Sigma 17-50/2.8 OS vs. Nikon 16-85 VR

Started Jul 19, 2011 | Discussions
Mike Cialowicz
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Sigma 17-50/2.8 OS vs. Nikon 16-85 VR
Jul 19, 2011

Both of these lenses sell for around the same price... one offers an excellent range and the other offers a fast constant aperture at the expense of focal range.

I was curious about the Sigma, so I bought one and gave it a little mini-review. Overall? It's a great lens... and can be as sharp or sharper than the Nikon 16-85 (which is very sharp). In the extreme corners, however, the Nikon wins.

The main deal-breaker for me is the field-of-view... that one extra mm offered by the 16-85 is hard to let go of (for me).

You can read my full review here: http://www.michalography.com/blog/2011/7/13/nikon-16-85-vr-vs-sigma-17-50-f28-os.html

Cheers,
Mike

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EXDS
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Re: Sigma 17-50/2.8 OS vs. Nikon 16-85 VR
In reply to Mike Cialowicz, Jul 19, 2011

Thanks for the excellent write up and comparison. I've been debating between these two for my next upcoming purchase and will consider the things you brought up.

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CriticalI
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Re: Sigma 17-50/2.8 OS vs. Nikon 16-85 VR
In reply to Mike Cialowicz, Jul 19, 2011

Interesting review.

The clincher for me is that the 16-85 is just so useful. I have primes for when I need portrait bokeh, but for an all round travel lens, the 16-85 is so versatile I don't need to take anything else most of the time.
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rockjano
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Re: Sigma 17-50/2.8 OS vs. Nikon 16-85 VR
In reply to Mike Cialowicz, Jul 20, 2011

Great review Thanks

But, to have a lens with 2,8 apperture is not only good for portre it can be a very important in low light circumstances especially indoor.

There are many times when you cannot take a shot with the 16-85 how good it is because it just does not let enough light into the cam.

It is still better to have a picture with some sharpness problem than having no picture at all. And don't forget that the AF sensors also work a lot better with a 2,8 Zoom.

These lenses are in a different classes. The Sigma should be compared to the Nikkor 17-55 2,8. or tha Tamron-Tokina.

And OS/VR is not always usable. I often photograph people and children and they move

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knittybaker
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Re: Sigma 17-50/2.8 OS vs. Nikon 16-85 VR
In reply to rockjano, Jul 20, 2011

Thanks for the comparison Mike. Been wondering about these 2 lenses and your review helps.

@ rockjano, why is it not helpful to have OS/VR when photographing moving people? Does it make the image blurry? (sorry, newbie here and just got my 1st dslr 2 weeks ago).

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Mike Cialowicz
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Re: Sigma 17-50/2.8 OS vs. Nikon 16-85 VR
In reply to rockjano, Jul 20, 2011

rockjano wrote:

Great review Thanks

But, to have a lens with 2,8 apperture is not only good for portre it can be a very important in low light circumstances especially indoor.

Certainly true.

There are many times when you cannot take a shot with the 16-85 how good it is because it just does not let enough light into the cam.

Well, yes and no... sometimes the high ISO ability of today's sensors can make up for the lack of low-light performance (at the expense of quality).

It is still better to have a picture with some sharpness problem than having no picture at all. And don't forget that the AF sensors also work a lot better with a 2,8 Zoom.

Yes.

These lenses are in a different classes. The Sigma should be compared to the Nikkor 17-55 2,8. or tha Tamron-Tokina.

They are in the same price class though... both sell for around $650. They offer different features for the same sort of money, so I thought the comparison would be useful.

And OS/VR is not always usable. I often photograph people and children and they move

Definitely true, and unfortunately that's one thing I didn't cover in my review since I was more focused on "travel-ability".

Cheers,
Mike

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rockjano
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Re: Sigma 17-50/2.8 OS vs. Nikon 16-85 VR
In reply to knittybaker, Jul 20, 2011

Hi Knitty

No problem

VR/OS only helps with stationary objects, it only helps avoid your hand's movement.

If the photographed object moves it does not help.

The usefulness of OS/VR is usually way overrated. It very much depend of course what you photograph. I photograph children a lot and the OS/VR has no meaning at all there. They just move too fast

OS/VR is no magic just technology.

I have the older Sigma 18-50 2,8 it has no OS but I just don't miss it at all.
(I would rather like to have it a bit sharper wide open)

Also no OS in my Sigma 50-150 2,8 and I don't miss that there either. Even with portre there is enough subject movement to elliminate the need for OS.
For me 2,8 apperture is 100X more important than OS.

Where it is very usuful is the really long lenses above 300mm and around 500-800mm. There it even helps the focusing. The picture moves so fast at 500mm that it is really useful there even in bright light. You simply cannot really use an 500mm lens from your hand without OS/VR.

For a 17-50mm lens..well it is good if it is there but you can live without it.
(it also makes the lens heavier, bigger and more expensive)

jano

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rockjano
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Re: Sigma 17-50/2.8 OS vs. Nikon 16-85 VR
In reply to Mike Cialowicz, Jul 20, 2011

Hi Mike

No offense, great review, you worked a lot with it I see, especially liked the changing GIFs :-), really good

These lenses are in a different classes. The Sigma should be compared to the Nikkor 17-55 2,8. or tha Tamron-Tokina.

They are in the same price class though... both sell for around $650. They offer different features for the same sort of money, so I thought the comparison would be useful.

Yes similar price but I still think that they belong to very different lens groups.

The 16-85 is a great general or travel lens, probably better than a 18-200 that has quite problematic focal lenses, a lot better then 24-120 no question.

The 17/18-50 2,8 Sigma is a professional type of lens for those who would like to buy the Nikkor just cannot afford it (like me ).

jano

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Brev00
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Re: Sigma 17-50/2.8 OS vs. Nikon 16-85 VR
In reply to Mike Cialowicz, Jul 20, 2011

In a brief opening post and well-stated responses from rockjano, the two of you have concisely summarized the many issues facing a prospective buyer of a midrange zoom. While the lenses differ in a major way (2.8 v. variable aperture), I think the comparison is helpful because it seems that a lot of people actually do decide between these types of lenses when making the midrange zoom choice. I know I did (making a sort of compromise with the Sigma 17-70 os 2.8-4).

@knittybaker-- I would explain further. Vr is most helpful at slow shutter speeds (i.e., 1/15--depends on lens) when camera movement will otherwise cause blur. But, for example, a moving child will not be frozen at 1/15--introducing blur with or without vr. The vr does not add any additional blur and would still minimize blur from camera shake. Blur can be a nice, artistic touch, but it's nice to have the choice and a faster lens (1.4, 2.0. 2.8) will allow you to use a faster shutter speed in the same lowlight condition. But, even a faster lens will only allow you to raise the shutter speed so much (i.e., 2-4 times) making a flash necessary at times to freeze movement.
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fastglass
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Re: glass - pro-ish vs strictly consumer
In reply to Mike Cialowicz, Jul 20, 2011

16-85 is a nice, versatile DX zoom range, no doubt.

But any slow to slower variable aperture zoom - is strictly a consumer, price-point over performance, offering.

Of course the faster lens is never the better value - unless you need the speed.

Shooting at f8.0 - why pay for speed? - is certainly a valid view.

Cheers.
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knittybaker
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Re: Sigma 17-50/2.8 OS vs. Nikon 16-85 VR
In reply to Brev00, Jul 20, 2011

Thanks Mike and Brev for the explanation. It makes more sense now :).

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zumbalak
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Fast is always better than slow
In reply to Mike Cialowicz, Jul 20, 2011

I got used to slow lenses for quite a while, until i bought a fast 2.8 lens recently. And that makes the whole world of difference.

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Sosua
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Makes a world of difference for what?
In reply to zumbalak, Jul 21, 2011

I would take a 16-85 and a 50 1.4 any day - 2.8 at 50mm isn't exactly what I would call fast anyway.

And the Nikkor is 3.5 at 16mm with even sharpness.

With modern cameras (E.g. The D7000) I can shoot in dark churches at ISO 400, 16mm F4 at 1/4s and get excellent sharp shots.

If its really low light or you want some more background blur, slap on the 50 1.4.

Never really got the idea behind fastish normal zooms...
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rockjano
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Re: Makes a world of difference for what?
In reply to Sosua, Jul 21, 2011

"'Never really got the idea behind fastish normal zooms..."

Try them...

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Clayton1985
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Re: Fast is always better than slow
In reply to zumbalak, Jul 21, 2011

zumbalak wrote:

I got used to slow lenses for quite a while, until i bought a fast 2.8 lens recently. And that makes the whole world of difference.

I'm not saying the f2.8 lens wasn't the right choice for you but I hope you realize the irony of your comments. If fast is always better you should have bought f1.4 primes and not a "slow" f2.8 lens. "Fast" is relative, is only one consideration and is certainly not always better.

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Cope
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Re: Fast is always better than slow
In reply to Clayton1985, Jul 21, 2011

Especially when most lenses are sharper and used more at f/5.6-8.
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Ricky M
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Re: Sigma 17-50/2.8 OS vs. Nikon 16-85 VR
In reply to Mike Cialowicz, Jul 21, 2011

I had my mind made up that the sigma 17 50 os was going to be the lens for me. I went to the local camera store today with the older tamron 17 50 2.8 and my d300. I took samples with the sigma 17 50 os, tamron 17 50 2.8 and the nikon 16 85 vr mainly around 17 mm and at f2.8 through to f4. I like to shoot wide angle alot so i am not concerned about 50mm sharpness as much. My results were based on one sample of each.

I only shot pictures of wall covered in camera bags using flash as sharpness is my concern. The results surprised me. The sharpest wide open was easily the nikon 16 85 vr. Second came the tampon which was close and the sigma came a distance last. Even at f4 the sigma was still behind the others which was not what some reviews indicated. Also the sigma seems to be more like 18mm, not 17mm.

Now most people prefer using f2.8 in low light and not using f4 lenses like the nikon 16 85 vr. My tests show that I can hand hold the nikon at 1/10 second at 16 mm and get reasonable 5 x 7 prints. If I used the sigma I could use a higher shutter speed for camera shake but would get softness in return. I wanted to like the sigma but it is not for me. I now to not think this lens is over priced, unlike it's bigger brother.

Regards

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richardday
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Re: Sigma 17-50/2.8 OS vs. Nikon 16-85 VR
In reply to CriticalI, Jul 21, 2011

CriticalI wrote:

Interesting review.

The clincher for me is that the 16-85 is just so useful. I have primes for when I need portrait bokeh, but for an all round travel lens, the 16-85 is so versatile I don't need to take anything else most of the time.
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Regards,
Steve

I agree with Steve, I have the 35/1.8 when I need a fast low light lens.

The 16-85 VR was one of the reasons I switched to a D300s from Pentax (K20D), I had their 17-70 f4 constant which in many ways is a better lens than their 16-50 f2.8 (much the same as the Tokina 16-50) and the Nikon 16-85 is better than the 17-70 on all counts despite it being a variable aperture and only f5.6 at 85mm.

Sure, it would be really nice to have a constant aperture 16-85 with VR, but the cost would be pretty steep, even if it was f4.0 rather than an f2.8! I also don't get on with the usual third party lenses in general, and the alternative Nikon 17-50 2.8 has no VR, is very heavy and its price is a bit rich for me, it's only real advantage is f2.8, but I'd rather use lower cost primes when I need a faster lens, such as the 35, 50 & 85 f1.8 primes as they cover most of the requirement for fast glass. I must admit I do like a 24mm f2.0, it was one of my favourite primes when using Pentax and it would be nice to see an affordable Nikkor at that F/L.

I can't think of any situation when I'd need a wider fast lens than that, as for most of my wide work, VR is more useful, I wish the 10-24 had VR, that would be really nice, and despite what people say, VR on wide lenses does help, I regularly shot interiors at 1/4 sec at 12mm (evem 1/2 sec) without significant blur with my 12-24 using my Pentax K20D, I can't reliably manage much below 1/15 sec handheld with the 10-24, but 1/4 sec is very reliable with the 16-85.
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jonikon
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Re: Fast is always better than slow
In reply to zumbalak, Jul 21, 2011

zumbalak wrote:

I got used to slow lenses for quite a while, until i bought a fast 2.8 lens recently. And that makes the whole world of difference.

I agree. An f2.8 lens makes your DSLR more off an enthusiast's camera, not just a point and shoot camera with better image quality. Some forget (or never knew), that even an f4 lens only allows half the light in as an f2.8 lens. That's a big difference! And a lot of zoom lenses that are f3.5 for 4 at the wide end are f5.6 at the long end, which means they only let in one fourth the amount of light as an f2.8 lens, even when the aperture is fully opened. That's could be the difference between using ISO 3200 and ISO 12,800! And of course there is the advantage of much more depth of field control and creamy bokeh as well with a larger aperture lens. All very good stuff for the enthusiast photographer!

I sometimes tutor beginning photographers and I like to show them this graphic to emphasize the differences in aperture sizes. It's a good thing to keep in mind when contemplating a lens purchase too!

Best regards,
Jon

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Brev00
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Re: Fast is always better than slow
In reply to jonikon, Jul 21, 2011

Better is better. That is undeniable. But, it is also theoretical if one does not own a 2.8 or faster lens. One takes the equipment one owns and adapts it to one's own style, hopefully exploring it up to its limitations and back. A good lens will also help the shooter expand his style. My progression has been slow and steady adding better lenses (sad: not best). I do not even want to try out a 24-70 or other pro glass because I fear it will overshadow what I do and will own for quite a while (budget realities as well as priorities). So, while the 2.8 might be a best type of zoom, many will buy a variable zoom and humbly get by.

You can send donations if you wish to: Get Brev a 24-70 and a D700 While You Are at It Fund.
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