Lens Guides

Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM | Art: First Impressions

Originally published on April 19, 2013. Updated on June 13 & 14, 2013 to reflect product pricing, availability and sample photos.

We’ve recently announced the world’s first F1.8 constant aperture zoom lens, the Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM | Art lens, and I’ll readily admit, we on the Sigma Corporation of America team have been just as excited about this lens leading up to launch as photographers have been since it was officially announced in the wee hours of April 18th.

The world's first constant aperture F1.8 zoom lens.
The world’s first constant aperture F1.8 zoom lens.

And now having spent some time with my hands on a preproduction version of the lens paired with my Sigma SD1, and a full-production version paired with the Canon EOS Rebel T3i, I can finally share high-resolution end result photos!  We’re going to focus on the hand feel, build quality, and such, of this brand new lens designed specifically for APS-C DSLRs, and of course, the gorgeous image quality.

Outdoor Seating
The Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM | Art lens is the world’s first constant-aperture F1.8 zoom lens for APS-C DSLRs. Here, we are focused on a sign leading to picnic tables next to a BBQ Food Truck in Bridgewater NJ. Notice the beautifully softened background wide open at F1.8 at 18mm. 1/1600 F1.8 ISO 100, Canon EOS Rebel T3i.

The 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM | A design is similar to the 35mm F1.4 DG HSM | A lens, with the addition of the wide zoom ring.
The 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM | A design is similar to the 35mm F1.4 DG HSM | A lens, with the addition of the wide zoom ring.

This is an Art lens, so the design and build will be familiar to anyone who has seen the Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM | A and the 30mm F1.4 DC HSM | A. The obvious point of differentiation between these two primes and the 18-35mm is the addition of the zoom ring, which rotates clockwise from 18mm through the zoom range. As with the full-time manual focus ring on the Art lenses, the zoom control is well damped and very responsive. Due the large-aperture design, the lens certainly has some heft to it, but it feels well balanced in the hand both when gripping the zoom or the manual focus ring.

With the petal-type lenshood atttached
With the petal-type lenshood atttached

The hypersonic autofocus motor is swift and very quiet, and allows for full-time manual focus override. And, of course, the redesigned AF/MF switch with the white indicator for autofocus is positioned exactly where your thumb can quickly feel it and flip it. The petal-type lenshood locks firmly on to the new rubberized lenshood mount. It’s a Sigma Art lens–what else can I say? The build quality and its feel in the hand is rock-solid and inspires confidence.  And that’s all before a look through the viewfinder!

Hot at the Lot
Here’s another wide-open shot at 18mm, showing the Food Truck and a traffic-catching sign. On the Rebel T3i, the 18mm focal length equates to about 28mm, wide enough to really emphasize a foreground object against the background. 1/3200 F1.8 ISO 100.

Through the lens, the view is super-bright, thanks to that very wide F1.8 aperture. At the 18mm end, it offers a field of view that’s wide enough for great landscapes and group shots, and zoomed all the way to 35mm, it’s a super-sharp, super-fast standard focal length–more than a full stop faster than an F2.8 zoom at similar range, for both faster shutter speeds and more diffuse background blur.

Here's the 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM | A on my Sigma SD1 to give a sense of scale. The view through the lens is just fantastic. I can't wait to be able to share some photos made with this lens!
Here’s the 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM | A on my Sigma SD1 to give a sense of scale. The view through the lens is just fantastic. I can’t wait to be able to share some photos made with this lens! (And FYI, the wall in the background is painted mauve, not gray.)

The lens close-focuses to eleven inches (and remember, that distance is measured from the focal plane, not the front element) with a maximum magnification of 1:4.3, perfect for really emphasizing a foreground object against a gorgeously soft and defocused background for photos with focus-point impact. And of course, paired with quick and easy zoom recompositioning, it’s as if you’ve got a quiver of fast F1.8 primes all in one lens! For event and wedding photographers working on APC-format cameras, this lens is going to be wildly popular, for both stills and available light video clips.

As with all new DG and DC lenses in the Art, Sports, and Contemporary lines, the 18-35mm F1.8 is compatible with the new USB Dock and Sigma Optimization Pro for firmware updates and multi-zone microfocus adjustments. And as a Global Vision lens, each and every lens manufactured is individually tested for sharpness and performance with A1 MTF Testing before leaving our factory in Aizu, Japan.

Sigma Optimization Pro
As with all new DG and DC lenses in the Art, Sports, and Contemporary lines, the 18-35mm F1.8 is compatible with the new USB Dock and SIgma Optimization Pro for firmware updates and multi0zone microfocus adjustments.
Again, at 18mm, wide open, to get a view of both the hand-written breakfast menu and interior of the Smokin’ Chicks BBQ food truck. 1/2500 F1.8 ISO 100.

As you can see from these first-look sample images, this lens is super-sharp on the focal plane, even at the widest apertures, and off-focal plane details backgrounds are gorgeously rendered. And let’s talk about that F1.8 maximum aperture for a moment. I was getting a 1/500 shutter speed at ISO 100 inside a Food Truck that was under a tree! By comparison, an F2.8 lens would meter that same scene around 1/200. While that stop plus a third might not seem that monumental in this example, in even dimmer lights, that’s the difference between a 1/30 shutter speed and a 1/13 second shutter speed at F2.8, and that can make a huge difference between handheld sharpness in the sort of challenging light that so many photographers work in.

Pulled Pork Sandwich at 35mm
Available light hero shot of the signature pulled pork sandwich at Smokin’ Chicks BBQ truck in Bridgewater, NJ. 1/100 F1.8 ISO 100,

Simply put, this is a fantastic lens. It’s sharp, fast, and offers the performance of a fast prime, with the versatility of wide-to-standard zoom range for quick recomposition. For photographers and videographers working on the APS-C platform, for weddings, documentary and more, this lens is simply brilliant.

Sandwich at 18mm
A quick twist of the wrist and we zoom out to 18mm and we’ve now got a wider view of the scene, showing John’s hands working on finishing up this order inside the Food Truck. 1/500 F1.8 ISO 100.


Watch the 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM | A lens as a Time Lapse capture lens

The Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM | Art is now available!

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Comments (11)
  1. inextenza says:

    Dreaming of a Pentax mount release of this lens… it’s a perfect range for me, but, I’m not a canikon photograph! 🙁

  2. Porsupah says:

    It does indeed look most tempting indeed – that combination of zoom flexibility /and/ impressive aperture will make for some fabulous creative possibilities. And today’s official announcement of a $799 list price leaves it open to a reasonably broad range of enthusiasts, let alone professionals. We can only hope this prompts certain other manufacturers to perk up their ears!

  3. Mal says:

    How about Pentax mount ??

  4. ariya says:

    soo…what about us pentaxians?

    were living off of crop’s here 🙂

  5. The Dude says:

    Anything for Pentax???

  6. sigmaauthor says:

    For all the Pentaxians who’ve asked “is there a Pentax version”: Yes, Indeed! This lens is available in Pentax and Sony A-mount, too!

  7. Mike says:

    I understand there WILL be a Pentax version of this, but when will it actually be available for purchase?

  8. alex says:

    Who know, when this lens will be available for a sony A-mount? Thank for answer!

  9. Jim says:

    Any update on release for Pentax?

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