Review: Sigma 18-250mm F3.5-6.3 DC OS HSM

The “all you can eat” lens!

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By Don Chick, M.Photog.Cr., CPP

What kind of genie would you need to call if you wanted a lens that is reasonably priced, has fantastic zoom range, and is super fast? We’ll let you know when we find one, but in the meantime, if you’ll settle for two out of three, Sigma offers the new 18-250mm F3.5-6.3 DC OS HSM lens for an MSRP of $800.

On my Canon DSLR (with a 1.6X lens factor) its 13.8X zoom ratio translates to a 29-400mm equivalent! Combine that zoom ratio with optical stabilization, macro capability, an MSRP of $800, and you have a lot of lens for the money.

I must admit that when first asked to do this review I was skeptical about a lens in which the manufacturer was trying to do so much in one package. There have to be compromises to balance zoom range, speed and cost, but Sigma has done a great job combining features in the 18-250mm.

The first thing that I noticed was the weight, which, at around 22 ounces, has a substantial feel and heft of quality to it. Even though the lens has that feel, the overall size is not that big. When set at 18mm, the overall size is 3.1x 4 inches long (excluding lens hood). When zoomed to 250mm, the overall length increases to about 7 inches. The markings are white against a black body, so they stand out and are easy to read. Sigma eliminates an additional expense for the user by including a lens hood designed specifically for this lens.

The first feature I checked out was the zoom range. A lens with an 18-250mm range is simply incredible. My favorite subject to photograph is people, I simply love portraiture; with this lens, though, I began to appreciate flower photography, especially small flowers. You can see the entire zoom range of the lens in Figures 1 and 2, below. 

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Figure 1 (above): 1/25 second at f/6.3, ISO 800, focal length 250mm, noise reduction applied. ©Don Chick

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Figure 2 (above): 1/25 second at f/6.3, ISO 800, focal length 18mm. ©Don Chick

In addition to photographing flowers, I took the lens to my son’s baseball game. While these images are what I refer to as “record of the event” shots (meant to record an experience and not for competition, or to impress one’s colleagues), they too reveal the zoom range of this lens (Figures 3 and 4).

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Figure 3 (above): 1/1,000 second at f/7.1, ISO 200, focal length 250mm. ©Don Chick

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Figure 4 (above): 1/1,600 second at f/7.1, ISO 200, focal length 18mm. ©Don Chick

The lens barrel has a non-slip rubber surface that you hold to focus or zoom. This material makes zoom adjustments quick and smooth, and the focus ring turns easily with little resistance. The focus ring rotates from nearest to infinity with little more than  1/4 turn, making the adjustment from one extreme to the other very quick. Since the lens barrel itself doesn’t rotate with focus or zoom, a circular polarizing filter won’t change as adjustments are made to either.

One amazing feature with this lens is the Hybrid Optical Stabilizer. When looking through the viewfinder (and zoomed to the 250mm setting), you can see a big difference when the feature is switched on because there’s not only anti-shake in the camera body, but also compensation in the viewfinder. Sigma claims that the OS will give the user approximately a 4-stop advantage over not using the feature. To test it, I photographed some paperwork. You can see from Figure 5 (below) that the optical stabilization definitely helped produce a sharper image. The most dramatic results for the optical stabilization were when I held the camera with only one hand. While this may not be the most common method of supporting the camera when taking a photograph, there may be times when this method is the only way to “get-the-shot.”

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Figure 5: Click for large view.

Sigma documentation says that the lens needs approximately one second after depressing the shutter release half way in order to produce a stable image. Photographers should bear this in mind to optimize the capability of this lens.

With the lens zoomed to 250mm and in very close to the subject, there were times when the lens seemed to struggle to settle on a focus point. However, I did find that the more contrast a subject had, the easier the lens found correct focus. Also, to overcome this issue (when photographing flowers especially) I simply switched to the manual focus mode.

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Above: 1/250 second at f/6.3, ISO 320, EV -0.33, focal length 250mm. ©Don Chick

Summary: This lens has a lot to offer and is worth serious consideration. The one primary drawback for the professional is the relatively slow aperture. While not all my wedding work is done with on-camera flash, there are times I do so out of necessity. The extensive zoom range would make this lens attractive to keep on a camera at a wedding as one would not have to keep switching lenses in order to cover the ever-changing situations encountered at a wedding. With its relatively slow aperture, this lens may not be the primary lens for a professional, but it certainly is excellent for scouting, back-up or when you want to travel light. Because of the wide range capability, I would seriously consider taking this lens along.

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Comments (19)

Amazing review. I really like how in depth you went with your examples and answers. I really feel like I can buy this lens with confidence now.

Thank you so much!

what about amateour like me?:

Can this lens be a good start instead of the kit lens of 18-55mm on my Nikon D60? right now, after half a year, i feel mostly short of zoom.

i want a versatil lense that can escort future cameras, then i will buy specific lenses.
i still have no favourite subject of photography, although flowers, animals and nature in general seem to attract me most.

or is there a better / cheaper one?

thanks
Uri

I think this would be an excellent lens to have on the camera much of the time instead of an 18-55. You would have a great deal more range as well as the macro capability. This will be a lens to grow with and when you can afford other lenses it will make an excellent backup lens. I didn't research the market for this review; I only evaluated this specific lens. So I don't know what other manufacturers make that would be comparable or less expensive. If you’re looking for one lens to have on your camera with a lot of capability, this is one to seriously consider.

Robby:

Thanks Don for your excellent review. I've been wary of these "super zooms" in the past, but thanks to you, I now believe this new one from Sigma will certainly be the one I can finally leave on as I really dislike fumbling around with lens.

Luke:

Hi Don,

Great review, I am seriously considering this lens for my EOS 1000D because, like Robby, I dislike having to change between lenses in the field, which just gives dust and moisture a chance to invade.

In my work as a journalist, I don't have time to fuss with lenses while the subject grows irritated, or risk missing that close-up at a protest march because I need to switch.

I currently have a 18-55m and a 55-250mm - this Sigma lens will replace them both, with a comparable f stop, though I will be keeping my 50mm f/1.4 handy for portraiture etc.

Thanks for the great review!

Christos:

Hi Don thanks for the review, but I wanted to ask how is the image quality compared to the
Sigma AF 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 DC OS?

ellen:

how would compare this to Canon's 18-200 IS autofocus?

I am trying to decrease from 2 canon lenses ranging 28-105 and 100-300 down to one lens. i like the canon but this seems faster.....

Christos,

I have never used 18-200, so I can't answer that question, sorry.

Don

Ellen,

The Sigma will give you more zoom (250mm vs. 200mm) but is a bit slower than the Canon (f6.3 vs. f5.6).

The Sigma has a MSRP of $800 vs. the Canon's of $700...

The retail price is around Canon $595 vs. Sigma $529.

To me those are the 2 big factors to consider. Very close specs and price.

Regards,

Don

Ken:

Is the Canon really faster than the Sigma since the Sigma has 50mm more reach? What is the max f-stop of the Sigma at 200mm? Thanks.

Ken,

I got the following information from Sigma.

Focal length~Maximum Large aperture

18mm ~ F3.5
24mm ~ F4.0
28mm ~ F4.0
35mm ~ F4.5
50mm~ F5.0
80mm ~ F5.6
135mm ~ F6.3
250mm ~ F6.3

Pat Abellon:

Hi. I just bought Sigma 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 DC OS HSM AF Zoom Lens for Canon. What makes it heavy? not a big issue though. what composes the barrel, metal? thanks.

Pat,
It's probably the number of glass elements inside the lens that contribute to the weight. Better lenses typically weigh more than the average consumer-level kit lens you get with DSLR purchase.

Stan Green:

I am considering purchase of the Sigma 18-250 to replace a Sigma 28-200 on which the zoom ring locked-up. I frequently shoot panoramas and need to know the location (measured from the camera body) for the entrance pupil. My old 28-200 had a red ring around the circumference of the lens barrel that appeared to designate the entrance pupil location.

John Harrison:

I purchased this lens just after it came out.

For anyone concerned about the maximum aperture of this lens being F6.3 compared to the F5.6 of say the Canon 18-200 I'd just like to point out that all you need to do is increase the ISO from 100 to 200.

Doing this will increase the shutter speed by 1 stop (i.e. double it) which makes it the same as you would have if you used a 5.6 lens at 100 ISO.

And unless you are planning to blow up the final image to supersize, because you are only doubling the ISO (and not increasing it to something like 800) you will not notice any increase in 'noise' on the image.

I have been very happy with the lens and as a keen amateur any disadvantages are far outweighted by having a chunky well built lens that never needs changing!

Todd Mesick:

I am looking for a good all around lens. I do Fire Investigations and most of my work is in low light. Anyone have any experience with this lens in low light?

Todd, I'll point Don Chick to your question and see if he has info for you.

You should check into the Evidence Photographers International Council (EPIC).
http://www.epic-photo.org/

There will be a lot of low-light experience there from fire and crime scene photographers.

Joan Sherwood, Sr.Ed.
Professional Photographer

bruno lim:

I bought this lens a week ago and it looks good and works well so far. But sometimes I heard a bumping sound inside. Is it normal or may be there is problem with this one. This is my first lens. Please help me.

B.Lo:

I field-tested this Sigma 18-250 and the Tamron 18-275 (which costs slightless less than the Sigma), and I must say that the sigma is leaps and bounds better. It is much sturdier, better built, and the images at 250 are a lot crisper and cleaner. I have the Sigma as a general back-up to my Canon L lenses, simply because it gives me a lot more versitility. It would be great for travel photography! If i'm shooting in a windy area, then I stash away my Ls and bring out the sigma. It really does make a difference when you can't change lenses at a shoot.

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