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In this quick review of the Sigma 135mm f1.8 Art Lens, I will go over some of its features and give you my overall impression of this lens.
I belong to several photography groups, both online as well as within my local area, and often times when we meet, we end up talking about our gear. Conversations typically revolve around the gear we have, what we would like to have, and what we want to sell off. On several occasions, I have heard my fellow photographers talk about the Sigma Art series of lenses. They always start the conversation with, “Oh, I absolutely love my Sigma Art lens. The bokeh is so dreamy!” Now, I am a Canon shooter – always have been and always will be. But that does not mean that every once in a while, I don’t like to test out gear from other companies to compare performance, specifications, and price.
So when I had the opportunity to test out the Sigma 135mm 1.8 DG HSM Art lens, I jumped at the chance. I spent about three weeks with this lens and used it for a variety of photography assignments – both indoors and outdoors. Here is my review based on my personal experiences with this lens.
As per Sigma’s website, the Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG HSM Art is a medium range telephoto prime lens designed for modern high-megapixel DSLRs. A new large Hyper Sonic Motor (HSM) delivers ample torque to the focusing group for outstanding speed, ensuring exceptionally stable performance even at lower speeds. This state-of-the-art prime lens touts a dust and splash proof mount for guaranteed performance in any condition and its large 1.8 aperture allows for more creative control over imagery.
My telephoto lens of choice is my Canon EF 70-200L lens. It’s heavy and bulky but gives me some of the best picture quality in its class. Compared to that lens, the 135mm felt lightweight and comfortable to carry around all day. Being a fixed lens, there are no moving parts, unlike the zoom ring on the 70-200mm. While this meant that I had to move around to get shots at various distances, it was not an inconvenience. I just used pretended to have a zoom lens by moving my feet!
The lens looks very sharp and clean. The smooth matte black finish of the lens gives it a certain visual appeal. The build quality is very clean and it feels like a solid piece of glass. The lens is a little heavy (at about 2.56 pounds or 1.2 kg) but if you are used to walking around with other telephoto lenses, it’s not any different compared to using those.
The legendary quality of having the dreamiest bokeh is very true with this lens. It is super sharp even when shooting absolutely wide open. I typically shoot very wide opened with all my Canon L-lenses which fits my style of photography. The aperture of f/2.0 is my personal sweet spot – the one that I really trust to give me a shallow depth of field and dreamy bokeh (blurry background). This lens did not disappoint at my favorite f-stop.
But even at f/1.8 (the widest aperture on the Sigma 135mm), the lens was tack sharp with very shallow depth of field. Once it was stopped down to f/16, there was some softness on the edges of the frame but it’s not very prominent. With a lens of this quality, the best aperture would be between f/1.8 to f/4 (in my opinion) to get the best of the shallow depth of field and bokeh that we all love.
The Sigma 135mm at f/1.8 Art Lens showed slight edge vignetting when shot wide open. But for my style of photography, it’s minimal and nothing I could not fix in post-processing. I was very impressed with the number of tack sharp images that I could keep even when I used the lens completely wide open at f/1.8.
The image above left was shot at ISO 200, f/2.0 and on the right, the same scene was shot at ISO 200, f/9. There is no visible softness or vignetting at either aperture. The bokeh at f/2.0 is so dreamy (shallow depth of field) and at f/9 more of the background is visible.
The Sigma 135mm has an electronic hypersonic motor. This makes the autofocus very fast and smooth. I found that the lens locked focus easily and did not hunt while focusing. The AF motor was also relatively quiet and smooth as compared to other telephoto lenses like the Canon 85mm f/1.2L II USM that is really slow while hunting for focus in the AF mode.
While the Sigma 135mm is not described as a macro lens, it did offer 0.2x magnification with a minimum focusing distance of just under three feet. Since I have a dedicated macro lens that I use for my detail shots, I did not pay much attention to this feature. However, in a pinch, this lens could be used to provide some magnification.
Overall I was really very impressed with the Sigma 135mm 1.8 DG HSM Art lens. It is a superbly built piece of gear that was incredibly fast, easy to carry, handle, and use.
The only thing I needed to get used to was the fact that it was a prime lens and not a zoom, unlike my favorite 70-200mm telephoto lens. This meant I had to move around to get shots at different angles and different focal lengths, but I don’t consider that a con. Instead, I feel that shooting with a prime lens makes you more careful and thoughtful about your compositions since you have to physically move around to get a diverse range of shots.
The Sigma 135mm lens is definitely something to look into if you are in the market for a good quality telephoto lens.