Sigma 16-28mm f2.8 DG DN review
Written by Gordon Laing
The Sigma 16-28mm f2.8 DG DN is a wide zoom designed for full-frame mirrorless cameras. Announced in June 2022, it’s initially available in Sony-e and Leica-L mount versions, although we can keep our fingers crossed for Canon and Nikon versions in the future.
Sigma loaned me the e-mount version which I tested on a Sony A7 IV body and in this review I’ll show you what it can do with my regular set of in-depth tests. The full review is in the video below, but if you prefer to read a written version, keep scrolling for the highlights!
The 16-28 DG DN is an affordable wide zoom, taking you from ultra-wide to standard wide coverage on a full-frame body, perfect for travel, landscapes and vlogging. It may not reach quite as far as traditional 16-35 models, but by ending at 28mm, Sigma’s been able to keep costs and weight relatively low, while also maintaining a bright and constant f2.8 aperture throughout the range.
This also makes it a perfect match for Sigma’s 28-70mm f2.8 DG DN launched a year earlier at a similar price. Like that lens, the 16-28 DG DN undercuts Sony’s own options on price, albeit with a shorter range. It comes in at less than half the price of the Sony 16-35 f2.8 G Master, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that model is one of the next in line for the Mark II treatment. It’s also around $300 cheaper than Sony’s more recent 16-35 f4 Power Zoom, and while that model again sports a slightly longer reach and the benefits of a motorised zoom, it’s one stop slower than the Sigma. The closest rival is Tamron’s 17-28mm f2.8 Di III RXD, sporting an almost identical range, the same f2.8 aperture and a similar size, weight and price too.
Measuring 100mm long, 77mm in diameter and weighing 420g, the 16-28 DG DN is roughly similar to the Tamron 17-28, with both being comfortably smaller and lighter than 16-35 f2.8 options. Sony’s 16-35 f4 PZ is shorter and a little lighter, but of course one stop dimmer.
The polycarbonate barrel is pretty simple, starting with a 72m filter thread, a free-spinning and nicely-damped manual focusing ring which doesn’t feel scratchy as you turn it, and a similarly smooth zoom ring with hard stops. Like the Tamon and the Sony Power Zoom, the barrel doesn’t extend while zooming, making them ideal for gimbal users who won’t need to rebalance. The only control is an AF / MF switch, and as a member of Sigma’s more affordable Contemporary series, weather sealing is limited to a rubber grommet at the mount. Sigma also supplies a plastic petal hood that twists onto the bayonet mount.
Ok now for my tests, starting with focusing, here on the A7 IV with the lens at 16mm f2.8. It’s not exactly a demanding focal length for this test, but I’ve positioned the nearest bottle close to the minimum focusing distance and you can see the lens is swiftly and confidently refocusing in AFS mode here.
Now switching to 28mm f2.8, again with the nearest bottle close to the minimum focusing distance, and the result remains quick and fuss-free. This is an excellent result with the Sigma 16-28 performing as confidently as many of Sony’s own lenses, while avoiding some of the occasional over-shooting of earlier models in AFS mode.
This performance carries over to video as well, here with the lens back at 16mm f2.8 and smoothly refocusing between the near and far bottles without hesitation or overshooting.
And now at the slightly more demanding 28mm f2.8, again showing it can perform very smooth and confident focus pulls for video, at least when mounted on the A7 IV used here. I should also mention the focusing motors were essentially silent in operation.
It proved equally effective for a moving target, such as yours truly here, tracked using the Wide focusing area with eye detection enabled. This was filmed at 28mm f2.8, showing some blurring is possible if you’re reasonably close to the camera.
And now at 16mm f2.8 where the view’s obviously much wider making it more suitable for environmental filming, although at this kind of extreme focal length you obviously have to be aware of potential distortion and keep towards the centre of the frame to minimise it. This kind of coverage is ideal for vlogging though as I’ll show you later.
Next for focus breathing, first at 16mm and manually focusing from infinity to the closest distance and back again. Here you can see the field of view become a little wider as you focus closer.
Zoom the lens to the 28mm end and there’s still some widening of the field as you focus closer, but it’s less obvious than at the wide end, so less of an issue for videographers. Remember you can also see how it looks in more of a real-life scenario when I pulled focus between the bottles or demonstrated face tracking a moment ago.
Now for my optical tests, starting with distortion. Like most modern mirrorless lenses, the Sigma 16-28 DG DN employs profiles to compensate for some geometric distortion, and as always these can be automatically applied to JPEGs in-camera or during RAW conversion.
By default, the A7 IV’s lens compensation had Shading and Chromatic aberration Compensation set to Auto, but Distortion Compensation set to OFF. So here’s a landscape view at 16mm with distortion compensation off, and now with it set to Auto where you can see a mild reduction in the coverage. Likewise at 28mm, here with compensation set to off, followed by it enabled.
To compare the actual geometry of the image, I photographed this wall square-on first at 16mm with distortion compensation off where some barrelling is visible, followed by it enabled where this has been corrected, again at the cost of a mild crop.
And next at 28mm, first with distortion compensation off where there’s some visible pincushion distortion, and now with it enabled, where again it’s been corrected at the cost of a mild crop.
I always like to show what’s going on behind the scenes in my reviews, but I’m personally at peace with software corrections if they allow a lens to achieve a target weight and price. Clearly I’d say the Sigma 16-28 is designed to be used with the profile, so for the rest of my tests in this review I’ve set Distortion Compensation to Auto. I also always shoot my outdoor tests from the same location, so you can compare the resulting coverage against my reviews of other lenses.
Just as a quick comparison, here’s the Sony 16-35 f4 PZ on the left, and the Sigma 16-28 DG DN on the right, both at 16mm and with lens distortion compensation enabled. Look beyond the different lighting conditions and you’ll see the Sony is a fraction wider, but I’d say they’re pretty similar in coverage here after corrections.
Ok, so onto the Sigma at 16mm f2.8 and I’ve angled the view so that fine detail runs into the corners. This was taken with the Sony A7 IV using a central AF area, and taking a closer look in the middle shows good, sharp results with little to be gained from stopping down.
Heading into the far corner of the f2.8 image shows some darkening due to vignetting, but the overall sharpness remains respectable. Closing the aperture one stop to f4 lifts the darkening and improves the sharpness a little, and there’s small benefits to closing it further, but on the whole a strong result from the Sigma at 16mm even wide-open. I’d say the level of detail was also close to the Sony 16-35 f4 PZ at matching apertures.
Next for the view from the Sigma roughly halfway through its range at 22mm, again starting in the middle at f2.8. Taking a closer look in the middle again shows the lens maintaining sharp details wide-open, and closing it any further doesn’t result in much improvement.
Returning to the f2.8 image and heading into the far corner again shows the usual darkening due to vignetting, plus a little softening of the ultimate detail, but it’s still a solid result. Closing the aperture gradually lifts the darkening and improves the sharpness which, by f5.6, is looking pretty good across the frame.
And finally for the long-end of the range at 28mm, starting with the aperture wide-open to f2.8, and again taking a closer look in the middle shows plenty of fine details and little benefit to closing the aperture any further. Meanwhile, heading into the corners of the f2.8 image at 28mm shows the lens continues to deliver decent detail, with a mild improvement available if you close down a stop or two. So overall I’d say this is an excellent result for the Sigma zoom, sharp across the frame and throughout its range even at larger apertures.
Next for a portrait test at 28mm f2.8, and to avoid wide-angle distortion at close range, I’ve stepped back a little further than normal. Now you’re never going to get much background at 28mm f2.8 from a portrait distance, but there is a little subject separation here.
Taking a closer look around my eyes and beard shows an impressive amount of sharp detail, the sort of crispness I’d expect from one of Sony’s more expensive models. I should also mention the focusing reliability and consistency remained high with the lens mounted on the A7 IV, delivering a 100% hit rate when some earlier lens and body combos often suffered from a few misses.
Meanwhile moving onto the background, the bokeh may be lacking the ultimate softness and creaminess of the best lenses out there, but it’s not too bad either and again the sharply focused areas make up for that.
Next for a more revealing bokeh test at 28mm f2.8, with the ornament positioned at the closest focusing distance of 25cm. From close range it’s possible to achieve some reasonable bokeh balls which are only elongated a little in the corners. Taking a closer look at the rendering shows mild textures within, but it’s not distracting and there’s minimal outlining too. As you close the aperture down, the nine blades can create some slightly unusual shapes as seen in my test here, but you’d generally need a dedicated prime lens for better-looking bokeh. Just for fun, here’s the Sigma at 28mm f2.8 on the left and the Sony PZ at 35mm f4 on the right where you can see their respective best-case scenarios, and not much to choose between them here.
And at the other end of the scale, here’s the Sigma at 16mm f22 showing the kind of diffraction spikes that are possible. Apologies for my lens which wasn’t meticulously clean here.
Before my final verdict, I have one last result for you, and as promised earlier, it’s a quick vlogging test, starting with the lens at 16mm f2.8 on the A7 IV. The lens doesn’t have any optical stabilisation, so you’re looking at the camera’s body-based IBIS working alone here. The result could be steadier if you’re less shaky than I am, but you can see the kind of potential at 16mm f2.8.
And here’s a version filmed with Active SteadyShot on the A7 IV which applies additional digital compensation at the cost of a crop. But since 16mm was so wide to start with, you still end up with a good length for vlogging and the benefit of much steadier footage. If you’d like more background blur for vlogging, consider the Sony 20 1.8 prime.Check prices on the Sigma 16-28mm DG DN at B&H, Adorama, WEX UK or Calumet.de. Alternatively get yourself a copy of my In Camera book, an official Cameralabs T-shirt or mug, or treat me to a coffee! Thanks!