Sigma 135mm f/1.8 DG HSM | A: A Master of Portraits


Sakshi Parikh tests the Sigma 135mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art to see whether it is able to maintain the superb standards of the Sigma Art lineup. Here’s what she found out.

Sigma 135mm f/1.8 DG HSM | A

The 135mm prime lens is a long-time favorite of portrait photographers, combining the compression of a telephoto lens with the narrow depth-of-field of a fast aperture, resulting in really blurred-out backgrounds. Sigma recently made waves with their long awaited 135mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art lens. The sixth addition in the company’s prime lens Art lineup, the 135mm f/1.8 offers portraitists a second option after the 85mm f/1.4. It features an incredibly fast f/1.8 aperture, setting it apart from its competitors from Nikon, Canon and Zeiss.

The lens is robust. At 1130 grams, the Sigma 135mm f/1.8 with a complex optical construction, makes its competitors like Canon 135mm f/2L feel modest. The 135mm f/1.8 Art wears its size like a badge of honor. The larger, heavier build seems made to last. It has an 82mm filter size to match. The lens features Sigma’s characteristic sleek, matte black finish. The barrel itself is constructed out of Sigma’s proprietary ‘Thermally Stable Composite’ material, which allows for much better manufacturing precision, especially compared to standard polycarbonate plastics.

It features a new large Hyper Sonic Motor (HSM), which has extra torque for quick focusing. In addition, the three step focus limiter makes AF highly responsive to distance from the subject, for an even faster performance.

While shooting at night, this lens tends to give beautiful cinematic results.
1/50sec at f/1.8 (ISO 2000). Photograph/Sakshi Parikh

The build quality of the Sigma 135mm f/1.8 DG HSM is quiet sturdy. Its large focusing ring has a ridged rubberised coating that helps you to get a very good grip on it when manually focusing. When you reach either end of the focusing limit, you will feel a small click in resistance from the lens, which can be useful, especially when using the camera with your eye to the viewfinder. Since the focusing is internal, the front element of the lens doesn’t rotate at all, which is great while using certain kinds of filters… a circular polarising filter, for instance.

Unlike the manual focus Zeiss Milvus 135mm f/2 ZE, this lens has an AF/MF switch on the side. It is accompanied by a round bayonet mounted lenshood. It was a bit loose for my liking.
Its focusing ring rotates up to 160° manually, which makes it beneficial for videographers. The lens features nine curved diaphragm blades to make up its aperture, which produce extremely smooth results for bokeh. The weathersealing in the Sigma 135mm f/1.8 Art is rigorous and it has a dust and splash-proof construction.

It has a maximum magnification of 1:4.3. With a close-focus point of 0.875m, the Sigma 135mm f/1.8 isn’t really a macro lens, although you can use it for typical macro subjects. The Sigma 135mm Art offers a three step focus limiter that is rather useful, considering the larger focus range of this lens.

I used it with my Nikon D800 and it’s almost completely silent when focusing. In lower light levels, the lens can take a little longer to acquire focus, but it’s certainly no more than you would expect and it’s still very usable. This is a very sharp lens indeed, with an astounding level of performance wide open, which only improves when shooting one stop down. Even at wide open at f/1.8, the lens produced virtually no corner softness. It doesn’t have image stabilisation, which can be a problem during slow shutterspeed shots.
Fringing is virtually absent, and flare is controlled. The lens shows slight corner shading when used with its widest aperture. Bokeh is outstanding. It is smooth, rich and the tonal contrast and warm colour rendition that the lens produces adds a three dimensional look.

Both Nikon and Zeiss Milvus have fantastic 135mm f/2 lenses. The Nikon 135mm has an older form of AF and a unique Defocus Control option. The Zeiss Milvus 135mm f/2, although manual, has a high-end build. However, the Sigma 135mm f/1.8 Art has two advantages over the Zeiss— a third of a stop of aperture, and autofocus. On the downside however, the 135mm f/1.8 Art is a large and heavy lens, but with a full frame body, it does not feel so cumbersome.

Priced at Rs. 1,19,000, the Sigma 135mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art is not an inexpensive lens, but for a great build quality, incredible sharpness, and almost zero distortion, the lens is worth every penny.

The Milvus 135mm f/2 is a phenomenal piece of optics, but for Sony Alpha users, Sigma offers a MC-11 mount convertor for Rs. 20,245, which can be used with the 135mm f/1.8 Art for Canon. Hence, apart from being an upgrade from Nikon and Canon, this also puts Sigma on top, along with Zeiss Milvus.

This article originally appeared in the June 2017 issue of Better Photography.

New HyperSonic motor for quick focusing
Super sharpness, excellent bokeh
Build Quality
Sturdy, great amount of weathersealing
Three step focus limiter, useful magnification ratio, large focus throw for greater accuracy
Warranty & Support
Two year warranty, wide service network
MRP Rs. 1,19,000
Who should buy it? Portrait specialists and wedding photographers who use high-resolution full frame DSLRs.
Why? Optics are better than all else, extremely fast autofocus and superb sharpness.


Tags: Review, Sigma, Lens, better photography, Sakshi parikh, June 2017, Sigma 135mm f/1.8 DG HSM | A