Best Standard Zoom Lens for APS-C Sensor Camera

When we attend weddings as photographers, a common question we get asked by guests with APS-C Sensor (Crop Sensor) Camera who are just starting photography is “ Which lens should I buy?”. This question obviously depends on the photography style of the individual. However, as a starting point, a standard zoom lens is alway a good idea.

A fast standard zoom (constant f/2.8 and under) is the lens most people use for the majority of their shoot. It can deliver everything from wide angle to short telephoto focal length. This means a standard zoom lens is very versatile and allows individuals to test out their preferred style of photography.

Bear in mind an APS-C sensor camera has a crop factor of x1.5 and x1.6 on Nikon and Canon, respectively. This means your actual focal length on your APS-C camera will be multiplied by the crop factor. For example, a 23mm focal length will be 34.5mm on Nikon and 36.8mm on a Canon. Below are the three standard lens I would recommend for APS-C camera. While the Nikon and Canon 17-55mm f/2.8 are optically brilliant, I feel that they are both over-priced. Also in case you want to upgrade to a full frame camera in the future, I don’t suggest investing too much into lenses for an APS-C sensor camera.

 

Sigma 18-35 F1.8 DC HSM ART

The Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 SC HSM ART series was one the most exciting photography news in 2013. The worlds fastest zoom lens at present. The Sigma 18-35 features an aperture of f/1.8 along side with the ability to zoom and image stabilisation technology. This lens is specially designed for APS-C sensor camera.

sigma 11        IMG_312234

The build quality of this lens is very solid with majority of it made from metal construction. It comes with a metal mount which surrounds the contacts and a rear glass element. The focus and zoom are done internally which mean the front barrel of the lens will not turn nor come out during focusing and zooming. This a great feature to prevent dirt and dust getting into the lens element. Being able to internal focus also means you are able to use circular polariser without worrying about the front element of the lens turning which may potentially mess up your settings. Another plus about this lens in comparison with the other two lenses is that the rear element will only move 2-3mm while zooming from 18mm to 35mm. This is a great feature because the dust and dirt will not be able to settle inside of the tube easily. The only downside is that this lens is not weather sealed and cannot be used in the rain.

simga 33  967590

The focusing ring on this lens is smooth and yet has some resistance which means this lens will also be great for videos. One thing I like about the new generation Sigma lens is that you are able to adjust the resistance of the focusing ring and focusing speed with an external USB dock (to be purchased separately ~$100 USD). Therefore, you can customise the lens for your photography needs. In terms of the optical construction, the Sigma 18-35mm has 17 lens elements in 12 groups. It has a grant total of 5 low dispersion SLD glass elements and four aspherical elements. It also has 9 aperture blades which mean you get really round and smooth bokeh balls when you shoot wide open.

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 The image quality of this lens is exceptional even when you shoot at wide open (f/1.8). The image quality at the centre of the frame is fantastic with only a slight fall off at the edge of the frame (which is still excellent). Overall, this is a very good value to quality ratio lens.

Construction:

 12 Groups / 17 Elements
Angle of view:  76.5 – 44.2 degrees for APS-C Camera
Aperture:  Constant f/1.8 at all focal length
Minimum focusing distance:  0.28 m
Filter Size:  72 mm
Dimensions (Length x Diameter):  121 mm x 78 mm
Weight:  810g
Price:  ~$799 USD

 

Sigma 17-50mm F2.8 EX DC OS HSM

Since the release of the Sigma 17-50mm F2.8 EX DC OS HSM in early 2010, it has been one of the most popular third party standard zoom lens for Nikon and Canon APS-C sensor camera. It was an upgrade of the Sigma 17-50 F2.8 with image-stabilisation feature.

sigma 3   Sigma 2

The build quality of this lens is average for its price tag despite the EX symbol which signifies it belongs to the Sigma high-end series. It comes with a metal mount and a 27mm diameter rear element. When zooming the lens from 17mm to 50mm, the rear element of the lens will move about 20mm into the lens which mean dust and dirt can get into the internal lens element easily. The front barrel of the lens will move out while zooming into the telephoto end (50mm). The front barrel is made out of plastic and will rotate when zooming in and out. This means you will have to adjust the circular polariser every time after zooming into the desire focal length. The auto focus of this lens is known to be quite fragile due to the externally focusing ring. This lens is also not weather sealed and is prone to water damage.

sigma 17-503164_sig17-50_bud

In terms of image quality, the Sigma 17-50 deliver is excellent and sharp even at wide open (f/2.8). When stopping down the aperture, the image becomes even sharper. It has two FLD glass elements and three aspherical elements. The also has 7 aperture blades which mean you get really reasonably round bokeh balls when you shoot wide open.

Construction:  13 Groups / 17 Elements
Angle of view:  72.4 – 27.9 degrees for APS-C Camera
Aperture:  Constant f/2.8 at all focal length
Minimum focusing distance:  0.28 m
Filter Size:  77 mm
Dimensions (Length x Diameter):  91.8 mm x 83.5 mm
Weight:  565g
Price:  ~$560 USD

 

Tamron SP AF 17-50mm F2.8 XR Di II VC

The Tamron SP AF 17-50mm F2.8 XR Di II VC is the cheapest lens out of the three lenses I recommended. This is one of the most popular standard zoom lens for amateur photographers with an APS-C sensor camera. It features the famous Tamron image stabilisation technology. The image stabilisation of this lens is the best out of the three lenses here.

              tamron 1tamron 3

The build quality of this lens is a typical consumer grade zoom lens. The majority of this lens is plastic with a solid metal mount. The zoom ring is smooth. However, the focusing ring has a reasonable short path which means it might bit hard to manually focus accurately. The focusing of this lens are all done internally, therefore, the front element of this lens will not rotate when using circular polariser. The outstanding image stabilisation feature is fantastic for taking videos.

IMG_165046           img_structure

The image quality of this lens is the only downside. It is a bit soft when shooting wide open but can be improved when stopped down.  It has two low dispersion glass elements and three aspherical elements. The lens also has 7 aperture blades which mean you get really reasonably round bokeh balls when you shoot wide open.

Construction:  14 Groups / 19 Elements
Angle of view:  72.4 – 27.9 degrees for APS-C Camera
Aperture:  Constant f/2.8 at all focal length
Minimum focusing distance:  0.29 m
Filter Size:  72 mm
Dimensions (Length x Diameter):  80 mm x 95 mm
Weight:  570g
Price:  ~$350 USD

 

Summary 

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