D3 with the Sigma 85mm f1.4 HSM mounted
D3 with the Sigma 85mm f1.4 HSM mounted

It was some time before I was able to put my paws on the gorgeous Sigma 85mm 1.4 HSM. I made the transition from using the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G VR for portraiture, with the key motivation being the desire for more light (more!) and shallow depth of field (bokeh!).

Field usage
The lens feels superb on my D3, neither threatened to overwhelm the other when I carried the body by its grip using one hand (without a strap,  I might add). The lens comes with a customisable hood, the normal one for FX and an extension for DX coverage.

Auto focus was fast and sure on the D3 in good light. The speed wasn’t as lightning fast as the nikon pro grade standard zoom 24-70, but this was no slouch. Certainly better than my nikon 50mm f1.4G, itself akin to an old man taking a leisurely stroll to the nearby grocery store. Be wary of sample variation with AF accuracy, as I found my copy to have slight front focusing. I managed to remedy the issue with – 5 AF fine tune on my D3. This is something to note for users of bodies without the AF fine tune.

critical focus has been missed, or rather, the DOF is so thin that the clothes are in focus rather than the face. Take note of any front or back focusing issues.

Image quality is pretty good, I have no complaints with sharpness on my D3. Granted, the corners maybe lacking, but for its primary usage, ie. Portraiture, this should not be an issue. When checking focus using the Centre button magnification function, I found the lens to be sharper than the Nikon AFS 50mm 1.4G when both are wide open.

D3 with the 85mm, shot wide open. Focus is on the face.

The lens works well on bodies with the CAM3500 AF module (D3 class bodies, D700, D800/e and D7100) as the wide spread of AF points mean that there is less need for focus and recomposition, something which may result in slightly off focus photos, exacerbated by the thin depth of field at 1.4.

the spread of the AF points allow for precise focusing instead of focus and recomposition, image courtesy of  http://fareastgizmos.com/

That is not to say this lens doesn’t work well on lower end bodies. I have used it on my D3200 in order to maximize 24MP of goodness. 🙂

In conclusion, this is a lens I would recommend for anybody looking past the fact that its a non Nikon lens and go for it. In Singapore, this lens can be had for as little as sgd 700 pre-loved.
If you are on a budget and am not a pixel peeper, do check out the AF Nikkor 85mm 1.8d at about 320 sgd or the Nikon AFS 85mm 1.8G at about 480sgd. Your choice will depend on whether your camera body has the built in screw drive mechanism to drive the auto focus.
Happy shopping and shooting.