Sigma 135mm 1.8 Review – by C.S. Muncy

C.S. MuncyC.S. Muncy is a New York City-based freelance photojournalist with a client list that includes The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Newsday, The New York Daily News and The Village Voice. His work has also appeared in Time Magazine, The Smithsonian Magazine and Wired Japan. In 2012, he was selected for the 25th Eddie Adams Workshop, received the NPPA Short Course Travel Grant and won first prize in the National Geographic/Nikon “Full Story” photo contest. A graduate of the Defense Information School, he enlisted in the United States Air Force in 2002 and is currently a combat correspondent with the 106th Rescue Wing.

Sigma 35mm 1.8

Telephoto lenses are a necessary part of any photographer’s kit. Robert Capa famously said that “if your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough,” and while there’s an element of truth to it you can’t always get as close as you’d like.

In the past, shooters often had to choose between prime or zooms — with primes offering slightly sharper imagery and wider apertures or slightly softer zooms with narrower apertures. More recently, the optical formulas used on zoom lenses have gotten remarkably better, but the aperture is almost always stuck at 2.8. If you’re shooting in low-light environments or need a narrower depth of field, you may want to consider shooting prime.

There have been a number of lenses released over the last few years, including the Zeiss 135mm f2 and Nikon 105mm 1.4, both of which I’ve written about for the Brigade. A few weeks ago, Sigma sent me a sample of their newest 135mm 1.8 Art lens for testing.

Sigma 35mm 1.8

When the 35mm 1.4 Art first came out, I was blown away. In terms of image quality, build, and ease of use, it was one of the best lenses in my kit. The Art-series lenses that followed continued to impress me — and their newest lens has been no exception.

BUILD

Right out of the box, the lens leaves an impression. Easily the largest of the Art series of lenses, the metal barrel and large front element (82mm thread) feels solid. At 2.5 lbs., the lens is slightly heaver than the Nikon 105mm 1.4. The bayonet-mount hood fixes firmly in place, and even during heavy use, doesn’t easily come loose.

One issue I found was that the autofocus switch on the side can sometimes be accidentally triggered if you’re not paying attention. Like many of my other lenses, I simply applied some gaffers tape over it, solving the issue.

SHARPNESS

Like previous Sigma Art-series lenses, the 135mm 1.8 is absurdly sharp. During the New York City Pride march, I used the lens to isolate individuals from the rest of the crowd. The narrow aperture and super-sharp optics worked perfectly for this type of photo. Because the lens is letting in a ton of light, I’d suggest picking up a nice CPL or ND filter, particularly if you’re shooting on a prosumer or consumer level camera. Pro-grade cameras like the D4 or D5 have faster shutter speeds, allowing you to shoot wide open, even during bright days.

New York City Celebrates Pride

POSITIVES

– Half the price of the Nikon 105mm 1.4, the closest comparable AF lens
– Like other Sigma Art lenses, the optics are extremely sharp
– Well built body capable of taking a beating

PROBLEMS

– I found the AF-switch easy to accidentally engage/disengage
– Large filter thread.

CONCLUSION

If you’re looking to save some weight and space in your kit, you could do much worse than this lens. The optics are extremely sharp, it’s well built and half the cost of the competition.

New York City Celebrates Pride

 

New York City Celebrates Pride

New York City Celebrates Pride

New York City Celebrates Pride

New York City Celebrates Pride

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