Sigma FLD 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 HSM

Wide-Angle Zoom

Technically, any zoom lens with a zoom range falling below about 50mm (APS-C) or 70mm (full frame) can be considered a wide-angle zoom, but these days, people are generally talking about the ultra-wide zooms in the 10-30mm range, which have become quite popular over the past several years. Historically, lenses in this range were either fisheye or optically flawed, but because of recent advanced is computer aided lens design, we have a collection of lenses that are optically quite good. In fact, there are enough of them made (especially for APS-C) that it can be tricky to choose the best one.

APS-C

Among the choices for APS-C sensors, the suggestions that I’ve provided have similar optical quality, all of which are on a very high level. The Tokina, which has the shortest zoom range consequently also probably has the highest resolution, as one should expect.

Tokina AT-X 11-16 f2.8 Pro DX

Tokina AT-X 11-16 f2.8 Pro DXIf you can live with the somewhat limited zoom range, the Tokina 11-16 f2.8 is my top choice. Not only is the lens wonderfully sharp, it maintains a constant f2.8 maximum aperture throughout the zoom range, making it significantly better in low light than the other lenses.

The Drawbacks: Unfortunately, this lens is difficult to find for Canon, and some retailers price it higher for Canon than other brands, though this is hardly a major problem in this age of the internet. Otherwise, the major downside for this lens is the limited zoom range (only 6mm from the wide to telephoto ends).

Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6

Sigma FLD 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 HSM This is the widest angle rectilinear (non-fisheye) zoom lens on the market. For Canon APS-C, this is equivalent to a 13-26mm, approximately. Despite the extreme lens design, the optical quality remains remarkably high, especially from the mid to high zoom range, where there is also very minimal distortion. Its minimum focusing distance is about 9.5 inches (24 cm), which will allow you to dramatically emphasize foreground detail.

The Drawbacks: There are two major drawbacks to this lens; first, it has a bulbous front element, so it can’t accept filters. The other drawback is simply that it’s a pretty slow lens… f/4.5 is the maximum aperture, but to get the best image quality, you’ll end up shooting at f/5.6-f/8.

Sigma 10-20 f4-5.6

Sigma 10-20mm lensPerhaps the most attractive feature of this particular lens is its price, but it does have very impressive image quality to go along with it. At the wide end of the range, some tests conclude that the image is not as sharp as the Canon, while others say that the difference is not significant.

The Drawbacks: This lens has slightly softer performance at the short end of the zoom, with the margins of the frame showing some softness at 10mm, and away from the center of the lens, the resolution isn’t quite as high in general (though this is typical for a lens of this type).

Canon 10-22 f3.5-5.6

Canon 10-22mm Wide Angle LensCanon’s lens is the most expensive of the bunch, and although the optical quality is perhaps a little better than the Sigma, it also costs nearly twice as much. The lens does have the longest zoom range of any of the three, and it is 1/3rd stop faster at the wide end.

The Drawbacks: The performance figures of this lens are backwards compared to the Sigma. While the Sigma is weakest at the short end, the Canon is weakest at the long end (22mm), where a little softness creeps in. The only other major drawback is the price.

Full Frame Sensor

Before continuing, it is important to keep in mind that when it comes to full format lenses, these zoom ranges are somewhat extreme, and none of the lenses available for Canon are perfect. Nikon shooters have the edge here, as the Nikkor AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8G ED is really the only lens of its kind to produce excellent resolution figures border to border across the zoom range at the moment (though it costs around $1800).

Sigma 12-24 f4.5-5.6

For a full frame sensor camera, the Sigma 12-24mm offers the widest (non-fisheye) perspective available, and that is no small feat. I’ve found that it’s used by quite a few professional photographers (especially wedding photographers, such as David Ziser, and journalists) to cover their wide angle needs. Though I am a fan of wide angle lenses, I rarely find that I need to shoot any wider than 16mm (full frame), but perhaps if I were to spend more time with this lens I’d start finding uses for it. The distortion levels in this lens are remarkably low; much lower than you’d expect from a lens in this class.

The Drawbacks: As you might expect from a lens that is pushing the boundaries of lens engineering such as this one, there are some downsides. First, of course, is the fact that it has a relatively small maximum aperture, at f4.5. The borders are slightly softer than the center, but not terribly so… in most cases, it will not be problematic. The chromatic aberrations can be pretty bad, so make sure that you know how to correct them in post-processing.

Canon EF 16-35mm f2.8L USM II

It goes without saying that this is an expensive lens, but it is beautifully made and weather sealed, clearly intended for professional use. It is as much as two full f-stops faster than the Sigma, with a constant f2.8 available as a maximum aperture. The resolution in the center of the lens is excellent, but drops off towards the margins of the frame, as is the case with the Sigma. When stopped down to f8, the resolution is quite good from border to center… and is actually very respectable even from 5.6. The resolution is significantly improved over the older 17-40 f4.

The Drawbacks: I’ll mention the price here, but that’s really to be expected, as is the softness at the extremes of the frame, especially wide open.

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17 Comments

    • Hey Erika,

      Nice to see you back here at L&M :) The 4 at the top of the page are really my top pics for your camera in this ultra-wide angle range, but I’ll think about it and see if there’s anything else that I left out. Tamron may have a good offering, too, that I didn’t list, but I can’t think of it off the top of my head. Tokina lenses are awesome :)

      – Matt

  • My company designs and produces custom mouldings and architectural details.  I have several years of production in the field and very view great photos…a tremendous waste of marketing value.  So, I am taking the plunge into a DSLR camera.

    I am strongly considering the T3i as the price differential versus the T2i is not huge, however I have never shot any video so perhaps am being driven strickly by marketing.  The one advantage I believe the T3i may provide is the 2 stop auto bracketing that could provide HDR images with simplicity.  I really like the full dynamic range that is provided with that technique. I also want to be able to take my laptop to these jobsites and view my setups through the large 17″ screen.  Can both models accomadate that need?

    The other point of my inquiry is which wide angle zoom would be best suited to interior shots. Often the lenses are recommended based upon landscpape capture but I need the best image available for indoors.

    Bob

     

    • Hi Bob,

      If you’re going to be doing indoor work primarily (or even just significantly), then I’d recommend the T3i and a flash unit (like the 430ex II) because the T3i will allow you to use that flash off of the camera, controlled wirelessly with the on-camera flash. If you use the flash from some part of the room other than where you’re shooting from, it will cast the shadows/highlights that provide the detail and definition that are desirable for architectural details.

      Beyond that, the T2i and T3i are pretty much even. They both have auto-bracketing, and they can both be tethered to a laptop by USB and provide full-screen live-view with the provided Canon software, or via HDMI output (at lower resolution).

      I’m not sure, off the top of my head, what factors would be important for an indoor shooter that wouldn’t also be for landscape photographer. Certainly you’d want a lens that doesn’t have any field curvature (ie, focuses consistently on a single plane, not a curved plane), you’d want low distortion, and you’d probably also want good low-light capabilities if you’re shooting hand-held… and I think that all of the f/2.8 lenses listed above fit that description. So, it really just depends on which focal lengths you want, and whether you’ll be shooting hand-held or on a tripod.

      – Matthew

      • I assume that most of the shooting will be done using a tripod ( any recommendation on the model)?

        If that were the case would you still prefer 2.8 Tokina versus Canon EFS 10-22?

        Would the Nissin 622 flash meet the same requirements as the Canon 430ex II in my application?

        Final question, if I was to only get one other all round lens to begin with that would take great photos of people as well as details in these buildings what would it be?

        Thanks,
        Bob

        • I can recomend a manfrotto 055xprob with a 498rc2 head. I got this setup standing right next to me and it can hold a 40d with bg and a 70-200 without any problems.

          Mhmm the 11-16 is a good lens, but the 10-22 is wider and longer.

          all around would be something like a tamron 17-50, or on a full frame body a 24-70.

        • Between the Tokina 11-16 and the Canon 10-20, it’s a bit of a toss-up if you’ll be using a tripod. The Tokina has a little higher resolution (but they’re both good), the Canon probably has a touch less distortion (it’s correctable in LR in both cases), and the Canon does have a longer zoom range. For me, the extra light from the f/2.8 the is the tie breaker.

          As for the tripod and head… there are tons of good ones out there, and they all work. It really comes down to a matter of personal preference. I prefer something carbon fiber with flip locks on the legs, and a ball head with an independent pan control, but others prefer other options. DO buy a reputable brand, though… a good tripod will last you decades. Manfrotto (as Felix suggested), Gitzo and Giottos, Slik, and Really Right Stuff are just a few of the options.

          The Nissin 622 would actually be a better option than the 430ex, if you don’t mind spending the extra money on it. You may have already seen my comparison of flashes for Canon on this site.

          I don’t think that there are any good lenses that cover the whole range from ~20mm to 200mm or so… lots of lenses exist, but I don’t recommend any of them. Something like a 70-200 or even a 70-300 would be great for details and for people, though. Of course, the choice will depend on your budget. Either of the Canon 70-200 f/4L lenses would be great and not too outrageously priced, the non-IS model is only about $700, and the IS model is amazingly sharp but $1350.  And actually, the Tamron 70-200 f/2.8 isn’t too expensive… about $770. Anyway, let me know what your budget and desired focal length range would be for that lens, and I’ll see if I can narrow it down a bit :)

          – Matthew

  • hi matt, i wanted to get the wide angle lens, but im so indecisive on Sigma 10-20 f4-5.6 or the tokina. which one would you recommend?

    • Hi Erika,

      It sorta depends on what you’ll be doing with it. The Tokina has the advantage when it comes to resolution, and a major advantage when it comes to the amount of light it lets in (f/2.8 vs 5.6 at 16mm). The light factor makes a big difference if you’re taking action shots or shooting at events with relatively low light (weddings, parties, concerts, etc).

      Obviously, the Sigma is quite a bit less expensive, though, and has a longer zoom range.. though most of it is not at the wide end and will be covered by a standard wide to mid zoom like a 17-50mm. It is also very close focusing: you can focus as close as 9.4 inches, which allows you to really emphasize a foreground object by making it unusually large… which is good for landscape photography, and other artistic work. The Tokina doesn’t focus quite as close (about 12 inches), but it’s close.

      So, when it comes down to it, I’d recommend the Tokina if you can afford it, but if not, the Sigma is a really great lens, too.

      – Matthew

    • Thanks for the suggestion. I haven’t had a chance to try this one out yet, but I’ve read good things about it, mostly…. though it’s apparently soft at f/2.8. I’ll look into it.

      – Matthew

  • Thanks for your comparisons of the Tokina AT-X 11-16 f2.8, Sigma 10-20 f4-5.6, and Canon 10-22 f3.5-5.6 lenses for APS-C cameras. Have you had a chance to check out the newer Sigma 10-20 f3.5 lens, and if so, what are your thoughts compared with the three you reviewed.

    Dave

    • Yes. Strangely enough, the optical quality of the f/3.5 model is quite bad around the borders when you’re shooting at 10mm, even when stopped down, though the center of the image is quite good. It’s so bad that it doesn’t even register on the scale in resolution tests… it’s just blur. This is significantly worse than the slower Sigma lens, which is merely soft in the same area. The rest of the f/3.5 version is good… at least as good as the slower lens, but probably not much better.

      It’s always possible that this experience is based on a bad lens; I’ve read reports of people being very happy with them, but even in the user-submitted images on Amazon, for example, I see the really bad borders in many cases.

      Considering the price of the Sigma f/3.5, though, I’d spend a little more and get the Tokina, which offers the f/2.8 throughout the zoom range, and very good optics… or spend significantly less and get more reliable image quality at 10mm with the slower lens.

      – Matthew

    • Sorry — somehow I just missed your reference to the 16-35 being sharper than the 17-40. I guess the question a potential buyer should ask then is whether, for them, the extra sharpness and the extra stop of light on the 16-35 are worth the extra cost and weight, right?

      • That’s right. The 17-40 is also a very nice lens itself, with top-notch build quality. And the resolution is pretty good, for an APS-C camera.

        On full frame, the wide end of the lens is VERY soft away from the center of the frame, from about 17-20mm (which is really why people buy a wide angle). Wide open, there’s nothing sharp about the borders (there’s quite literally an MTF50 of 0). It isn’t until you get to f/8 or f/11 that they start getting into the “decent” range.

        It performs a lot better towards the “normal” end of the range, even wide open.

        For my money, there are better lenses for the price for APS-C, and I probably wouldn’t use it on full-frame, if I cared about the borders of the frame.

        – Matt

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