Review: Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM | A

  • Lens Construction: 17 Elements in 12 Groups
  • Angle of View (SD1): 76.5º-44.2º
  • Number of Diaphragm Blades: 9
  • Minimum Aperture: f16
  • Minimum Focusing Distance: 28 cm/ 11.0 in
  • Filter Size (mm): 72mm
  • Maximum Magnifications: 1:4.3
  • Dimensions(Diameter x Length): 78mm x 121.0mm/3.1in. x 4.8in.
  • Weight: 28.6oz
  • Accessories include: Lens Hood & Carrying Case
  • Available for Mounts: Sigma, Sony, Nikon, Pentax, Canon
  • Price: $799.00

My Thoughts: Construction
I recently had the opportunity to spend two months traveling with, and testing out, Sigma's new 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM | A lens. The newest lens in Sigma's 'Art' series, the 18-35mm is marketed toward travel, wedding, and event photography.  It is the first lens of it's kind to offer a super fast f1.8 aperture in a wide-angle zoom lens designed for crop-sensor cameras. The first thing I noticed, when I pulled the lens out of the box, was how solid it felt in the hands.  Although the lens is 0.4" narrower in diameter than my AFS Nikkor 28-70mm f/2.8D IF-ED lens, it weighs nearly as much, only 4.4oz less.  In comparison, my AFS DX Nikkor 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G has a reported weight of 13.8oz and is roughly half the size.

I was pleased to find the lens barrel and mounting to be metal, which I believe results in the lens' heft.  The focus and zoom rings were smooth to operate and I found the rubber rings to be comfortable to use.  I was also pleased to see the inclusion of a focus scale on the lens, a feature not included on Nikon's AF-S DX 35mm f/1.8G lens.  The only problem is the scale is hard to read, especially at night wearing a headlamp.  The lens also lacks a weather-sealing gasket on the mount, something I had to take into consideration when photographing in Yellowstone this past winter.  I also wish the lens utilized a metal filter thread, although this is not a deal-breaker for me I wish lens manufacturers went away from using plastic threads.  Plastic threads do not last!

Nikon D300s; 18mm; f/8.0; ISO 400; 1/100sec

The lens was easy to operate and seemed to be a natural extension of my D300s body.  Attachment was solid and I never noticed any lens movement when attached.  The tulip-style lens hood is rather shallow and does not provide much side-shielding but I found the optical quality to be high enough to produce minimal ghosting (more on that in the performance section).

My Thoughts: Performance
  • Focus: I found the lens to focus quickly and incredibly accurately, even when tracking moving subjects in air (and equipment) temperatures that were well below zero degrees Fahrenheit.  I encountered minimal times where the lens seemed to have a hard time focusing, and that was when the landscape didn't offer much contrast to focus on.  The manual focus override works well, giving the photographer the ability to override the focus the same way Nikon AFS lenses work.

    The lens is compatible with Sigma's USB Dock, which allows the lens' focus to be fine-tuned to your camera.  This is great, unless you are using the lens on multiple bodies.  In my case, I chose to adjust the focus within my D300s as I was allowing others to tryout the lens on my trips.
Nikon D300s; 20mm; f/5.0; ISO 200; 1/60sec
  • Lens Flaring: I found the lens flaring and ghosting to be minimal and what was there to be aesthetically pleasing.  The below images were photographed in hazy conditions in sub-zero air temperatures and I am really pleased with how they turned out.  I made no correction for ghosting and lens flare in the images.
Nikon D300s; 18mm; f/8.0; ISO 200; 1/640sec
Nikon D300s; 18mm; f/4.0; ISO 200; 1/1600sec
  • Distortion: As you would come to expect, the 18-35mm exhibits a moderate amount of barrel distortion at 18mm.  The distortion was less than I expected and came in handy when framing some of my photographs.  If the distortion is an issue for your images, Adobe Lightroom's lens correction function has a built-in profile for the lens - eliminating the distortion in one click!
Nikon D300s; 18mm; f/4.0; ISO 200; 1/400sec
  • Vignetting: Overall the lens produces very little vignetting.  The lens produces even tones across the image at all focal lengths.
  • Focal Length: The nearest Nikon equivalent would be the Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S DX, which retails for slightly less.  While the Nikon 17-55mm offers a wider zoom range the Sigma 18-35mm offers 1-1/2 stops more light.  Some have questioned the usefulness of 'such a limited zoom range' without noting the increase in light-gathering ability.  Sure it is a trade-off, but you don't see people complaining about Nikon's old 17-35mm f2.8 or their 16-35mm f4.0!  Let's think about it, if Sigma were to produce, as an example, 18-55mm f1.8, the lens would most likely weigh well over 60oz* - that is more than Nikon's 70-200mm f2.8 VRII!  I found the focal length to fit well with my AFS 28-70mm f2.8 and AFS 80-200mm f2.8.
    • I calculated my speculated weight for an 18-55mm f1.8 lens by using a ratio of weights and focal lengths: (28.6oz/(35mm-18mm)=X/(55mm-18mm)) - Do you like it when I talk nerdy? ;-)
The Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM | A lens produces some beautiful images.  Maybe it is me and the 'old' Nikon lenses I have been using the last couple of years but I believe this lens deserves some props from the photography community.  Sigma stepped up, thinking outside of the box, and created a phenomenal lens.  Sure there are some things I would change, namely the plastic filter thread and lack of weather-sealing gasket, but the lens took everything I threw at it!  I never thought twice about using it to capture images at -27F, which I did on multiple occasions while traveling through Yellowstone!  I would recommend the Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM | A lens to anyone looking for a wide-angle zoom lens that is incredibly fast.  I had a lot of fun with this lens and reluctantly sent it back at the end of my review period.  I hope to one day buy a copy, of my own, to travel with.

You can find a collection of images, including a series of comparison images, by clicking here: Flickr Sigma 18-35mm f1.8 Review


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Disclosure of Material Connection: Sigma loaned the lens to me for the duration of my review.