Sigma 16mm f/1.4 vs 30mm f/1.4: A Non Technical Real Life Comparison on Sony a6500

by Tom Shu
Sigma 16mm vs 30mm Image #1 - witandfolly.co-1

I see you’re stuck between the Sigma 16mm vs 30mm f/1.4 lens for your Sony e-mount camera!

Honestly, one of the best but also most frustrating things about having a camera with interchangeable lenses is picking which lens to invest your hard earned money into.

When it comes down to the Sigma 16mm vs 30mm, both of these lenses are two of the best quality and best value prime lenses for the Sony a6500. Although they are very similar in build, aperture, look, and feel, they both excel in different aspects of photography and videography.

Lucky for you, I’ve owned the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 lens for over 3 years and the Sigma 16mm f/1.4 for over 2 years, so I’ll tell you all about my experience working with them.

When I was researching and comparing the Sigma 16mm vs 30mm, the only articles I ever found were super technical. 

So it is my goal with this article to provide a non-technical real world comparison of what type of photography works best for each lens with examples from my professional work.

Hopefully by the end of this article you will have enough information to help you figure out which lens is a better fit for you!

Here is what I’ll be covering today:

A little about the Sigma Lens Product Lines

Sigma 16mm vs 30mm Image #1 - witandfolly.co-1

Sigma makes some of the my favorite lenses for the Sony a6500 and for the most part is a good alternative to the more expensive Sony lens lineup.

In my everyday carry bag, I actually have two Sigma and two Sony lenses and I use both my Sigma and Sony lenses just as much.

Currently, Sigma has organized their lenses into three different lens lineups based on the characteristics of the lenses. These three lines of lenses are:

  • Art Lenses: this is their larger aperture, prime lens lineup. Lenses in this lineup include the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM and 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM. HSM means the lens has Sigma’s built in Hyper Sonic Motor, which supposedly gives the lens faster autofocus and is near silent.
  • Contemporary Lenses: this is their all purpose, multifunctional, compact, and lighter weight lens lineup. Lenses in this lineup include the Sigma 16mm f/1.4 DC DN and Sigma 30mm f1.4 DC DN that this article is about.
  • Sports Lenses: this is their durable, high quality, telephoto lens lineup created for wildlife and as the name suggests sport photography. Lenses in this lineup include the Sigma 60-600mm f/4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM and the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM.

Like I mentioned already, both the Sigma 16mm and 30mm DC DN lenses are in the Sigma Contemporary Lens product line.

Although some people say that image quality of the Art Lenses are better than the Contemporary Lenses, that is not the full truth.

In my opinion, it would be very difficult for a normal person or even your client to tell the difference between an image taken with an Art Lens versus a Contemporary Lens. Both lens lineups really are that good.

I actually don’t have an Art lens in my everyday gear bag, so I’m not going to get into a detailed comparison between these two lens lineups, but if you’re looking for more info, here is one of my favorite YouTube videos comparing lenses from both product lines.

When do I use the Sigma 16mm f/1.4 the most?

Sigma 16mm vs 30mm Image #4 - witandfolly.co-1

After owning the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 for over a year, the main reason why I decided to pick up the Sigma 16mm f/1.4 was for the wider focal length.

Now, the 16mm is my go to videography, real estate interior (hotel clients), and low light wide angle lens I use.

Honestly, in most situations where I would have used the Sigma 30mm in the past, I now choose to use the Sigma 16mm.

The extra 14mm difference between the two lenses definitely makes a huge difference especially on the APS-C sensor of the Sony a6500.

This isn’t always the case though as there are certain situations where I would rather use the Sigma 30mm f/1.4, but I do tend to use the 16mm lens much more now.

To give you a better idea of what type of situations I use this lens in and how the images look, here are some commercial projects where I primarily used the Sigma 16mm f/1.4 lens to shoot.

1.) Videography: Spirit of Matsu

Spirit of Matsu was a short documentary film I shot in Beigang, Taiwan in the summer of 2018 to capture the annual Matsu Festival celebration in this small countryside city.

Over the course of 7 days, I ran around the small city, capturing the festivities in the narrow alleyways, small streets, and inside the main temple of the city, Chaotian Gong Temple.

Shooting conditions were pretty rough as there were fireworks exploding all around us at all times of the day.

The crowded streets, alleyways and temple were also all poorly lit so it definitely tested the auto focus and low light capabilities of the lens and camera.

The reason why I chose to shoot with the Sigma 16mm f/1.4 was because I knew I needed the wider angle for the alleyway and temple shots.

Plus, it gets extremely crowded during the event so I knew I would be closer than usual to any people I would be capturing too.

At the end of the 7 days of shooting, I was extremely happy with how the footage looked and was surprised with how good the lens actually performed in real life! 

Don’t just take my word for it, though, check out the results. All the images you see here are stills taken from the final short film.

Also, if you missed it at the beginning of this section, I embedded the short film so you can check out the video results with this lens too.

Gear Used

  • Camera: Sony a6500, Sony RX100 V, DJI Mavic Pro
  • Lens: Sigma 16mm f/1.4 DC DN
  • Stabilizer: Moza Air Gimbal
  • Editing Software: Adobe Premiere Pro

Spirit of Matsu Short Film Still #6 - witandfolly.co

Spirit of Matsu Short Film Still #7 - witandfolly.co

Spirit of Matsu Short Film Still #2 - witandfolly.co

Spirit of Matsu Short Film Still #5 - witandfolly.co

Spirit of Matsu Short Film Still #1 - witandfolly.co

Spirit of Matsu Short Film Still #3 - witandfolly.co

Spirit of Matsu Short Film Still #4 - witandfolly.co

2.) Tight Spaces and Low Light: Nau Clothing PDX x Seoul Korean Capsule Collection

Nau PDX x Seoul Collaboration with @witandfolly Image #1 - witandfolly.co

Nau PDX x Seoul Collaboration with @witandfolly Image #3 - witandfolly.co

Nau Clothing, a company based out of Portland, Oregon who creates premium apparel that combines technical performance with modern design from sustainably sourced materials partnered with us to launch their Seoul x PDX Korean Capsule Collection.

Their Korean Capsule Collection was a result of a collaboration between the company’s Portland based design team and their Seoul based design team.

This resulted in a cool, streetwear type of aesthetic that took design inspiration from both the style, landscapes and vibes of the PNW and the urban, chaotic, and trendy environment that is Seoul. 

My goal of the collaboration with Nau on this project was to create a set of 20 images that would highlight the versatility, and the streetwear vibes of this line.

To accomplish this, I chose to shoot in a street environment, which is something I usually don’t do.

The lens of choice for this photoshoot was the Sigma 16mm f/1.4 lens for two main reasons.

  • The shoot location was enclosed so I needed a wider lens to capture the entire scene.
  • The shoot location did not let in very much natural light so I needed a lens with a larger aperture.

The lens worked perfectly for this photoshoot and allowed me to quickly focus on Melissa in a variety of different positions even at a larger aperture.

In addition, the lens allowed me to achieve some cool close up shots from a lower angle using the distortion of the lens to our advantage.

I don’t think this would have been possible with the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 because of its longer focal length.

Gear Used

Nau PDX x Seoul Collaboration with @witandfolly Image #7 - witandfolly.co

Nau PDX x Seoul Collaboration with @witandfolly Image #6 - witandfolly.co

Nau PDX x Seoul Collaboration with @witandfolly Image #9 - witandfolly.co

3.) Interiors: Novotel Danang Premier Han River in Danang, Vietnam

Novotel Danang, Vietnam Collaboration with @witandfolly Image #4 - witandfolly.co

Novotel Hotel & Resorts, which is a hotel brand under the AccorHotels Group with over 400 hotels in 60 countries partnered with us to create photography content for their Novotel Danang Premier Han River hotel property in Danang, Vietnam.

As part of the project, I had to take a series of photos in specific locations throughout the hotel.

This included its standard room, the executive suite, the executive spa, the pool area, its breakfast buffet, and the lounge.

For all the interior shots of the project, I chose to use the Sigma 16mm f/1.4.

The reason why I chose to use this lens versus the other ones in our gear pack are the same as the Nau Clothing project.

I needed a wide angle lens in order to capture the tight spaces inside the hotel and a larger aperture which allowed me to keep ISO lower while hand holding shots in lower light.

The lens handled all our interior situations great and allowed me to easily switch between different lighting situations.

Gear Used

  • Camera: Sony a6500
  • Tripod: Three Legged Thing – Leo Tripod
  • Lens: Sigma 16mm f/1.4 DC DN
  • Editing Software: Adobe Lightroom

Novotel Danang, Vietnam Collaboration with @witandfolly Image #1 - witandfolly.co

Novotel Danang, Vietnam Collaboration with @witandfolly Image #3 - witandfolly.co

Novotel Danang, Vietnam Collaboration with @witandfolly Image #7 - witandfolly.co

When do I use the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 the most?

Sigma 16mm vs 30mm Image #3 - witandfolly.co-1

Although the Sigma 16mm f/1.4 lens is a beast, there are still times that I would rather use the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 version depending on the shooting situation I’m in.

The three situations that I use the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 lens the most are:

  • Taking product photos.
  • Lifestyle photos in which the subject is the main focus and not the landscape.
  • If I want to create more depth in the image between the subject and the background while compressing the background slightly.

I find that the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 is easier to use for product and lifestyle photos.

This is because the extra 14mm in focal length distance allows me to shoot further away from the subject and also compress the background slightly giving certain scenes (such as trees, lights, etc.) a more full bokeh effect.

Also, since the Sigma 16mm f/1.4 is at a more extreme wide angle, you will get some lens distortion, while the 30mm focal length gives a more natural look.

For example, if you shoot a model from low to high with the Sigma 16mm, the feet of the model will look much larger than the hands of the model.

This doesn’t happen with the 30mm lens.

To give you a better idea of what type of situations I use this lens in and how the images look, here are some commercial projects where I primarily used the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 lens to shoot.

1.) Create Depth in the Daytime – prAna Spring Dresses Campaign

PrAna Collaboration with @witandfolly Image #3 - witandfolly.co

PrAna Collaboration with @witandfolly Image #1 - witandfolly.co

prAna, a premium clothing company based out of San Diego, California who creates clothing for yoga, travel, and adventure enthusiasts from sustainably sourced materials partnered with us to launch their spring dress campaign.

Our goal for the project was to create a series of images that highlighted the versatility, comfort, style, and sustainability of prAna’s dresses.

So, for the project we decided to take prAna to Alishan Mountain in southern Taiwan during its cherry blossom season for a 5 day 4 night trip.

My favorite set of images created for prAna was on day 2 of our trip in the small Alishan mountain town of Shizuo.

In this town, there was a wooden walkway near the tea fields called ‘Cherry Blossom Trail’ which had cherry blossoms lining both sides of it.

The lens I chose to take photos at this spot was the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 as I wanted to frame Melissa with the cherry blossoms that were on top of the stairs, while throwing out the background a little using an aperture of about f/2.8.

The 30mm focal length worked better than the 16mm focal length for this shot as it also allowed me to compress the trees a little more giving them a more full look.

Gear Used

PrAna Collaboration with @witandfolly Image #2 - witandfolly.co

PrAna Collaboration with @witandfolly Image #4 - witandfolly.co

2.) Create Depth at Night – Cleobella Dress and Bag Campaign

Cleobella Collaboration with @witandfolly Image #1 - witandfolly.co

Cleobella Collaboration with @witandfolly Image #2 - witandfolly.co

Cleobella, a brand that creates handcrafted clothing, bags, jewelry and accessories working with artisans and families in Bali partnered with us to create a series of product photos for both their dresses and bags.

For this set of photos, we were in the picturesque Hoi An Ancient Town in Vietnam and had a vision to create a set of images at night for Cleobella.

The lens I chose to take the photos in Hoi An at night was the Sigma 30mm f1.4 as I wanted the extra focal length of the Sigma 30mm compared to the Sigma 16mm to compress all the lanterns hanging in the street.

This is the same reason why I chose to use the Sigma 30mm for the prAna project.

In addition, I wanted to throw out the background using an aperture of around f/2.0 in order to emphasize Melissa with the lights and crowds in the background.

Gear Used

3.) Use in Combination with ND Filter During Daytime – SummerSalt

SummerSalt Collaboration with @witandfolly Image #5 - witandfolly.co

SummerSalt, a US based direct to consumer swimsuit brand who make designer swimwear without the designer price partnered with us to create a series of photographs for their swimsuit line.

For this partnership, we decided to create the photos during our trip to Vietnam too.

One of my favorite ways to use the Sigma 30mm is to pair it with the 6 stop ND filter from Breakthrough Photography and shoot with the aperture wide open during the day.

The contrast and colors created from the mid-day sun shot through a 6 stop ND filter are really beautiful and is only possible if you use a darker ND filter.

If you do want to try this, make sure you get a high quality ND filter like this one from Breakthrough Photography because low quality ones can add a green color cast to your photos.

Gear Used

SummerSalt Collaboration with @witandfolly Image #3 - witandfolly.co

SummerSalt Collaboration with @witandfolly Image #1 - witandfolly.co

SummerSalt Collaboration with @witandfolly Image #2 - witandfolly.co

Summary

After using the Sigma 16mm f1.4 and Sigma 30mm f/1.4 for 2+ years now I can confidently tell you that they are both awesome lenses and each do certain things better than the other.

Here is which lens I would recommend depending on what type of photography or videography work you will be focusing on.

Sigma 16mm f/1.4: You should get this lens if your primary focus will be:

  • Landscape shots in which you need to fit your subject in frame such as mountains, trees, lakes, waterfalls, etc.
  • Urban photography
  • Real estate or interior photography
  • A general all purpose videography lens
  • Astrophotography

Sigma 30mm f/1.4: You should get this lens if your primary focus will be:

  • Expansive landscape shots in which you don’t need to fit everything in frame such as a wide ocean shot, wide shot of rolling fields, ect.
  • Portrait photography
  • Lifestyle photography
  • Product photography
  • More specialized videography lens to get closer to the subject.

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8 comments

Anonymous July 25, 2019 - 6:58 am

Wonder ful review!!!! Thank you so much.

Reply
Tom Shu July 25, 2019 - 7:48 am

You’re welcome and thanks for reading it! Let me know if you ever have any other questions!

Reply
Iwa T Son August 8, 2019 - 7:07 pm

I have a family trip to Europe soon, I have 2 kids with me (13yrs old). I wanna take as many as possible photos of them. What Lens I shall take with? I am using a6400 and I have 10-18, 16-70, 18-200(silver), Sigma 16 1.4, Any suggestion? It is the 2nd time I visit Europe (last was 2004)… and I dont think I will go there again in coming 20 years….

Reply
Tom Shu August 9, 2019 - 1:00 am

That’s awesome you’re going to Europe soon and thanks for your questions! If you have enough room to take all your lenses with you, I would definitely do that as I always like to have more choice than necessary. If that’s not possible, though and you’re trying to travel lighter, I think it will depend. Here are some options I think might work well for you.

Option 1 – Most Flexible: Pack the Sony 18-200 and the Sigma 16 F1.4. The reason why I think this combo might work well is because since you’re traveling with your kids, you probably don’t want to spend time switching lenses while you’re running around all day. The Sony 18-200 will for sure cover all focal lengths that you might run into on your trip when you’re capturing the kids and you could even use it as a wide angle or telephoto lens for landscape if you wanted to. The downside of the Sony 18-200 is lower light situations, which is where the Sigma 16 F1.4 comes in. With the Sigma, you don’t get the reach, but at least you can use a faster aperture when its darker out or if you’re taking photos of the kids indoors. Plus, you will probably have to use a higher shutter speed to capture your kids, so the faster aperture will help you do that without cranking up the ISO too high. I think it is possible to only use the 18-200 your entire trip, but carrying the extra Sigma 16 F1.4 would probably come in handy. I like the idea of this combo of lenses because Europe has so many beautiful landscapes to capture and it would be a bummer if your lens didn’t have enough reach to capture what you wanted in a certain situation. Especially if you won’t be going back in another 20 years.

Option 2: Best Quality Photos: If you’re looking for the best quality photos and are ok with losing some of the flexibility from the extra reach of the Sony 18-200, then I would take the Sony 16-70 F4 and the Sigma 16 F1.4. I have owned the Sony 16-70 F4 for almost 2 years now and it is by far the lens I use the most. The flexibility of the focal length isn’t as good as the 18-200, but 16-70 covers a good amount of ground too. To be honest, I don’t own the Sony 18-200 and have never used it before, but from all the reviews I have read, the image quality of the Sony 16-70 is better. I would add in the Sigma 16 F1.4 for the same reasons as option 1 because the weakness of the Sony 16-70 is low light. I like this option because I know how good of images the Sony 16-70 can produce. Plus, a focal length of 16-70 covers most situations, especially if your focus is on taking photos of other people, like your kids. The aperture is also constant at F4 on this lens, so when you zoom into 70mm you don’t have to worry about the change in settings affecting your picture.

Option 3: Everything Covered: This is what most closely resembles what I carry most of the time. If you don’t mind carrying 3 lenses with you, I would bring the Sony 16-70, Sony 18-200, and Sigma 16. In this scenario, I would use the Sony 16-70 most of the time and would use the Sony 18-200 only as a telephoto lens when I wanted to zoom in on an object in certain situations. The Sigma 16 would really only be used only in low light situations or if I’m indoors and there is not a lot of light inside.

I hope this helps you choose what to bring and if you have any other questions, just let me know!

Reply
DA A January 1, 2020 - 11:23 pm

Hello TOM SHU,
Thank you for your wonderful article.
I am looking forward to buying the Sony a6000, my budget will not allow me to buy several lenses. Which one would you recommend as an all purpose lens( between the 16 and the 30 lenses) ?
You mentioned about lens distortion in the 16mm, is that too noticeable if I take some very closeup shots like pets or food ?
Please give some advice.
Thank you.
Darshana

Reply
Tom Shu January 2, 2020 - 8:30 pm

Hi Darshana! Thanks for reading the article and happy new year! As I mentioned in the article, it really depends on what you will be shooting. Both lenses can be used as an all-around lens. The difference is that you’ll have to adjust how you shoot based on which lens you have. I only had the 30mm for the first 6 months with the a6500 and used it in all situations including landscape, portrait, food, videos, etc. When I got the 16mm, I used it in every situation too. The 30mm is really great for portrait type distance shots. The 16mm is really great when you need to fit more into the frame. Even though there is distortion on the 16mm, it’s only obvious if you’re shooting from an extreme angle (for example shooting the subject from low to high or vice versa). I do think the 16mm has a slightly better build quality and autofocus and it’s easier to manually focus with it. With that said, the 30mm is cheaper than the 16mm. I hope that helps and if you want more information just let me know!

Reply
trustmeher January 10, 2020 - 1:12 am

I have a Sony 16-50 lense. Do you think at 16mm focal if we compare both the lenses still Sigma 16mm fix lense would perform better due to F/1.4 ?

Reply
Tom Shu January 11, 2020 - 9:01 am

Thanks for your question! I think it will depend on what you’re shooting. If you’re taking landscape photos, it won’t make a significant difference since you’ll probably be using a higher f-stop. If you’re taking portraits or up-close photos of a subject, then it would make a bigger difference. Also, if you’re shooting video, the Sigma will give you a more cinematic look when it’s at f.1.4. I hope that helps!

Reply

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