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Nikon 85mm f1.8G vs Sigma 85mm 1.4 ART | For Photographers

December 15, 2016

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This is going to be a Nikon 85 f.18G vs Sigma 85mm 1.4 ART comparison, but I wanted to give you guys the back story on this one.

Nikon 85mm f1.8G vs Sigma 85mm 1.4 ART

Just Like Christmas

Since it’s almost Christmas I figured this would be a good analogy. You remember what it was like when you were a kid, and you asked Santa for that ONE thing-let’s say it was a bicycle. You waited what felt like years for this bicycle, and once you finally got it, it was like a dream!! That’s kind of how I felt when Sigma announced their long anticipated 85mm 1.4 ART lens. SO many photographers love Sigma’s ART line, and SO many had been desperately wanting that 85mm ART lens that it was only time until they finally listened. And they did! I pre-ordered the lens in the end of October. I found out that they weren’t going to be released until November so I waited. And I waited. And I waited longer. I canceled my order because the buyers remorse started to set in. About a week later, I pre-ordered the lens again, just thinking that I really NEEDED that lens. It was about mid-November by then and they STILL hadn’t been sending them out. I was irritated. It was like holding out for your Christmas bicycle, only to find out Christmas morning, that Santa wasn’t coming until Valentine’s day. That cycle went on for a while, and finally I had too much.

I kept doing research trying to find ANYONE who had gotten a hold of the Sigma lens. You can find a few of the big names out there who had done youtube videos of their short 5 minutes they had with the lens at a Photo Show, but nothing really breaking it down to show me that the Sigma was going to out-perform my Nikon that I already had (and for a lot less money, mind you). The more I looked online with little luck, the more anxious I was getting. I pre-ordered the lens AGAIN, and then checked with to see if by some crazy chance they had it. I WAS IN LUCK.

I ordered the lens for a rental on a weekend that I had two engagement shoots. I knew I could get quite a bit of work out of the lens and was SO excited.

Here it is– Nikon 85mm f1.8G vs Sigma 85mm 1.4 ART.

Bad New Bears

The more research I did on the Sigma lens, the more I read about how the lens HAD to be calibrated out of the box. The few personal reviews I did find told me that much. If you have any of the Sigma ART lenses, you may or may not have had issues with them front/back focusing, but Sigma thought they would help us all out and the released a cute little dock that helps you re-calibrate your lens on your own. It takes time, and a little bit of experimenting if you don’t know what you’re doing, but with some helpful Youtube videos, it can be done!

The Sigma 85 ART arrived at my house, and I was SO dang excited. I cut through the “happiness starts on this end” tape, and pulled the lens out of the bag.

First impression: IT’S A BEAST!!!!! I didn’t get a shot of it next to anything. I didn’t even take a photo of it. But it’s HUGE. I carry my 70-200 around pretty often, and I felt like this thing was clunky and just odd. Especially for a prime lens.

So, first impression was not so good. My next step was to calibrate the lens to my camera. I had been calibrating my Sigma 35 and 50 ART earlier that day so luckily I was already set up! I worked my magic, and about an hour later I was set. I should add that in my Sigma Calibration Pro app, I had to set almost all 4 calibrations locations to anywhere from -8 to -17. On a scale from +20 to -20, i didn’t think that was great. If you have no idea what i’m talking about, then just bypass this paragraph. I’ll just add, it wasn’t consistenly off. It wasn’t off -15 everywhere. It was frustrating, but once I got it calibrated, it was LOADS better than it was out of the box.

This Is Where The Magic Happens

Do you guys remember Cribs on MTV, like back before MTV was dumb and lame? HA!  I remember watching MTV cribs and they would always say “this is where the magic happens…” whenever they showed off their bedroom *gag*….This time by “magic”, I mean taking photos…of people…..wait…..this isn’t getting any better.

Like I said before, I rented the Sigma on a weekend that I knew I would get a lot of use out of it! I had two engagement sessions and I LOVE using the 85 focal length, so I just made a point to use that one more than not.

E Sesh 1

My first engagement session with the Sigma went well! The couple was adorable, the lens focuses pretty quickly considering how freaking HUGE it is! It isn’t quite as quick as my Nikon, but it’s got a lot more glass to move around too. It’s not very loud as it’s focusing either, which is a plus for me. I didn’t get the chance to shoot with both the Sigma and the Nikon during my first session, mostly because we were FREEZING and I was trying to be quick so my bride didn’t freeze completely. I used the Sigma 85 ART on my camera almost the entire shoot and it performed pretty well.

Or so I thought.

Once I got back home and put the images on my computer, I realized that the photos were sharp. YES. I can say that the Sigma lives up to the sharpness of the ART line. But I wasn’t getting very consistent focus on my images. It was sharp, but I found that even after my calibration, my focus was kind of hit or miss. Now this could be for a variety of different reasons, I’m aware, but it was a bit concerning for me. During the shoot, I also didn’t shoot very often at f1.4.

Here’s one of the images I shot at f1.4.

Walla Walla Engagement session Pioneer Park Jorden and Jeanette

That super dreamy depth of field, but it also made it so her hair is in focus, but not her face. Then I remembered that I hardly shoot at 1.4 with the lenses I do have. Hmmm…..So could I really warrant spending another $900 for a lens that I wouldn’t be using at it’s full capacity…more on this later.

Walla Walla Engagement session Pioneer Park Jorden and Jeanette

This one was at f2. Still a SUPER creamy background, but nothing my Nikon couldn’t do.

Nikon 85mm f1.8G vs Sigma 85mm 1.4 ART

Another at f2….I did notice that the chromatic aberration was quite a bit better than I would have expected from some of my other lenses.

So first impression shooting with the lens: it was quick. It seemed to focus fast enough, I didn’t notice any crazy glitches. It was big, but like I mentioned, I’m used to my 70-200, so that wasn’t a deal breaker for me. Second impression: I was almost SCARED to shoot it below 1.8. That may just have been a deal breaker.

E Sesh 2

This second engagement session was a little better planned on my part. What I didn’t plan on was having crazy gale-force winds to prevent us from shooting our desired location. Luckily, we were able to get into the trees a bit and the wind practically disappeared. That was great! We also had some awesome light creeping in through the trees, so I knew I HAD to use both my Sigma and Nikon to see the different between the two.

Let see some comparisons. I like games. I’ll put two photos up, you guess which one is which lens.

Nikon 85mm f1.8G vs Sigma 85mm 1.4 ART comparison

That’s a tough one, right?

So before I give away the goods….think about this. The Nikon 85mm f1.8G lens goes for $426 right now on Amazon. The Sigma 85mm f1.4 ART lens goes for $1200 on Amazon. But look at those two images and tell me which one is which. Now I know people are always suspicious so i’ll post a screen shot from Lightroom for your answer.

Nikon 85mm f1.8G vs Sigma 85mm 1.4 ART comparison

Just pardon my lightroom being funky with the info…But did you guess right? Honestly, I didn’t. I keep thinking my image on the right is the Sigma, but it’s not. I was kind of floored when I started making the comparisons. I also fell more in love with my Nikon 85 1.8. It is such a quick little lens that really get’s the job done. I was impressed.

Nikon 85mm f1.8G vs Sigma 85mm 1.4 ART comparisonHere’s another good one. Which is which? 🙂

Nikon 85mm f1.8G vs Sigma 85mm 1.4 ART comparison I did notice that the sigma shot just a touch warmer than my Nikon. I figured that would happen because my 35 and 50 which are both sigma also shoot warmer than my Nikon lenses. I like warm images. But did you guess right with those ones?!

Ok…Wrap It Up Misty. Nikon 85mm f1.8G vs Sigma 85mm 1.4 ART.

How can I say this nicely? The Sigma 85 ART fell short for me. I had anticipated this lens for years. I WANTED to love this thing. I wanted to spend all my money on it. I really love my 35 and 50 and I just wanted this lens to be great. But it just wasn’t great enough. My Nikon lens isn’t a 1.4. Honestly, I’ve rented the Nikon 1.4 and compared it to my 1.8 as well, and didn’t get that one either. Nikon made a PHENOMENAL 1.8 lens that compares too well with the 1.4 lens. Maybe it’s the focal length. Who knows? But personally, I couldn’t justify the extra money for a lens that did maybe just a little better than my Nikon 1.8. So there you go. I sent back the Sigma ART. It was sad, but it went back home to Lens Rentals.

And then I bought a new Nikon 105 f1.4. Oh man guys…..Just you wait.

If I talked you into the Nikon 85 1.8, you can find it on Amazon for a HECK of a deal HERE!!!

And if you still want to splurge on the Sigma 85, you can find that on Amazon here as well!!

You can see more lens comparisons here!

Misty C Photography LLC is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to This blog post contains affiliate links. 


  1. Jill says:

    So helpful for Nikon users- love the showdown concept!

  2. This is awesome!! It helps so much to hear this and see the comparisons!

  3. Thank you so much for this review of the Sigma Art 85 f/1.4 … I was watching the live edit for Mastin this week and the guy on there totally blasted Sigma’s lenses about needing calibrated. My 50 ART is one of my favorite lenses …when it works!!! But the focal point is often off, even using back button focusing!!! I totally need to look more into the Nikon 85 f/1.8!!! ????

  4. Holly says:

    Great review! I was so looking forward to this lens too, but have read similar reviews to yours – so just confirms that I’ll be sticking with Nikon! Beautiful images, btw!!

  5. Candi says:

    Thanks for sharing!! I love my Nikon 85 1.4G. Always wondered if sigma art ones were better! May have to rent one!

  6. This is exactly the kind of comparison I needed to make up my mind. I do like the warmer look of the sigma but it’s not worth the extra $$$$$$. Off to buy me the 1.8g!

  7. Tim Moore says:

    Hahahaha!!! the last phrase of your review is Epic! Best plot twist!

  8. Karina says:

    Great review! Thank you so much for this awesome review! I purchased the Nikkor 85 instead

  9. Kiran says:

    Thank you so much Misty. I was just looking for this honest review you got here. And I was exactly in the same position as you and confused. You’re review has put me at peace. Thanks once again!

  10. Aristotle Naces says:

    This was so helpful and informative.. thank you so much for this. i almost traded my Nikon 1.8G to sigma 85 1.4 and release atleast 800 dollars on it .. 🙂

  11. Erwin says:

    I got both these lenses as well, both I had to micro focus adjust, but the Sigma makes you adjust it for multiple ranges. It’s a proces and takes a while before the Sigma is tack sharp at all ranges. But once it does, it’s a beast. And I get a lot more sharp pictures than the Nikon. The Sigma allows you to get closer to subjects than the Nikon. For wider shots there isn’t a huge difference, but when framing closer that F1. 4 does make a huge difference. I like both lenses. Use the Sigma for Portret shoots and the 85 1.8 when doing street photography or when traveling.

  12. Kevin says:

    I rented the Sigma 85mm 1.4, Nikon 85mm 1.4 and Nikon 85mm 1.8 and took hundreds of portraits to compare. I came to the same conclusion except the Nikon 1.8 seemed to be the sharpest. I purchased the Nikon 1.8.

  13. Michaek says:

    Thanks for the great review – saved me $1200! I have the Nikon 85mm f1.8 and I love it – still, I originally thought I was “missing out”. I just need to love what I have!

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I'm Misty! Welcome to the blog where I share the beautiful parts of my business. You'll find tips, tricks, and stunning images. 

Learn more