DPReview Gear of the year 2013 - Part 4: Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM
Trying to usefully review a camera often means trying to put yourself in the shoes of another consumer, with different needs and expectations from my own. So it’s not my intention to seem disingenuous by selecting a product I can’t picture buying for myself.
However, while I can’t imagine buying the Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM (mainly because I can’t imagine owning a DSLR again), I have a pretty good idea of how excited the me of a few years ago would have been. That’s why it’s my product of the year.
Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM: What I Love
- Brings previously unseen capability to APS-C
- Consistently impressively sharp
- Covers my most-used focal lengths
- Keenly priced
- Fast focusing and well built
The reason I like the 18-35mm so much is because it allows APS-C shooters to do things they've not really been able to achieve before. The exciting thing about it for me isn’t so much the fact that it’s a constant F1.8 – cool though that sounds – it’s what this means for photography. It gives you a lens that behaves comparably to a 28-50mm F2.8 on full frame, giving the same control over depth-of-field and similar low-light potential as you'd get with the larger format. The result is I got some photos I rather like with cameras that are within reach or already in the hands of a lot of people.
|Although it's far from being a conventional portrait lens, the 18-35mm gives a fair degree of flexibility, with impressive sharpness when well focused.|
And, while 28-50mm isn't the most flexible zoom range in the world, if you think of it as a collection of primes, including a 28mm, 35mm, 40mm and 50mm equivalent, stuffed into a single tube, then that's really pretty impressive. And it becomes all the more impressive if you were to actually try to go out and find that set of primes that fast for APS-C cameras, because nobody has bothered to make them for you. To come close to completing that set, you'll have to pick the nearest match from lenses designed for full frame, which often means all-out, pro-grade F1.4s, and the price tags that come with them.
APS-C users of the world unite
When I started at dpreview I was a keen DSLR shooter but, not being committed (or wealthy) enough to buy an EOS 5D, I shot APS-C. And I was hardly alone in that; for much of the last decade, APS-C has been the de-facto standard format for most photographers. More realistically enthusiast-grade full frame cameras have only arrived in the past twelve-or-so months and, at around $2000/GBP1500, they’re still out of the reach of a lot of people.
So, if you want to picture the ‘typical’ keen photographer and you imagine someone shooting with an APS-C DSLR, you’re likely to be right more than 90% of the time. And yet, most of the big manufacturers have never made any great effort to design lenses for these people. Sure, the big manufacturers have a 16-50 or 17-55 F2.8 lens in the lineup, but that’s often the extent of their high-end lenses and their prices are not inconsiderable. Beyond that, APS-C users have historically been rather poorly served (a cynic might note that this paucity of APS-C-intended lenses promotes the plausibly spurious notion of an ’upgrade path’ to full frame).
|The 18-35mm F1.8 gives a touch of depth-of-field control and the ability to get better results in lower light than a more conventional 17-55mm F2.8. The slight focus error in this image could well be mine.|
The 18-35mm F1.8 doesn’t push you into an awkward limbo between two systems – it lets you harness the more of the potential of the camera you’ve already bought, already know how to use and feel at home with. It doesn’t give you the lovely big viewfinder that you get with a full frame camera, but it gives you many of the other advantages.
And, while the 50mm equivalent long end of the zoom leaves it a little short, it’s still a lens that covers the focal length range I shoot with most often. It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of spending money on a nice wide-angle lens or a fast telephoto zoom, only to find you’re still using the built-to-a-budget-of-nearly-nothing kit zoom that came with the camera, most of the time. For the photography I like to do, the 18-35mm paired with a fast 90mm-equiv prime would leave me pretty happy.
|Ranging from wide-angle to just-beyond normal, the 18-35mm covers most of the focal lengths I most often use - almost like a set of F1.8 primes that happen to come in a single tube.|
It’s not perfect – some cameras (particularly Canon, based on our experience with several bodies and several copies of the lens), struggle to focus it well enough to get the most out of it. And yes, that’s a major drawback in a lens. Thankfully, we had a lot more luck with the Nikon-mount version, and it’s on that basis I’ve selected it (though we're seen some complaints from Nikon owners, too).
Ultimately, even if you don’t subscribe to my theory that APS-C users are being taken for granted, there are still a couple of factors that would still make it my product of the year. It’s astonishingly sharp, at every focal length and every aperture, and it’s sensibly priced – often selling for less than most camera makers’ F2.8 APS-C zooms. And, if that’s not enough for you, look at it this way: it’s the fastest consumer zoom in the world.
This is part 4 in a series of articles where DPReview staff will be highlighting their personal standout products of the year.
Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 sample galleries
Feb 28, 2016
Dec 30, 2015
Dec 28, 2015
Dec 23, 2015
Phottix just released the Premio Parabolic Umbrellas series, replacing their Para-Pro line with a stronger, deeper and better made set of parabolic umbrellas.
The Moto Z2 is Motorola's first dual-camera smartphone and, compared to its predecessor, comes with a number of improvements and new camera features.
Researchers at Stanford have revealed a new '4D camera system' built for robots. The system is based on the same light field tech that allowed Lytro cameras to refocus images after they were taken.
If you want 'beautiful rendition' from your lenses, follow this simple rule: only buy classic low-element prime lenses with lead glass elements—everything else is junk.
In an interview with CNBC, Leica Chairman Andreas Kaufmann said he dreams of a 'true Leica phone,' and hinted at what's next for the Leica and Huawei partnership.
Wildlife and nature photographer Peter Mather tells the story behind this exceptional shot of a mama grizzly and her cub searching for salmon in Yukon, Canada.
Popular YouTube channel TastyTuts has put together this 33-video Beginner's Guide to Adobe Photoshop—a godsend for anybody who wants to learn Photoshop from scratch.
The long anticipated replacement for the popular Rode VideoMic Pro is almost ready for shipping. The price of the upgraded VideoMic Pro+ will be £290/$300 when it goes on sale in mid-August.
A new iOS app called Explorest wants to help you find new locations to shoot. It's limited to Singapore for now, but the app is packed full of useful location scouting features.
Nikon's D850 development announcement is extremely light on details, so we assembled a wish list of upgrades and features we'd love to see.
Nikon has announced the development of the long-awaited replacement to its full-frame D810: the D850. Nikon says that the D850 will build on the strengths of its predecessor and offer 'new technologies, features and performance enhancements.'
Lens manufacturer Voigtlander has introduced a 65mm F2 macro lens for Sony E-mount that it says "rates as one of the finest in the history of Voigtländer."
The UK released a preview of their upcoming drone safety regulations, and it looks like drone pilots will have to both register their device and pass safety awareness tests.
National Geographic photographer Bob Holmes talks about light, and why you need to learn how to 'see' and not just 'look' at your subject.
Photographer Alessandro Barteletti shares the story behind his National Geographic Italia cover, shot with a 10-year-old DSLR and an iPhone flashlight.
Fashion catalog photographers in China have some next-level models to work with. In this video, you see one model hitting 30 poses in 15 seconds as the photographer snaps away.
Photographer Paul Adshead breaks down 11 photography-related smartphone apps he couldn't live without—from a pocket light meter to a lighting diagram app.
Fast-growing Chinese flash brand Godox is teasing a brand new flash trigger... for smartphones. The Godox A1 is a 'phone flash system' that can act as both flash and 2.4GHz trigger.
On July 12, Canon opened its newest Technology and Support Center, designed to serve the motion picture industry, in Burbank, CA. DPReview got a sneak peak and takes you behind the scenes.
The Sigma 14mm F1.8 Art is truly one-of-a-kind. It offers the fastest aperture of any lens that shares its focal length, produces beautiful sunstars and is incredibly sharp to boot. If you're in the market for a fast ultrawide prime, this looks to be the one to get.
In this article, expert macro photographer Thomas Shahan shares advice for successful closeup photography of bugs, insects and small animals.
DJI's new firmware makes it difficult to fly in restricted airspace, even when you have proper clearance. Is DJI placing themselves between professionals and the FAA?
Go behind the scenes with National Geographic photographer Renan Ozturk and see what it takes to capture a dangerous, harrowing, stunning Nat Geo photo essay.
Erez Marom tells the story behind this ominous photo of the sand 'reaching up' towards the mountains at Skagsanden beach in Norway. He calls this photo 'Torment.'
DPReview staffer Carey Rose has taken the Panasonic Leica DG 15mm F1.7 along for everything from a city-side boat ride to a bachelor party across the mountains. Find out how the little Leica fared.
Canon just unveiled the largest 12-ink printer on the market. The new imagePROGRAF PRO-6000 printer can make prints from 17 all the way up to 60 inches wide.
"Standing in one of the holiest places on earth, I felt uneasy," writes Wired's Jason Parham. "Most of my fellow visitors, I realized with a brief bloom of nausea, were taking selfies."
Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk has been receiving great reviews, but it's a challenge to see it in its full glory. This handy infographic reveals the aspect ratio chaos that is wrought as the industry retreats from film.
Anti-bullying organization Ditch the Label's Annual Bullying Survey 2017 reveals yet again that Instagram, more so than any other social network, has the worst effect on youth mental health.
It's been a crazy day for innovative patent news. Apparently Sony is thinking of developing a medium format curved sensor camera.