Recently, I allowed myself another lens purchase, the Sigma 8-16mm. f/4.5-5.6 DC ultra-ultra-wide lens.
Yes, for a photographer who focuses on portraiture photography, it is quite a strange and new experience for me to use one in the field, since I'm not exactly into landscapes. Most of the time, I'd be taking close-up shots of people in events, particularly when they're doing something quite interesting enough to be placed on print, like a sudden burst of laughter from them upon hearing a joke or seeing some antic, a bonding moment between the bride and the groom, or even the sight of two hands holding each other... These are the things that I believe would bring out the message or essence in any given wedding or party event. After all, I'm a people-person, so to speak. ;)
The reason I bought this is that as a portrait photographer, I still have uses for such a lens, particularly in events where lots of people flock together for a really big group shot. Sometimes a kit lens' wide end of 18mm just couldn't cut it, since there may be instances that space is limited and thus stepping back to fit 50 people in the frame may be impossible. It is not for me to tell them to, say, go only in groups of ten, or get rid of your respective girlfriends and/or boyfriends to save space... It is up to them as to how many people they'd like to have in any photo, and it's up to me to capture that group, no matter how insanely many they could be, or how ridiculously restrictive the space may be.
This is where this lens comes in.
To tell you the truth, this is actually a replacement lens, since I originally bought a Sigma 10-20mm. f/3.5 DC lens. Design wise, the 10-20mm. range is actually more optimum for my needs as an event photographer, and that the constant aperture of f/3.5 is a plus for me, since I intend to use it on venues that may lack adequate lighting. However, the copy that I got tends to focus on the wrong things; most of the time, the background would be sharper than the subjects, even though I set proper AF on the latter. It would be great for me to get another copy though. But unfortunately, the next replacement would be arriving in a few days, and that I already needed a working lens since my next shoot will be barely two days away. I simply can't risk that.
However, for casual, outdoor shoots, like this picture taken at the Manila Ocean Park, the lens performance came out nice... if you wouldn't mind shooting at f/8, and that you're always focusing at infinity.
So my alternative, and ultimately my permanent wider-than-ultrawide lens, became the Sigma 8-16mm. f/4.5-5.6 DC lens, despite two factors that made me choose the other lens first over this one, starting with the aperture.
First of all, it starts at f/4.5, then goes to f/5.6 at the long end. It's been a long while since I've used any variable aperture lens, since I grew accustomed to lenses that have constant aperture settings at their entire zoom ranges, like my favorite Sigma 70-200mm. f/2.8II APO EX DG Macro lens (wordy name, at that). With the 8-16mm., even with two-thirds of a stop difference, it sometimes changes some critical parts in taking a shot, like the mood of a photo, for example. Also, its widest aperture at f/4.5 is still quite small, that it might compromise the brightness of a photo in events. Thankfully though, I use flash a lot in situations like that, so this doesn't really bother me that much. But in a small sense, it's still bothering.
Second, the zoom range of 8-16mm. is a bit short for me. But of course, we're talking about a DX format lens here, made specifically for APS-C sized sensors that possess a 1.5x crop factor. So basically the lens would behave as if it's a 12-24mm. lens on full-frame cameras. But, as with the aperture issue, this also becomes a bit of a bother for me as an event photographer.
With all the caveats here, I can joyfully tell you that this is one heck of a sharp lens, even in any zoom setting at its widest aperture. Of course, it shines best as what it's really intended to be, as a landscape lens. How sharp is the lens, you say? Well, let's start with this photo of the Quiapo Church interior:
Camera Settings - 1/100th of a sec. shutter speed, f/4.5, ISO 200, at 8mm.
Okay, this one's a bit too easy since everything's just amply lit. Let's go to another unsharpened photo where the light's less than ample:
Camera Settings - 1/4 sec. shutter speed, f/8, ISO 200, shot handheld at 8mm.
Here's a 200% crop of the right-center side of the photo:
And yes, I didn't realize that there was a nun praying when I took the shot until I looked at it from post. ;)
Of course, if I were to use the lens as it's supposed to be used (not that it can't be properly used anywhere else), then I'd reach for the skies...
...the Staggering Skies...
Camera Settings - 1/640 sec. at f/8, ISO 100, with a focal length of 8mm.
Overall, I'm quite impressed with this lens. It performs well in its entire zoom range, and I don't detect any color fringing or chromatic aberration (perhaps I will find one if I zoom in the images real close, but who's looking anyway?).
I'll post some more photos using the lens in the future, this time on wedding events and parties, so we'll see what's it like to shoot in such situations at 8mm.. ;)
Many thanks to Mr. Jess whom I bought this lens from; his products are top-quality, and his services are highly exceptional. ;)