Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM Lens Review

The Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM Lens delivers very good image quality, has solid build quality, has fast and quiet HSM AF and has a reasonable price. But perhaps the most exceptional Sigma 8-16 feature is the ultra wide angle range of focal length range available - including the widest focal length available in any current-at-review-time rectilinear (not fisheye) lens. Get ready for your creativity to be fueled!

The first attraction to any ultra-wide zoom lens is in fact the ultra-wide focal length range, so let's review what this range looks like. Being a Sigma "DC" (Digital Camera) lens, the Sigma 8-16 has a smaller-than-full-frame image circle designed to work only on APS-C/1.6x/1.5x FOVCF DSLRs. The Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM Lens review is the first in a series of non-Canon ultra-wide angle lens reviews I have planned and the rest of the lenses directly compared in this review are the same in regards to this smaller image circle. Thus, the focal lengths shown for all of the lenses below are similar to 1.6x longer focal lengths on a full frame SLR or DSLR - 12.8-25.6mm for the Sigma 8-16.

Following is an example of the focal length range of this lens. Click on the image below to view a much larger comparison including 4 other lenses.

8-16mm Focal Length Comparison

Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM Lens   8mm | 10mm | 12mm | 14mm | 16mm

A beach poison ivy patch is perhaps the most dangerous subject you want to shoot with an ultra-wide zoom lens. These lenses are very wide - I am not very far from the ivy in this picture. For personal reference above, use the widest focal length you have available in your kit (perhaps 18mm or 24mm) to base your own comparison on. This focal length is likely represented somewhere in the above links.

In terms of focal length ranges, the numbers mostly tell the difference. 8mm is wider than 11mm and 24mm is longer than 16mm. The ultra-wide zoom lenses are not going to be the ideal general purpose lens for most people - they are still too wide for this purpose even on the long end. When deciding which range is best for you, consider the lens(es) you already have and how the ultra-wide angle zoom focal length range aligns with it. Also consider which focal length range you need on the lens that is mounted while using this lens (no lens change required).

When out and about with this lens, I can tell you that I have been stuck at 8mm much of the time. And I am getting up very close to subjects for a very creativity-inviting, unique perspective. This is a very fun lens to shoot with.

People, however, are the one subject that you will not want to be close to most of the time as they will appear distorted. And this means that, unless you are going for the fun-house look, group photos and environmental portraits are the type of people pictures this lens is most useful for. And caution is still required for these shots.

I used the Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM Lens to capture a large 24-person family photo in a med-small living room. I had no problem framing the large group even in this small space, but it was more challenging to keep everyone appearing their proper size. Anyone positioned closer to the front appeared larger than those toward the back.

Car photographers will appreciate the new look 8mm brings to their car pics. Those shooting in tight spaces will love the ultra-wide field of view available at 8mm.

16mm is also very useful, just not quite as unique as 8mm. Combining ultra wide angle focal lengths with a narrow aperture means you are likely going to have a deep depth of field. Landscapers love it. For this same reason, blurring the background is a capability that this Sigma is weak in.

Landscape photographers will appreciate this focal length range along with the deep depth of field available in this focal length range on APS-C format cameras. Just be careful to keep your feet and sleeves out of the frame.

With a relatively narrow maximum aperture, this lens will need relatively still subjects when the light gets dim. Here is a look at the aperture stop-down focal lengths for these lenses.

Modelf/2.8f/3.2f/3.5f/4.0f/4.5f/5.0f/5.6
Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM Lens  10mm13mm18mm  
Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM Lens    8mm8mm*13mm
Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM Lens  10mm    
Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM Lens   10mm11mm12mm16mm
Tamron 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 DI II Lens  10mm14mm21mm  
Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro DX II Lens11mm      
Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro DX Lens11mm      
Tokina 12-28mm f/4.0 AT-X Pro DX Lens   12mm   

The Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM Lens is still reporting 8mm in EXIF when the aperture max goes from f/4.5 to f/5.0, which anchors this lens in dead last in the above comparison. If you need to stop action in low light, this is probably not your lens. Fortunately, the latest DSLR technology produces good image quality at higher ISO settings than ever before - making slower lenses more usable than ever before.

Keep in mind that built-in flash coverage on most DSLRs will not cover 16mm, so plan on an alternative method of flash lighting/diffusion if planning to use flash to overcome this lens' lack of low light capabilities.

From an image quality perspective, I'm particularly impressed with the Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM Lens' sharpness - it is sharp wide open and into the corners. Slight softening in the corners is visible in the midrange - around 12mm. Stopping down affects image sharpness very little - and it doesn't need to. This is especially good performance for a zoom lens.

Not surprising is that the Sigma 8-16's barrel distortion is quite strong at 8mm - at both near and far distances. Between 12 and 13mm, distortion reverses to relatively mild pincushion distortion. Note that distortion makes it much more difficult to level an image in the viewfinder.

Shading in the corners ranges from about 2.5 stops at 8mm to just under 1.5 stops at 16mm. Even at f/11, nearly 2 stops of vignetting remains at 8mm and is just-noticeable even at 16mm.

Because this lens has a strongly-convex front element and an integrated hood, normal screw-on filters are not usable on this lens - with one exception. Along with a normal 72mm lens cap, an aluminum sleeve that friction-fits with a felt-like material around the lens hood is provided. This sleeve has 72mm filter threads available - to hold the cap on or to hold a standard screw-in filter. The only problem is that physical vignetting with the sleeve in place is noticeable even at 16mm through f/8 with no filter in place. At 8mm? Forget about it. This is what 8mm f/16 looks like on an APS-C body with the sleeve in place and no filter installed:

Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM Lens Vignetting with Sleeve in Place

Adding even a UV filter makes a noticeable increase in the size of the big black vignette. Reality is that a CP filter is going to provide very uneven results at this focal length without the vignetting issue.

Neutral Density and Split ND Filter needs can be met by using large rectangular filters (such as those made by Lee) handheld in front of the lens. Cropping is another option for using standard screw-in filters.

With focal lengths this wide, you can expect bright light sources to often be included in the frame. And if you are shooting outside, the sun is likely going to be the biggest one. You can expect some lens flare in this situation, but nothing unusual from the Sigma 8-16 in this regard.

Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM Lens images show very little CA (Chromatic Aberration). If you look closely at 16mm images with a high contrast subject, you will see a very small amount of lateral chromatic aberration in the corners. For a zoom lens, the 8-16 performs excellently in this regard.

The Sigma 8-16 employs Sigma's best HSM (Hypersonic Motor) AF system. This lens internally focuses fast with only a quiet "shhhh" sound being audible in quiet surroundings. A narrow max aperture, ultra-wide angle lens with its generally deep depth of field is not going to be overly challenging to an AF system, but I find the Sigma 8-16 to be focusing consistently accurately. FTM (Full Time Manual) focusing is enabled in the Sigma 8-16.

The Sigma 8-16 turns in one of the lowest MM (Maximum Magnification) values in its class, but with the exception of the Tamron 10-24mm Lens, this Sigma's .13x value is not greatly different from the rest.

ModelMFDMM
Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Lens8.7"(220mm)0.15x
Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM Lens9.4"(240mm)0.17x
Nikon 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G AF-S DX Lens9.5"(241mm)0.20x
Nikon 12-24mm f/4G AF-S DX Lens12.0"(305mm)0.12x
Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM Lens9.4"(239mm)0.13x
Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM Lens9.4"(240mm)0.15x
Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM Lens9.4"(240mm)0.15x
Tamron 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 Di II Lens9.4"(240mm)0.20x
Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro DX II Lens11.8"(300mm)0.09x
Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro DX Lens11.8"(300mm)0.09x
Tokina 12-28mm f/4.0 AT-X Pro DX Lens9.8"(250mm)0.20x

The .13x MM is good enough to create plenty of perspective distortion. Taken at a .4m focus distance (according to EXIF), this 8mm image could have been shot at an even more-distorted-perspective closer focus distance.

Sample Picture

The Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM Lens's nicely-sized manual focus ring is smooth with no play and plenty of travel. A nice amount of rotation is provided for accurate manual focus acquisition.

The rear-positioned (where I like it) zoom ring is also smooth with no play or wobble with a relatively short rotation. Zoom ring rotation is in the opposite direction of Canon lenses (but like Nikon lenses). Zooming out to 8mm from 16mm extends the very-convex front lens element, but the extension remains inside the integrated and protective petal-style hood, so the extension is not very noticeable. The zoom and focus rings are nicely integrated into a smooth lens barrel design that is very nice to hold.

Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM Lens Product Images

Select View:  MFD |    MFD |    w/ Hood:  MFD |    MFD |    Rotated        Compare >

The hood is not removable and therefore shows in the standard without hood product images above. The "rotated" image best shows the convex front lens element. Let's compare the Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM Lens with some other lenses in its class.

Shown below, arranged from short to tall in retracted position, are the:

Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM Lens
Tamron 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 DI II Lens
Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM Lens
Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro DX Lens
Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM Lens
Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM Lens

Sigma 8-16 Compared to Other Ultra-Wide Angle Zoom Lenses

The physical size differences between these lenses are not significant. The same lenses are shown below fully extended with their hoods in place.

Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM Lens Compared to Other Ultra-Wide Angle Zoom Lenses - Extended with Hoods

Two notables from the image above: The space between the Canon 10-22 and the lenses beside it increases significantly because of its ultra-wide lens hood, and the size order of these lenses practically reverses with the lenses extended and the lens hoods in place. Again, the physical size differences between these lenses is not significant - and all of these lenses are a very nice-to-use size. They are not going to beat you up after even a long day of use.

Here is a chart with the specific lens specifications.

ModelWeightDimensions w/o HoodFilterYear 
Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Lens8.5 oz(240g)2.9 x 2.8"(74.6 x 72mm)67mm2014
Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM Lens13.6 oz(385g)3.3 x 3.5"(84 x 90mm)77mm2004
Nikon 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G AF-S DX Lens16.2 oz(460g)3.2 x 3.4"(82.5 x 87mm)77mm2009
Nikon 12-24mm f/4G AF-S DX Lens16.4 oz(465g)3.2 x 3.5"(82.5 x 90mm)77mm2003
Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM Lens19.6 oz(555g)3 x 4.2"(75 x 105.7mm) 2010
Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM Lens18.4 oz(520g)3.4 x 3.5"(87.3 x 88.2mm)82mm2010
Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM Lens16.6 oz(470g)3.3 x 3.2"(83.3 x 81mm)77mm2008
Tamron 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 Di II Lens14.3 oz(406g)3.3 x 3.4"(83.2 x 86.5mm)77mm2010
Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro DX II Lens19.4 oz(550g)3.3 x 3.5"(84 x 89.2mm)77mm2012
Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro DX Lens19.8 oz(560g)3.3 x 3.5"(84 x 89.2mm)77mm
Tokina 12-28mm f/4.0 AT-X Pro DX Lens18.7 oz(530g)3.3 x 3.6"(84 x 90.2mm)77mm2013

For many more comparisons, review the complete Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM Lens Specifications using the site's Lens Spec tool. The Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM Lens tips the scales more than all but 1 of the rest of the lenses in this review group, but ... it is still not what I would consider a heavy lens. Solidly built, but not significantly heavier than the rest of these lenses.

For many more comparisons, review the complete Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM Lens Specifications using the site's Lens Spec tool.

Here is one more look at this lens on a Canon EOS 60D with a Canon BG-E9 Battery Grip. Click on the image to see a comparison with 5 other similar lenses. The comparison loads in a new window - Alt-Tab/Ctrl-Tab back and forth as you read the commentary below.

Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM Lens On Camera

Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM Lens  8mm  |  16mm 

While comparing these ultra-wide angle lenses, let's take a look at an image quality comparison. Click on the image below to view a 100% crop image quality comparison between 6 ultra-wide angle APS-C format lenses. The comparison loads in a new page. Use Alt-Tab/Ctrl-Tab to switch between pages as you read the commentary below.

Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM Lens Image Quality Comparison

There are many comparisons available, but the Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM Lens stands up to or exceeds the competition in most of these. I do want to note that the Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM Lens performs much worse on the left side of the frame (as shown above) than on the right. You will see the difference when comparing this lens in the ISO 12233 chart sample crops. Also note that diffraction is becoming noticeable at f/11 in these Rebel T2i examples.

The Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM Lens is one of my favorite APS-C lenses - I use it with some frequency. The Sigma 8-16 has slightly less barrel distortion at 10mm and slightly more pincushion distortion at 16mm. The Sigma 8-16 has less CA on the wide end, but otherwise, these two lenses are rather similar in image quality at identical focal length and aperture settings. The Canon 10-22 has an about 2/3 stop of aperture advantage and of course, a different focal length range. The Canon costs slightly more at review time.

Sigma obviously has several entries in the ultra-wide angle zoom lens category with the Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM Lens being the next covered in this review. The Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM Lens has slightly less barrel distortion at 10mm and slightly more pincushion distortion by 16mm. The Sigma 8-16 has less CA on the wide end, but once again, these two lenses are rather similar in image quality at identical focal length and aperture settings with one significant exception - My copy of the Sigma 10-20 f/3.5 has a significantly less-sharp left side of the frame. I'd give the 8-16 a slight edge on the right side as well. The Sigma 10-20 f/3.5's biggest advantages is a fixed max aperture that holds a 1 to 1 1/3 stop aperture advantage over the shared but again, different, focal length range. The Sigma 8-16 has a slightly higher price tag.

Sigma's 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC Lens is a narrower aperture version of the Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM Lens that wears a significantly lower price tag. The Sigma 8-16 has less barrel distortion at 10mm and slightly more pincushion distortion by 16mm. The Sigma 8-16 is a slightly better overall performer from a sharpness perspective, especially in the corners. The Sigma 10-20 has an about 1/3 stop aperture advantage within the shared focal length range.

The Tamron 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 DI II Lens and I got off to a rocky start as the first two copies had to be returned for focus calibration issues (all lenses in this review were purchased retail). The Tamron has a wider aperture than the Sigma 8-16, but the Tamron's wide open image quality is poor. Stopped down to match the Sigma 8-16's aperture, the Tamron puts forth a much better showing, but still lags behind the Sigma 8-16's image quality. The Tamron has noticeably more CA and is less sharp in the corners - especially on the right side. The Tamron is easily the least expensive lens in this comparison.

The Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro DX Lens is a lens I've received a lot of review requests for - and a lens I've looked forward to reviewing. The Tokina 11-16 lacks some of the focal length range of the other lenses reviewed here, but it has a significantly wider aperture than the rest - and especially wider than the Sigma 8-16. Wide open, the Tokina has some corner softness - especially on the wide end. But, by the time it is stopped down the nearly 2 stops required to match the Sigma's max aperture, it is performing very well. The Tokina 11-16 is slightly sharper and has less vignetting but more CA than the Sigma 8-16 at matching focal length and aperture settings. The Tokina is priced enough lower to garner a look. And if you need to stop action in low light, the Tokina will be a better choice.

The Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM Lens is available in Canon (reviewed), Nikon, Pentax and Sony/Minolta mounts. My standard disclaimer: There are some potential issues with third party lenses. Since Sigma reverse engineers (vs. licenses) manufacturer AF routines, there is always the possibility that a DSLR body might not support a (likely older) third party lens. There are examples of this happening in the past - and I was notified of a new incompatibility for an older Sigma lens while writing this review. Sometimes a lens can be made compatible by the manufacturer, sometimes not - which was the case in the just-received problem notice. There is also the risk of a problem that results in the lens and body manufacturers directing blame at each other. Sigma USA's 4-year warranty is indeed far superior to Canon's standard 1 year warranty (Sigma's international warranty is also 1 year).

The Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM Lens is priced near the top of its class - but still less (at review time) than the other ultra-wide angle APS-C lens I love, the Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM Lens. And none of these lenses are extremely high-priced. I think the Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM Lens is a great addition to the kit - it might be my favorite Sigma lens reviewed to date.

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