Field Test – Sigma AF 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM

Note: To see all future reviews please note this blog is no longer active, please visit me over at oopoomoo.com

I was lucky enough to be able to test Sigma’s new 8-16mm ultra-wide rectilinear zoom prior and during the recent Extreme Saskatchewan tour.  If you want rigorous lab tests of this lens’ performance I recommend PhotoZone and LensTip. Below are my impressions of the lens from shooting landscape images in the field—no lens test charts were harmed in the making of this blog entry!

Background

The Sigma 8-16mm lens (12-24mm equivalent on a full-frame camera) is specifically made for APS-C sized cameras and is available in Nikon, Canon, Sony, Sigma, and Pentax mounts. At 8mm, the angle of view is a whopping 119 degrees–that is wide! For  the full specs on this lens refer to the Sigma Website but in short this lens is the widest zoom currently on the market and has special FLD glass for reduced chromatic aberrations (you know to get rid of those nasty coloured edges along lines of high contrast). The spiffy glass goodies and tough build are meant to give pro quality images. Supposedly this lens delivers  punchy, sharp images in an extreme wide-angle zoom. Can it deliver?

Sigma's 8-16mm lens on a Canon Rebel

First Impressions

The lens is solidly built with a wonderfully smooth feeling manual focus and zoom mechanism. But the real surprise occurs after you take off the lens cap and the protective lens tube–it is crazy just how wide 8mm is… the whole world expands before you! This is a fun lens that demands you go out and play with its severe angles of view. Of course because of its bulging front element you can not filter this lens. But when you are this wide, things like polarizing filters are pointless unless you enjoy uneven splotches of polarized light across the wide scene. In scenes where I had a bright sky and a dark foreground I did miss being able to use a grad filter but that problem can be fixed by making several exposures and blending them together in post-production.

Results

I was impressed! The lens was very sharp even wide open and across all focal lengths. Mostly I was blown away by how sharp the lens was at 8mm even on the edges and especially at the apertures of f4.5 to f8. Also I was pleased by how little chromatic aberration I saw and how well the lens handled flare in backlit situations. I found I almost always used the lens at 8mm for extreme views and it was really nice that the lens performed so well even at its widest focal length.

I found that this lens performed best at all focal lengths at an aperture of f8 which gave great overall sharpness from center to edge and also gave the most even exposure across the frame. With APS-C cameras, small apertures such as f16 and f22 cause much diffraction and image quality suffers. With the two Canon Rebels I used (XSi and T2i) this lens gave image results that were of high quality at f11 but at f16 and f22 image sharpness suffered greatly. Frankly performance at f22 was really bad. I recommend using apertures of f11 or less with this lens. I always seemed to have enough depth-of-field even when limited to f11 with this lens so don’t let the limit of usable apertures worry you much.

©Darwin Wiggett - Sigma 8-16mm at 12mm

What I liked most about the lens was how I could use the extreme wide angle to let me get it all in. I also liked to be able to exaggerate perspective and to create fresh and exciting viewpoints. I think this is a great landscape or travel lens that opens up worlds of creative possibilities. I sure had fun using the lens and I got some memorable images. As a final note if you have video capabilities on your camera you can make some crazy fun videos at 8mm! Below are a few more images I took with the lens–all I can say is each photo is sharp from edge to edge which really makes me happy because most wide angle lenses I have tried have not performed this good!

BTW if you want a chance to win this lens be sure to enter the Travel Photo Contest on this blog And thanks especially to Gentec who supplied a review lens and who graciously has offered a brand new 8-16mm lens as the grand prize in the photo contest!

©Darwin Wiggett - Sigma 8-16mm at 16mm

©Darwin Wiggett - Sigma 8-16mm at 9mm

©Darwin Wiggett - Sigma 8-16mm at 8mm

©Darwin Wiggett - Sigma 8-16mm at 8mm

©Darwin Wiggett - Sigma 8-16mm at 8mm

©Darwin Wiggett - Sigma 8-16mm at 8mm

©Darwin Wiggett - Sigma 8-16mm at 8mm

25 Responses to “Field Test – Sigma AF 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM”

  1. Nice “by example” review–love the w i d e shots! I VERY curious what you think of the T2i. Are you planning a review?

  2. Thanks, Darwin, for the great review.

  3. John Arnold Says:

    Darwin, although this lens is made for a APS-C sized cameras like the Canon Rebels, can it be used on full frame cameras or does that not work?

  4. Very nice! Thanks for the straightforward review. Great images as well!

    Logan

  5. Carl Stammerjohn Says:

    Just curious…I assume the last image is HDR. How many exposures? How much over & under exposed? Great photograph!

  6. A very good tool for wide angle, Sigma really stretched out the glass on this lens.
    I really enjoy the last photo in the series.
    The inside of the old building is Superbly Captured !

  7. How does the lens compare with the Canon 10-22mm? Does 8mm really make as much difference compared to 10mm? How does the image quality compare? With the 10-22 you can use GND’s, but with the Sigma lens you can’t. Thanks for your thoughts.

    • I have never used the Canon 10-20mm so I have no idea on how the two compare on image quality. If you want to use filters then stick with the 10-20mm but I would be surprised if the edge sharpness is as good as the Sigma (Canon is not known for producing great wide angle lenses with wonderful edge sharpness – except for the Tilt Shifts). I am sure there will be sites that compare the two lenses – for now here is a link that has lots of lens reviews – http://www.popphoto.com/reviews/lenses

      Darwin

  8. Thank you for the straight forward real world review.

    I was even apprehensive about trying out this lens. Now that you are giving it a thumbs up will try it and most probably buy (been wanting to!). Just one last thought-did you have to try a few copies to get a sharp one?

  9. Be good to see your images at a close up. I am NOt convinced to purchase this Lens. From my research Sigma Lenses are renown for a soft and hazy look. This alone always stopped me right in the tracks to ever purchase a Sigma Lens. I wanted to reseach this 8 – 16mm Sigma Lens purely because it is a newby and the wides and hoping the quality has improved some what. From what I have seen so far and ones again. The same old, same old… Hazy un clear soft images. Though these images look a little better here. I don’t think Sigma can compare to to the likes of Tokina 12 – 24mm with superior image quality. I’d rather do away with the little extra wider Lens but knowing I have consistent quality images.

  10. […] I shot this photo during the SNAP! Harvest Moon Photo Workshop in October (to see a larger version just click on the photo). We were lucky enough to have two mornings of short but colourful light. I used my Canon Rebel T2i (the camera I use for photo instruction) and my trusty Sigma 8-16mm ultra wide lens. This image was shot at 8mm at f8. I love the big giant views that this lens gives me. For a full review of this lens see my blog entry here. […]

  11. Thanks for the review, this was really helpful!

  12. Thanks for this review, nice to see a field test as opposed to charts and graphs.

  13. […] I needed for my work – my first reviews of Sigma lenses were of the 120-400mm lens and the 8-16mm lens (before I was sponsored) and I ended up buying each lens (obviously I was happy with the […]

  14. tonyzackfoto Says:

    Great shots ! It helps me to make decision on buying this lens. Good job !
    Thank you for review.

  15. Nice shots Darwin, can I mount that lens to Sony alpha cameras?
    Many thanks.

  16. Rao vặt nhà đất…

    […]Field Test – Sigma AF 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM « Darwin Wiggett[…]…

  17. I am using this lens. It is really really SHARP edge to edge. I did the research to choose between this and the Tokina and ended up buying Sigma. It is solid built. Focusing is fast and accurate.
    Many reviews said CP filter not recommended for UWA. I am careful with my gear. So not able to add a front filter is not a concern. For protection, it has a front mounted tube with cap.
    Lens flare is also well controlled. I once shot almost directly to the sun. It gave me no lens flare.
    3mm wider than Tokina is a big PLUS. Tokina focal length is too limited. I would love this lens if it can be 8 to 20mm. Well it may mean too much compromise.
    For nowaday DSLR, f4.5-f5.6 is good enough.
    I have several lens with f2.8. I in fact seldom use that wide open.
    This is my first Sigma and I love it.

  18. Thanks for the review Darwin.

    I think I’ll pull the trigger and get one to go along with the NEX-7 that should arrive in a month.

    Long time follower and admirer of your work,

    ~Eric

  19. This lens is okay but not to the extent some people talk about it,results during the day are not bad but where the light is dimmer its grainy. Its also a shame you can not use filters with this (In a normal way) ,lens cap attachment is another bad point actually its horrible to take it off and put it back during the shoot

  20. I love this lens and I have finally found a way to use filters with the Sigma 8-16mm lens.
    Find out how by visiting my website (hint, the Cokin X-pro system is involved)
    http://www.stockholmviews.com/sigma_8-16/sigma-8-16mm-filters.html

    Regards/Stefan

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