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Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM Review

September 2013 | By Andy Westlake and Richard Butler

Review based on a production Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM

Sigma has a long history as a lens maker, having been founded over 50 years ago. In the film era it was best known for relatively inexpensive lenses that undercut the camera makers' own equivalents in terms of price. But this has changed over the part decade or so; while other companies have shifted manufacturing to cheaper locations such as China and Thailand, Sigma has stubbornly refused to move from its factory in Aizu, Japan. This means it can no longer compete in the same way on price alone, and it's therefore switched its focus towards higher-value offerings.

Over the past few years we've seen increasingly ambitious concepts appear from the company's design studios. The original (and recently-replaced) 30mm F1.4 EX DC HSM has long been one of our favourite lenses for APS-C SLRs, and the 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM grabbed our attention back in 2008 due to its sharpness at large apertures. Most recently the 35mm F1.4 DG HSM impressed us with its exceptional optical quality at a very competitive price. This all bodes well for the company's latest offering - the record-breaking 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM, which is the first constant F1.8 SLR zoom lens to hit the market.

Sigma's choice of F1.8 as maximum aperture isn't a coincidence; it means that the lens will offer the same control over depth of field as an F2.8 zoom does on full frame. What's more, it will also offer effectively the same light-gathering capability as an F2.8 lens on full frame. By this we mean that it will be able to project an image that's just over twice as bright onto a sensor that's slightly less than half the area, meaning the same total amount of light is used to capture the image. This is important as it's a major determinant of image quality. Essentially it means that APS-C shooters will be able to use lower ISOs when shooting wide open in low light and get similar levels of image noise, substantially negating one of the key advantages of switching to full frame.

As we'd expect at this level, the lens uses an ultrasonic autofocus motor for fast, silent focusing. It's compatible with Sigma's new USB dock which allows you to fine-tune autofocus behaviour in much more detail than the AF microadjust corrections found on SLRs, which should help get the best possible focus accuracy and make the most of the large aperture. It also incorporates several of the thoughtful design touches that we were impressed by on the 35mm F1.4, including an improved AF switch, and a large grip area on the base of the barrel for better handling.

The lens's 27-53mm equivalent focal length range is obviously a little limited, but should still be rather useful for such applications as wedding and events photography. So while it may not quite match the capabilities of a 24-70mm F2.8 on a full frame SLR, for existing APS-C users it should offer something very close. Crucially, at a street price of around $800 / £650 at the time of writing, for existing APS-C shooters it's an awful lot cheaper than buying a 24-70mm F2.8 and a full frame SLR to go with it.

Overall the 18-35mm F1.8 is a really intriguing product, and we applaud Sigma for pushing the boundaries of lens design ahead of the more conservative camera manufacturers. But can an F1.8 zoom really deliver good results? Let's find out.

Headline features

  • 18-35mm focal length (approx 28-50mm equivalent)
  • Extremely fast F1.8 maximum aperture
  • Ring-type ultrasonic focus motor with full-time manual override
  • Initially available in Canon EF, Nikon F and Sigma SA mounts; Pentax K and Sony Alpha to follow

Angle of view

The pictures below illustrate the focal length range from wide to telephoto (on Canon APS-C, 1.6x). The 18-35mm covers a modest 2x zoom range.

18mm (29mm equivalent) 35mm (56mm equivalent)

Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM specifications

 Date introduced  April 2013
 Street Price (August 2013)  • $800 (US)
 • £650 (UK)
 • €850 (EU)
 Maximum format size  APS-C
 Focal length  18-35mm
 35mm equivalent focal length (APS-C)  • 27-53mm (1.5x)
 • 29-56mm (Canon 1.6x)
 Diagonal angle of view  76.5° - 44.2°
 Maximum aperture  F1.8
 Minimum aperture  F16
 Lens Construction  • 17 elements in 12 groups
 • 5 SLD glass elements
 • 4 glassmold aspherical elements
 Number of diaphragm blades  9, rounded
 Minimum focus  0.28m / 0.92ft
 Maximum magnification  0.23x
 AF motor type  • Ring-type Ultrasonic Motor
 • Full time manual focus
 Focus method  Internal
 Zoom method  Rotary, internal
 Image stabilization  No
 Filter thread  • 72mm
 • Does not rotate on focus
 Supplied accessories*  • Front and rear caps
 • Lens hood LH780-03
 Weight  810g (28.6 oz)
 Dimensions  78mm diameter x 121mm length
 (3.1 x 4.8 in)
 Lens Mount  Canon EF, Nikon F, Pentax K, Sigma SA, Sony A

* Supplied accessories may differ in each country or area

If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read the Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).

Conclusion / Recommendation / Ratings are based on the opinion of the reviewer, you should read the ENTIRE review before coming to your own conclusions.

We recommend to make the most of this review you should be able to see the difference (at least) between X, Y, and Z and ideally A, B, and C.

This article is Copyright 1998 - 2015 and may NOT in part or in whole be reproduced in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from the author.

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Total comments: 341

Great lens but boring bokeh. Lacks character (or you guys are no good at making interesting bokeh shots).


But isn't that what the masses want? If a lens has any character people tend to complain that the out of focus areas are "harsh" or "nervous" or "blobby".


lens design, like everything else, is a compromise of conflicting requirements and you can get much better quality if can afford taking out one or two specs and put into minor list.

the Nikon 24-70/2.8, the king between 2007-2012 and still top class zoom, got not so good bokeh either and field curvature is not corrected well.

Jose Rocha

@yabokkie: "Not so good bokeh"? For a standard zoom lens I think it's superb, and at 70mm it's beautiful. Of course, it's not f/1.8, as you know.


> Of course, it's not f/1.8, as you know.

both of them are f/2.8 equiv.,
whatever the job an aperture can do they can do the same.

Comment edited 13 seconds after posting

@yab, Ahh Nikon,


>both of them are f/2.8 equiv.,

not on an aps-c sensor :p

@JDT the masses must be boring as well.

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting

@D1N0: "the masses must be boring as well."

Haha. No Comment.


What you are saying in the conclusion is that the OVF of the Canon was not up to the task of confirming focus. If you had tested on a Sony with EVF, maybe the conclusions of mis focus would have been different (focus peaking and magnification views).

Andy Westlake

Difficult to test this lens on a Sony at the moment, as it's not yet available in Alpha mount. Also bear in mind that the real problem is inconsistent focusing wide open, and it's not obvious a Sony body would do any better.


it might be an interesting idea to make an accurate shift adapter for Sony E mount to test all full frame SLR lenses on a NEX body and you could sell it as "DPReview shift lens adapter #1."

Comment edited 49 seconds after posting
Andy Crowe

@yabokkie what the shift adapter be for, in the review? Many FF cameras these days support CDAF so the lenses' CDAF potential can be tested on a FF camera no problem.

Also this lens is APS.

photo nuts

EVFs disgust me. I used one on a mirrorless camera close to a year; I ended up dumping that EVIL camera and all the accompanying lenses. Heartily ran back into the comforting embrace of my OVF DSLRs.

Just say no to EVFs.

Comment edited 47 seconds after posting
Flying Snail

Forget EVF - how about using the display?

Andy Crowe

@photo nuts I suspect you may have been spoilt by decent large pentaprism viewfinders, I found the EVF on even the original Panasonic G1 far better than my previous DSLR's small pentamirror viewfinder in low light and at least as good (helped by the better magnification) in good light.

1 upvote

@photo nut

what didnt you like about using an evf? and what camera was it?

the evf on the nex7 and omd work really well. i find them to be excellent performers. sure in properly lit scenes i prfer an ovf but once you get into more challenging light situations, the evf outperforms its counterpart.

i have often found ovf to be difficult to use with heavy backlit scenes and under low light situations. with practice and experience you can guestimate the proper focus but it cant beat the live view the evf's offer. evf's are a lot more immediate. there's no guessing involved. you dial in your settings and see how it affects your shot. the ovf can only compete under ideal situations. all else, the evf is more useful.

1 upvote

Well deserved GOLD award Sigma.


Wow. First comment, but I have nothing to complain about...

Total comments: 341