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Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM Lens Review

by Rebekah Gough, October 2013 (updated September 2014)

The Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 is a true game changer.

I may not be a technical guru, but I love to snap pictures. I use my camera every day, and am always looking for new, incredible equipment that enhances my ability to capture a moment. For me, and I am sure many of you are coming from a similar place, the tech side can be a bit overwhelming and over my head, but this really isn’t how I go about choosing a new lens. Perhaps, I am much more of a touch and feel, point and shoot, give it a whirl kind of girl, but If I like something I use it because it makes my job fun and easy and let me tell you: I really love this lens!

This baby is considered the first wide angle to standard zoom lens of it’s kind to achieve a large aperture of 1.8. Practically, Sigma has created an all-purpose lens for the seasoned portrait and wedding professional. It is fully equipped to handle both indoor and outdoor portrait shooting, still life such as food photography, and product shots. It is also an incredible tool for hobbyist mom-tographers wanting to capture beautiful pictures of busy children or soccer games or a family vacation to the beach! It is truly versatile.

© Rebekah Gough
Aperture F1.8 / Focal Length 35mm / ISO 100 / Exposure 1/800

© Rebekah Gough
Aperture F1.8 / Focal Length 32mm / ISO 100 / Exposure 1/640

Basic specs on the Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM Art lens:

  • It is the market’s first zoom lens to achieve a maximum aperture of F1.8 throughout the entire zoom range.
  • The 18-35mm 1.8 DC HSM pairs a wide glass molded aspherical lens with Special Low Dispersion (SLD) glass to compensate for aberrations and curvature at the widest angle.
  • Internal focusing and zooming allows for more usability and functionality.
  • It has an Improved AF/MF switch and the use of Thermally Stable Composite (TSC) compound material reduces the size and overall weight of the lens but increases it’s durability.
  • It has Super Multi-Layer Coating, which reduces flare and ghosting and provides sharp and high contrast images, even in backlit conditions.
  • Its Hyper Sonic Motor (HSM) ensures a silent, high-speed AF function.
  • Its nine-blade, rounded diaphragm creates attractive, round bokeh and large-aperture settings.

    © Rebekah Gough
    Aperture F1.8 / Focal Length 35mm / ISO 100 / Exposure 1/800

    My Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 Review Experience
    My first run with the lens was on a casual blackberry picking adventure with my young family and I was totally floored. I instantly noticed its clarity and sharpness, and the wider, nine-bladed aperture produced the most beautiful shallow depth of field; not to mention a gorgeous, dreamy round bokeh. I simply took this well built; solid lens out of the case, popped it on my Canon 60D (Sony and Pentax mounts will be available later this year), and could not stop oohing and ahhing over what I was able to do with it!

© Rebekah Gough
Aperture F1.8 / Focal Length 23mm / ISO 100 / Exposure 1/2000

The internal zoom is fast and quiet, this lens uses a motor driven by ultrasonic waves to create the high-speed AF. Frankly, it makes my 50mm 1.4 pretty much unnecessary as the 18-35mm 1.8 is way more versatile. In fact, it felt as though I was using several of my different prime lenses at the same time. Even without being considered a macro, I was impressed at how close I could focus and still get a clear sharp image. Zoomed out pictures were equally clear with the focus spot on every time. I immediately began scheming to figure out how to add this lens to my collection permanently. At around $800 brand new, it was easy to see this lens taking the place of several others, lightening my load and freeing up some space in my camera bag.

© Rebekah Gough
Aperture F1.8 / Focal Length 29mm / ISO 100 / Exposure 1/2500

I cannot stress enough how all-around this lens truly is. It is the perfect walk around piece for so many different needs! Amazing! I had beautiful success shooting the landscape and detailed close up still life shots. Equally stunning were moving subjects that were easy to focus on like my children running through the grass and riding their bikes in the distance. It felt wonderful in hand; the buttery smooth zoom that was not clunky or slow like others I have tried. Add in the fact that it is much lighter than my Canon 24-70mm zoom (shh, I liked the Sigma more!), and I found myself convinced that it is truly a dream.

I would recommend this gorgeous lens to just about anybody wanting to up their game and take their photographs to the next level. What Sigma has created with the 18-35mm 1.8 is astonishing. It is accessible and easy to use and a huge bargain as it is being listed at under $1000, an unmatched price point. I love taking pictures and I am being completely candid when I say that this lens made me love photography even more.

© Rebekah Gough
Aperture F1.8 / Focal Length 32mm / ISO 100 / Exposure 1/640

I am oh so looking forward to adding it permanently to my collection! Well done Sigma, I am over the moon impressed with this one!

© Rebekah Gough
Aperture F1.8 / Focal Length 35mm / ISO 100 / Exposure 1/1600

Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 Review

Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM, (buy from Amazon) (review). The revolutionary, first ever wide angle zoom lens to achieve a constant 1.8 aperture.

Rebekah Gough is the creator of the very popular blog, A Bit of Sunshine. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Text and photos © 2014 Rebekah Gough.

Article revised September 2014.

Readers' Comments

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dick buck , October 12, 2013; 08:53 A.M.

I noticed you didn't show any photos with the wide angle (18mm) any reason other than distortion?

Alex S. , October 12, 2013; 09:34 P.M.

I noted the same thing.  The reviewer did not shoot anything at 18mm.  Circumstances of berry picking?  Or an unconscious revelation that she is after all a 35-50mm kind of photographer?  If the latter, she can spare herself the burden of the expense and weight (810 g.) of this lens and stick to her trusty 50/1.4.


Outside the useless bloggy first paragraph, this is not a bad review in terms of information and soccer mom charm.  It should be emphasized that this lens is made specifically for digital half-frame, so-called APS-C, cameras (1.6 Canon and 1.5 everything else).  This makes it the 35mm equivalent of a 29-56mm zoom on Canons and a 27-53mm zoom on all other half-frame digital cameras. It has barrel distortion at 18mm and pincushion at 35mm.  These are apparently moderate.  They would not be noticed in shots of berry picking.

The writer's naive enthusiasm about the optical quality of this lens is validated by scientific tests published on other photo websites.  The build quality is also said to be outstanding.  This says a great deal about Sigma.  The company started out producing cheap and not great lens but refused to move production out of japan when other camera and lens makers were doing so.  Thus, not being able to compete in the prices wars, Sigma shifted to innovation and high quality.  The 18-35/1.8 zoom is a work of genius in the spirit of Olympus's late and great Maitani and others.

A suggestion to the writer.  In her next review her first paragraph should be about the product and not herself.  This review's  second paragraph should have been the first paragraph.  It has zip.  And calling this lens "baby" is perfectly fine.

Eric Welch , October 13, 2013; 01:50 A.M.

I thought the reviewer's tone was great. Her intro told us exactly where she comes from, and puts the review in context in terms of what she's looking for in a lens. It's vastly more readable than the pedantic nonsense we often read from gearheads who know all the numbers but couldn't take a picture to save their lives.

I once talked to the editor of a magazine specializing in the subject of the darkroom (yeah, back in film days) where he published a review of the legendary Leica Noctilux 50mm f/1.0 lens. He had to put a call out for readers to send in their photos taken with a Noctilux because the author's photos did communicate the technical prowess of the lens, but wer absolutely horrible in terms of aesthetics. This review was vastly better. The author has a very nice eye. (I'm a photo editor BTW.)

Oh, for the record, APS-C is not half frame. 

Chip Chipowski , October 19, 2013; 09:30 A.M.

+1 Eric Welch


John Reynolds , October 19, 2013; 09:32 A.M.

It would be nice if there were more examples where the focus point was on SOMETHING.

Robin Smith , October 22, 2013; 12:18 P.M.

Alex has said it nicely. The review is really rather weak. Since when did a few shots of an outing berry picking constitute a real review? There is no need to exhaustively test the lens on an optical bench, but I would expect some substantial comment or perhaps even comparison with another lens of known quality. And what about stopped down - any thoughts on its overall resolution compared to your 50/1.4? Distortion, vignetting? The former is quite important and many people care about the latter. How heavy is it in comparison to the suite of primes that would be necessary to take around with you to cover the same field of view? What about competitors - how do you think it compares to all the 17-50mm/18-55mm/17-55mm zooms that cover similar ground? No thoughts about the strangeness of the (FF equivalent) 28-50mm range? If I felt you had had the lens for longer than a day, then I would have more confidence in the review. I get the feeling we might have had exactly the same review if you had gone out with, say, the Tamron 17-50 f2.8 VC.  

CC Chang , October 29, 2013; 06:05 P.M.

Would love to know how it compares to the typical 17-50-ish f2.8 zooms that are much smaller/lighter/cheaper.

Eric Arnold , October 31, 2013; 02:12 A.M.

i would have liked to see some pics at apertures other than f/1.8. really, 1 or 2 pics would have done it. it difficult to evaluate a lens if we can't see how it does stopped down as well as wide open.

Abhijit SInharoy , October 31, 2013; 07:14 A.M.

Yes, I'd like to see some stopped down pics also. Most of the pics are inappropriate for shallow DOF.

I have the EFS 17-55 f/2.8 and would be interested to see how the Sigma stacks up against that. 

Cara St Hilaire , November 05, 2013; 01:54 P.M.

I think it is a refreshing view by an accomplished photographer.  There are plenty of extremely technical reviews out there and it is nice to see an honest opinion of someone who has quite a lens collection and simply took this lens for a spin and ended up loving it. 

tom koetting , January 30, 2014; 11:10 A.M.

This review (more than any other) made me want to try this lens. Thanks for not showing images of brick walls and stopped-down urban vistas.

Dave Perkes , February 01, 2014; 09:56 P.M.

Bayon Sanctuary Sigma 18-35 Canon 70D 3200 ISO 1/160 F2

My first impressions of the Sigma 18-35 F 1.8 are very positive indeed. The quality of construction is first rate with very smooth zoom and focus rings and finish equal or to any pro lens I’ve used. The IQ is stellar: sharp at any aperture and with impressive bokeh due to its 9 bladed diaphragm.
 I am using it with a Canon 70d and the combination of this camera and lens combination for general shooting and low light is very good.
I shoot often in very dark environments using a 5D Mk 2 and 50mm I.4 .  I took it  out to a dark area which I use frequently on my photo tours.  The sanctuary is lit by candlelight so with people making offerings so it is a very challenging location. The 18-35 F 1.8. is excellent for this as I was able to shoot at ISO 3200 160th Sec at F2 to keep the subject sharp.
Its not going to outperform a Fast 35mm prime on a full frame camera; but considering I am using it in an APS camera this is impressive.

Philip Bautista , March 02, 2014; 09:01 A.M.

@Dave Perkes Have you tried using this lens with your 5DII? I've tried it out with my 1Ds and it vignettes heavily on the wide end but is perfectly usable from 24mm and tighter. I'd be interested to know how it works out on your camera since I intend to get a Mark II also. I've read elsewhere that it doesn't vignette at all on an APS-H but I can't confirm that.

Edith Paul , March 16, 2014; 07:40 P.M.

This is basically a fine review to me (not a lot of technical bs or mtf curves, fine pictures instead). This is solid photography folks. I am happy not to be seeing brick walls here.

Of course whats missing are a few samples at the wide end of the 18-35. Judging only from the pictures selected, the reviewer may be as happy with a fixed, fast 35. ;)


Dave Perkes , June 23, 2014; 07:13 A.M.

I did try out the 18-35 on my Canon 5D MK 2. at 35mm it does vignette significantly and any wider the smaller image circle is prominent. I might use it as a last option at 35mm in a low light environment. Its sharp enough in the centre for that; but its not an alternative to a FF 35mm lens.

Lars Lentz , July 27, 2015; 03:19 P.M.

I love mine and it works great! I get good images and it works well with my APS-C camera at a reasonable price.

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