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.
Of course, it would be awesome if we could just get as many lenses that you wanted, but that’s not the reality for most of us.
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.
The Sigma 30mm was actually the first lens I ever purchased for my Sony a6500. Over past couple of years, I have shot with these two lenses in every situation you could imagine, so I can tell you all about what kind of situation each lens excels at.
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 I have given you 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 line up
- When do I use the Sigma 16mm f/1.4 lens the most?
- When do I use the Sigma 30mm f1.4 lens the most?
A little about the Sigma Lens Product Lines
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. It usually just depends on the situation I’m shooting, but I’ll never think twice about pulling out a Sigma lens versus a Sony lens.
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?
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 angle.
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 we 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, we 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 we chose to shoot with the Sigma 16mm f/1.4 was because we knew we needed the wider angle for the alleyway and temple shots. Plus, it gets extremely crowded during the event so we knew we would be closer than usual to any people we 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.
- 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
2.) Tight Spaces and Low Light: Nau Clothing PDX x Seoul Korean Capsule Collection
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, Korea.
Our 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, we chose to shoot in a street environment, which is something we 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 we needed a wider lens to capture the entire scene.
- The shoot location did not let in very much natural light so we 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 us to achieve some cool close up shots from a lower angle using the distortion of the lens to our advantage. I don’t think we would have been able to achieve these looks with the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 because of its longer focal length.
3.) Interiors: Novotel Danang Premier Han River in Danang, Vietnam
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, we 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, we chose to use the Sigma 16mm f/1.4.
The reason why we chose to use this lens versus the other ones in our gear pack are the same as the Nau Clothing project. We needed a wide angle lens in order to capture the tight spaces inside the hotel and a larger aperture for when we needed to hand hold certain shots.
The lens handled all our interior situations great and allowed us to easily switch between different lighting situations as we shot in different areas of the hotel.
Plus, with the larger aperture of the Sigma 16mm, we didn’t have to worry about increasing our ISO too high when we shot in darker rooms like the executive spa.
- Camera: Sony a6500
- Tripod: Three Legged Thing – Leo Tripod
- Lens: Sigma 16mm f/1.4 DC DN
- Editing Software: Adobe Lightroom
When do I use the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 the most?
Although the Sigma 16mm f/1.4 lens is a beast and I use it in many situations, 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 my Sigma 30mm f/1.4 lens the most are:
- If I am taking product photos.
- If I am taking 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.
Obviously this problem is because of the focal length and not the lens itself, but it is part of what I think about when I decide what lens to use for a photo shoot.
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, 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 and how you could easily wear the dress into the mountains and just as easily wear the dress out to dinner at night.
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.
Our 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 we chose to take photos at this spot was the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 as we 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 us to compress the trees a little more giving them a more full look.
2.) Create Depth at Night – Cleobella Dress and Bag Campaign
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.
We are fortunate to have had a long term working relationship with Cleobella over the last couple of years and have taken product photos for them around the world.
For this set of photos, we were going to be 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 we chose to take the photos in Hoi An at night was the Sigma 30mm f1.4 as we 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 we chose to use the Sigma 30mm for the PrAna project.
In addition, we 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.
3.) Use in Combination with ND Filter During Daytime – SummerSalt
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.
Because of our trip itinerary and the unpredictable weather, the only time we were able to take photos for SummerSalt was in the middle of the day, which many might think is the worst time to take photos, especially with the larger aperture that you can achieve with the Sigma 30mm.
It all worked out, though. One of our 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.
The contrast and colors created from the mid-day sun shot through a 6 stop ND filter are beautiful and is really something you should try out if you can.
Plus, by shooting in the middle of the day, the sun was bright enough to also bring out the deep blues of the swimming pool we were taking photos at.
After using the Sigma 16mm f1.4 and Sigma 30mm f/1.4 for 2+ years now I can confidently tell you that although they are both awesome lenses, they each definitely do certain things better than the other.
I’m fortunate that I was able to add both lenses to our kit, but lenses don’t come cheap and I totally understand why you might be debating over one or the other.
My main advice is to think about what type of photography you usually shoot and if you want to use the same lens for videography. Then once you have that decided, really think in more detail about how you would use the lens for the type of shooting you plan to use it for.
Here is which lens I would recommend depending on what type of photography or videography work you would 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
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.
When I bought my Sigma 16mm f/1.4 and Sigma 30mm f/1.4 I spent hours online shopping around for the best deal.
After researching, I ended up ordering both lenses through Amazon as they have a travel bundle listing that includes the lens, a sling backpack, monopod, cleaning kit, and a few other items all for about same price as what is listed on B&H.com.
Plus, if you are a Prime Member, you get free 2-day Prime Shipping. Here are the links to the Amazon travel bundle listings if you are interested.