When we announced the new 18-35mm f/1.8 lens from Sigma, the excited and joy-filled response from you all was nearly instantaneous (which was rather impressive since it was confirmed at just past 1 in the morning eastern time). I too was particularly excited because of what this lens means to the industry and the future of lens design. I want to share with you my first impressions of the lens, which arrived in my studio just a few minutes ago.
Let me start off by saying this lens is a pre-production model, so the optics have not yet been finalized and approved by Sigma. That means I can't show you any images taken with it. However, I can tell you what it is like to shoot with it and how it feels on the front of an APS-C camera.
Let's consider the weight: it's heavy at 28.6 ounces. You may recall I mentioned the 17-70mm lens Sigma recently produced has a lot of plastic exterior parts, likely chosen to keep cost and weight low. The 18-35mm makes no such compromises. It's a solidly built metal behemoth just shy of five inches long, three inches wide. Much like with the 35mm f/1.4, it has heft. It feels strong, solid and reliable. For an APS-C only lens, it's built unexpectedly like pro-only gear. So let dismiss the argument that APS-C can't be professional, because this lens screams high end and top of the line.
Below you can see the 18-35mm right next to the 17-70mm. It dwarfs the 17-70mm, which puts the size of this lens into perspective:
The entire focusing and zooming of the lens is housed inside the body, which is something I personally love and wish existed in the Canon 24-70 f/2.8 L II.
To be honest, this lens almost overwhelms the Canon 60D body on which I placed it. It craves a bit more beef in order to be what I would call "well balanced." Because of the optics and the weight of the lens body, it can throw off the delicate balance of hand, camera and lens. It will weigh more than many APS-C camera bodies and if it doesn't, the front weight can feel a little off-kilter. I think it would be just right for a 7D, but most certainly would feel odd or even awkward on a Rebel camera.
Though I can't show you images, I can briefly tell you about how the AF functions: really well. It keeps up with the other lenses Sigma has released as part of its Global Vision and is very accurate and pleasingly snappy.
From what I can tell, even the pre-production model handles ghosting and flaring well. That's about all I'm comfortable judging on this lens since it's not the final version. For all those who love optical stabilization, I'm sorry but this guy doesn't have any. It does open wide to f/1.8 though, so that will probably help.
I have no idea how much this lens is going to cost, at least not officially. If you made me guess, based on the build quality and prior lenses released by Sigma, I am going to guess right around $1000. This is a total shot in the dark so don't expect me to be right or even remotely close to right. So for whatever that's worth, there's my straight up guess.
So what you can take away from this is that the build quality is completely un-compromised. It's built like an Abrams Tank but looks like a Maserati. At this point many of you won't be surprised by how good this lens looks and feels because of how much Sigma has changed in the past eight months. For those of you who still doubt, well hopefully this lens is just one more giant step in the right direction. We will have our full review in the coming weeks. Until then, keep it tuned here to Fstoppers.com to satisfy your lens lust.