Updated 2022/08: My latest impressions along with DOZENS of new sample photos.
Over the lifetime of Sony’s APS-C (a6000) lineup, Sigma has put out some really incredible lenses, namely the iconic Sigma trio.
Now, Sigma is back yet again with a versatile zoom that is both small and mighty, offering solid performance with a compact build.
Per the company’s marketing, the Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 DC DN Contemporary is supposedly the “world’s lightest and smallest F2.8 zoom lens”.
Is it worth the purchase? How does it stack up against higher priced competitors?
I was able to get my hands on it to answer those very questions. Let’s dive in.
Looking for a quick summary before jumping in?
- Sharp and consistent image quality
- Incredibly compact for a zoom lens
- Autofocus is reliable fast
- Solid long-lasting build quality
- Excellent blend of size and performance
Size & Weight
So, let’s first talk about one of the main strong points of this lens: the size & weight!
Despite having a versatile range and a fixed F2.8 aperture, Sigma has managed to make this lens QUITE small, coming in at only 2.9 inches (7.3cm). The barrel does, however, extend a bit when zoomed, but it’s a fairly negligible amount.
Honestly, when I took it out of the box and put it next to my Sigma 30mm F1.4, I was blown away that they were almost the same size. Big props to Sigma for managing to make such a tiny F2.8 zoom.
As for its heft, I’m generally less concerned about weight versus size, but this compact zoom weighs a rather conservative 10.2oz (289g). While this isn’t incredibly light, it is, again, quite impressive for a zoom lens with these specs.
I’m just really impressed with how they’ve managed to engineer such a small lens with these specs. Lenses like this are what originally lead me to abandon my bulky DSLR and switch to a mirrorless system. It just fits so well on my a6000.
Is the lens well built?
Materials & Longevity
Next up, we’ll look at overall build quality.
The Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 is made out of a mix of metal and “thermally stable composite” which is just Sigma’s way of saying high quality plastic.
While I haven’t been able to test the longevity of this lens specifically, the Sigma 30mm F1.4 shares the same materials and has lasted me over four years with no issues.
During my tests, I accidentally smacked it into a concrete wall (was running to try to get a shot) and it didn’t sustain any damage, so that’s a good sign for its longevity…
Included with the lens is a bog-standard petal shaped lens hood. It does its job well enough, protecting the front element from smudges, bumps, and flaring.
It’s reversible and, despite also being made of plastic, is pretty durable. The hoods on my other Sigma lenses have held together quite well over the years so I expect this one to be similar.
My only complaint is that my hood felt almost a little loose. It held on just fine, but a light bump would loosen it. I have a bad habit of gripping my lenses by the hood sometimes, and I almost dropped this one due to how loose it was. I’m not sure if this is intentional, I may have just gotten a slightly worn down copy.
As for weather-sealing, the lens does offer a rubber gasket around the lens mount, but nothing more than that. Either way, this is still nice to see for an APS-C lens, especially at this price point.
I took it out during a light rainstorm and didn’t have any issues, but I didn’t want to push it too far as my a6000 itself lacks any sort of weather sealing.
Overall, I’d say the lens definitely feels high quality and built to last. As I mentioned prior, I’ve owned other APS-C Sigma lenses for a while and they’ve been nothing short of amazing in terms of longevity.
As for ergonomics, the lens is a joy to use. As I stated prior, it balances SO well on my a6000.
The zoom ring offers perfect resistance that allows for easy turning while being “tight” enough to feel tactile. I observed no zoom creeping, which is an issue some zooms suffer from.
The rings are also incredibly grippy (despite being plastic), which is really nice especially in colder weather (big gloves and numb fingers).
There are no buttons or switches, so no physical AF/MF switch, but that’s to be expected on a lens that’s this compact, so no complaints from me there.
Overall, the Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 is a joy to use, feeling perfectly perfectly well balanced and comfortable on my Sony a6000. You can really tell this lens was purpose-built for Sony APS-C.
Aesthetically, the lens is a bit boring but not necessarily in a bad way. The lens barrel is very simple, featuring a large zoom ring and a smaller focus ring. There’s a focal length scale, the typical Sigma “C” logo, and the name of the lens engraved just above the focus ring.
Besides that, it’s all sleek polycarbonate/metal. The white text engravings pop really nicely against the sleek black metal, and the whole lens gives off a very nice and minimalist vibe.
Swipe through the gallery below for more glamour shots.
Next up, let’s talk about sharpness. I generally don’t get very scientific in my reviews, so don’t expect any sort of MTF charts or other complicated graphs.
I usually just pixel peep to the extreme at various F-stops and focal lengths.
When shooting at the widest end of the focal range, we actually see pretty respectable performance. At F2.8, there’s a bit of moderate softness near the corners, but otherwise the whole frame looks pretty nice.
Stopping down, even just a little (to F4, for example), shows noticeable improvement around the corners. More than adequate landscapes or any other sort of wide-angle subjects. Speaking of stopping down, the lens produces some surprisingly nice sun-stars at tight apertures.
Honestly, I’m pretty impressed here, as a lot of budget zoom lenses really fall apart when shot at max aperture near the wide end of their zoom range.
On the other end of the zoom range we have 50mm.
I shot a LOT at 50mm F2.8 and found that while corners tended to be a little soft, centers were razor sharp. The corner softness wasn’t a big concern to me, as I was generally using this focal length for portraiture.
Still, stopping down slightly evens out the corners quite a bit, allowing for some really nice telephoto landscape potential (or panorama stitches!).
So yeah, the Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 is very, very sharp given that it’s a budget zoom lens.
Optical Quirks & Flaws
Now, we’ll look at optical flaws such as distortion, vignette and that sort of thing.
First up, we have distortion… and yes, it’s quite heavy.
The tighter end of the zoom range (40-50mm or so) suffered from some minor pincushion distortion, but the wider range wasn’t so lucky.
At 18mm, this thing suffers from pretty substantial barrel distortion. I was able to fix a lot of it in post-processing, but I did notice some architecture shots still had a bit of bendy-ness along straight lines.
I wouldn’t let this scare you away, as post-processing can usually fix it (Lightroom has a lens profile), but I’ll include an example below for your consideration.
Next up, we have flaring. I didn’t have any problems with artificial lighting, being able to shoot directly into streetlights and whatnot with only minimal ghosting.
Shooting in sunlight, however, was brutal. If the sun is directly in the frame, expect some pretty major flaring.
I’ve posted two examples below. The first shot was in direct sunlight, but for the second image I angled the lens down and used my hand as a makeshift “lens hood”. You can see the massive difference in flaring.
Moving onto vignette next. I don’t tend to worry about vignette, but I did observe pretty poor performance.
The tighter end of the zoom range, once again, struggles very little, but at the wide end there is noticeable darkening around the corners. Stopping down remedies it.
I’d say it’s roughly a -1.5EV difference at 18mm F2.8, so it’s largely fixable in post-processing. You do run the risk of introducing digital noise though (when pushing exposure up in post).
Finally, let’s look at chromatic aberrations. I found VERY little issue here, even in some of my more extreme tests.
Generally, I find that shooting branches against a sunlit sky is a great test of CA performance and this lens didn’t struggle in that regard.
Overall Optical Performance
Overall, I’m very impressed with the optical performance of the Sigma 18-50mm F2.8. Sharpness is consistent, and stopping down isn’t necessary to get beautiful edge-to-edge results.
Although distortion and flaring are pretty heavy, there always has to be sacrifices made when dealing with a lens this compact. I think those two flaws are worthy trade-offs for the compact size.
I said it before but I’ll say it again: I’m blown away by how well this lens performs given its specs, price and compact size.
Bokeh & Macro
Bokeh (at various F-stops)
Next up, bokeh! The lens is no bokeh beast (F2.8 aperture), but it actually puts out some pretty decent results near the tighter end of the zoom range.
The bokeh is creamy and pleasant. It’s not quite on the same level as a dedicated portrait lens such as the Sigma 56mm F1.4, but I was really happy with the results I was able to get.
In “busy” photographs (with cluttered backgrounds) or at the wider end of the zoom range, the bokeh can look a bit rough and chaotic. At 50mm, simple backgrounds produce clean bokeh balls.
I understand bokeh is a bit of a subjective thing, so I’ve included a some samples below. There’s F2.8, 5.6, and F8 at both 18mm and 50mm.
Bokeh samples at various F-stops (swipe for more).
Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 Portrait Samples
As I said before, the Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 won’t match a dedicated portrait lens, but it performs great for photographing people.
I found that shooting 50mm F2.8 offered great subject isolation, and the natural vignette went a long way in really isolated my subjects in the frame.
Once again, pictures are worth a thousand words, so check out a few of my portrait samples below.
Macro & Minimum Focus
Minimum Focus Distance
For those considering dabbling in macro, I want to mention the INCREDIBLY short focus distance on this lens. At 18mm, the minimum focusing distance is literally just an inch (2.5cm).
At this focal length, that means you have to stick the lens almost directly up to the subject, casting shadows and creating some insane field curvature.
For macro enthusiasts though, zooming in (and backing up) offers better results. Focusing distance at 50mm is roughly 12 inches (30cm).
This lens obviously can’t compete with a real macro lens, but it offers decent results.
At 18mm, you’ll get a magnification ratio of roughly 1:2.8. Zooming into 50mm is closer to a 1:5 ratio.
So, if you’re looking to just dabble in macro subjects, this lens is certainly capable! I’ve included a couple examples below.
Focusing & Other Notes
Alrighty, so everything else looks good, but how is the autofocus on the Sigma 18-50mm F2.8? Really solid, actually.
Originally I assumed it would use the same focusing system as the Sigma trio, but after using it for a while, it seems to be even faster and more reliable than my 30mm F1.4.
Performance was nearly flawless even in low light. I rarely had shots with missed focus, and those were generally in REALLY tough high-contrast situations.
EyeAF worked fairly well, and the lens tracked VERY well with AF-C (continuous AF).
The stepping-motor is also quite quiet. When doing a quick video test, I found that the autofocus was barely perceptible on the (crappy) onboard microphone of my a6000. I’d imagine that using an actual dedicated microphone would be even better.
Video performance was quite fast and reliable as well, and I also noticed absolutely zero focus breathing. For those with stabilized bodies, this lens could be golden for video use.
So, now that we’ve covered autofocus, let’s cover the art of manually focusing with your own hands.
The manual focus experience is pretty typical of a modern autofocus lens. The focus ring is well dampened and feels precise enough, but the awkward positioning (near the lens mount) made it a bit hard to grip.
On the rare occasion I switched to MF, I found that it was precise enough but, again, the positioning of the focusing ring was just weird to me.
Finally, let’s talk stabilization. As I alluded to earlier, the Sigma 18-50mm F2.8, unfortunately, does not offer image stabilization.
While this is certainly a downside, I’m not surprised. Adding stabilization would have added a bit of bulk (and cost) to this compact lens, plus newer Sony a6000 series cameras offer IBIS anyway.
Still, as someone who still uses an a6000, the lack of stabilization is still kind of a bummer.
My Final Thoughts
I personally think the Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 is incredible, but I’d like to offer some alternatives before we round out the article.
First up, if you’re upgrading from the kit lens, you’ll find that the Sigma will blow it away in literally every single aspect.
Sony 16-55mm F2.8
The main competitor would be the Sony 16-55mm F2.8. It’s a beast of a lens and offers similar image and build quality. You also gain a little bit of range on both the wide and telephoto ends.
The two caveats, however, are that it’s much larger AND much more expensive than the Sigma.
Tamron 17-70mm F2.8
The second competitor would be the Tamron 17-70mm F2.8.
The Tamron offers a much larger focal range (and similar sharpness), but is HUGE and more expensive. It does, however, offer stabilization.
Worth the Purchase?
Frankly, I find the Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 hard to beat. Sigma has put out nothing but quality lenses over the last few years, and this zoom is no exception.
A versatile zoom range, great image quality, and a solid yet compact build all come together to make this one of my favorite lenses I’ve ever used. Generally I’m a prime purist, but this Sigma has opened my eyes.
Like I said earlier, lenses like this are what convinced me to originally switch to mirrorless from a bulky DSLR setup.
I can genuinely say that this is my new favorite travel lens. It’s versatile, lightweight, and doesn’t suffer from many of the same compromises as other small zooms. (pst: I have more sample photos if you keep scrolling)
Where to buy?
So, if I’ve convinced you to pick it up for yourself (and why wouldn’t you? it’s fantastic), I’ll leave a link below to purchase.
If you buy it through my Amazon link, I get a (very) small commission at no extra cost to you. This allows me to continue testing different lenses in the future. 🙂
If you want to see more sample photos, keep scrolling.
This lens was so much fun to use, and I can’t wait to create more with it in the future. Thanks for reading, and thank you for your support.
Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 Sample Photos
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