Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM review

The high price and short focal length make Sigma's 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM a niche lens, but it'll deliver high-quality images that justify the price.
The high price and short focal length make Sigma's 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM a niche lens, but it'll deliver high-quality images that justify the price.
The high price and short focal length make Sigma's 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM a niche lens, but it'll deliver high-quality images that justify the price.

Highs

  • Terrific image quality.
  • Wide f/1.8 aperture
  • Snappy autofocus

Lows

  • Short zoom doesn't do much.
  • May be overkill for APS-C users.
  • Flaky lens cap .

DT Editors' Rating

Sigma’s 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM ($800) is a formidable piece of glass if you’re looking for a medium focal length (short, if you’re shooting full frame), wide aperture add-on for your DSLR, provided you’ve got the budget for an $800 lens. We spent some time testing it out on a Canon EOS 7D body, with the camera’s 1.6x crop factor pushing the zoom range up to 29-56mm (the lens is also available with Nikon or Sigma; Sony and Pentax coming soon). The range is great if you’ve got a full-frame body and a desire to shoot wide-angle, but it’s not quite short enough for tight spaces and not quite long enough for cavernous rooms and theaters when you’re using a crop sensor.

The Sigma delivers high-quality images to justify the price, but it’s not an all-purpose lens for everyone.

The key selling points for this fella are image quality and a wide aperture – great for portraits. It handles itself well in low-light conditions when you shoot wide open, and the high-end optics produce a sharp, detailed image. Just check out the sample images of our subject, Loki the Chow Chow: there’s incredible detail in his face, and a nice, soft blur all around. Those who enjoy shooting close-ups with nice bokeh (background blur) would be pleased. If you’re used to having long zoom ranges with kit lenses, you won’t find it here, but 18-35mm length comes in handy when you need just a bit of zoom. The autofocus is relatively snappy, though we found that it struggled in darker rooms. That’s fine if you’re capturing images of unmoving subjects, like a product on a table, but you’ll want to lean on manual focus if your subject is in motion.

The lens body is on the larger side, and while the zoom mechanics are all internal – there’s no telescoping barrel at all – the whole thing could easily be mistaken for a telephoto at a glance. It’s also rather heavy compared to other lenses of this sort, falling just shy of 2 pounds. The size and weight both cut down on the 18-35mm’s portability, though the internal zoom at least helps to protect it against dust and other damaging particles. The focus ring at the front of the lens is relatively easy to manage, but the zoom ring at the base feels stiffer than we’d like; you’ll lose a lot of precision if you’re used to operating a zoom with one finger. As a whole, the lens is well constructed.

It’s also worth mentioning that the included lens cap is less-than-stellar. More than once, we opened our camera bag to find it had fallen off in storage. The lens cap is easily replaced, of course, but that’s something you’ll want to keep in mind. Like all Sigma lenses, this one also comes packed with a soft case and a lens hood in the box.

Overall, the Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 isn’t a bad lens, it’s just of limited use if you’re an amateur shooting with an APS-C body. A full frame-wielder might find the uncropped focal length more palatable, but there’s considerably more competition at that level. Similarly, the $800 price tag is a little on the high side for an amateur shooter when there are plenty of other, similarly priced lenses that offer more flexibility. Though again, more advanced photographers might find the lens more appetizing at that price given how quickly costs tend to skyrocket with top-shelf glass. The Sigma definitely delivers a high-quality image to justify the price, but it’s not something you should consider as an all-purpose lens.

Highs:

  • Terrific image quality.
  • Wide f/1.8 aperture
  • Snappy autofocus

Lows:

  • Short zoom doesn’t do much.
  • May be overkill for APS-C users.
  • Flaky lens cap .
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