Review: The Sigma 8-16 mm Lens is Excellent for Landscapes

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Sigma’s 8-16 mm f/4.5-5.6 lens is the widest rectilinear lens made for APS-C sized cameras. This is the 35 mm equivalent of 12-24 mm. If sweeping landscape shots and front-interest images with tremendous depth are your things, then you’re going to love this lens.

This lens is not for portraits or general street photography. It could be used for portrait or street images, but this would be a creative choice only. The lens works best for outdoor nature and landscape photography and works only with an APS-C camera.

My Experience With This Lens

This lens takes in a lot of the scene. Edge items will appear a bit stretched as they would with any wide angle lens. I have to keep a close watch on the elements in a scene as I will be capturing a wide angle (114.5° – 75.7°).

While it doesn’t have stabilization, it is not that necessary for such a wide-angle lens. I rarely get motion blur from hand-holding it at shutter speeds of 1/60s or less.

It is built for daylight shooting. The maximum aperture is f/4.5 – 5.6 (8 – 16 mm). I wouldn’t try it at night and would stick to my lower f-stop lenses for that.

I like the way the lens focuses on near items. I can get about ten inches away from an item and still focus on it. This is perfect for me because I can create a photo that is “deep.” An image of a foreground object and a wide-angle makes an image that is both near and far to the viewer. This pulls the viewer into the picture.

The lens produces bright and reasonably sharp photos for such a wide-angle lens. It is a rectilinear lens, so the straight lines in the image are reproduced as straight lines. I have an 8 mm fisheye lens, and when correcting images from that lens, I lose a lot of the periphery and never get straight lines. Not so with this Sigma 8-16 rectilinear lens. It produces a nice wide image with minimal distortion.

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The angles of view for several lenses vs. the human eye. The human eye’s dual overlap is what both eyes see together, including peripheral vision. The central view is what impacts our perception the most.

The Sigma 8-16 mm lens has a wide angle of view at 8 mm, so it approximates what both eyes see. This gives the viewer the feeling they were actually there when the photo was taken. It gives every photo a great degree of realism despite having some lens-specific items that need correcting in post-processing.

Post-Processing

Volume Anamorphosis (Volume Deformation)

Some volume anamorphosis (volume deformation) occurs at the edges of the picture, and an application of horizontal and vertical volume deformation correction of 100 in post-processing corrects this to a pleasing level. However, leaving it as-is still produces a great result albeit with some stretch of the image at the edges. This occurs only at the low end of the focal lengths of approximately 8 mm to 12 mm.

The below photos were taken at 8 mm and show my car along the side of the roadway. Notice how it is stretched in the first picture but not as much in the second where the correction is applied.

Without volume anamorphosis (volume deformation) correction.

Without volume anamorphosis (volume deformation) correction, my car looks elongated and unrealistic. Note that it only appears where there is an object near the edge of the frame (like my car). There is no such problem on the other side or top and bottom of the photo, but there would be if there were objects there.

With volume anamorphosis (volume deformation) correction of 100 in both horizontal and vertical.

With volume anamorphosis (volume deformation) correction of 100 in both horizontal and vertical in DxO Optics Pro, my car looks more normal in this photo than in the uncorrected version. This image was taken at 18 mm focal length to emphasize the volume anamorphosis.

The volume anamorphosis phenomenon does not impact the average viewer of the photo in a negative way. This is because the wide angle at 18 mm approximates what both eyes would see if the viewer were actually there, and the edges are in the peripheral vision that has a lower impact on the viewer’s perception. This is called the dual eye overlap. The area that has the most impact on a viewer’s perception lies in a narrower range called the central view. You can see these on the graph below. While a viewer can look anywhere, when they look at your photo they will be looking at it overall and central items will have the most perceptual impact (will be most thought of).

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Several lens angles of view compared to the human eye.

This volume anamorphosis or volume deformation that is mentioned above is not lens distortion. Photographers often confuse volume deformation with lens distortion. Volume deformation is when objects near the edge get stretched. With even a distortion-corrected lens, volume deformation can occur and must be handled separately. In the images above, the lens distortion correction has already been applied to both. There’s more about lens distortion for this lens below.

Lens Distortion

Interestingly, this lens has a bit of pincushion lens distortion that is going to be different than you would expect. It pushes in the center of the image a bit. This is nothing that a good program cannot correct in post-processing. The post-processed photos look amazingly well-corrected by either DxO Optics Pro or Lightroom. Most lenses I deal with have either fisheye distortion which is expected with fisheye lenses, or barrel distortion that occurs with most rectilinear lenses. Rarely do I see pincushion distortion as I do with this lens. It is not much and not a problem for correcting.

Filters

This lens will not accept any filters. The lens protrudes and makes adding a filter impossible. I really would not want to add any filters to this lens, so this is not a problem. For example, a polarizing filter would have severely uneven polarization on this lens so I would not want to use that filter.

Cover and Cap

This lens has an unusual cover and cap. There is a barrel-shaped tube that attaches to the lens hood and then the cap clips into this tube. This is not a big deal, but this will not fit in a front shirt or pants pocket. This makes it a bit inconvenient, but I usually just leave the cap and tube in my bag.

Compatibility

This lens is compatible with only APS-C cameras. On full-frame cameras, there would be severe vignetting. Full-frame camera owners could buy a 12-24 mm lens to achieve almost equivalent results. One thing this lens does on an APS-C camera that cannot be reached by a 12-24 on a full-frame camera is that its wide angle of view comes into play and makes the image seem to wrap around the viewer. A 12-24 lens would not have such a wide angle of view even though the sensor of a full-frame camera would match up to it. The image coming from a full-frame camera with a 12-24 mm lens would not have as much distortion at the edges, but it would also not give that illusion of wrapping the image around the viewer as this lens does on an APS-C camera.

Autofocus

The autofocus works well on this lens. I have not had any problems with locking on focus or having back or front focus issues.

Images

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8 mm shot from the Sigma 8-16mm. Click on this photo to see it larger. Lens distortion is corrected, but no volume deformation correction is applied, and the result is very pleasing.

Photo taken at 16 mm.

16 mm shot from the Sigma 8-16mm. Click on this photo to see it larger. Lens distortion is corrected, but again, no volume deformation correction is applied, and the result is pleasing.

The images coming from this lens are nothing short of breathtaking, to me. I like the vast sweeping vistas and photos from this lens draw me into each. It gives me the feeling of standing there in the scene. This is due to the expansive angle of view of this lens. The scene above and below almost wraps around me. This provides the illusion of being in the photo. I like that and strive for that in my images, so this lens helps me achieve that quickly.

Conclusion

I’ve always enjoyed pictures taken with my Sigma 10-20 mm lens, and this 8-16 mm lens is proving to be excellent as well. I initially did not think that the 8-16 would be that much better than the 10-20, but it is the angle that makes the difference. The 10-20 has an angle of 102.4° – 63.8° while the wider 8-16 has an angle of 114.5° – 75.7°.  This added wideness of view makes a huge difference to me, and I can see getting great images from this Sigma 8-16 mm f/4.5-5.6 lens in my future.

Thank you for reading what I wrote — I hope you enjoyed it!
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