nikon 105mm f/1.4 is a prime lens); note: do watch where you step while zooming in/out and photographing, it does take some getting (re)used to
  • it can change the way you go about cropping in camera, in part because it’s a prime lens and requires all that zooming in/out mentioned above
  • in a (good) way, it can change the “look” of your work
  • it’s a fabulous portrait lens
  • it’s super sharp, omg! sharp (to use a “technical” term, lol!) but, again, it takes some getting used to in order to nail that focus; one drawback: because it’s a heavy lens, if you shoot handheld, your hand might start shaking, hence, it might be challenging to nail the focus
  • it’s called “bokeh master” for a good reason; especially when used at f/1.4 it melts away distractions in the background, but not necessarily the harsh differences between shadows and highlights or colors…something to keep in mind
Sigma 105mm f/1.4 for Nikon lens comparison. Photo by Alina Oswald.

Sigma 105mm f/1.4 for Nikon lens comparison. Photo by Alina Oswald. L-R: Sigma 105mm f/1.4; Nikon 28-300mm; Tamron 24-70mm

  • because of its phenomenal bokeh, especially when shooting at f/1.4, the lens does a phenomenal job separating the subject from the background and focusing (and I mean, really focusing) on specific detail(s) on the said subject
  • like its Nikon equivalent, the Sigma 105mm f/1.4 is, after all, a medium telephoto lens; therefore, while for portrait photography in particular it’s awesome when used at f/1.4, it also works just fine stopped down all the way to f/16. Give it a try!
  • another thing worth mentioning: the lens diameter is 105mm! Do buy a 105mm UV filter to protect this lens! These are expensive filters, but better safe than sorry.
Sigma 105mm UV filter. Photo by Alina Oswald.

Sigma 105mm UV filter case. Photo by Alina Oswald.

Sigma 105mm UV filter. Photo by Alina Oswald.

Sigma 105mm UV filter case. Photo by Alina Oswald.

So far I’ve tested the Sigma 105mm f/1.4 lens around the house and on a few assignments, outdoors, and mostly hand held. And one thing is for sure, the longer you use it, the ‘heavier’ it seems to get. Yeah….

While I’ll post more about actual shots and photo shoots with the Sigma 105mm f/1.4, for now here are a few test shots from this past holiday season:

tree decorations and NYC seen through the Christmas decorations

And also, remember when I mentioned that at f/1.4 background details (aka, kitchen cabinets) melt away, but the bright colors (on the fridge) do not:

Test shoot with Sigma 104mm f/1.4 for Nikon. December 2018. Photo by Alina Oswald.

Test shoot with Sigma 105mm f/1.4 for Nikon. December 2018. Photo by Alina Oswald. The kitchen cabinets in the background are blurred to pieces, while the calendar and magnets on the side of the fridge are almost completely blurred, yet still keep their bright colors.

While I can’t share, just yet, all the images I’ve shot with the Sigma 105mm f/1.4, here’s a peek from my photo shoot with author Hans M. Hirschi in Battery Park, NYC (btw, check out his books, they’re a must read!):

More on test shoots with Sigma 105mm f/1.4 and anything related to it coming up soon.

Meanwhile and as always, thank you for stopping by!

Alina Oswald

Updates: I promised to share a few more images taken with  the Sigma 105mm f/1.4. Now I can. Check out my interview and photo shoot with Reverend Yolanda published in A&U Magazine–America’s AIDS Magazine for a few more examples of portraits taken with the bokeh master.

More updates: Next step is to calibrate my Sigma 105mm ART lens. For that, the Sigma adapter comes in handy. For those interested, it looks like the one in the image (right). Check it out!

 

  1. Hi Aline
    Also just bought the Sigma 105mm over the Nikon 85mm 1.4 (Which I have just sold)..
    I agree with you on most of your observations – LOL – yes it seems to get heavier and heavier.
    Normally, despite an age of 61, I can still do handheld shot lover than 1/100 without VR, but this lens requires some exercise…
    Looking forward to have my first studio session with this lens – until now the sharpest lens has been the 85mm and sometimes the 50mm Sigma art, but I expect the 105 to exceed both of them.

    Like

    Reply

    1. Hi Ole,

      Thanks so much for your note! Appreciate it, and, yes, I do agree with you. This lens does require some exercise, multitasking, too. I plan on posting more on Sigma 105mm 1.4 as I get to use it more to photograph a variety of subjects in studio and on location. Hope you enjoy your experience with “the bokeh master” :-). Thanks again for your comment!

      Like

      Reply

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