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Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5~5.6 Ultra Wide Angle Lens

In this section, I will review the photo equipment I typically take on board cruises or travel, how I pack the equipment, and some photo examples. I rarely take all of the equipment on a given cruise, but rather tailor what equipment I take to where we are going.

Note that as time goes on, equipment becomes discontinued by the manufacturer. Therefore consider this review representative of the types of equipment you wish to take on your cruise or travel vacation.

As of this writing, the Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5~5.6 is currently the widest non-fisheye ultra-wide angle lens you can buy for a cropped DSLR. Even when compared to the excellent Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8, the Sigma offers over 30% more view in the horizontal plane. This means you can capture those dramatic views of ship-board subject matter. I recently took this lens on a cruise, and I used it exclusively with my Nikon D7100 DSLR.

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Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5~5.6 Overview

Sigma 8-16mm Ultra Wide Zoom Lens

Specifications
Lens Type: 2x Zoom
Format: DX (APS-C)
Max Aperture: f1:4.5~5.6
Min Aperture: f1:22
Focal Length: 8mm to 16mm
Autofocus Type: AF-S
Min Focus Distance: 1ft
Max Field-of-View: 114 to 75 deg
Filter size: None
Manufactured: Japan
Lens construction: Semi-pro
Street Price: $650


Alternatives

Overview: While this lens is not technically a "EX" (Sigma's premium lens), it is certainly built like one. The overall construction is fairly good, and the lens itself feels quite hefty. The main distinction of this lens is that it is the widest non-fisheye lens you can buy for an APS-C DSLR. This lens is some 20% wider than even the Nikon 10-24mm.

As you might expect, like all super or ultra wid angle lenses, there is a fair amount of barrel distortion. This can easily be corrected in photoshop, however, the best practice in my view is to learn how to use the lens, and compose your shots so they show as little distortion as possible.

This lens is available in Canon, Nikon, and Sony mounts. However, since I have the Nikon version, that is the one I am reviewing.

The lens is not fast by any means, however the reason you want such a lens is you want the 8mm views, so at f/4.5 the speed is at least fairly acceptable. You will not likely be using the 16mm end of this lens much, otherwise you would likely be switching out to another lens.

Prior to purchasing this lens, I had fallen to the internet lore that Sigma has quality control issues. However, this is the second Sigma lens I have purchased (the 17-50mm f/2.8 being the other). For both lenses, I have to say that I have had zero issues with either, and I would not hesitate to buy another Sigma.

 

Note:

In late 2013, there have been some reported issues with certain Sigma lenses not working with the newest Nikon DSLRs such as the Nikon D5300. However, Sigma has determined that such lenses require a firmware update, and they will update your lens free-of-charge. The only issue is sending the lens in for updating. Sounds to me that Sigma is providing good customer service in this regard.

 

When you look at the bulbous front element of the lens, you know it is something unique. While it does not by itself dictate image quality, that front element is just really cool to look at. But that is the reason this lens cannot use filters, as there is no way to attach a "sensible" size filter to the front of the lens witout vignetting issues. There are some Lee/Cokin type filter attachments available for the large sized filter panels, but most people will not likely need a filter.

Like the Nikon 10.5mm fisheye, the lens hood on this lens is permanently attached, as it is part of the lens'es "defense" mechanism should you whack the lens against something. However, be warned that even with the lens hood, it is possible to scratch this lens should you hit it against a table edge at the 8mm position.

By proper composition of the photo, you can minimize the distortion effects. Generally the most sever distortion occurs at the 4 corners of the photo. And anything along either the vertical or horizontal center lines are relatively distortion-free, as shown in the photo to the left.

Other techniques that can be used is distance to the object (closer objects tend to have more bending), or accentuate the natural curvature of the object you are photographing.

 

Sample Photos (8mm)


Naturally curving objects are accentuated without much apparent distortion.
   

Another shot shoging only a minor amount of distortion in the corners.


At 8mm, you can capture very wide areas. Here several stories of cabins are shown.
   

Superwide angle lenses are also made for closeups - so don't forget this capability. You will want to a lot of Depth of Field here, so stop that aperture down.

 

16mm vs 8mm


The perspective at 16mm, which is still a bit wider than the normal 18-xx kit lens found on most consumer DSLRs.
   

And at 8mm, you can see how much more area you can capture with this lens (yellow border approxomates 16mm).

 

Summary: Quite simply put, the addition of this lens to your camera bag will open up a whole new area of photography. While most folks use superwide angle lenses for landscapes, they also excel in closeups as shown by the above photo. There is simply no way to gain the same perspective without the use of such lenses. Hopefully you will now see why I exclusively used this lens on a recent cruise - there was so much to re-learn with this lens, and how it opened up an opportunity for photos from a different perspective.