It’s fine and dandy to cart around a bag full of prime lenses all day long to cover every conceivable need. But if you only want or need one zoom lens to cover everything from the wide-angle to super-telephoto, then the likes of the Sigma 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 DC MACRO OS HSM Contemporary lens can fit the bill.
This type of lens is built more for convenience than anything else. This means that although this zoom lens has good quality optics, it ranks overall usability over precision at any one focal length. This point can be an advantage or disadvantage depending on your own particular needs. But is the overall usability of this lens just as good as the other features?
For a lens that covers such a long zoom, the Sigma 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 DC MACRO OS HSM | C is quite a compact affair, measuring only 79 x 101.5mm and weighing in at a quite lightweight 585g. The lens is also available for a good range of camera mounts including Canon, Nikon, Pentax, and Sony. And, it’s designed for crop sensor cameras, providing an even longer stretch at the telephoto end from 28.8-480mm.
The lens barrel itself is made from Thermally Stable Composite plastics, which are very hard-wearing, but the lens itself isn’t waterproofed. The focusing ring is quite narrow and sits right next to the filter thread, rotating in autofocus mode, so you’ll need to be aware of this when cradling the lens when handholding.
The zoom ring takes up most of the space on the lens barrel, with incremental focal lengths marked from 18-300mm. There are also three switches located around the lens barrel which consist of a lock switch for keeping the barrel in place at 18mm. There is also the usual autofocus and manual switch and one for turning the stabilization system on and off. Stabilization should essentially be used for handheld shooting and turned off when mounted onto a tripod.
The macro abilities of this lens allow objects to be shot as close as 39cm, with a 1:3 reproduction ratio. The macro abilities kick in at 300mm and there is also a Sigma AML72-01 close-up lens filter available if you want to increase the magnification ratio to 1:2.
The Sigma 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 DC MACRO OS HSM Contemporary In Use
Considering the focal range the Sigma 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 DC MACRO OS HSM | C has to cover, the central sharpness is relatively good at the widest focal length. The edges of the frame do trail behind, with distinct softness. But the edges start to tidy up by f/5.6, with the best results across the whole frame coming in at f/8.
When the lens hits the middle of the focal range, the maximum aperture drops to f/5.6, with the most consistent results across the frame at f/11. At 200mm, the sharpest results come in from f/8-f/11. Sharpness levels unsurprisingly take a hit at 300mm, with the aperture at f/6.3 providing reasonable center sharpness. But to get everything in the frame as sharp as can be, the aperture will need to be stopped down to f/11.
Also as expected, the Sigma 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 DC MACRO OS HSM | C displays a good deal of barrel distortion at 18mm, which slowly turns into pin cushioning all the way up to 300mm. There is also noticeable vignetting in the corners of the frame at 18mm, with the aperture needing to be stopped down to f/8 for the cleanest results.
Chromatic aberration can also be seen in high contrast areas. But just like the effects of vignetting, post-processing software can take away most of these effects.
Although the Sigma18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 isn’t going to be as ultimately sharp as more expensive zoom lenses, it still performs a respectable job considering the long focal range. When a subject is in the center of the frame and in good lighting conditions, the lens displays a good degree of naturally saturated colors and contrast levels. It also seems to accentuate noise at times, which means it fares far better at very low ISO levels.
How Does It Compare?
When it comes to third-party all-encompassing zoom lenses, the Tamron 18-400mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC HLD is just a bit more expensive than the Sigma 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 DC MACRO OS HSM but with an equal amount of features. The Tamron has a longer stretch at the telephoto end, which with crop sensor cameras works out in total to be 28.8-640mm. The Tamron doesn’t have any macro capabilities, but it does have image stabilization and a very solid moisture-resistant build quality.
Both lenses will serve as good all-rounders, with the final decision coming down to whether or not you need the extra length at the telephoto end that the Tamron can provide.
Other lenses that are worth considering are the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM and the Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary lens. As always, the sky’s the limit depending on how much cash you have to play around with.
|Sigma 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 DC MACRO OS HSM | C||Tamron 18-400mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC HLD|
|Elements||17 elements/13 groups||16 elements/11 groups|
The Sigma 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 DC MACRO OS HSM is clearly for those who want a bit of everything in one zoom lens, with a highly usable stabilization system and macro capabilities. Of course, there are going to be some compromises when a lens covers such a wide range of focal lengths. The edges of the frame do suffer from softness and it’s not going to be as capable in low-light conditions as shorter zoom lenses.
However, the Sigma 18-300 is aimed at a particular market. The lens is predominantly for the enthusiast shooter who may not have decided on which focal lengths they prefer and want to experiment with everything that’s on offer. From there, you can start to narrow your choices to more short-range zoom lenses or even primes.
But if you want a taste of many different focal lengths in a reasonably affordable package, then the Sigma 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 DC MACRO OS HSM Contemporary is a good quality option. The lens clearly has some caveats, but no more or less than other long-ranging zoom lenses in this class.