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
Conclusion
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.
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
76%
Overall score

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

32 images • Posted on Nov 19, 2012 • View album
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