The Sigma 16mm F1.4 DC DN Contemporary Lens is the last of Sigma's F1.4 mirrorless lens trio being simultaneously reviewed. As with the 30mm F1.4 DC DN Contemporary Lens and 56mm F1.4 DC DN Contemporary Lens, the 16mm F1.4 DC DN Contemporary is a compact, lightweight, and very affordable lens. These aspects are direct advantages of the smaller ASP-C image circle.
like the other two lenses, the APS-C format Sigma 16mm F1.4 DC DN Contemporary Lens features an attractive design, ultra-wide aperture, and good image quality.
The affordable Sigma 30mm F1.4 DC DN Contemporary, a top-selling APS-C prime lens, offers to fill the wide-angle 16mm focal length void for APS-C camera owners (and full-frame camera owners willing to accept a smaller image circle).
The focal length is always a primary consideration when selecting the ideal lens for a particular use. The focal length determines the angle of view, which determines the subject distance required, with perspective determined by that distance.
For those of us who work in full-frame angles of view, this lens provides a 24mm (Sony 1.5x field of view crop factor calculation) full-frame angle of view equivalent. This extremely popular angle of view just breaks into the ultra-wide class.
Landscape photography is a perfect use for an APS-C 16mm lens. This focal length is quite wide and can allow an entire scene to remain in focus. Still, 16mm is not so wide that it complicates composition and not so wide that it makes distant details (such as mountains) tiny. A good percentage of my landscape images are captured at this angle of view.
This focal length is optimal for nightscapes, and this lens's ultra-wide aperture is highly complementary for such use.
Architectural photography, large product photography, interior photography, and birthday parties are just a few uses for 16mm. This is a convenient focal length to leave mounted on the camera, ready to document life.
Wedding and event photography often utilize a wide-angle lens for capturing the large scene, for environmental-type portraits, and for group portraits, including in tight spaces. Even groups of your largest subjects will fit in the frame.
Photojournalists' needs are often similar to those of a wedding photographer and often include the APS-C AOV. Videographers frequently find this focal length to be just right for their needs.
While telephoto lenses are more frequently used for sports, a 16mm angle of view allows a very different perspective at these events. This focal length can be used to capture the big picture of the venue, overhead shots of the athletes and their coaches being interviewed after the game, and, when access permits, full-body environmental action sports photos showing a large amount of venue in the background. Note that when used for action sports with a close and rapidly approaching subject, the subject rapidly changes size in the frame, making it challenging to capture the perfect pose at the perfect framing distance in the 16mm angle of view.
Here are two comparisons showing the APS-C 16mm angle of view as it fits into a larger range. The indicated focal lengths are converted to the APS-C equivalent angle of view.
This lens is a great choice for video needs covering the abovementioned subjects.
This lens's f/1.4 max aperture sets it apart from the crowd. Having an f/1.4 aperture is liberating when shooting in dark environments, and the background blur this aperture can create is differentiating for this focal length.
Use f/1.4 to allow a significant amount of light to reach the imaging sensor. Use that light to enable subject and camera motion stopping shutter speeds in very low light levels with low ISO settings keeping noise levels down. It seems there is always enough light for handholding an f/1.4 lens.
Another advantage of a wide aperture lens is the background blur it can create. While wide-angle lenses cannot create the strongest blur, this lens set to f/1.4 with a close subject creates a very shallow DOF, drawing the viewer's eye to the in-focus subject against a smoothly blurred background. Add artistic capabilities to this lens's list of highly-desired features.
The following examples show the maximum blur this Sigma lens can create at the respective aperture setting.
Here is another f/1.4 sample:
If you are shooting under a full sun at f/1.4, you will likely need at least 1/8000 sec shutter speeds at ISO 100 to keep the exposure dark enough. Positive is that there is little action that a 1/8000 sec shutter speed cannot stop, but if the subject has very bright or reflective colors, even a 1/8000 sec shutter speed might not be fast enough to avoid blown highlights. Optionally use ISO 50 if your camera provides this setting, though the dynamic range may be impacted. Better still is that some cameras have shutter speeds faster than 1/8000 available.
Using a neutral density filter is a good solution to retaining the use of f/1.4 under direct sunlight when the shutter limitation is exceeded. Stopping down (narrowing) the aperture is always an option for preventing an image from getting too bright, though stopping down negates the need for the wide f/1.4 aperture, and the subject-isolating shallow depth of field is lost.
Creating wide apertures requires larger, heavier lens elements that translate into larger, heavier, and more expensive lenses. Thanks to the smaller APS-C image circle requirement combined with this design, this lens is small, light, and reasonably priced.
For most photographers, the benefits of a wide max aperture prime lens far outweigh the drawbacks. Usually, no flash is required.
The Sigma 16mm F1.4 DC DN Contemporary Lens does not feature image stabilization. Omitting the optical stabilization system reduces the size, weight, complexity, and cost, and the ultra-wide f/1.4 aperture feature aptly handles many low-light scenarios. Still, image stabilization is a very useful feature.
Sony addresses that omission with Steady Shot IBIS (In-Body Image Stabilization) in their Alpha cameras. In addition to reducing camera shake, the stabilized imaging sensor provides a still viewfinder image, enabling careful composition. Furthermore, sensor-based AF takes advantage of the stabilized view for improved accuracy.
With no IS switch on the lens, the camera menu must be used to enable or disable IBIS or check the current settings. This extra step is a slight impediment to working quickly, going from tripod mounted to handholding, for example.
At review time, Canon EOS M cameras do not offer the IBIS feature.
How does the small, light, affordable Sigma 16mm F1.4 DC DN Contemporary Lens perform optically? Let's find out.
In the center of the frame, with a wide-open f/1.4 aperture, this lens produces reasonably sharp details. Stopping down to f/2 produces a strong improvement in contrast, and details are very sharp at this setting. Little sharpness improvement is imparted by stopping down further, and none is needed.
Wide-angle lenses are frequently called upon to produce sharp peripheral details, and farther out on the image circle, where light rays are refracted to a stronger angle than in the center, lenses typically show decreased sharpness. At f/1.4, peripheral image quality is slightly soft. By f/2, sharp details are pushing deep into the image circle, and by f/4, extreme corners are very sharp.
Taking the testing outdoors, we next look at a series of center of the frame 100% resolution crop examples. These images were captured in RAW format using a Sony Alpha 1 and processed in Capture One using the Natural Clarity method. The sharpening amount was set to only "30" on a 0-1000 scale. Note that images from most cameras require some level of sharpening, but too-high sharpness settings are destructive to image details and hide the deficiencies of a lens.
The f/1.4 results are usable, especially with a modestly increased sharpening setting. However, the f/2 results are superb.
Next, we'll look at a series of comparisons showing 100% resolution extreme top left corner crops captured and processed identically to the above center-of-the-frame images. The lens was manually focused in the corner of the frame to capture these images.
Samples taken from the outer extreme of the image circle, full-frame corners, can be counted on to show a lens's weakest performance. The extreme corner sharpness is not remarkable until f/4, where the performance is excellent.
Corner sharpness does not always matter, but it does matter for many disciplines, including landscape photography. When I'm photographing landscapes and architecture with corner sharpness being desired, I'm probably using f/8 or f/11 to obtain enough depth of field for in-focus corner details, and this lens works well for these purposes at these apertures. The corners are usually intentionally out of focus when shooting at wide apertures. Videos captured at typical wide-aspect ratios also avoid the use of corners.
This lens does not exhibit focus shift, the plane of sharp focus moving forward or backward as the aperture is narrowed (residual spherical aberration or RSA).
When used on a camera that utilizes a lens's entire image circle, a lens can be expected to create peripheral shading at the widest aperture settings. Wide-angle, ultra-wide aperture lenses tend to show strong peripheral shading wide open, and this lens's about 2 stops of f/1.4 shading is noticeable — but not relatively strong.
At f/2, there is just over a stop of shading in the corners. The vignetting decrease ends by f/2.8, with just over half a stop of shading remaining.
One-stop of shading is often used as the visibility number, though subject details provide a widely varying amount of vignetting discernibility. Vignetting is correctable during post-processing with increased noise in the brightened areas being the penalty, or it can be embraced, using the effect to draw the viewer's eye to the center of the frame. Study the pattern shown in our vignetting test tool to determine how your images will be affected.
Lateral (or transverse) CA (Chromatic Aberration) refers to the unequal magnification of all colors in the spectrum. Lateral CA shows as color fringing along lines of strong contrast running tangential (meridional, right angles to radii) with the mid and especially the periphery of the image circle showing the most significant amount as this is where the most significant difference in the magnification of wavelengths typically exists.
With the right lens profile and software, lateral CA is often easily correctable (often in the camera) by radially shifting the colors to coincide. However, it is always better to avoid this aberration in the first place.
Color misalignment can be seen in the site's image quality tool, but let's also look at a worst-case example. The image below is a 100% crop from the extreme top left corner of a Sony a1 frame showing diagonal black and white lines.
Only black and white colors should appear in these images, with the additional colors indicating a minor presence of lateral CA.
A relatively common lens aberration is axial (longitudinal, bokeh) CA, which causes non-coinciding focal planes of the various wavelengths of light. More simply, different colors of light are focused to different depths. Spherical aberration along with spherochromatism, or a change in the amount of spherical aberration with respect to color (looks quite similar to axial chromatic aberration but is hazier) are other common lens aberrations to observe. Axial CA remains somewhat persistent when stopping down, with the color misalignment effect increasing with defocusing. The spherical aberration color halo shows little size change as the lens is defocused, and stopping down one to two stops generally removes this aberration.
In the real world, lens defects do not exist in isolation, with spherical aberration and spherochromatism generally found, at least to some degree, along with axial CA. These combine to create a less sharp, hazy-appearing image quality at the widest apertures.
The examples below look at the defocused specular highlights' fringing colors in the foreground vs. the background. The lens has introduced any fringing color differences from the neutrally-colored subjects.
Strong color separation is seen at the widest apertures.
Bright light reflecting off lens elements' surfaces may cause flare and ghosting, resulting in reduced contrast and sometimes interesting, usually destructive visual artifacts. The shape, intensity, and position of the flare effects in an image are variable, dependent on the position and nature of the light source (or sources), selected aperture, shape of the aperture blades, and quantity and quality of the lens elements and their coatings. Additionally, flare and ghosting can impact AF performance.
On this lens, "Super Multi-Layer Coating reduces flare and ghosting to help photographers produce sharp and high contrast images even in backlit conditions." [Sigma] While the relatively high 16-element count increases the challenge in this regard, this lens produced only minor flare effects even at narrow apertures in our standard sun in the corner of the frame flare test.
Flare effects can be embraced or avoided, or removal can be attempted. Removal is sometimes very challenging, and in some cases, flare effects can be quite destructive to image quality. Thus, high flare resistance is a welcomed trait of this lens.
Two lens aberrations are particularly evident in images of stars, mainly because bright points of light against a dark background make them easier to see. Coma occurs when light rays from a point of light spread out from that point instead of being refocused as a point on the sensor. Coma is absent in the center of the frame, gets worse toward the edges/corners, and generally appears as a comet-like or triangular tail of light which can be oriented either away from the center of the frame (external coma) or toward the center of the frame (internal coma). Coma clears as the aperture is narrowed. Astigmatism is seen as points of light spreading into a line, either sagittal (radiating from the center of the image) or meridional (tangential, perpendicular to sagittal). This aberration can produce stars appearing to have wings. Remember that Lateral CA is another aberration apparent in the corners.
The image below is a 100% crop taken from the top-left corner of a Sony Alpha 1 image captured at f/1.4.
While the 16mm focal length and f/1.4 aperture are highly suited for night sky photography, this lens's rendering of peripheral stars is not.
"To achieve such a compact construction, lens design is considered based on the capabilities of the camera body function to correct peripheral light amount and distortion." [Sigma] While this lens's vignetting is not strong, its geometric distortion is.
While we might think that, with a single focal length to design for, prime lens designers would choose to eliminate all geometric distortion, that is not the case, and this lens has moderate barrel distortion. With increasing frequency, manufacturers are relying on software over physical lens design to handle geometric distortion.
Most modern lenses have correction profiles available (including in-camera), and distortion can easily be removed using these. Still, distortion correction is destructive at the pixel level as some portion of the image must be stretched or the overall dimensions reduced.
As seen earlier in the review, it is easy to illustrate the strongest blur a lens can create, and wide-angle lenses are inherently disadvantaged in this regard. Due to the infinite number of variables present among all available scenes, assessing the bokeh quality is considerably more challenging. Here are some f/8 (for diaphragm blade interaction) examples.
The first example shows smoothly filled and reasonably round defocused highlights. The second set of examples shows full images reduced in size and looking normal.
Except for a small number of specialty lenses, the wide aperture bokeh in the frame's corner does not produce round defocused highlights, with these effects taking on a cat's eye shape due to a form of mechanical vignetting. If you look through a tube at an angle, similar to the light reaching the frame's corner, the shape is not round. That is the shape we're looking at here.
As the aperture narrows, the entrance pupil size is reduced, and the mechanical vignetting absolves with the shapes becoming rounder.
A 9-blade count diaphragm will create 18-point sunstars (diffraction spikes) from point light sources captured with a narrow aperture. In general, the more a lens diaphragm is stopped down, the larger and better-shaped the sunstars tend to be. Wide aperture lenses tend to have an advantage in this regard, and this lens is capable of producing attractive stars, as illustrated below.
The example above was captured at f/16.
The design of this lens is illustrated below.
Overall, this lens optically performs well. The sharpness is modestly lacking at f/1.4 (but looking great at f/2), there is strong color separation at wide apertures, and the geometric distortion is noticeable.
Driven by a stepping motor, the Sigma 30mm F1.4 DC DN Contemporary Lens smoothly autofocuses fast. The focusing is internal and practically silent.
Remember that (at least some) cameras, including the Sony a1, defocus the image slightly before final focusing in AF-S mode, even if the subject was initially in focus, adding significantly to the focus lock time. Autofocus lock speed is noticeably faster in AF-C mode.
With adequate contrast on the subject, this lens focuses in very dark environments. That said, it did not focus in light levels as low as I expected for an f/1.4 lens. Autofocusing slows as light levels drop, with about-3-second focus lock times in the lowest functioning light levels.
The most important function of an AF system is accuracy, and seldom is AF accuracy an issue with mirrorless cameras. Unfortunately, the Sony a1 and this lens got focus distance incorrect a significant amount of the time.
Normal is for the scene to change size in the frame (sometimes significantly) as the focus is pulled from one extent to the other. This is focus breathing, a change in focal length resulting from a change in focus distance. Focus breathing impacts photographers intending to use focus stacking techniques, videographers pulling focus, and anyone critically framing while adjusting focus. This lens produces a modest change in subject size through a full extent focus distance adjustment.
This lens does not have an AF/MF switch. Changing this frequently used camera setting requires use of the menu system (or a camera switch on some models).
This lens has a large, sharp-ribbed, rubberized focus ring that is easy to find. The ring rotates smoothly with ideal resistance.
This lens has a variable adjustment rate based on the rotation speed. A full extent focus distance change requires over four full rotations (1680°) when turning the focus ring slowly. Turn the ring fast, and 180° of rotation does the same.
The slow rotation manual focus adjustment steps are just short enough for high-precision focusing.
With a minimum focus distance of 9.8" (250mm), this lens has a 0.10x maximum magnification spec, a very low number.
Due to no identical alternative lenses in the database, the chart below shows a set of complementary Sigma lenses.
|Sigma 16mm F1.4 DC DN Contemporary Lens||9.8"||(250mm)||0.10x|
|Sigma 30mm F1.4 DC DN Contemporary Lens||11.8"||(300mm)||0.14x|
|Sigma 56mm F1.4 DC DN Contemporary Lens||19.7"||(500mm)||0.14x|
|Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 DC DN Contemporary Lens||4.8"||(121mm)||0.36x|
A subject measuring approximately 5.5" x 3.7" (140 x 93mm) fills a full-frame imaging sensor at this lens's minimum focus distance.
The USPS love stamps shared above have an image area that measures 1.05 x 0.77" (26.67 x 19.558mm), and the overall individual stamp size is 1.19 x 0.91" (30.226 x 23.114mm).
Minimum focus distance captured images show strong lateral CA in the periphery.
Need a shorter minimum focus distance and higher magnification? Mount an extension tube behind this lens to significantly decrease and increase those respective numbers. Extension tubes are hollow lens barrels that shift a lens farther from the camera, allowing shorter focusing distances at the expense of long-distance focusing. Electronic connections in extension tubes permit the lens and camera to communicate and otherwise function normally. As of review time, Canon and Sony do not publish extension tube specs or manufacture these items in compatible mounts, but third-party extension tubes are available.
This lens is not compatible with extenders/teleconverters.
The Sigma 16mm F1.4 DC DN Contemporary Lens has an aesthetically pleasing design that maintains tight tolerances and has a quality finish. The gently tapering design leads to the only moving feature, the long, straight, and comfortable to use focus ring.
The Sigma 16mm F1.4 DC DN Contemporary Lens features a TSC (Thermally Stable Composite) exterior. "TSC is a state-of-the-art polycarbonate that is designed to be both lightweight and extremely durable, and its chemical makeup means it doesn’t shrink or expand with changing temperatures. This material is so high-quality that we’re also incorporating it into our Art and Sports lenses to provide lightness and thermal consistency." [Sigma]
180° of the barrel's mount area features molded-in ribs that facilitate grip for mounting and dismounting the lens.
This lens has no buttons or switches. As hinted earlier, I miss the AF/MF button the most. Positive is that the lack of switches means increased reliability and decreased opportunity for dirt and moisture penetration.
"Are Contemporary lenses weather sealed? Contemporary lenses feature a gasket at the mount that protects against dust and moisture, but none feature sealing throughout the lens body (this is an additional reason that Contemporary lenses are more affordable). That said, the vast majority of contaminants work their way into lenses through the rear mount, so as long as they aren’t abused, these lenses will provide many years of trouble-free use, even in moderate weather. For regular use in more extreme conditions, Art or Sports lenses are the way to go." [Sigma]
Note that the EF-M mount lens does not have the rear gasket seal.
This Sigma lens is compatible with advanced mirrorless camera features, including Eye AF, in-camera lens correction (shading, chromatic aberration, distortion), and camera-based lens firmware updates.
Aided by the reduced image circle size required by APS-C imaging sensors, this lens is very small and light for its focal length and aperture specifications.
|Model||Weight oz(g)||Dimensions w/o Hood "(mm)||Filter||Year|
|Sigma 16mm F1.4 DC DN Contemporary Lens||14.3||(405)||2.8 x 3.6||(72.2 x 92.3)||67||2021|
|Sigma 30mm F1.4 DC DN Contemporary Lens||9.4||(265)||2.6 x 2.9||(64.8 x 73.3)||52||2016|
|Sigma 56mm F1.4 DC DN Contemporary Lens||9.9||(280)||2.6 x 2.3||(66.5 x 59.5)||55||2018|
|Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 DC DN Contemporary Lens||10.2||(290)||2.5 x 2.9||(64.5 x 74.5)||55||2017|
For many more comparisons, review the complete Sigma 16mm F1.4 DC DN Contemporary Lens Specifications using the site's lens specifications tool.
Here is a visual comparison of the small Sigma DC DN lenses being simultaneously evaluated:
Positioned above from left to right are the following lenses:
The same lenses are shown below with their hoods in place.
Use the site's product image comparison tool to visually compare the Sigma 16mm F1.4 DC DN Contemporary Lens to other lenses.
This lens features 67mm filter threads. With many lenses utilizing 67mm filters, effects filter sharing is highly potential, and the moderate size keeps the price down.
Sigma includes hoods with their lenses, and the LH716-01 Lens Hood ships with the 16mm F1.4 DC DN Contemporary Lens. The LH716-01 offers optimal protection to the front lens element, including protection from dust, water, fingers, limbs, etc., and from flare-inducing bright light.
The hood's interior is mold-ribbed for reduced internal reflections, and the LH716-01's semi-rigid plastic build absorbs some impact, adding a layer of physical protection to the camera and lens. The petal shape looks good, and another advantage of this hood shape is easier installation alignment (simply align the small petal to the top), though a round-shaped hood enables the lens to stand on its hood (conditions permitting). The rear portion of the hood is rubberized to, along with the mold-ribbed ring, facilitate installation and removal.
No lens case is included in the box, but finding a case for a common lens form factor is not challenging. Consider a Lowepro Lens Case or Think Tank Photo Lens Case Duo for a quality, affordable single-lens storage, transport, and carry solution.
As I said in the last review, Sigma's game is high quality for a reasonable price, and again in this case, the price is very low. Most of Sigma's lenses are considered a good value, and this lens is especially that.
The "DC" in the name indicates that this lens provides an image circle wide enough to cover (only) an APS-C imaging sensor, and the "DN" indicates that this lens was designed for short flange mirrorless cameras. The Sigma 16mm F1.4 DC DN Contemporary Lens is available in Canon EF-M, Sony E, Leica L, Fujifilm X, and Micro Four Thirds mounts.
Made in Japan, each Contemporary lens is tested with Sigma's proprietary MTF measuring system, ensuring a quality product. In regards to the Sony E-mount version of this lens, Sigma develops, manufactures, and sells lenses based on the specifications of E-mount, disclosed by Sony Corporation under license agreement. Sigma provides a 1-year limited warranty, and Sigma USA provides a limited 3-year warranty extension.
The reviewed Sigma 16mm F1.4 DC DN Contemporary Lens was online-retail sourced.
The Sigma 16mm F1.4 DC DN Contemporary Lens, Sigma 30mm F1.4 DC DN Contemporary Lens, and Sigma 56mm F1.4 DC DN Contemporary Lens form what Sigma refers to as "The F1.4 Mirrorless Trio". The three lenses are highly complementary, share many similarities, and their reviews are completing in parallel.
The compact, lightweight Sigma 16mm F1.4 DC DN Contemporary Lens is a very affordable choice for landscape and other wide-angle use, with the wide f/1.4 aperture increasing this lens's versatility.
Based on my experience, you should closely inspect the focus accuracy of this lens model, but otherwise, it is a good performer.
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