Now that’s all well and good, but it really doesn’t tell me a lot about the lens’ strengths and weaknesses with dogs, nor does it tell me much about the use cases and “in the field” real life working feedback. So, I figured why not cover that?!
You can hear more about the story that led to me getting this lens, the first uses, specs, overview and other lens suggestions in this video:
Let’s run through the Why for this lens for me personally:
- I shoot in dark places and push my kit to the limit – I usually end up STILL 1 stop underexposed and I do not want to compromise IQ by increasing my ISO any further
- In the woods, I could do with a shallower depth of field (DoF) than 2.8 for full body portraits, to create additional separation
- I found 135mm too narrow and 85mm too wide. 105 is the middle ground.
The result is the Sigma Art 105 1.4 lens. What a beast. Arguably the best lens for dog photography. Let’s get stuck in:
First impressions of the Sigma Art 105mm 1.4 lens
As a summary, this lens is big, heavy and well made. It’s got an enormous front element – the filter size is 105mm – and it has only one control on the lens, the AF/MF switch.
The lens has a focus ring but not an aperture ring and is not particularly well balanced on the tripod mount, likely because of the larger than average Sony E-Mount conversion section in the lens (for Nikon and Canon, this section of the lens is much shorter).
However, none of the above actually matter to me, it’s all about the image quality and usability in the field, so…
First shots with the Sigma Art 105 1.4
The day after the lens arrived, I needed to ensure it was fully functional, focussing well and hadn’t been damaged in transit. For this, I just nipped round to the meadow behind our paddock and shot wide open at 1.4 with Pippi. I was looking for any focussing issues (front focussing, back focussing, focus reliability, speed and DoF).
The results were absolutely fine, the bokeh was perfect and at 1.4 the focus strip was absolutely tack sharp. I haven’t edited these images, just passed them through Lightroom, but you should be able to get a pretty good feel for the initial test images:
Test shoot in a new location with the lens
A couple of days later, we took Pippi to a location that is new to us and tested the lens in lower light, again wide open. In the case of the latter two images in the grid below, the location was very very dark, I couldn’t even see her right eye.
In this woodland (the brighter part), I tested the focus speed with Pippi running towards me, with the lens wide open. There was a noticable lag and it was next to impossible to shoot with autofocus in this setting. Manual focus would have been the only way. I haven’t yet repeated this test with less time pressure to assess any workaround, or issues in terms of the settings, but as it stands this is very much a “portrait lens” (which is why it exists!). It is, however, able to cope with slower-moving subjects very well.
Again, the Sigma worked great with the Sony’s incredible Eye-AF system and didn’t miss a shot on this session in portrait set-ups. Here are a few images, again just passed through Lightroom:
A couple of the shots from this test shoot were edited. See what you think:
First actual shoot with the Sigma 105 1.4
Not going to lie, this shoot was not with dogs. Well, I guess we can classify them as big dogs, right?!
Jo from Wildair Portraits invited me to join her on a private session afternoon with Mia Rodley and her herd of horses in a woodland in Lincolnshire. There was literally zero chance I was going to pass up this opportunity.
The lens came with me and I shot over 300 images in total – not a single one missed focus or disappointed me. It was on this session that the lens operated relatively well with moving subjects, however, the subjects were further away when moving and we were not wide open for those images, so it’s hard to make a conclusion there.
Here are a couple of my favourite images from the afternoon:
Summary of the Sigma 105 1.4:
I’m in love. I personally believe that this portrait lens is THE Best Lens for Dog Photography.
Pros and cons:
+ Bokeh – to die for
+ Image quality – to die for
+ Sharpness – to die for
+ Colour rendition – to die for
+ Ability to focus in low light – insane
– Weight – may be an issue for some people?
– Focus on fast-moving subjects – still testing!
Hope this post and video was helpful to at least one person!