Delivering crazy sharpness, decent build quality, and blazing fast autofocus, these lenses quickly became fan favorites.
I recently rented out the widest lens of the trio, the Sigma 16mm F1.4, and put it through its paces for almost a month.
With Sony’s brand new 15mm F1.4, does this older Sigma still have a place in the market? (spoiler: yes)
In this review, we’ll go over anything and everything you’ll ever need to know about this legendary wide angle.
Let’s dive in!
Looking for a quick summary before jumping in?
Size & Weight
To start off the review we’ll be talking about the size and weight of the lens.
The Sigma 16mm F1.4 is actually a bit on the larger side compared to your average APS-C prime.
Size-wise, it measures a fairly long 3.63in (9.2cm) and it even gains an extra 1.5in (4cm) when the lens hood is attached.
While not anywhere near the size of a full-frame lens, this is still pretty large compared to most APS-C primes.
For weight, it comes in at about 14.3oz (405g). This heavy-ish weight, combined with the large size, made it feel slightly off-balanced, if I must admit, on my a6400.
By the way, quick note: I tested this lens with the a6400, so you’ll see a lot of shared images between this article and that one.
Is the lens built well?
All that weight has to go somewhere, right?
Yep, it’s as heavy and large as it is thanks to the rather nice build quality.
The Sigma 16mm F1.4 has a lens barrel that is made out of a healthy mix of metal and “thermally stable composite”, a type of polycarbonate that is strong and durable while still staying (somewhat) lightweight.
Over the years, many of their lenses have been made out of this material, and generally, it’s shown to be long-lasting, scratch resistant, and strong.
I’ve owned my 30mm F1.4 (same material) for four years (almost five!) and have never had any durability issues.
Heck, I even smashed my 18-50mm F2.8 (once again, same material) against a concrete wall and it survived just fine.
As for accessories, the lens comes with two bog-standard front and rear caps.
The rear cap is the twisty plastic kind, and the front is a pinch-style cap. Nothing special there, but they do their job to protect the lens.
Speaking of protecting the lens, the petal-shaped lens hood is massive (as I mentioned earlier) and also does its job quite well at protecting the front element against both bumps and flaring.
As for weather sealing, the Sigma 16mm F1.4 is actually fully sealed!
This is awesome to see with a mid-budget APS-C lens, as usually full sealing is reserved for higher-end full frame glass.
Do be conscious that you’ll also need a weather sealed body in order to “complete” the sealing.
Luckily, the a6400 that I tested with this lens was also, in fact, fully sealed.
Built to last?
Alright, so is this lens built to last? Uhh, yeah I think so.
Between Sigma’s positive reputation for longevity (seriously, my 30mm F1.4 has survived some nasty stuff) along with the full weather sealing, I have no doubt that this lens should endure and survive for years to come.
As for ergonomics, I don’t have many complaints.
I shoot with a wrist strap and was able to handhold & carry my setup around for a while without any hand fatigue.
The massive focus ring functions as a great gripping point, allowing for some good weight distribution and comfortable holding/stabilizing.
That being said, for hiking or anything else strenuous, it would definitely go into a bag until it was needed, as the weight and front-heaviness does wear down on you after a while.
The nice thing, in that regard, is that while the lens is fairly large, it can still comfortably fit in bags.
For hiking, I tossed it in my Tenba BYOB 10 (which then gets thrown into my hiking bag), and for short excursions around the city, it fit nicely into my Peak Design sling (with plenty of room to spare).
Although beauty is always subjective, I find this lens to have a nice but, to be frank, somewhat boring aesthetic (and that’s ok!).
As with the other lenses in the trio, the 16mm has a very minimalistic and simple look.
With the exception of the massive focus ring, the barrel has a sleek black finish contrasted with white text engravings.
I think this is a solid look, especially when combined with the silver “C” badge (signifying the lens’s position in Sigma’s “contemporary” lineup).
The only downside, in my opinion, is that to achieve the clean look, an AF/MF switch had to be omitted.
As a fan of manual focus, it would be nice to have that on the lens itself to switch quickly, but I ended up just rebinding a custom button on the camera body for it instead.
Now, it’s time for the fun part.
Let’s talk about sharpness and image quality! (spoiler alert: the 16mm is often considered one of the sharpest lenses ever made for Sony APS-C)
So yeah, even at F1.4, we see nearly flawless sharpness from the dead center all the way out to the far corners.
Since the frame is already stupidly sharp wide open, stopping down really doesn’t do that much.
If you pixel peep to the extreme, you may find a marginally sharper image around the edges of the frame, but seriously, F1.4 is almost as sharp.
Do note that diffraction kicks in a lot quicker than most lenses.
At F11, you’ll start to notice a drop in quality, and I’d highly recommend against shooting at F16.
Optical Quirks & Flaws
So sharpness is absolutely bonkers, but what about any optical quirks and flaws like distortion, CA, vignette, or flaring?
Really the only noticeable optical fault will be distortion, and it’s really not even that bad.
As a wide angle, distortion is to be expected, and it’s minor enough (roughly 2.8% barrel) to be easily fixed in post-processing, especially with the included lens profile in Lightroom.
Besides the distortion, well, everything else is pretty much unnoticeable.
Vignette is incredibly minor (and also easily fixed in post), I really couldn’t see any chromatic aberrations, and the flaring is incredibly well controlled (I tried to force it but could only create minor ghosting in extreme situations).
Bokeh & Subject Isolation
Bokeh-wise, the lens is 16mm, but it does, however, have a very bright aperture.
I found that, despite being so wide, bokeh and subject isolation were fairly decent.
Nothing compared to a dedicated portrait lens, sure, but there were many situations where I could throw the background out-of-focus at F1.4.
Below, here is a swipe gallery of bokeh comparisons along with a small set of portraiture for your consideration.
Overall Optical Performance
So yeah, in terms of overall optical performance, I’m honestly extremely impressed.
For wide subjects such as landscapes that demand edge-to-edge clarity, the Sigma 16mm F1.4 certainly can deliver (heck, it even does decently well in portraits like I mentioned).
Couple that with the fact there are virtually no faults besides distortion and you’ve got yourself an optically near-perfect lens.
Good stuff, Sigma. (keep reading though, we a lot to talk about still!)
So, image quality is absolutely bonkers, but how is the autofocus?
Frankly: also quite good.
You perhaps won’t get the ridiculous AF speed and accuracy of an OEM Sony lens, but I’ve found you can get pretty close.
In good lighting, I have never had a situation where the lens had to hunt.
It’s blazing fast every single time, even when it starts to get dark (though you can expect hunting if you try to shoot at, like, midnight).
The lens, like most glass, also plays quite well with Sony’s special AF systems.
I found EyeAF (on my a6400) to work quite well, even despite the lens being quite wide angle.
As for subject tracking, the Sigma didn’t have any trouble tracking targets across the frame.
Video users will be happy to know that AF in video is just as quick and not to mention silent (internal focusing).
Honestly, on that subject, this is an awesome lens if you’re a content creator.
Wide, super bright, with silent focus. What’s not to love?
Finally, for my fellow manual focus enthusiasts, this lens handles like most other modern lenses.
It’s entirely focus-by-wire, meaning a computer controls the focus as it responds to the ring moving.
Focus-by-wire can be hit or miss, but Sigma did a pretty decent job here.
The ring is “dampened” well, and the focus magnifier will kick in automatically as you spin it.
That being said, there are, of course, no focus scale or distance engravings, so you’ll be entirely reliant on in-camera focus assists such as peaking.
So yeah, certainly it’s no Voigtlander, but the manual focus experience was still pretty solid.
Now, before we finish up the review, there are some a couple of random things I have to cover.
The first random note I have to touch on is stabilization.
Or rather, the Sigma 16mm’s lack of stabilization.
Unfortunately, none of the lenses in Sigma’s trio offer stabilization which is rather unfortunate for video users.
That being said, the newer APS-C bodies now have IBIS, so it really doesn’t matter as much.
Still, it sucks for people who are still using older bodies like the a6k.
For macro enthusiasts, well, this is a very wide-angle lens.
That means you’re getting low magnification (something like .10x I believe). However, close focus distance is actually pretty good at about 10in (25.4cm).
You’re certainly not going to create any ultra-closeups, but it can be fun to shoot wacky wide-angle macro shots.
I’ll toss a few wide “macro-ish” shots below.
On a slightly unrelated note, the Sigma 16mm F1.4 has also gotten some love from the astrophotography community.
The “industry leader”, so to speak, for APS-C is the Rokinon 12mm F2.0, so how does this Sigma stack up? Decently.
Perhaps obviously, the biggest advantage that this Sigma offers is the incredibly bright F1.4 aperture.
Having such a bright lens opens up so many possibilities when shooting the night sky.
You can shoot with a lower ISO, reduce shutter speeds if needed, etc.
Unfortunately, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, as coma performance (what is coma?) leaves a lot to be desired.
Near the edges of the frame, stars tend to have long tails and a lot of “smudging”.
For casual night sky photographers, this lens will do the job.
If you’re the type that only wants to do astro and nothing else, however, look to the Rokinon 12mm F2.0 instead.
My Final Thoughts
Whew, alrighty, that was a long review.
Before we round it all off, I’d like to offer two main alternatives for your consideration.
Sony E 15mm F1.4 G
First off, Sony actually recently released their own direct competitor to this lens: the Sony E 15mm F1.4 G.
This lens is an absolute beast. It’s just as sharp, has rediculous autofocus (OEM Sony lens, of course) and features incredible G-series build quality.
It is, however, almost twice the price. If you have a lot of cash to throw around, definitely consider picking up the Sony.
However, the Sigma is just as capable even though it’s half the price.
Rokinon 12mm F2.0
That lens offers solid build quality and nice images, but it is, however, manual focus only.
I personally love manual lenses, but I know most people prefer the convenience and reliability of autofocus, so it definitely serves a limited market.
Still, the Rokinon can be a solid choice if you enjoy manual and want to save a lot of money (oh, and it’s the best lens for astro like I mentioned earlier).
So yeah, I really do think the Sigma 16mm F1.4 is quite literally the best value wide angle lens for Sony APS-C cameras.
Exceptional sharpness, a bulletproof build and great autofocus all come together to create a mighty lens that won’t really break the bank.
So, if reading a few thousand words of me rambling has convinced you to pick up this excellent lens for youself, I’ll leave purchase links below.
Thanks a ton for reading, and I hope you end up enjoying this glorious lens as much as I did!
Sigma 16mm F1.4 Sample Photos
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