Sigma 10-18mm f/2.8 DC DN Contemporary: Compact Compromises

The first thing you notice about the Sigma 10-18mm f/2.8 DC DN Contemporary is just how compact and adorable it is. In fact, Sigma claims that it is the smallest and lightest ultra-wide APS-C zoom lens on the market. Having used it myself, I wouldn’t disagree with that statement.

Sigma 10-18 f/2.8 Contemporary autumn colors
Alberta’s fall colors were on full display, for the short time that we have them.

Sigma 10-18mm f/2.8 DC DN Contemporary: How It Handles

Weighing in at just under nine ounces (255 grams), the $599 Sigma 10-18mm is a carry-anywhere kind of lens. However, the small dimensions leave little room for anything else. The zoom ring is located at the extreme front of the lens and has a distinct bevel that makes it easy to find without looking. The manual focus ring is smooth but there is no AF/MF selector switch present on the lens. In fact, there are no switches or controls other than the two rings.

Sigma 10-18 f/2.8 Contemporary Rings
The zoom ring and manual focus rings are well designed but that’s all you get for controls.

The supplied hood is very compact and attaches in a novel way. Sigma has designed it to push straight onto the lens and then click in place. It can be released with a very slight twist-and-pull motion. It works fine but is a little fiddly and totally alien to how you are probably used to attaching a lens hood. Be warned, it can be knocked off a little more readily than a standard design, too.

Sigma 10-18 f/2.8 Contemporary hood
The provided hood is compact but fiddly to use.

An affordable and compact lens like the 10-18mm is going to have a simple stepping motor inside. The motor is quick and silent and I had no issues with focusing speeds. For video work, the focus transitions smoothly from near to far and as a side bonus the lens exhibits very little lens breathing.

Sigma 10-18 f/2.8 Contemporary black and white
Dramatic light makes for dramatic photos but the ghosting is there, even in black and white.

Sigma 10-18 f/2.8 DC DN Contemporary: A Shot Towards the Sun

During our time with the lens, we had a bright sunny day next to the shores of the Highwood River. The fall colors are in full bloom right now and with all the bright sunlight I proceeded to test how the 10-18mm lens handles flare.

Sigma 10-18 f/2.8 Contemporary flare in the city
Flare is very well controlled by Sigma and its excellent lens coatings.

Sigma has a long and proven track record of incorporating effective multi-coatings that prevent flare and loss of contrast and the Sigma 10-18 is no exception. Contrast is well-maintained and the sun does not wash out the scene.

Sigma 10-18 f/2.8 Contemporary ghosting wide open
Even at f/2.8, some ghosting is still visible. It only gets more distracting as you stop down the aperture.

Unfortunately, the 10-18 does have some ghosting present even when using wider apertures. I wouldn’t call the ghosts too distracting but I was surprised to see them even when shooting at f/2.8. You will have to take a little extra care with your compositions in relation to bright light sources.

Sigma 10-18 f/2.8 Contemporary sunstars
Unfortunately, Sunstars are not very well defined on the Sigma 10-18.

An ultra-wide zoom like this is ideal for landscape shots and because I had the sun poking through vivid yellow autumn leaves, I wanted to test sun stars, too. Stopping the lens down to apertures like f/11 and beyond I was easily getting sun stars. However, I wouldn’t call them dramatic at all. The stars all have broad and blurry points with a general washed-out look to them. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder but generally speaking, crisp, distinct star patterns are far more desirable.

Sigma 10-18 f/2.8 Contemporary yellow and blue
Getting up close and shooting at f/2.8 allows for some shallow depth-of-field shots.

Sigma 10-18mm f/2.8 DC DN Contemporary: Image Quality

The little Sigma proves to be a versatile outdoor lens due to its rather excellent macro capabilities. It does its best work at 10mm and provides an almost-touching minimum working distance of only four centimeters. The 1:4 life-size reproduction allows for some dramatic close-ups with the wide-angle perspective pushing the background far off in the distance.

Sigma 10-18 f/2.8 Contemporary macro close up
The Sigma 10-18 turns out to be a handy little macro lens in a pinch.

Because the 10-18mm has a maximum aperture of f/2.8 shallow depth of field can be achieved when focusing close to a subject. Also, even when focusing at landscape distances the background can be pushed into a subtle blur if desired. I was surprised by the transitions from in focus to out of focus. Not because the bokeh is that nice but more so because of how bad I expected it to be, especially considering how rough the specular highlights render using this lens. There is plenty of cat’s eye effect to the highlights at f/2.8 — which I don’t mind — but the highlights themselves have distinct rings that distract the eye and there are some onion rings present too.

Sigma 10-18 f/2.8 Contemporary Bokeh
Bokeh is a little harsh looking, both in the specular highlights and the transitions of focus.

Being a seven-bladed aperture, specular highlights have a harsh polygonal look to them when stopped down. Overall the bokeh of this lens isn’t what I would call refined but the out-of-focus zones still render fairly smoothly. I would probably tend to shoot pictures with stopped-down apertures though whenever possible.

Sigma 10-18 f/2.8 Contemporary long exposure
I’m a sucker for long exposures at the river.

Sigma 10-18mm f/2.8 DC DN Contemporary: Is It Sharp?

Sharpness is pretty decent on this little lens with the better image quality leaning more towards the 18mm range. At 10mm the center performance is fine at f/2.8 with a slight improvement in contrast — but not much resolution — when shot at f/5.6. The corners look a touch soft at f/2.8 and even when stopped down don’t improve that much either.

Sigma 10-18 f/2.8 Contemporary leaves in the water
The Sigma 10-18 will resolve enough detail for most APS-C sensors.

At the 18mm range things improve all around. Sharpness is noticeably better at f/2.8 and when stopped down really crisp up. The corners are also more consistent regardless of aperture. The Sigma 10-18 is surprisingly flat-shooting across the board which is a boon to landscape shooters. I would just stop down a bit whenever possible.

Sigma 10-18 f/2.8 Contemporary wide open shooting
The Sigma 10-18 delivers acceptable sharpness at f/2.8. Feel free to shoot wide-open apertures.

Compact With Some Compromises

It seems that Sigma has allowed for a few compromises in order to make this lens as small as possible. Regardless, I was pleased overall with the images out of this lens and if your goal is to have a compact travel lens that takes up little space in the bag, this is a good choice.

I could also see this being an excellent choice for video work, especially balanced on a compact gimbal, or for vlogging. The macro capabilities are an added bonus making the Sigma 10-18mm f/2.8 a versatile and bright lens indeed.

Are There Alternatives?

The Tamron 11-20mm f/2.8 is also available for similar camera mounts and covers the same kind of photography. Although heavier and more expensive by about $100 (after a recent price reduction), it is sharper across the entire focal range and has slightly better rendering of out-of-focus areas.

Should You Buy It?

Maybe. If you want the handiest little travel lens to cover your ultra-wide needs and are willing to accept some compromises, the Sigma 10-18mm is a good option. The added macro versatility is an added bonus and the image quality is good enough for most photographers.