My thoughts on the new Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC lens…
A New Lens, a Concert, the Milky Way, and the Perseid Meteor Shower:
I shoot an average of 3-5 concerts a week here in Las Vegas at many venues with a wide array of lighting and logistical challenges. When I First heard about the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 lens I immediately thought about how it could help with my concert photography. The two main reasons I thought this were the speed of the lens and the fact that it is not a fisheye (not that there is anything wrong with a fisheye lens, but I try to stand out from my peers and lately all I see in the photo pits of concerts are fisheye lenses). For a rundown of the technical specs please click here: Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8
I ordered the new lens and received it on a Saturday afternoon just hours before a concert I was commissioned to cover in Las Vegas. I made the decision to only take the new lens so I could test it and see what it could do (normally my camera bag would have the Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4 lens and the Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 lens for concerts). The lens was amazing in the low light, fast to focus, and very sharp. The focal length on the Canon APS-C sensor (1.6x crop factor = 28.8-56mm) was perfect for capturing both wide stage shots as well as zooming in to each band member without lens distortion. The weight of the lens complimented my camera that has a battery grip and extra battery. I have a specific formula of settings I use for concert photography and this lens worked within those settings perfectly. The show had it’s challenges with lighting and stage/photo pit layout, among other things, but using the new lens felt comfortable and I felt instantly confident in my decision to only take it to this show.
The following week was a new moon and the landscape photographer in me decided to get out of the Las Vegas valley and lights and try to capture the Milky Way. I was packing my gear and decided to take the Sigma 18-35mm with me along with my Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4 and my Russian 16mm f/2.8 lenses on my Canon 60D body with battery grip. Originally I had planned on going to Bonnie Springs (just outside of Las Vegas by Redrock Canyon), but when I got there and set up to shoot the Milky Way with a Joshua tree in the foreground, I noticed that there was still some serious light pollution coming from the valley casting onto the surrounding mountains. I packed up my gear and headed South to Sandy Valley road, near Pahrump, Nevada and scouted for a location to shoot. I chose the Sigma 18-35mm lens and was amazed at what settings I was able to use for the Milky Way. I was taking advantage of the f/1.8 aperture and able to capture what I wanted using a 10 second exposure at ISO-1600! This was amazing as it helped me to keep the noise down to a very controllable level and allowed me more time throughout the evening to capture my subject! Note: I do not use the built in “noise reduction” setting in the camera and usually deal with noise using Nik dFine or Topaz DeNoise along with settings in Adobe Lightroom. One quick observation that I noticed is that the sky did not look distorted as many image I have seen tend to do. The reason, I think, is the fact that this lens is not a fisheye. Many of my night sky photographer friends, especially in Alaska, use the Tokina 11-16mm or the Sigma 10-20mm lens for Aurora shots, but to me, the resulting images always look too distorted (for the record, I own the Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 and rarely carry it in my bag; although it is a great lens, it is just not my style).
My most recent opportunity to use my new Sigma 18-35mm lens came on Sunday night for the peak of the Perseid meteor shower. I did enough research to lean that the originating point of the shower would be in the Northeast sky, so I headed a few hours North to Cathedral Gorge State Park. The weather there is quite different than that of Las Vegas due to the higher elevation and when I first got out of the car it seemed cloudy. Then I realized the “clouds” were actually the Milky Way and the entire arc from North to South was visible from this location! I set up two cameras: my Canon 7D with the Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4 lens facing south with the Milky Way (and no foreground other than the horizon) and my Canon 60D with the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 lens facing North-Northeast with a formation from Cathedral Gorge in the foreground that I lit using my Android-based phone and an app called “Color Flashlight“. For the exposures in capturing meteors, my settings with the Canon 7D and the Sigma 17-70mm lens were: ISO-6400, 17mm, f/2.8, 22sec. and for the Canon 60D with the Sigma 18-35mm lens were: ISO-2000, 18mm, f/1.8, 25sec. which would allow me more time for magic to happen: a meteor to streak across the sky in my frame. I saw quite a few meteors and was lucky enough to get a few on “film”.
So far this lens has met and exceeded my expectations and I look forward to many more photo adventures with it not only in my bag, but mounted to my camera. If I could change anything about this lens, it would only be the direction of zoom on the barrel. As a manufacturer of lenses for multiple brands, it would be nice to keep the zoom/focus the same as the brand the mount is for to keep consistency. This comes in to play when shooting video especially, and I cannot wait to capture some through this lens!