Nikon DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4 vs. Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8: The Ultimate In-Depth Lens Showdown

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Are you in the market for a versatile, high-quality lens that can elevate your photography game? Look no further! In this in-depth comparison, we’ll be examining two popular contenders – the Nikon DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4 and the Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 lenses.

Both lenses cater to various photography genres, from captivating landscapes to intimate portraits, and offer a range of features to suit a wide array of photographers. Whether you’re a hobbyist or a seasoned professional, our comparison will provide valuable insights into each lens’s strengths and weaknesses, helping you make an informed decision.

We understand that choosing the right lens can significantly impact your photography experience and the quality of your images. That’s why we’ll explore essential factors such as sharpness, bokeh, distortion, and low light performance, among others, to help you determine which lens best aligns with your creative vision.

By the end of this article, you’ll be well-equipped with the knowledge to select the perfect lens for your photography journey, ensuring stunning results that’ll leave your audience in awe.

So, let’s dive in and discover which of these two remarkable lenses will take your photography to new heights!


Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 16-80mm F2.8-4E ED VRSigma 17-50mm F2.8 EX DC OS HSM Nikon F (DX)
Max ApertureF2.8-4.0F2.8
Aperture TypeVariableFixed
Focal Range (mm)16-8017-50
Mount TypeNikon F (DX)Nikon F (DX)
Zoom Ratio (X)52.9

The Nikon DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4 lens offers a versatile 5x zoom range, making it suitable for various photography genres. It has a variable aperture of f/2.8-4.0, which means the maximum aperture changes as you zoom in or out. In comparison, the Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 has a shorter 2.9x zoom range but boasts a fixed f/2.8 aperture, delivering consistent performance throughout the zoom range and better low light capabilities. Both lenses are designed for Nikon F (DX) mount cameras.

In terms of aperture, the Sigma 17-50mm’s fixed f/2.8 aperture offers advantages such as better low light performance, more consistent image quality, and improved autofocus performance. However, the Nikon 16-80mm’s variable aperture allows for a more affordable lens design.

Considering the focal range, the Nikon 16-80mm provides greater versatility, covering wide-angle to telephoto focal lengths, whereas the Sigma 17-50mm is limited to standard zoom range. This makes the Nikon 16-80mm more suitable for photographers who need to adapt to different shooting scenarios.

In conclusion, the Nikon 16-80mm is a more versatile lens, offering a wider range of focal lengths suitable for various photography genres. The Sigma 17-50mm, on the other hand, excels in low light performance and consistent image quality due to its fixed f/2.8 aperture. The superior lens depends on your specific needs and preferences. If versatility is your priority, the Nikon 16-80mm is the better choice. However, if low light performance and consistent image quality are more important, the Sigma 17-50mm might be the ideal option.

Design and Ease of Use

Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 16-80mm F2.8-4E ED VRSigma 17-50mm F2.8 EX DC OS HSM Nikon F (DX)
Diameter x Length (mm)⌀80×85.5mm⌀84×92mm
Weight (gr)480565
Filter Thread (mm)7277
Weather SealingNoNo
Zoom MethodRotary (internal)Rotary (extending)
Distance ScaleYesYes
DoF ScaleNoNo
Hood SuppliedYesYes

The Nikon DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4 has a diameter of ⌀80mm and a length of 85.5mm, making it more compact than the Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8, which has a diameter of ⌀84mm and a length of 92mm. The Nikon lens is also lighter, weighing 480g, while the Sigma lens weighs 565g. Portability is an essential factor in photography, and the Nikon 16-80mm’s smaller size and lighter weight make it easier to carry around, offering better balance and discreetness.

The Nikon 16-80mm features an internal rotary zoom method, which means the lens doesn’t change its physical size when zooming. This design offers consistent balance, better weather sealing, and a more compact form factor. On the other hand, the Sigma 17-50mm has an extending rotary zoom method, which may be simpler and lighter but comes with the trade-off of an extending design that could impact balance and weather sealing.

Considering the factors of size, weight, and zoom method, the Nikon 16-80mm lens appears to be superior in terms of portability, balance, and handling. Its compact and lightweight design, combined with the internal rotary zoom method, make it a more versatile and user-friendly option for various photography situations.

Lens Mount and Barrel

The Nikon DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4 lens mount is crafted from metal and features a rubber seal to keep dust out of the camera body. This design offers increased durability and protection against the elements compared to the Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 lens mount, which is also made of metal but lacks weather sealing gaskets. When using the Sigma lens in light rain or dusty environments, it is advisable to cover the lens for added protection.

As for the lens barrels, the Nikon 16-80mm has a plastic barrel with rubberized rings for focus and zoom, and its size remains constant during zooming. In contrast, the Sigma 17-50mm lens barrel is also made of plastic, with some parts coated with Sigma’s rubberized coating for better grip. However, the barrel extends about 2.7cm when zooming to the longest focal length of 50mm, and a lock switch is provided to keep the lens retracted at 17mm to avoid zoom creep.

In conclusion, the Nikon 16-80mm lens offers a superior lens mount and barrel design due to its weather sealing and consistent size during zooming. The metal lens mount with rubber seal and the compact, non-extending barrel design provide increased durability, protection, and ease of use for photographers in various shooting situations.

Weather Sealing

The Nikon DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4, while not fully weather-sealed, does offer some protection from the elements with its rubber gasket around the lens mount that helps keep dust out of the camera body. Additionally, its front element features a fluorine coating that repels water and makes it easier to clean.

In comparison, the Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 lacks weather sealing entirely, without any gaskets at the lens mount or internal seals at the rings and switches. Furthermore, the front element of the Sigma lens does not have a fluorine coating.

Weather sealing is important for photographers who often shoot in challenging environments or unpredictable weather conditions, as it helps protect the lens from dust, moisture, and light water splashes.

While neither of these lenses is fully weather-sealed, the Nikon 16-80mm offers better protection against the elements, making it a more suitable choice for photographers who require added durability and protection for their equipment.

The partial weather sealing of the Nikon lens provides an extra layer of security and peace of mind when shooting in various conditions, allowing photographers to focus more on capturing the perfect shot.


The Nikon DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4 features 2 rings: a zoom ring at the front and a manual focusing ring at the rear. The zoom ring is large, rubberized, and slightly heavy, offering a well-built and sturdy experience even when fully extended.

In contrast, the manual focusing ring is narrow, less knurled, and has a grinding feel to it. The focusing ring takes a third of a turn from infinity to the minimum focus distance and can be difficult to locate with a less smooth rotation. A modest focus distance scale window marked in both feet and meters is present between the zoom and manual-focus rings.

The Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 also has 2 rings: a focus ring at the front and a zoom ring behind it. The focus ring has raised rubber ribs and a small focusing range of 45 degrees, making manual focusing slightly tedious. The focus ring turns freely without dampening, which can be problematic during autofocus. The zoom ring, on the other hand, is wider and features large raised rubber ribs with around 45 degrees of rotation, offering a pleasant level of resistance and no zoom creep. A zoom lock is also available to keep the lens at 17mm, preventing extension while dangling on a neck strap.

Both rings on the Sigma lens are smooth with no play, although the focus ring might be slightly too easy to rotate. There is no windowed distance scale and depth-of-field indicator, but a focus distance scale is printed on the manual focus ring, which is cramped and can make hyperfocal settings tricky.

In terms of ring design, the Nikon 16-80mm lens offers a sturdier zoom ring, while the Sigma 17-50mm lens provides a more comfortable and resistant zoom ring, as well as a focus ring with raised rubber ribs for better grip. However, the Sigma lens’s focus ring may be too easy to rotate, and the distance scale is less convenient compared to the Nikon lens.

Overall, the Sigma 17-50mm lens has a superior zoom ring, but the Nikon 16-80mm lens offers a more practical focus ring, making it the better choice for photographers who prioritize manual focusing precision and control.


The Nikon DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4 comes with 3 switches/buttons on the barrel, providing various functions to enhance the shooting experience. The first switch is an AF/MF switch, enabling a manual override of autofocus with minimal lag time, regardless of the autofocus mode in use. The second switch is an IS switch, controlling the 4-stop vibration reduction system. The third switch allows users to choose between Normal and Active VR modes. While these switches are clearly labeled, their identical appearance may make it challenging to change settings quickly when the camera is raised to your eye.

On the other hand, the Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 features 2 switches: one for image stabilization and another for autofocus/manual focus. These switches are noticeably raised from the lens barrel and situated near the lens mount. They are easy to locate and use without causing discomfort during shooting.

In conclusion, while the Nikon 16-80mm lens offers more functionality with 3 switches, their identical appearance may hinder quick adjustments during shooting. The Sigma 17-50mm lens has fewer switches, but they are designed to be more user-friendly and comfortable. Considering the ease of use and comfort, the Sigma 17-50mm lens has superior switches/buttons, making it a better choice for photographers who value quick and comfortable access to essential settings.

Filter Thread

The Nikon DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4 features a 72mm plastic filter thread, ensuring that the front element does not rotate when focusing. This design makes it easy to use with filters, particularly polarizing or ND grad filters. However, the smaller thread size is not compatible with larger 77mm filters.

In contrast, the Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 comes with a 77mm plastic filter thread, located at the front of the lens. The larger thread size can accommodate vignette-free filters and offers an attachment point for the included lens hood. Like the Nikon lens, the front element does not rotate during focusing, allowing for easy use of circular polarizers and ND grad filters.

Considering the compatibility with larger filters and the inclusion of a lens hood attachment, the Sigma 17-50mm lens offers a superior filter thread design compared to the Nikon 16-80mm lens. This advantage makes the Sigma lens more versatile for photographers who require various filters for different shooting conditions, ultimately providing better value and flexibility.

Lens Hood

The Nikon DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4 comes with a squared petal-style lens hood, included in the package for added convenience. The hood is made of hard plastic with a matte finish and features an ergonomic bevel for a comfortable grip when attaching or detaching. A lock button on the hood ensures smooth rotation and secure attachment, making it a practical improvement over older twist-on/click hoods.

On the other hand, the Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 includes a petal-shaped, bayonet-fit lens hood in the package. This hood is made of plastic with a smooth exterior and a deeply ribbed interior to reduce stray light. Although some users mention the hood may feel insecure and can spin off easily, an adjustment tab helps secure it in place. The hood adds around 1.5 inches to the lens’s overall length and can be reversed for storage.

Considering the lock button feature and the ergonomic bevel, the Nikon 16-80mm lens hood offers a superior design when compared to the Sigma 17-50mm lens hood. This enhanced design provides better security, convenience, and usability, making it more suitable for photographers seeking a reliable lens hood solution.

Focusing and Optical Stabilization

Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 16-80mm F2.8-4E ED VRSigma 17-50mm F2.8 EX DC OS HSM Nikon F (DX)
AF MotorSilent Wave MotorHyper Sonic Motor
Rotating Front ElementDoes not rotate on focusingDoes not rotate on focusing
Min Focus Distance0.35m0.28m
Max Magnification (X)0.220.2
Full-Time Manual FocusYesNo

Focusing Performance

The Nikon DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4 boasts an impressive autofocus performance, providing quick and accurate focusing that is relatively quiet, making it suitable for both photography and video applications. This lens excels in low-light situations, maintaining its autofocus accuracy and speed.

Additionally, it supports manual focus override, allowing photographers to fine-tune focus even when autofocus is engaged. Featuring an internally focusing design, the lens maintains a constant length, beneficial for photographers using filters or accessories. With minimal focus breathing, the Nikon 16-80mm lens is an excellent choice for consistent framing during focus adjustments.

In contrast, the Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 has decent autofocus performance but may not be as near-silent as some users would prefer. The focusing speed is generally fast, but the lens may occasionally hunt for focus under very low light conditions.

This lens does not have a manual focus override, requiring a switch between autofocus and manual focus using a small switch on the lens barrel. The lens features an externally focusing design, meaning the length of the lens changes as you focus and zoom. However, the Sigma 17-50mm lens does not exhibit significant focus breathing, making it suitable for video work as well.

In conclusion, the Nikon 16-80mm lens offers superior focusing performance, with its impressive autofocus speed and accuracy, quiet operation, manual focus override, and internally focusing design. This lens is well-suited for a variety of shooting situations, providing a more versatile and reliable option for photographers and videographers alike.

Optical Stabilization

The Nikon DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4 features a Vibration Reduction (VR) system, offering up to 4 stops of shake reduction according to Nikon. However, some users report a more modest performance of around 1 to 2 stops, depending on the shutter speed.

This lens has 2 stabilization modes, Normal and Active, with Active compensating for movements made by the photographer, such as shooting on a moving platform. The VR system operates quietly, thanks to Nikon’s Silent Wave Motor (AF-S).

On the other hand, the Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 is equipped with Sigma’s optical stabilization, rated at 4 stops of effectiveness. This system provides excellent performance with flawless silence, speed, and precision, compensating for camera movement.

The Sigma 17-50mm lens has a single stabilization mode and operates noiselessly. At 17mm, the lens can provide sharp handheld shots in low light at 1/4 sec exposures with a net 3-stops of assistance from the optical stabilization. At 50mm, the shutter speed limit for sharp images is around 1/10 or 1/8, with a net 3-stops of assistance from optical stabilization.

In conclusion, both lenses offer effective optical stabilization, but the Sigma 17-50mm lens edges out the Nikon 16-80mm with its slightly better performance in low-light conditions and a more consistent 3-stops of assistance across its focal range. This makes the Sigma 17-50mm lens a superior choice for those seeking a reliable optical stabilization system in a wide-angle lens.

Image Quality

Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 16-80mm F2.8-4E ED VRSigma 17-50mm F2.8 EX DC OS HSM Nikon F (DX)
Special Elements4 ED and 3 aspherical elements. Nano Crystal Coat.2 FLD glass elements 2 glass mold elements 1 hybrid aspherical lens
Diaphragm Blades77
Circular ApertureYesNo


The Nikon DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4 demonstrates good control over chromatic aberration, with noticeable fringing at 16mm that can be corrected in-camera or during post-processing. Spherochromatism, an advanced form of chromatic aberration, is not an issue with this lens.

Coma is also well-managed, with a tiny amount visible at certain settings, which diminishes as the lens is stopped down. Spherical aberration is present at the extreme end of the lens’s focusing distance, causing some loss of contrast and requiring post-processing for high-impact images.

In contrast, the Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 exhibits chromatic aberration, particularly at the 17mm focal length, where green and purple fringing is noticeable in the corners. Stopping down to f/4 improves sharpness and contrast, but chromatic aberration remains visible. Chromatic aberration is better controlled at 28mm and 50mm focal lengths, and corner sharpness improves.

As for coma, the lens performs well in astrophotography, with stars appearing sharp across much of the field of view, though corners may display pronounced coma, chromatic aberration, and astigmatism. Spherical aberration doesn’t seem to be a significant issue with this lens.

However, when shooting out-of-focus spots, axial aberrations are visible as purple halos around contrast areas, resulting in a loss of resolution, particularly when the lens is wide open. Despite these aberrations, the lens delivers near-perfect performance for a low-cost zoom, thanks to the high technology glasses used in its construction.

In conclusion, while both lenses display some level of aberration, the Nikon 16-80mm lens has a slight advantage in managing chromatic aberration and coma compared to the Sigma 17-50mm lens.


The Nikon DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4 boasts impressive sharpness at most zoom settings, with center sharpness being particularly outstanding. However, corner sharpness can be compromised at wider focal lengths and wide open apertures. By stopping down to around f/5.6-8, corner sharpness can be significantly improved. The sharpest aperture varies slightly depending on the focal length, but it usually falls within the f/5.6-8 range.

On the other hand, the Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 exhibits commendable center sharpness throughout the zoom range, even at its wide open aperture of f/2.8. Corner sharpness is less impressive when the aperture is wide open, particularly at 17mm. Stopping down the aperture to f/5.6 or f/8, however, significantly enhances corner sharpness. The sharpest point occurs at 50mm and f/8, where the entire frame appears almost tack-sharp. Although the lens may not be perfect in terms of sharpness, it still delivers excellent performance for its price range, especially in the center.

In conclusion, both lenses offer remarkable sharpness, with the Nikon 16-80mm excelling in center sharpness, and the Sigma 17-50mm providing admirable center sharpness throughout its zoom range. While both lenses require stopping down to achieve optimal corner sharpness, the Nikon 16-80mm has a slight edge in overall sharpness performance. Therefore, if sharpness is your top priority, the Nikon 16-80mm lens would be the superior choice.

Bokeh Quality

The Nikon DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4 produces varying degrees of bokeh quality depending on the settings used. At 80mm and near the minimum focusing distance, the bokeh is smooth and pleasing, making it suitable for photographing flowers and small subjects.

However, at other focal lengths and apertures, the out-of-focus quality is not as smooth or beautiful and can even be hard-edged or have an onion-like pattern. To achieve the softest backgrounds, it is recommended to zoom to the longest focal length, get as close as possible to the subject, and shoot at the largest aperture. Overall, the bokeh produced by this lens is not Nikon’s best.

In contrast, the Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 produces a mixed bag of out-of-focus quality. Its 7-blade aperture struggles to maintain a circular shape beyond f/4, resulting in heptagon-shaped highlights. The aspherical elements create strong edges on bokeh lights at close range distances.

Furthermore, at the minimum focusing distance and maximum focal length, the bokeh blends with poor chromatic aberrations, making the effect look worse. However, in some cases, the bokeh can look nice, creating a pleasing background blur, but it’s not consistently smooth and beautiful throughout.

In conclusion, both lenses exhibit inconsistent bokeh quality, with the Nikon 16-80mm offering smooth and pleasing bokeh at specific settings, while the Sigma 17-50mm struggles with maintaining a consistently pleasing background blur. Although neither lens excels in bokeh quality, the Nikon 16-80mm has a slight edge over the Sigma 17-50mm when optimal settings are used.


The Nikon DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4 exhibits noticeable flare when pointed near the sun, which can be easily eliminated by using the included hood. Ghosting is visible when shooting into the sun, but it is not significant and can be minimized by shading the lens with a hand. In essence, the lens has some susceptibility to flare and ghosting, but it can be managed effectively with proper technique and accessories.

On the other hand, the Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 demonstrates impressive flare and ghosting control. In various test scenarios, such as shooting directly into the sun or capturing images with strong backlight, the lens performs remarkably well, with minimal flare or ghosting issues. The presence of a lens hood further aids in reducing flares and unwanted reflections. This level of performance ensures that the captured images maintain their clarity and contrast even in challenging lighting conditions.

In conclusion, the Sigma 17-50mm outperforms the Nikon 16-80mm in terms of flare and ghosting control. While both lenses can handle flare and ghosting to some extent, the Sigma 17-50mm delivers a more consistent performance in challenging lighting situations.


The Nikon DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4 has noticeable vignetting in the corners when shooting wide open, especially at 16mm and f/2.8. However, it can be improved dramatically by stopping down the lens by 1 or 2 stops. At f/4 and beyond, vignetting is well controlled.

Applying a lens correction profile, either in-camera or in post-production, can easily correct the vignetting, but it does reduce the resolution slightly. Overall, vignetting is an issue that can be managed with some adjustments.

In comparison, the Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 controls vignetting quite well, with only slight corner shading at wide open apertures and noticeably less in the mid focal lengths. Stopping down to f/4 reduces corner shading to about 1 stop at 17mm, and about 0.8 stops remain at 17mm even at f/11.

However, a normal thickness circular polarizer filter can add a small amount of mechanical vignetting at 17mm even at f/11. Overall, the Sigma 17-50mm lens exhibits standard vignetting for its class but with good control.

Based on the comparison, the Sigma 17-50mm lens is superior in terms of vignetting control. While both lenses exhibit some level of vignetting, the Sigma 17-50mm shows better control, particularly in the mid focal lengths.


The Nikon DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4 exhibits both barrel and pincushion distortion at different focal lengths, with barrel distortion being more noticeable at 16mm and pincushion distortion being moderate at longer focal lengths.

Both types of distortion can be easily corrected in post-processing with supported software like Adobe Lightroom or in-camera if using Nikon’s in-body distortion correction. However, if you are shooting subjects with critical straight lines, such as buildings or ocean horizons, you will need to correct for the distortion to avoid any noticeable bending of the lines.

On the other hand, the Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 distortion varies depending on the focal length used. At 17mm, the lens has medium levels of barrel distortion, which decreases as the focal length increases. At the telephoto end (50mm), there is slight pincushion distortion that drops the lines to the frame center, visible mostly on the horizon.

Distortion is typical for a wide-angle zoom lens, and the Sigma 17-50mm has minimal distortion, especially in the middle sector of the zoom range, meeting the zero-distortion point at around 24mm. The lens is well-controlled, and any distortion can be fixed with Adobe Photoshop Lightroom if it’s an issue.

In conclusion, the Sigma 17-50mm lens has superior distortion control compared to the Nikon 16-80mm lens. While both lenses have some degree of distortion, the Sigma 17-50mm is better controlled, particularly in the middle sector of the zoom range.

Final Verdict

The Nikon DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4 offers greater versatility in focal lengths, superior portability, handling, better weather protection, focusing performance, and slightly better sharpness and bokeh quality. Additionally, it manages chromatic aberration and coma more effectively than the Sigma 17-50mm lens.

On the other hand, the Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 excels in low light performance and consistent image quality due to its fixed f/2.8 aperture, superior optical stabilization, and better control of vignetting, flare, ghosting, and distortion. It’s important to note that the Sigma 17-50mm is more expensive than the Nikon 16-80mm.

If you prioritize versatility, portability, and weather protection, and are looking for a more budget-friendly option, the Nikon 16-80mm lens is the better choice.

However, if low light performance, consistent image quality, and better control of optical imperfections are more important to you, and you’re willing to invest in a higher-priced lens, the Sigma 17-50mm might 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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