Review: Sigma 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 AF DC II Lens

I’ve been wanting a longer lens for my Nikon D50 for some time. I’ve owned this camera for over three years now, and have been making do with my Sigma 28-70mm zoom for most of that time.

My previous “good” camera was the Minolta X370s 35mm SLR. Over the six or so years that it was my main camera, I acquired a 28mm wide-angle lens, 50mm standard lens, 80-200mm zoom, 2x teleconverter, and three macro filters. I’ve been jonesing to be able to get in close to the action like I once could.

So, I went online, seeking out the zoomiest zoom for the most reasonable price, and I found the Sigma 18-200mm. First, I found one with Optical Stabilization, but when I saw how much that added to the price, I opted against it and ordered one without.

It really is true, what they say: you get what you pay for.

Over two days, I took 66 photos with my new Sigma lens. I fell in love with the idea of having one lens that did the jobs of a wide-angle and a telephoto. The 18mm wide-angle will be perfect for self-portraits, especially when I’m on vacation and want to show both myself and my husband in frame, along with some identifiable background.

Diana at Starbucks
Handheld, 1/6s @ f/3.5, 18mm, ISO 400

The wide-angle will also be helpful for one of our favorite vacation photography subjects: our food. It’s sometimes difficult to get all of our meal in the frame. With an 18mm lens, that should be no problem anymore:

Handheld, 1/6s @ f/3.5, 18mm, ISO 400

From reading reviews online, I already knew some of this lens’s downfalls: the focus motor is particularly loud, for one, and the aperture — especially at full zoom — is not nearly as open as I’d like.

(An aside for non-camera geeks: smaller f-number = bigger hole for the light to go through = less time needed to take the picture = sharp, focused subjects in low light = potential for cool blurry backgrounds.)

After my test shots over the past couple of days, I discovered that this particular lens, while being quite the bargain for the zoom, doesn’t dovetail well with my modus operandi when it comes to photography. I prefer to take photos in ambient light, without a flash. Granted, photos taken with my fancy new dedicated flash turn out just fine… but that’s the exception to my photography, not the rule.

Handheld with bounce flash, 1/60s @ f/6.3, 200mm, ISO 400

I like to shoot wide-open (read: with the largest possible aperture). With this setup, 90% of the photos I took with my new Sigma 18-200mm lens came out blurry, due to a slow shutter speed. I can still handhold at 1/6 of a second, but 1/2 sec gets a little dicey. The lens also had difficulty focusing at times, especially in low light; the minimum focus range is also not as close as I’d like at half a meter, or about a foot and a half.

All in all, this lens might work out well for someone. As for me, I’d rather not own a lens that requires me to change my photography style in order to take passable photos. I think I’m going to be making one last splurge and buying the Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 G ED-IF AF-S VR DX Zoom-Nikkor Lens… that costs as much as I spent on my camera.

(See all six of my decent test photos on Flickr.)

[Edit: I have since posted my revised opinion of the Sigma 18-200mm zoom.]

One thought on “Review: Sigma 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 AF DC II Lens

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  1. I wish I knew half of what you know about cameras. Maybe someday (when I’m finaly home in Ohio again) you can teach me a thing or two.
    A lot of people think because I’m a photographer I know about cameras. I don’t. Just posing.