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Conclusion - Pros

  • 13.9x focal length range with impressive closeup capability, ideal general purpose / travel lens
  • Fast, quiet autofocus
  • Effective image stabilization (about 3 stops benefit at all focal lengths)
  • Good build quality, smooth zoom ring action and limited zoom creep

Conclusion - Cons

  • Somewhat soft wide open in the middle of the zoom range
  • Very strong pincushion distortion across much of the zoom range

Overall conclusion

The Sigma 18-250mm F3.5-6.3 DC Macro OS HSM may sound like it's just a minor update compared to its 'non-Macro' predecessor, but the reality is a little more complex. Along with its reduced size and improved close-up ability come a couple of other changes and improvements, that can't simply be gleaned from the spec sheet.

For a start, its optical characteristics are rather different. It's distinctly sharper towards the telephoto end, where the previous model was notably weak. Indeed at normal working apertures (F5.6-F11) it's a consistently good performer, and offers no nasty surprises. However the tests reveal that it's rather soft at the edges of the frame when shot wide open in the 28-80mm range, so this is best avoided.

Chromatic aberration is about average for a superzoom, and most pronounced at the extremes of the range. Vignetting, meanwhile, is a non-issue. But this is offset by significantly increased pincushion distortion across most of the zoom range, which reaches quite extreme levels in the 28-50mm region. Barrel distortion at wideangle is also fairly strong, although not the worst we've seen from a superzoom by any means. (It's also worth noting that the lens correction options on the latest SLRs generally don't work with third-party lenses, aside from Nikon's CA correction.)

Operationally, the Sigma is reliable and unfussy. In our experience autofocus is generally fast and accurate, and the image stabilization is effective (and improved over its predecessor at telephoto). It handles well during normal shooting too; the zoom ring is smooth, with none of the unevenness in feel that often affects superzooms, and the switches on the side of the barrel for focus and image stabilization are large and positive. Even the zoom lock switch is unusually well-placed for quick operation by your left thumb.

Compared to its most direct competitor, the Tamron 18-270mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD, the Sigma measures up pretty well. The two lenses are physically very similar in size and design, and while the Tamron offers a slightly longer focal length range, the Sigma is better for close-ups. Optically there's little between them, but in our experience the Sigma focuses rather faster, at least on Canon cameras. To us, this gives the Sigma the edge in practical use.

The Final Word

First, let's make one thing absolutely clear - all superzooms are compromises, and can't be expected to give image quality that matches a pair of lenses covering the same range. But that's not the point; the idea is to have an all-round lens that can stay on the camera most of the time and cover a wide range of photographic opportunities, while still having the option to change lenses when necessary. The Sigma 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 DC Macro OS HSM fits the bill nicely; it's compact, has decent enough optics, offers fast autofocus and effective image stabilisation, and tops this all off with impressive close-up ability. We'd be inclined to conclude that it's the best-rounded general-purpose SLR lens currently on the market.

Sigma 18-250mm F3.5-6.3 DC Macro OS HSM
Category: Superzoom Lens
Optical Quality
Build Quality
Autofocus
Image Stabilization
Ergonomics and Handling
Value
PoorExcellent
Good for
Photographers looking for a compact, lightweight, all-in-one general purpose and travel lens.
Not so good for
Anyone unwilling to sacrifice image quality for convenience
Overall score
76%
The Sigma 18-250mm F3.6-6.3 DC Macro OS HSM is one of the best of the current bunch of SLR superzooms, with decent optics, fast autofocus and effective image stabilization. It's a reliable performer, and its close-up capability is handy too.

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Sigma 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 DC Macro OS HSM Review Samples

32 images • 19th November 2012 • View album
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Comments

Total comments: 6
BobFoster

I think the Sigma is a very sharp third-party lens, and exhibits this throughout its focal length. It doesn't compare to the sharpness delivered from a prime lens, naturally, but it is impressive, given that these sorts of zooms tend to deliver results that fall on the soft side. This sharpness is maintained across the frame, and is the most evident when shooting between the aperture range of f/4-f/11.

1 upvote
Ernie G

I too found the zoom creep a pain - but I have overcome the problem by simply placing a wide rubber band around the lens at the zoom ring. I know its not very professional but believe me it works.

0 upvotes
shadenfroh

Can somebody (staff or readers) confirm that the OS on this lens is running *constantly* regardless of the switch being on or off? I purchased one yesterday after using the older 18-200 (where it engages the OS on focus and disengages after a few seconds) and I feel irritated that this is constantly drawing power from the battery. I want to know if this is the intended behaviour or an error in my unit.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
0 upvotes
guywithyashica

Good overall performance for me.A bit heavy but it beats the snot out of the Tamron 18-200 I owned for an entire week, Really, should you see lens softness in a viewfinder? Mind you, the 18-200 Sigma and Sony were no better than the Tamron in similar test shots. Keep it simple: Take a few shots wide open in broad daylight with a chrome bumper or metal power lines in the estreme left and right frame then have a close look. You will notice CR at the edged way more than you will notice some barrel distortion across a photo of a lake.

0 upvotes
Slartibartfas builder of fjords

I purchased this lens a few days ago and use it with a Nikon D7100. In general it is a great lens, but I find it worse than the review suggests in 2 aspects, namely:

1. zoom creep is bad. If you like to carry the camera over your shoulder, you need to always use the lock button. Although that button is nice to have, it sometimse gets in the way of taking a quick shot, because you first have to fiddle with it to unlock it.

2. I find vignetting worse than advertised. Although I am sure that the test results are accurate, I found that many of the pictures I took at various apertures and focal lengths have darkened corners.

apart from that, and especially for the money, this is still a great buy.

0 upvotes
Sharontlg

I recently used this new lens on a holiday to Cairns. It was great not having to stop to swap lenses whenever i wanted to shoot something further away/close up. Agree it is not a perfect lens in all situations, but shooting between f8 and f 11 gave reasonable sharpness, boost your iso so that your shutter speed is fast too when zooming out.
I used it on a pentax k5.
I had a simple Nikon camera to use on days when I did not want to take my dslr with me and found having the choice really good.

0 upvotes
Total comments: 6