This is the first ultra-wide, rectilinear zoom lens with a minimum focal length of 8mm, designed specifically for Nikon crop sensor cameras. The wide-angle of view from 121.2 degrees produces striking, extremely wide angle images with exaggerated perspective. It has a minimum focusing distance of 24cm throughout the entire zoom range, and an inner focusing system.
Four FLD (“F” Low Dispersion) glass elements, which have the performance equal to fluorite glass, compensate for color aberration. One hybrid aspherical lens and two glass mold elements give excellent correction for distortion and astigmatism. The Super Multi-Layer Coating reduces flare and ghosting and the lens lens incorporates HSM (Hyper Sonic Motor), ensuring quiet and high speed AF as well as full-time manual focus capability.
I was told this lens was just a remake of the old Sigma 12-24 for full frame cameras, but there’s more to it than that (although the big bulging front elemen will certainly remind you of it). First and foremost, lets be clear: 8mm is significantly wider than 10mm, so I consider this lens somewhat different than the other ultra-wides. At 8mm you can get your shoes in the picture if you tilt the lens down just a bit. It’s WIDE.
It’s also quite sharp, especially in the center and especially at 8 to 10mm, which is probably what you’re getting this lens for anyway. More surprisingly it doesn’t have horrible barrel distortion at 8mm, which is pretty amazing. At the longer end its not quite as sharp, and at any focal length the corners and even the edges are a little mushy. Chromatic aberration is pretty well controlled too.
So I’m surprised: I expected to say it was a useful lens if you really want the widest you can get, but otherwise had a lot of weaknesses, which is what I said years ago about the 12-24 full frame lens. But really, this one not only lets you get ultra, ultra wide, it can compete with all the other ultra wides from 10 to 20mm too. It gives up some aperture to most of the others, but otherwise it’s very comparable to them. And from 8mm to 10mm, well there’s no comparison at all. This isn’t the lens for everyone, many people will never shoot this wide, but if you think you might, this is a great choice and I can recommend it without reservation.
Comparing the ultra-wide crop-sensor camera lenses is an extremely difficult task, so I’ll put the summary first: they all deliver excellent image quality and you can’t go wrong with any of them. To my ‘just taking pictures’ assessment, they are all excellent. There are some differences though, so I’ll try to point those out so you have a better chance at choosing the one that’s best for you.
- Sigma 8-16 f/4.5-5.6 is the widest (and remember, 8mm is 20% wider than 10mm, so it’s a very real difference). Not quite as sharp in the corners as the others, and lower maximum aperture, but it’s really pretty good, especially considering it’s the widest of the wide.
- Nikon 10-24 f/3.5-4.5G Shows a fair amount of barrel distortion at 10mm (note to self: never take girlfriend’s portrait with this lens) and doesn’t have the best corner sharpness of the group. It’s got the largest range and is fast to autofocus, which makes it a great wide-angle walkaround lens. If I was mostly going to shoot at 15-24 and occasionally shoot wider, this would be a great choice. If I was going to take lots of 10mm scenic shots, I’d probably look at one of the others – they’re a bit better at 10mm.
- Sigma 10-20 f/3.5 has a bit more distortion than the others but delivers very nice images and is also built well. It does everything well.
- Nikon 12-24 f/4G has exceptional center resolution and is very flare resistant, but does show some field curvature at 12mm. It’s a very good lens, maybe better than the competition, but not as much better as its price would suggest.
- Tokina 11-16 f/2.8 (version I or II, they aren’t very different) gives you the widest aperture if you’ll be working in low light (with ultra wides, depth of field is rarely an important point), but it’s a bit soft at f/2.8, so the aperture advantage isn’t huge (I usually shoot it at f/3.5 if I can to get it sharper). It has very little vignetting and distortion, probably the least of the group. It does show quite a bit of chromatic aberration at times, but overall it may be the best image quality of the group.
- Tokina 12-24 f/4 PRO is built like a sturdy tank (and therefore a bit heavier). It’s a good lens but does tend to give low contrast images when shot into the sun and has a tendency to show some chromatic aberration when objects are backlit. This is the one I’d take if conditions were rough: I pity the rock this bad boy falls on. Poor rock.
But like I said above: they’re all excellent. We hardly ever get anything but happy comments about any of them.
- Filter Size
- rear gel
- 1.9 lb.
- Minimum Focusing Distance
- 0.8 feet
- Maximum Magnification
- Angle of view: (crop frame)
- 114 to 76 degrees
- Zoom method
- Barrel extending (slightly)
- Image Stabilization
- Focusing System
- Internal, A/MF switch, full-time manual, hypersonic motor
- Aperture Blades
- 7 curved
- Max Aperture@focal length
- f/4.5@8mm; f/5@9-13mm; f/5.6 > 13mm
- Low Dispersion Elements
- Aspherical Elements
- Weather Resistant
- Flare Resistance
- Mild ghosting, mild to moderate loss of contrast
- Nikon F
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