2014 Sigma 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 DC Macro OS HSM (C)
Day February 2014, Singapore – Sigma’s latest release surprises the industry again. Since Sigma announced the Global vision, the company has been re-organizing their product lines and releasing new lenses after lenses and many of these new releases had even won multiple awards. So Sigma must be on the right track for that matter. Their latest Contemporary line lens – the Sigma 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 DC Macro OS HSM (C) came as a surprise to many photographers, industry watchers as well as the competition. As if the Sigma 24-105mm F4 (C) had not caused enough hypersonic waves with an outward open challenge to Canon’s 24-105mm F4L, the 2014 new 18-200mm is up against more than just Canon now, every brand with a 18-200mm is targeted.
Photo: Lens creates nice color rendering and contrasty sharp images.
Since the new 18-200mm is under the Contemporary (C) line of lenses, improvements are granted but what makes this lens another winner when put alongside with the competition? We are going to take a very close look and careful comparison among the few 18-200mm lenses that has “been around” for a while. While this site is not a technical site, today we will try to be slightly technical but casual at the same time. So bear with us if the technical details & comparisons bore you. If reading tech specs is not your cup of tea, just look at the photos. 🙂
OK, let’s first identify the similar lenses that are available in the market now.
1) Sigma 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 DC Macro OS HSM (C)
2) Sigma 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 II DC OS HSM
3) Tamron AF 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 Di II LD Asp. IF XR Macro
4) Nikon AF-S 18-200mm F3.5-5.6 GII VR
5) Canon EF-S 18-200mm F3.5-5.6 IS
For the easy reading of this article we shall name the above lenses to;
1) 2014 Sigma (C)
2) Sigma II
Let’s start with their age. 2014 Sigma’s (C) version had just replaced its own 2012 Mark II version. This seems legit especially with the re-organizing of their product lines. However, slightly older are the versions from Canon & Nikon that were released in 2009. That is 5 years in human time and 20 years in photography technology time! And if that is not old enough, the oldest of the lot here has to be Tamron who have been around since 2005. (You kidding me?!?!) Every year we see new cameras being launched into the market, and how well will the crop of old lenses (able to) keep up with the newer bodies?
Buying lenses is buying optic glass. But what kind/type of glasses the manufacturer employs does make a difference to the final image and this matters to all photographers. As a photographer, you will agree with me that it is not the brand, but the final output as that determines the result. Let’s see what glasses we are really buying.
– Sigma (C) 16 elements in 13 groups inclusive of 3 Aspherical glass + 4 SLD glass
– Sigma II 18 elements in 14 groups inclusive of 3 Asperical glass + 2 SLD glass + 1 FLD glass
– Canon 16 elements in 12 groups inclusive of 2 UD glass + 2 Aspherical glass
– Nikon 16 elements in 12 groups inclusive of 3 Asperical glass + 2 ED glass
– Tamron 15 elements in 13 groups inclusive of 1 XR Refractive glass + 8 LD glass + 3 Aspherical glass
Looking at the chart above, it is very obvious that the 2014 Sigma (C) lens has the best glass combo among the competition. SLD glass is actually the same as Canon’s famed Fluorite compound and this is the 1st time that Sigma actually packs 4 of these glass into 1 lens! So images are expected to be razor sharp, contrasty and full of details. Looking at the review photos, the 2014 Sigma (C) version did not disappoint. So finally we get a super-zoom (wide focal range all-in-1 zoom lenses) that gives the user a good focal range coverage but with good image quality too!
Photo: Behind-the-scene, this was how far I was from the subject.
Photography by Alistair Leo.
F Stops & Aperture
There isn’t much to compare for F Stops as all the 5 lenses here are comparatively similar. However, the aperture plays an important role here. The new Sigma (C) version comes with a 7 blades aperture that is modeled after a rounded iris which produces natural looking bokehs – but tack sharp images. The Sigma II (7 blades), Nikon (7 blades) & Canon (6 blades) versions uses a Rounded diaphragm that gives reasonably round bokehs that are acceptable in most photography standards while the Tamron (7 blades) has a non-rounded configuration that gives an “edgy bokeh blur”. Not putting Tamron down but in year 2005, that was probably the best configuration that a lens can get.
Minimum Focusing Distance & Magnification Ratio
Although some of these lenses here has the word “Macro” on it, please get this clear. These are NOT macro lenses. The “Macro” here means either the lens can be used at a much closer focusing distance than other regular lenses or the lens is able to produce a higher magnification so that you can crop a lot more without losing details from the original photo. The winner here has to be the 2014 Sigma (C) version as it can focus from as near as 39cm. The Sigma II, Tamron, & Canon are focusing from 45cm and Nikon starts to focus only from 50cm away from the subject. This is important if you like to shoot close-up photos like the occasional flower or stamps from your table top. The closer you can get to the subject, the more details you get.
The magnification ratio below seems to pair off with the minimum focusing distance as reported above. See for yourself what are these lenses capable of magnifying.
2014 Sigma (S) = 1:3
Sigma II = 1:3.8
Tamron = 1:3.7
Nikon = 1:4.5
Canon = 1: 4.2
Well focusing speed is another point to note. Made as “super-zoom” lenses, many such lenses suffer badly from slow focusing or incorrect focusing resulting in blur or out-of-focus photos. All 5 lenses here are IF (Internal focusing) lenses. But the focusing motors are different. The 2014 Sigma (C), Sigma II & Nikon uses super fast motors. Sigma’s proven Hypersonic motors (HSM) & Nikon’s Silent Wave motor (SWM) allows super fast & near-silent focusing while Canon & Tamron uses the traditional Micro motor drive that are much slower and seriously loud during operation. Hopefully the next 18-200mm from Tamron will have the PZD (already fitted on Tamron 18-270mm) and Canon will have their Ultrasonic motor (USM) fitted to their next 18-200mm.
Size & Weight
For super zoom, most of the time the lens is targeted at fuss-free shooters who views convenience as an important buying factor. It can be a travelling lens, or a lens that is going to be used in harsh weather condition where changing of lens is really not possible. So size can be the next important factor here. Among the 5 lenses here, the 2014 Sigma (C) has the smallest barrel diameter of 70.7mm while Tamron has the largest barrel diameter of 83.7mm. The shortest of them all has to be Tamron with a length of 73.8mm while the longest lens here is Canon at 102mm. Both Canon & Nikon uses 72mm filters while the 2014 Sigma (C), Sigma II & Tamron uses 62mm filters. The new 2014 Sigma (C) beats the rest here by having a very petite overall dimension of 70.7 x 86mm.
Weight wise, the light weight champion here is none other than Tamron at a mere feather weight of 398gm. As the scale progresses on, the new 2014 Sigma (C) weights 430gm, the Sigma II at 490gm, the Nikon at 563gm and the heaviest of the 5 lenses here are Canon’s version standing at 595gm. Canon wins the lot here by being the heaviest lens. Weight is subjective to many too, personally I will love a weighty lens, but not one that feels heavier by the minute especially when I am trekking or climbing a mountain. For this section, I will say the 2004 Sigma (C) has to be my choice – although it is slightly heavier than the Tamron, but adding up the specs that I had given earlier above, the decision is pretty obvious isn’t it?
Finishing, Barrel Material & Color
The external finishing of a lens does determines how much abuse it can take and when used under different weather elements.
The new 2014 Sigma (C) version is the only lens here that has a Matt metallic finish while the rest of the lenses here came with Matte plastic finishing. On the Color department, the new 2014 Sigma (C) came in Metallic Dark Grey (almost gun metal) while Sigma II & Tamron has their version in Matt black. Nikon opted for darker grey while Canon decided on the light grey. No matter what color a lens is painted with, it does not affect your image (for the un-initiated). But most photographers of today prefers a darker and meaner looking lens so the new 2014 Sigma (C) once again scores with the younger & modern photographers.
Except the new 2014 Sigma (C), all the other 4 lenses has their lens barrel made from standard engineering plastics and this is where the new Sigma scores again. Incorporating the use of Thermally Stable Compound – or better known now as TSC in short, this is a new material which we first seen on the company’s 35mm F1.4 (A) art line lens. The TSC exhibits little structure variation in extreme temperature conditions with almost negligible thermal shrinkage, and it shares its material properties closely with aluminum. So would you prefer TSC or plastic?
Photo: Tried the new 2014 Sigma (C) on an infrared converted Canon DSLR and find that very slight hotspotting are present.
However when I tried shooting in another different direction of the sun light and the hotspots were gone. See below photos.
With a super zoom, chances of hand shakes at telephoto focal ranges are common. Both the new 2014 Sigma (C) & Sigma II lenses comes with the company’s Optical Stabiliser (OS), Nikon has its version equipped with Vibration Reduction (VR) & Canon also has their Image Stabilizer (IS) built into their 18-200mm. Tamron did not add their Vibration Control (VC) which totally puzzles me. Then again, this is a 2005 lens.
The new 2o14 Sigma 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 DC Macro OS HSM (C) has changed the way photographers look at the super zoom lenses. Long focal range lenses are not just for covering various focal length anymore, now it can produce high quality & sharp images. Sigma takes APS-C users seriously if you have been following Sigma’s past lenses, you will agree with me that Sigma made the most market-leading APS-C lenses since the digital photography boom. This 2014 Sigma 18-200mm (C) is no exception and this continues the legacy of placing photographers above profit and making lenses that creates high quality images with a reasonable asking price.
With the amount of design improvements and know-hows from Sigma’s extensive lens-making experience, this new lens is on its way to bag another award soon.
To view the rest of the photos from this lens, please visit here.
Special Thanks to Sigma Marketing (Singapore) for the lens and providing all the confidential information that made this review possible.
** Sigma had re-organized their whole lens line into 3 category.
They are “C” Lens, “A” Lens & “S” Lens.
C Lens = Contemporary Lens Line
Featuring the very latest technology, and combining optical performance with compactness, Sigma’s high-performance Contemporary line covers a wide range of needs. Lenses in this category are Standard zoom lenses, telephoto zoom lenses, high-magnification zoom lenses.
A Lens = Art Lens Line
Designed with a focus on sophisticated optical performance and abundant expressive power, Sigma’s Art line delivers high-level artistic expression. Lenses in this category are Large-aperture prime lenses, wide-angle lenses, ultra-wide-angle lenses, macro lenses, fisheye lenses.
S Lens – Sports Lens Line
While offering sophisticated optical performance and expressiveness, Sigma Sports line lenses deliver high action-capture performance, enabling photographers to get exactly the shots they want. Lenses in this category are Telephoto lenses, telephoto zoom lenses, super telephoto lenses, super telephoto zoom lenses.
For more information, please visit http://www.sigma-global.com