Review Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art (N APS-C)

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In terms of specifications, finish, image quality and price we're dealing with a "game changer"; that's what we wrote in our review of the Sigma 18-35 mm 1.8 Art with a Canon 650D. Would this lens would be able to perform even better if you used it in conjunction with the 24 megapixel sensor sans moiré filter Nikon D7100?
And it does. Only the zoom range of the Sigma 18-35 mm Art is in terms of view angle slightly less than a 24-70 mm zoom lens on a camera with a full frame sensor. In addition, with the Sigma 18-35 mm f/1.8 Art and the Nikon D7100 (with APS-C sensor), you'll get pictures with image quality and bokeh that rival those of more expensive, heavier and larger lenses on a camera with a full-frame sensor. That will save you a lot of money, because full-frame cameras and good, full-frame lenses aren't cheap.

 

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Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM A @ Nikon D7100

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Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM A @ 18mm, f/4.8, 1/750 s, 100 ISO
The angle of view (equivalent to a 29-53 mm zoom lens on a full frame camera) and the high, constant f/1.8 brightness make the Sigma 18-35 mm Art an ideal lens for many applications such as concert-, holiday-, street-, wedding- or journalism-photography.

Construction

A bright lens manufactured to professional standards, in terms of size and weight, cannot be compared with a standard kit lens. With a length of 12 inches, a filter size of 72 mm and a weight of 810 grams, the Sigma 18-35 mm Art makes a combination with an APS-C body that for an amateur photographer will take some getting to get used to.
For a professional photographer who's accustomed to a full-frame camera with a 24-70 mm zoom lens, its length and weight just right.
The matte black appearance and high quality workmanship of the lens are the same as those of the Sigma Art 35 mm f/1.4 lens. The use of plastic, "Thermally Composite" (TSC), for the lens housing keeps the weight of the Sigma 18-35 mm Art somewhat limited.

Specifications
Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM A
Image Stabilization:-
lenses/ groups:17/12
length x diameter:121 / 78
filter size:72
Weight:810
Lens hood:+

Auto focus

 
The AF is of the USM-type, which not only results in fast and precise focusing, but it also offers the ability to manually override the AF at any time. The AF is accurate, silent and very fast. Probably partly due to the high brightness, the AF is also accurate in low light.
The Sigma 18-35 mm f/1.8 Art features internal focusing, meaning the length of the lens does not change and the filter mount does not rotate while focusing. Also with zooming in or out, the length of the lens remains unchanged. Especially when you close ups, where the front lens can get within 8 cm of the subject, this is quite nice.

Sharpness Sigma 18-35 mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art

 

When it comes to sharpness the Sigma 18-35 mm f/1.8 Art is among the very best in the category of lenses with a view angle of equivalent to a 28 mm, 35 mm or 50 mm lens on a camera with a full-frame sensor. The sharpness at maximum aperture is already very high. That's remarkably good, because bright lenses at full aperture are usually somewhat fuzzier. After two stops stopping down, an even higher center sharpness is reached as well as the optimum sharpness at edges and in the corners. In terms of sharpness, with the Sigma 18-35 mm 1.8 Art you're free to choose all the apertures between f/1.8 and f/11. That's unique for a zoom lens.

 

 

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Sigma USB dock

 
For 55 euros you can buy a USB dock with a Nikon mount for the Sigma 18-35 mm f1/8 Art, with which you can download firmware updates for this lens. You can also customize the combination of your camera with the Sigma 18-35 mm f/1.8 Art with four different distances. This option is particularly attractive for high resolution lenses with higher brightness than f/2.8, if you want to get the highest possible resolution. Our experience with the Sigma 18-35 mm Art can be found in the second part of our Sigma USB dock review.
Sigma 18-35 mm 1.8 Art @ 18 mm (HDR-images): When merging multiple shots into 1 HDR image, chromatic aberration is often more visible than in an ordinary picture. The Sigma Art lenses are attractive for HDR photographers, not only because of their insensitivity to flare, but also because of the low chromatic aberration.
USBdock

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Sigma 18-35 mm 1.8 Art @ 18 mm (HDR-image) When merging multiple images into one HDR image, chromatic aberration often becomes more visible than in a regular photo. The Sigma Art lenses are attractive for HDR photographers. Not only because of the insensitivity for flare, but also because of the low chromatic aberration.

SIGMA Mount Conversion Service

There's is an interesting debate over whether the camera or the lens is the most important/most distinguishing instrument for a photographer. Sigma sees the choice of the lens as the center of the photography. If you ever want to switch to another camera brand, Sigma for the lenses from the Contemporary (C)-, Art (A)- or Sports (S)-lines have a unique feature. With the mount conversion service, your own lenses can be equipped with a lens mount from a different brand. The customization, which extends to exclusive features per camera brand, such as the OS function, are applied by Sigma in Aizu (Japan), so that the lens works optimally on the new body.
The mount conversion service is not guaranteed and is not cheap. The mount conversion service for the Sigma 18-35 mm Art costs € 200.00, including sales tax. This allows you to keep the lenses with which you are already familiar, because buying a new lens is substantially more expensive.

Vignetting

 
Given the high brightness of the Sigma 18-35 mm Art, it's no surprise that there is any visible vignetting at maximum aperture. After two stops stopping down, only at f/4 then, the vignetting completely disappears. Both manually and using lens correction profiles, vignetting is simple and efficient to correct in Lightroom.

Vignetting carries very little weight in the final tally of our reviews. We try to correct the scores with: "What you see is what you get". And many photographers aren't bothered by vignetting, or even find it beautiful.

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Distortion

 

The distortion of the Sigma 18-35 mm Art ranges from light barrel-shaped at a focal length of 18 mm to light pincushion-shaped at a focal length of 35 mm. This behavior is characteristic for a zoom lens with this focal length range.

To correct distortion in RAW files is easy using lens correction profiles in Photoshop or Lightroom. The scores for distortion for the Sigma 18-35 mm 1.8 Art at all focal lengths are higher than 9. The final score after correction for distortion would be 0.6 higher than at present.

distortion

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Lens correction profiles in Lightroom: Usually, Lightroom automatically recognizes a lens. Click on "Enable Profile Corrections", then the brand, model and the available lens correction profile automatically appear. With the Sigma 18-35 mm 1.8 Art this information does not appear (in Lightroom version 5.2). Fortunately, the lens correction profile is available. All you have to do is to select Sigma as the brand. The remaining information will appear and both the distortion and the vignetting in RAW files can be corrected with a single click.
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Bokeh

 

Both background blur-blur and foreground blur in terms of character are strongly reminiscent of the OOF ("Out of focus") of a lens on a camera with a full-frame sensor. Above you can see a partial enlargement of a picture made at a 24 mm focal length and f/1.8. At this focal length, you don't get such a butter-soft bokeh like with a telephoto lens, but the combination of sharpness of the subject and the background blur are sensationally good. The Sigma 18-35 mm Art provides a very nice round bokeh of a bright light source in the background, as you can see in the image below.
Bright lenses almost all suffer from longitudinal chromatic aberration, which is also called color bokeh. You'll get purple fringing behind the focus point and green edges in front of the focus point. Color bokeh only occurs with very bright lenses, and it disappears by stopping down. At f/2.8 or smaller you don't see it. On the right, you can see a test shot made at f/1.8 for the detection of color bokeh. Class.

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bokeh

Flare

 
With the Sigma 18-35 mm f/1.8 Sigma's Art, the designers surpassed themselves in terms of flaring. If there is a bright light source just outside image field, you will have no problems with flare, never mind whether you used the included lens hood. If you are shooting straight into the sun, so with the sun in full frame, then there is a small zone around the sun where flare can be seen. With effort, we were able to find in our test shots a rainbow-like ghost, which we circled in red in the image cutout on the right. Where flare's concerned, we currently don't know about any better zoom lenses. There are a ton of lenses with a fixed focal length that are more bothered by flare and ghosts. That seems to me an important consideration if you like HDR, night photography or concert photography.

Chromatic aberration Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art

Lateral chromatic aberration, magenta and blue-green edges at strong contrast transitions in the corners of the image, you will almost not find with this lens. We have the worst case that we found in our practice shots, shown here.

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Conclusion Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art review

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See our list of tested lenses or the lenses with a Nikon mount tested by us to compare the performance of this lens to other lenses.

ECWYSIWYG score: This table shows the performance of this lens if you store the files in the camera as jpg, where you have all available in-camera lens corrections applied. This score gives you for this lens/test camera combination: "What you see is what you get".
18
28
7.6
7.6
9.1
6.0
6.5
23
35
8.0
7.9
8.4
7.2
7.2
33
50
7.8
8.0
8.7
6.0
5.9
Overall
Overall
7.9
8.0
8.7
6.0
6.4
ECPure RAW score: This table shows the performance of this lens when the file is stored in the camera in RAW format. This score approaches the intrinsic quality of the combination of lens and test camera.
18
28
8.2
8.3
9.1
8.4
6.8
23
35
8.6
8.5
9.6
8.7
7.5
33
50
8.0
8.1
9.4
8.4
6.1
Overall
Overall
8.2
8.2
9.4
8.5
6.7

Pros

Cons

  • Zoom lens with unparalleled high brightness

  • Very high image quality

  • Qualitatively equivalent to, or better than, lenses with a fixed focal lengths

  • Nice bokeh/background blur: equivalent to full frame

  • Somewhat limited zoom range
  • Visible distortion at the extremities of the zoom range

Because we had previously reviewed the Sigma 18-35 mm 1.8 Art on a Canon 650D, our expectations were high. Our test results for the Sigma 18-35 mm Art with a Nikon D7100 are in line with our earlier test for most image quality properties. The resolution is, thanks to the Nikon D7100, even higher than in our previous test of the Sigma 18-35 mm 1.8 Art on a Canon 650D. If you correct distortion of the Sigma 18-35 mm 1.8 Art in RAW files using the lens correction profiles for RAW files in Lightroom, then the scores for distortion at all focal lengths become a 9 or higher, and the final score falls 0.6 higher than the current final scores. With that, the combination of a Nikon D7100 with the Sigma 18-35 mm 1.8 Art in terms of picture quality beats almost all-DX, FX and both zoom and fixed focus lenses with a view angle equivalent to a 28 mm, 35 mm or 50 mm focal length on a camera with a full frame sensor. Wow.

Ivo Freriks
Author: Ivo Freriks
With Camera Review Stuff I hope to make a modest contribution to the pleasure that you get from photography. By testing cameras and lenses in the same way, evluating the results and weighing up the pros and cons, I hope to help you find the right camera or lens.

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Comments (2)

  1. Satya

I read a lot of your reviews in the past couple of days. I completely agree with your recommendation on this lens.<br /><br />You are right in saying that it is a game changer. I grew up believing that zooms are a compromise and primes are the...

I read a lot of your reviews in the past couple of days. I completely agree with your recommendation on this lens.<br /><br />You are right in saying that it is a game changer. I grew up believing that zooms are a compromise and primes are the only choice for best results. This lens tossed that notion out the window, especially for these focal lengths.<br /><br />After trying/returning four different zooms, searching all reviews, and not finding an affordable prime with good performance in this focal length, I came to the same conclusion as you did, that it replaces the 24mm, 28mm, 35mm AND a 20mm prime lenses. It is just a lot heavier than any one prime.<br /><br />As you said in your D3300/5300 lens recommendations, beginners should start with a good kit lens (say the 18-140 VR) and add special lenses such as this one as their needs grow. This is especially true for DX users who are mostly amateurs/enthusiasts. They should not look at this as a substitute for a walk-around lens. <br /><br />This lens is also hard for non-professionals for several reasons. First, beginners use a lot of auto modes. Second, beginners do not understand the perspective of specific focal lengths and it is hard for them to have a zoom and use it exclusively at 24mm or 35mm! The limited zoom range of this lens requires the photographers to move around for the best shot, which they are not used to. It does not have a VR. Finally, despite its fast aperture there are many situations where we need to shoot at f/8 and need a good tripod, which beginners don't use (including myself).<br /><br />After understanding those limitations and having the right expectations, I think this lens is a must for everyone who has outgrown their kit lens. It shines when the user knows what he is doing.<br /><br />The only way Sigma can do better is by producing 8-18/2.8 and 35-140/2.8 DX lenses with similar optical quality (I think f/1.8 would add too much weight and cost!)<br /><br />Thanks.<br />Satya

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  1. Ivo    Satya

Hi Satya,<br /><br />Thanks for the compliments and your nice contribution.<br /><br /><br />Ivo

 

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