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SIGMA 18-35 F1.8 Review

When the SIGMA 18-35 F1.8 Lens was announced you could hear an audible gasp reverberate around the industry. The reason being is that this is one of the first times you have seen a zoom lens on a cropped sensor camera that had a fixed 1.8 aperture.

In my preview I could not see this lens being any less than $999 when released. Well, I was wrong about the price, it sells new for $799 at The big question that everyone has is this lens worth spending the money on?

Let me start off by again talking about how I review a product. When reviewing a lens I take it out and use it in a real world environment. My goal is not to sit in a studio and shoot test charts because that doesn’t tell me how it works in the real world. My job is to give you my honest opinion as well as leave you with real world full res and RAW sample files to analyze yourself.

Once the excitement dies down about a lens like this you have to take an honest look at a few things, is this lens worth the money, who is it for and how are the images captured with it.
SIGMA 18-35 F1.8
I want to first take a look at who this lens is for. Is it for that person who just purchased their first cropped sensor dslr? The simple answer to this question is no, not right off the bat. That’s whats so perplexing about this lens. If it were a full frame lens it would be a must buy for all pros but it’s not, it’s a cropped sensor only lens. In this case new photographers are not going to drop $799 on a lens when they spent around the same price for their body. Sure we know the difference between quality glass and kit lenses but most new comers don’t get that just yet.

In my opinion new photographers have other lenses that should be priorities before something like 18-35 F1.8. As a quick rundown I would suggest a SIGMA 17-50 2.8 and 70-200 2.8 if you have a few bucks to spend. Or when just starting out a NIKON 35 F1.8 or Canon 50 F1.8. The way I look at it is this short zoom lens is more of a speciality lens that you add once you have the other pieces of the puzzle.

I keep struggling to see where this lens would find its way into a photographers bag. On a Nikon DX camera you would multiply the lens by 1.5X and you will get 27-52.5mm (35mm equivalent). On a Canon cropped sensor you would multiply the lens by 1.6X and get a 28.8-56mm (35mm equivalent). The point is this lens is not really wide enough nor does it have enough reach to be an all around lens. It has a very limited use and I am still trying to figure out what for.

The only photographers I could see really using this lens are the ones who utilize the top of the line cropped sensor cameras. The reason I say that is the focus systems tend to be slightly more accurate which will allow you to shoot at 1.8 and have a better chance of getting your focus spot on. But here is the rub again, if you are a professional making money with photography you most likely have full frame bodies which leaves this as a no go lens.

Thank you for sticking with me as I gave my opinion about who the lenses is for before jumping into the quality of the lens. I find it very important to look at all angles to determine if this lens is the right choice for people.

Lets look at how it feels in the hand. First things first it feels like it is built extremely well. It is heavy, substantial and all around a very nice feeling lens. SIGMA over the past two years has totally reinvented themselves.

The zoom range though short operates very smoothly along with the focus ring. You will have no problem determining which part of the lens will zoom it vs change the focus.

There is something you have to remember when attempting to shoot wide open at F1.8. Your depth of field is so shallow that it makes it very hard to get a tack sharp image. You may think you are focused on someones eyes but when you see the results its focused on their eyebrows. Just because you have the ability to shoot at F1.8 does not mean you should, remember that. The point of having such a wide opening is to allow you to let more light into the camera allowing you to get faster shutter speeds or lower ISOs.


How does the lens focus. In my tests the lens seemed to focus quickly and responsively. I did have some issues getting sharp images from time to time but I attribute that to the Canon T3I that I was using. That is one of the reasons that I suggest this lens is for photographers with the higher end cropped sensor cameras.

To get a feel for the zoom range of this lens I have two sample images below. The first one is shot at 18mm F1.8 and the second is 35mm at F1.8.



The funny thing about these images is I said in my video review that this lens is really not meant for portraits. But in these two images I think it worked very well as a portrait lens. The important part of the first image is the fact that I am shooting it at 18mm and the background is pretty much blown out. You would never see this with a kit lens, since this image was shot at F1.8 it allowed for the separation of the subject form the background even at such a wide angle.

You can see that in the 35mm shot the background is even more separated from the subject. Keep in mind as you zoom your lenses you start to compress the backgrounds much easier. I am very happy with how these two shots turned out. They are both colorful, sharp and separate the subject from the background which is a win in my book.

Click Here to download both of these RAW Files (41 megs). Click Here to download a few more(40 megs).

When I was able to get my focus on at any aperture the images came out tack sharp full of color and contrast. The lens seems to focus quickly and handle very well in my hands.

To see all the FULL RES Samples images on flickr please click here.

All and all this is a fantastic lens but you have to ask yourself the question, is it worth $799 for a cropped sensor lens? To me this is the third or fourth lens you add to your bag after you have the lenses that you will use more often. If you are someone who has higher end cropped sensor cameras and have a need for something in this range with a fast aperture than this lens is for you.

If you decide you would like to pick up this lens please call at 215.547.2841.