So what does a weekend vacation, a cold boat ride and nine miles of walking around Chicago have in common? Answer: they would have been fleeting memories had I not carried a camera with me, paired with a convenient wide-angle zoom lens mounted on that camera.
I should mention that when traveling my preference is usually for a zoom lens rather than a prime because of the flexibility of the focal range. But, I don’t usually go wide-angle.
Recent trips to Chicago, however, reminded me that I’ve haven’t always capture that feeling of the city because my lens choices didn’t go wide enough. Enter the SIGMA 16-28mm F2.8 DG DN | Contemporary lens.
First Impressions of the 16-28mm F2.8 DG DN | Contemporary
Checking out the specs, the lens had a lot going for it.
- It’s F2.8 so it is going to help me capture moments in dimly lit areas, at night, as well as indoors.
- It’s internal zoom! That means the lens doesn’t extend when zoomed, which keeps it well-balanced no matter the focal length.
- It’s really small and light, so it fits easily in the backpack I use for traveling.
- It’s a SIGMA Contemporary lens, so to me it means the lens is on the cutting edge of technology. More specifically, it is designed exclusively for modern mirrorless cameras, and constructed with top-quality glass and tough (yet lightweight) materials.
- It’s a SIGMA lens, so it is really sharp!
My SIGMA 16-28mm F2.8 DG DN | Contemporary is L-Mount, so I can share it between my SIGMA fp and Leica SL2S cameras. And, although the lens is designed for full-frame mirrorless cameras, it works just fine on my Leica CL crop-sensor camera. The lens is also available in E-mount for those photographers using Sony cameras.
Since this lens is so small and light, I decided to pair it with the equally small and light 28-70mm F2.8 DG DN | Contemporary lens SIGMA introduced in 2021. Just in case I wanted a little more reach. But my plan was to use the 16-28mm the most because I have this tendency to shoot tight in a lot of situations, and since this was vacation, and fun… I wanted to capture the big picture. Often times a wider picture tells more of the story.
But enough words for now… let’s take a trip through Chicago!
Sightseeing with a Wide-Angle View
I prefer traveling with a regular backpack instead of a camera bag because it doesn’t announce to everyone that I am a photographer. I bought a padded insert from my local camera store to protect the camera gear in the backpack. With lenses as small and light as these two SIGMA Contemporary lenses, there was plenty of room to spare with little added weight.
One of the first things that catches my eye in big cities like Chicago is the architecture. The colors, the lines, the different shapes and textures all come together to form beautiful art on every block. And being able to zoom out to 16mm and capture the buildings makes this lens ideal for travel.
One technique I use is to stop down all the way (F16 or F22) and include the sun in the background of my composition. I love the effect the sun star gives. I’ll also use the wide-angle view to my advantage to include foliage from a tree to frame a building, giving me not just the contrast of light and dark, but also that of nature and man-made skyscrapers.
While walking around provides an engaging, first-person perspective of a big city, taking a boat tour offers a view that’s completely different, and much wider.
Although windy and a bit cold, the cruise on Lake Michigan to view the entire Chicago skyline was well worth it. And well worth having a zoom as wide as the 16-28mm with me. The wind did make the lake choppy, but being able to open up to F2.8 was a real advantage to be able to maintain a fast enough shutter speed to keep my cityscapes sharp.
As much as I love taking advantage of autofocus (and the autofocus is fast and sure with these lenses) the boat cruise at night definitely required manual focus at times. My SL2S camera is a little weak with contrast autofocus in low light, so I switched over to manual focus. The 16-28mm manual focus ring was smooth and consistent, and made so many of my night images possible.
Although the most obvious use of a wide-angle lens might be to shoot something like a skyline, I also like to use that wide-angle capability to push me to get closer to a subject, making you feel part of the scene.
Next to the boat dock, the sweet sounds of a saxophone drifted along Michigan Avenue, provided by local musician Derrick Tate. Moving in close, locking focus on Derrick, and then changing composition to include the city in the background was a great exercise in experimenting with your creativity.
The Verdict on the SIGMA 16-28mm F2.8 DG DN | Contemporary
Most of my photography involves action and sports, using SIGMA Sports and Art line lenses. But shooting with the SIGMA 16-28mm F2.8 DG DN | Contemporary lens has opened my eyes to what a great choice a Contemporary lens like this can be for my “lens arsenal”.
This 16-28mm lens highlights the achievements that SIGMA makes with the Contemporary line of lenses. While “small, light and sharp” are the three words that first come to my mind, there are other advantages of Contemporary lenses like this: The use of the latest technology that will communicate seamlessly with my cameras. The advanced design that incorporates internal zoom. The simplicity, with just one AF/MF switch on the lens itself. The fact that you get these benefits at a price lower than Art and Sports lenses, without missing out on sharpness or quality.
Want a real world example? After my trip to Chicago, I put this lens to the test on several real assignments for my clients. Don’t let the size and weight fool you into thinking that this is not a professional lens. It has handled everything from shooting on a movie set, to fireworks for a tourism client, to photos for a college magazine, all with beautifully sharp images.