The Sigma 18-250mm F3.5-6.3 Macro is Ready for Adventures

by Jack Howard

When traveling as light as possible while maximizing versatility, an all-in-one zoom lens like the new Sigma 18-250mm F3.5-6.3 Macro is a great choice. This recently redesigned lens is built specifically for DSLRs with the smaller APS-C sensors, and now adds 1:2.9 macro capture for even more flexibility and creativity in an even more compact package than its predecessor (which we explored in detail last summer.) From wide angle to supertelephoto and macro for close-up details, this one lens is ready for just about any adventure.

To bullet it out, here’s why this optically stabilized superzoom is a great choice for many photographers.

Walking along the High Line Park in Manhattan, the new Sigma 18-250mm F3.5-6.3 DC OS HSM Macro offered a ton of compositional versatility from wide angle, normal perspective, and telephoto. Here's a detail of the skyline from the Highline shot at 61mm on a Canon EOS Rebel T3i. 1/160 F11 ISO 100. (All shots in this article made with the Rebel T3i.)

But this multitasker makes some smart tradeoffs to be very adept in many types of photography in its small, economical package. And when you bump the street price of the 18-250mm up against some of the more specialized lenses, you start to realize that it’s a very capable tool that can be put on your SLR and be ready to capture great photos of pretty much anything you can see through that viewfinder, from sweeping vistas to to distant sports and wildlife action in one easy-to-handle lens.

At the widest 18mm focal length, the foreground is dramatically emphasized. In this photo, I use this effect to put a lot more visual weight on the empty space of this set of benches looking northwards up 10th avenue to the busy city beyond the railing. 1/250 F6.3 ISO 100.

The OS in the name of the Sigma 18-250mm F3.5-6.3 DC OS HSM stands for “Optical Stabilizer,” indicating that this lens features floating lens elements that sense camera motion and react in the opposite direction to dampen and counteract slight camera movements–meaning that you can very often safely hand-hold shots at shutter speeds slower the the inverse of the shutter speed (1/250 for a 250mm focal length, for example) and still achieve sharp shots.

Here we are capturing this pink flower in macro focus at 250mm. In order to get more depth of field and to push the background to pure darks, we shot at F14, with a 1/160 shutter speed, and off-camera flash for directional lighting.

Briefly, in practice, Optical Stabilization lets you make sharper shots at slower shutter speeds without always having to anchor your camera on a tripod or monopod. So, even though the maximum aperture at 250mm is a bit on the slow side at f/6.3, you can switch OS on, and slow down the shutter speed to get a properly exposed frame, instead of having to crank the ISO way, way, high in dim lighting conditions.

Here we are looking out over Sandy Hook Bay towards New York City at 18mm. 1/1000 F3.5 ISO 100
And here we are zoomed all the way to 250mm. From the exact same spot on the observation tower, these to images at widest and longest show the reach and range of this lens. We had to slow down our shutter speed to 1/320 because of the variable aperture. 1/320 F6.3 ISO 100.

At all focal lengths,the autofocus is very quick and accurate, thanks to the hypersonic motor,  including locking on to macro details when zoomed all the way to 250mm for maximum magnification. And it is also much more quiet while achieving sharp focus than the last version. And of course, all the features that make this a excellent all-in-one for still shots also mean it is amazingly versatile when mounted aboard a DLSR with HD video capture. All in all, it’s a whole lot of lens in a compact, well-constructed package.

And here, again at 250mm, we are employing the macro mode to show the great sparkle in this opal ring. We stopped down to F/10 for enough depth of field to keep the whole top of the ring in focus. 1/320 F10, ISO 100. The addition of 1:2.9 macro capture makes the new Sigma 18-250mm an even more versatile all-in-one lens.
Here's the statue atop the Somerset County Courthouse captured at maximum reach of 250mm. 1/640 at F6.3 ISO 100. She fills the frame nicely.
And here is the scene framed from the same spot at the widest 18mm perspective. As you can see, there's a lot of versatility packed into this 3.5 inch long lens! 1/640 F5.6 ISO 100.

Check out this video for a quick rundown of the features and specifications that make this lens a great all-in-one option.

And be sure to check out this interview with pro photographer Walter Arnold, who shot the photos for the magazine ads for this new lens for his take on the build and feel of this lens.

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