Nikon 16-35mm f/4 vs. Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8: An In-Depth Comparison of Wide-Angle Wonders

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Lights, camera, action! It’s time for a captivating showdown between two remarkable lenses in the world of photography.

In one corner, we have the versatile Nikon 16-35mm f/4, a full-frame wide-angle lens, perfect for capturing breathtaking landscapes and magnificent architecture.

In the other corner, the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8, a versatile lens designed specifically for APS-C cameras, boasting incredible low-light performance and an ability to produce stunning shallow depth-of-field effects. As we dive into this exhilarating comparison, we’ll explore each lens’s unique features, strengths, and weaknesses, ultimately helping you make an informed decision on which lens is the perfect fit for your photography needs.

So, grab your camera, and let’s embark on this fascinating photographic journey together!


Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 16-35mm F4G ED VRSigma 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM A Nikon
Max ApertureF4.0F1.8
Aperture TypeFixedFixed
Focal Range (mm)16-3518-35
Mount TypeNikon F (FX)Nikon F (DX)
Max Format35mm FFAPS-C / DX
Zoom Ratio (X)2.21.9

When used on a full-frame camera, the Nikon 16-35mm f/4 lens has a focal range of 16-35mm and a maximum aperture of f/4, making it suitable for wide-angle photography, such as landscape, and architectural photography.

However, when used on an APS-C camera body, the equivalent focal length becomes 27-52.5mm, and the equivalent maximum aperture is f/6. In this situation, the lens is no longer ideal for wide-angle photography due to the narrower field of view. Additionally, the smaller equivalent maximum aperture (f/6) may not perform well in low-light situations or when a shallow depth of field is desired.

For more information, you can read this article: Full Frame Lens on APS-C vs APS-C Lens on Full Frame: Exploring the Ups and Downs.

On the other hand, the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 lens, designed for APS-C / DX format cameras, has a focal range of 18-35mm and a larger maximum aperture of f/1.8. This lens is better suited for wide-angle photography, low-light photography and situations where a shallow depth of field is desired, such as environmental portraits or events. The larger aperture also improves autofocus performance and overall image quality, although it may introduce some distortion or vignetting, especially at wider focal lengths.

Design and Ease of Use

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 16-35mm F4G ED VRSigma 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM A Nikon
Diameter x Length (mm)⌀82.5×125mm⌀78×121mm
Weight (gr)680810
Filter Thread (mm)7772
Weather SealingYesNo
Zoom MethodRotary (internal)Rotary (internal)
Distance ScaleYesYes
DoF ScaleNoNo
Hood SuppliedYesYes
Hood CodeHB-23LH780-03

Comparing the Nikon 16-35mm f/4 and the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 lenses, we can see some notable differences in their physical attributes:

  1. Diameter x Length: The Nikon 16-35mm lens has dimensions of ⌀82.5×125mm, while the Sigma 18-35mm lens is slightly smaller at ⌀78×121mm. A more compact lens is easier to carry, store, and can be less conspicuous in certain shooting situations.
  2. Weight: The Nikon 16-35mm lens weighs 680 grams, while the Sigma 18-35mm is heavier at 810 grams. A lighter lens can make a camera setup more balanced and comfortable during extended shooting sessions.

Both lenses use an internal rotary zoom method, which offers advantages in terms of consistent size, balance, and potential weather sealing. However, this design can also result in a more complex and potentially heavier lens compared to extending rotary zoom lenses.

Based on these factors, the Nikon 16-35mm lens has a slight edge in terms of portability and balance due to its smaller size and lighter weight.

Lens Mount and Barrel

The Nikon 16-35mm f/4 features a dull-chromed brass lens mount with a rubber gasket for weather sealing and a magnesium alloy chassis that enhances its overall toughness. Its lens barrel is made of plastic, providing a lightweight and weather-resistant design. However, the exterior markings may wear off over time due to its plastic construction.

On the other hand, the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 has a plated brass lens mount without moisture sealing. Its lens barrel is crafted from a Thermally Stable Composite material, which offers exceptional hardness, better elasticity than polycarbonate, and minimal thermal shrinkage.The underside of the lens barrel is textured with delicate ridges that provide extra grip, while the lens itself boasts a sleek matte black finish. The barrel remains constant in size while zooming, eliminating the possibility of zoom creep.

In conclusion, the choice between the Nikon 16-35mm and Sigma 24-70mm lenses depends on your specific needs and preferences as a photographer. If you prioritize weather sealing and a lightweight design, the Nikon 16-35mm lens with its plastic lens barrel and weather-sealed lens mount may be more suitable. However, if you value exceptional build quality, a professional feel, and a non-extending barrel, the Sigma 24-70mm lens with its Thermally Stable Composite material and plated brass mount could be the superior choice.

Weather Sealing

The Nikon 16-35mm f/4 lens is equipped with a rubber gasket at the lens mount, providing a certain level of weather sealing to protect it from dust and moisture. Its solid plastic construction is complemented by a weather-sealed metal lens mount, offering a sturdy and reliable choice for photographers who often shoot outdoors or in unpredictable conditions.

On the other hand, the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 lacks weather sealing and a rubber gasket on the mount, leaving it more vulnerable to dust and debris entering the camera. However, it is crafted from a special thermally stable composite material that resists damage and performance degradation in extreme hot and cold temperatures. Despite this advantage, there are no internal seals at the rings, switches, and front of the barrel, and the front element does not feature a fluorine coating.

After examining the weather sealing features of these two lenses, it becomes clear that the Nikon 16-35mm outshines the Sigma 18-35mm in this aspect. The rubber gasket and weather-sealed metal lens mount offer better protection against dust, moisture, and light water splashes, making the Nikon 16-35mm a more suitable choice for photographers who frequently face challenging environments.


The Nikon 16-35mm f/4 features 2 rings: a zoom ring near the camera body and a focus ring towards the front. Both are coated with ridged rubber, ensuring a secure grip. The zoom ring smoothly glides through a quarter turn between 16mm and 35mm focal lengths, while the focus ring rotates through a similar range for different focus distances.

The zoom ring’s ridges are wider and notched for extra grip security. Notably, certain lens duplicates may demonstrate some looseness between the internal gears and the focus ring. Despite this, the focus ring can still turn precisely and accurately within its limited 50-degree range of motion. There’s a recessed distance scale with four settings in meters and feet, but no depth-of-field markings.

In contrast, the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 also has 2 rings: a 3/4-inch-wide zoom ring closer to the camera body and a larger, 1-inch-wide focus ring at the far end. Both rings boast ribbed rubber grips for comfortable handling. The well-damped zoom ring rotates 45 degrees from 18 to 35mm, while the focus ring offers 120 degrees of rotation with soft stops at near and infinity focusing limits. The rings’ smooth design feels great in hand, with a clockwise rotation for zooming and a reversed focus ring. However, there are no windowed distance scales or depth-of-field indicators.

After careful consideration, the Sigma 18-35mm lens emerges as the winner in terms of ring design. Its well-damped, smooth rings provide excellent precision and control, while the larger focus ring offers a wider rotation range for fine-tuned focusing. The comfortable rubber grips and ergonomic design make the Sigma 18-35mm a joy to use, allowing photographers to effortlessly capture their subjects in sharp detail.


The Nikon 16-35mm f/4 is equipped with 2 slider switches positioned behind the focusing ring on the lens barrel. The top switch lets you control the focus mode, giving you the power to choose between manual and autofocus settings. The lower switch activates or deactivates the VR II stabilization, allowing you to capture sharp images even in challenging conditions.

On the other hand, the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 boasts a minimalistic design with a single AF/MF switch on its barrel. This switch enables you to quickly switch between autofocus and manual focus modes. In contrast to the Nikon lens, the Sigma 18-35mm doesn’t have a focus limiter, IS switch, or any other buttons, offering a clean and uncluttered design.

After a thorough comparison, it is clear that the Nikon 16-35mm lens provides superior switch functionality. With dedicated sliders for focus mode and VR II stabilization, photographers can easily adapt to different shooting scenarios and take full advantage of the lens’s capabilities. However, if you prefer a simpler, less cluttered design and don’t require additional features like image stabilization, the Sigma 18-35mm may be the ideal choice for you.

Filter Thread

The Nikon 16-35mm f/4 comes with a 77mm filter thread, perfect for landscape photography. This large, plastic filter thread is lightweight and can bounce back if the lens is dropped. Its compatibility with various filters such as ND, IR, and CPL filters makes it a favorite among photographers who frequently use filters. To protect the lens and enhance image quality, it’s recommended to use a high-quality filter like the Hoya multicoated HD3 UV or the B+W 77mm 010.

On the other hand, the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 features a plastic 72mm filter thread, which is both easy to find and reasonably priced. The front element doesn’t rotate during focus, simplifying the use of filters like circular polarizers.

After comparing the filter threads of both lenses, it’s clear that the Nikon 16-35mm lens has a superior filter thread due to its larger size and compatibility with a wide range of filters. This makes it more appealing for photographers who often rely on filters to achieve their desired results. However, if you’re looking for a more affordable option and don’t require a larger filter thread, the Sigma 18-35mm lens is still a great choice.

Lens Hood

The Nikon 16-35mm f/4 comes with a reversible lens hood, making it easy to store. Designed to be used with a polarizer filter, this short lens hood is suitable for the wide angle of view offered by the lens. It features the same HB-23 lens hood as the Nikon 17-35mm lens.

On the other hand, the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 includes a petal-shaped lens hood in its package. Made of matching black plastic with a solid feel, the hood securely locks in place with a satisfying snap. The rear portion of the hood features a rubberized surface, ensuring easy handling during bayonet installation or removal. This well-designed lens hood can also be mounted in the opposite direction for space-saving storage in your camera bag.

After comparing the lens hoods of both lenses, the Sigma 18-35mm lens hood emerges as the superior choice. Its petal-shaped design, secure locking mechanism, and rubberized surface for easy handling not only provide better protection but also contribute to the overall quality of the lens. However, if you specifically need a lens hood that works well with a polarizer filter, the Nikon 16-35mm lens hood still remains a suitable option.

Focusing and Optical Stabilization

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 16-35mm F4G ED VRSigma 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM A Nikon
AF MotorSilent Wave MotorHyper Sonic Motor
Rotating Front ElementDoes not rotate on focusingDoes not rotate on focusing
Min Focus Distance0.28m0.28m
Max Magnification (X)0.250.23
Full-Time Manual FocusYesYes
Focus MethodInternalInternal

Focusing Performance

The Nikon 16-35mm f/4 boasts a fast, accurate, and quiet autofocus system, powered by a Silent Wave Motor (SWM). This lens performs well in low-light situations and offers a swift autofocus acquisition speed. It also features manual focus override for more control.

The focusing speed is impressive, taking only 0.5 seconds to go from close to infinity. The manual focus action is smooth and well-damped. It’s worth noting that a few versions of this lens may suffer from a bit of play between the focus ring and internal gears, which can result in some audible clicking or rattling sounds during focusing. Nonetheless, the VR-operation remains quiet.

On the other hand, the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 offers fast and accurate autofocus performance, driven by an electronic Hyper Sonic Motor. This lens can focus from closest to infinity in about 1 second, and its AF motor is nearly silent. The manual focus override works well, and the manual focus action is smooth.

The lens features an internally focusing design, so its length remains constant regardless of focus and zoom settings. The front element does not rotate during focusing, but there is some focus breathing. Some users have reported autofocus problems when shooting at large apertures and in low-light situations, and the lens may make audible clicking sounds during focusing, which can be picked up by the camera’s built-in microphone.

Considering both lenses’ focusing performance, the Nikon 16-35mm lens emerges as the superior choice, thanks to its faster autofocus speed, SWM, and excellent low-light performance. However, the Sigma 18-35mm lens still provides a commendable focusing experience, especially for those who prioritize a near-silent autofocus motor and constant lens length during focusing.

Optical Stabilization

Nikon’s Vibration Reduction II system is integrated into the Nikon 16-35mm f/4 lens, which is said to offer an advantage of up to 4 stops according to Nikon. However, field tests have shown that up to 3 stops longer shutter times can be achieved at the long end of the focal range and up to 2 stops at the short end, provided the subject is still. When shooting in daylight, the Vibration Reduction (VR) function may cause a slight delay in the shutter speed. However, it enables the photographer to hand-hold the camera at least 1.5 stops slower than the typical focal length would allow. Additionally, the VR operation is virtually silent, and there’s an on/off switch available for quick activation. The lens has only one mode of stabilization and does not produce any noise during VR usage.

In contrast, the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 does not have optical stabilization. However, its f/1.8 aperture mitigates the need for stabilization in scenarios where reduced depth of field is acceptable.

Considering the features of both lenses, the Nikon 16-35mm’s optical stabilization is superior, as it provides more versatility in various shooting conditions. However, the Sigma 18-35mm’s large aperture may still be suitable for certain situations where optical stabilization is less critical. Ultimately, the best choice will depend on your specific photography needs, preferences, and whether your camera has in-body image stabilization (IBIS) or other stabilization features.

Image Quality

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 16-35mm F4G ED VRSigma 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM A Nikon
Special Elements2 ED glass elements, 3 aspherical lenses and Nano Crystal Coat5 SLD glass elements, 4 glassmold aspherical elements
Diaphragm Blades99
Circular ApertureYesYes


The Nikon 16-35mm f/4 showcases excellent chromatic aberration control, exhibiting practically no lateral chromatic aberrations. This minimal defect is barely noticeable even when shooting raw. Modern Nikon digital SLR bodies can automatically correct for this when capturing JPEG images. Additionally, the lens produces negligible levels of coma and spherical aberration, resulting in outstanding overall optical performance with minimal aberrations.

On the other hand, the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 also demonstrates impressive control over chromatic aberration. Moderate levels are present at wide-angle focal lengths, but these reduce significantly as you zoom in. This lens delivers exceptional coma performance, with virtually no smearing or distortion visible around bright points of light – even when located in the corners of the frame. While spherical aberration is minimal, some may be present in heavily backlit or contrasting situations. However, it is generally easy to remove during post-processing if necessary.

In conclusion, both the Nikon 16-35mm and Sigma 18-35mm lenses exhibit superior aberration control, making it difficult to declare a definitive winner.


The Nikon 16-35mm f/4 displays good to excellent overall sharpness, with some softness at the edges when using wider apertures. The center sharpness of this lens is generally quite good, with optimal sharpness achieved at slightly different apertures depending on the specific focal length being used. At 16mm, the center is sharp even when wide open, reaching peak sharpness at f/5.6.

The corners are softer when wide open but improve when stopped down. At 35mm, both borders and corners exhibit good resolution, with minimal gains in sharpness when stopping down. The optimal sharpness is achieved at f/8 or f/11, with some loss of contrast at f/22.

On the other hand, the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 showcases exceptional sharpness, even at its widest aperture of f/1.8. The center sharpness is outstanding, while corner sharpness is slightly weaker yet still impressive, especially when stopping down to f/2.8.

The sharpest aperture for this lens typically falls between f/2 and f/2.8, with minimal diffraction limiting even at f/16. This lens delivers professional-level image quality and remarkable sharpness across the frame, making it an excellent choice for photographers seeking superior performance.

In conclusion, while both lenses offer impressive sharpness, the Sigma 18-35mm stands out with its exceptional performance even at wider apertures. This lens is ideal for photographers who prioritize sharpness and professional-level image quality across the frame. However, the Nikon 16-35mm is still a solid choice, providing good sharpness and versatility for a variety of photography needs.

Bokeh Quality

When it comes to bokeh quality, both the Nikon 16-35mm f/4 and Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 offer pleasing results, although wide-angle lenses are not typically prioritized for their bokeh capabilities.

The Nikon 16-35mm f/4 features a 9-segment diaphragm with rounded blades, which contributes to a pleasing bokeh. While achieving a substantially out-of-focus background is less common with ultrawide-to-wide zoom lenses, if you can manage to blur the background, the bokeh is excellent and visually appealing.

The Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 produces a nice bokeh quality with smooth and pleasing out-of-focus areas in most situations. The background blur helps create a three-dimensional effect in images, and the 9-blade aperture ensures that bokeh highlight circles remain round even when stopped down. However, it is worth noting that some light spots may appear triangular in the corners of the frame.

In conclusion, both lenses provide good bokeh quality when the opportunity arises, but the Sigma 18-35mm lens may offer a slight edge with its smoother out-of-focus areas and three-dimensional effect. Keep in mind that bokeh is not typically a primary concern for wide-angle lenses, as they are designed for capturing broader scenes and emphasizing depth of field. While center sharpness is important in many types of photography, situations such as environmental portraits or close-up shots can benefit from a visually pleasing bokeh. A beautiful bokeh can add a creative touch and help to isolate the subject from the background.


The Nikon 16-35mm f/4 performs well in controlling flare and ghosting, requiring strong backlight with the sun either inside or just outside the frame to produce visible flare. While it is not completely free of flare, it surpasses other lenses in this aspect. This lens also responds well to stopping down and exhibits minimal effects of diffraction at f/16 and f/22. Overall, it offers solid performance without being outstanding in any discipline.

On the other hand, the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 exhibits a moderate level of flare and ghosting, especially when the sun is directly placed in the frame. While it is not the most flare-resistant lens, the artifacts produced are often considered artistic and do not heavily detract from the image quality. Flare and ghosting are more noticeable at smaller apertures, such as f/16, where intense flare patterns and loss of shadow detail are evident. As the focal length increases towards 35mm, the flare and ghosting become more magnified, although slightly less defined.

In conclusion, the Nikon 16-35mm lens provides better control over flare and ghosting compared to the Sigma 18-35mm lens. Although the Sigma lens may produce artistic flare effects, the Nikon 16-35mm lens offers more consistent performance and minimal visible flare in most situations, making it the superior choice in terms of flare and ghosting control.


When shooting with an open aperture at any focal length setting, the Nikon 16-35mm f/4 exhibits some noticeable vignetting. However, this effect is not overly pronounced and can be quickly resolved by closing down the aperture by one or two stops. At 16mm, the vignetting may be a bit more noticeable, but the center performance of the lens remains excellent even when the aperture is opened all the way.

On the other hand, the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 exhibits varying degrees of vignetting depending on the focal length and aperture settings. At 18mm, there is severe vignetting, which decreases progressively as you zoom in. Even at 35mm, there is still visible vignetting in the corners, and it doesn’t entirely go away when stopping down.

However, when comparing this lens to others with similar focal lengths, the vignetting is relatively mild, particularly at f/1.8. By f/4, the peripheral shading is nearly gone, making it suitable for various photography applications, including night sky photography.

In conclusion, while both lenses exhibit vignetting to some extent, the Nikon 16-35mm lens has an advantage in that the vignetting can be more easily resolved by stopping down the aperture. Although the Sigma 18-35mm lens has noticeable vignetting, it is relatively mild compared to other lenses with similar focal lengths.


The Nikon 16-35mm f/4 shows noticeable barrel distortion at 16mm (5.7%) but can be easily corrected in post-processing using software like Lightroom and Photoshop. Distortion levels on the lens tend to decrease as the zoom setting is increased. By the time you reach 24mm, the lens is virtually free of any noticeable distortion.

Although distortion is minimal at 24mm, as you continue to zoom towards 35mm, pincushion distortion gradually becomes apparent, with levels of around 1.3% distortion being noticeable in real-world shooting situations. Nikon SLRs provide in-camera distortion control when shooting in JPG format, but shooting in RAW format allows for simple, one-click distortion correction or more precise adjustments using the Distortion slider to balance out any distortion while maintaining edge detail.

On the other hand, the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 exhibits various levels of distortion depending on the focal length. At 18mm, there is noticeable barrel distortion, which transitions to pincushion distortion as the focal length increases. By 35mm, pincushion distortion reaches its strongest level. However, distortion can be easily corrected in post-processing using software like Lightroom and Adobe Camera RAW.

In conclusion, both lenses display distortion to some extent, but the Nikon 16-35mm lens offers better distortion control, especially at 24mm, where it is distortion-free. Although the Sigma 18-35mm lens has noticeable distortion, it can be corrected in post-processing. However, given that the Nikon 16-35mm lens provides a better balance in distortion control throughout the focal range, it is considered the superior option in terms of distortion performance.

Final Verdict

In conclusion, both the Nikon 16-35mm f/4 and Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 have their strengths and weaknesses. While the Nikon 16-35mm lens excels in distortion control, weather sealing, switch functionality, and flare and ghosting control, the Sigma 18-35mm lens stands out for its build quality, lens hood, sharpness, bokeh, and large maximum aperture.

It’s important to note that the Nikon 16-35mm f/4 lens is designed for full-frame cameras, where it provides a true 16-35mm wide-angle range. This makes it ideal for landscape and architectural photography on a full-frame camera. However, when used on an APS-C camera body, the equivalent focal length becomes 27-52.5mm due to the crop factor. In this situation, the lens is no longer ideal for wide-angle photography, as the field of view becomes narrower. Moreover, the smaller equivalent maximum aperture (f/6) may not perform well in low-light situations or when a shallow depth of field is desired.

On the other hand, the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 lens is designed specifically for APS-C / DX format cameras, offering a wide-angle range of 18-35mm and a larger maximum aperture of f/1.8. This lens is better suited for wide-angle photography, low-light photography, and situations where a shallow depth of field is desired, such as environmental portraits or events.

Ultimately, the best lens for you depends on your specific photography needs and the type of camera you’re using. If you have a full-frame camera and need a wide-angle lens for landscape and architectural photography, the Nikon 16-35mm f/4 lens would be a better choice. However, if you’re using an APS-C camera and require a lens for wide-angle photography, low-light situations, and a shallow depth of field, the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 lens would be the ideal option.

Meet the Author

Wei Mao

Wei was a cruise photographer who worked at Disney Cruise Line. He is a lucky traveler who has been to more than 20 countries with his camera while working on an around-the-world cruise. Photography has changed his view of the world forever. Now he wants more people to benefit from photography through his blog.

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