Nikon DX 17-55mm f/2.8 vs. Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8: Battle of the Versatile Lenses for the Discerning Photographer

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Are you a passionate photographer trying to choose between the Nikon DX 17-55mm f/2.8 and Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8? Look no further, as we dive deep into the world of photography to help you make an informed decision.

In this comprehensive comparison, we will explore the strengths and weaknesses of these two popular lenses, catering to diverse shooting scenarios such as landscape, portrait, street, and architecture photography. By understanding the nuances of these lenses in terms of image quality, versatility, and performance, you’ll be better equipped to select the perfect companion for your camera.

Whether you’re a professional photographer or an enthusiastic hobbyist, this article will provide valuable insights into the technical and artistic aspects of both lenses. We will discuss factors such as sharpness, bokeh, distortion, and weather sealing, enabling you to make the best decision for your specific needs and shooting preferences.

So, grab a cup of coffee, sit back, and immerse yourself in this detailed comparison to find the ideal lens that will help you capture breathtaking images and elevate your photography to new heights!


Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 17-55mm F2.8G IF-EDSigma 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM A Nikon
Max ApertureF2.8F1.8
Aperture TypeFixedFixed
Focal Range (mm)17-5518-35
Mount TypeNikon F (DX)Nikon F (DX)
Zoom Ratio (X)3.21.9

Comparing the Nikon DX 17-55mm f/2.8 and Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 lenses, both have a fixed aperture and are designed for Nikon F (DX) mounts.

The Nikon 17-55mm has a maximum aperture of f/2.8, while the Sigma 18-35mm boasts a larger aperture of f/1.8, allowing more light to enter the camera and offering better low light performance. Both lenses provide consistent image quality and low light performance throughout their respective zoom ranges.

The focal range of the Nikon 17-55mm is 17-55mm with a zoom ratio of 3.2x, making it more versatile for various photography scenarios, from wide-angle to standard. The Sigma 18-35mm has a more limited focal range of 18-35mm and a zoom ratio of 1.9x, restricting its use to wide-angle photography.

The Nikon 17-55mm lens is better suited for photographers who require a more versatile lens with a broader focal range. On the other hand, the Sigma 18-35mm lens, with its larger maximum aperture, excel in low light situations and provide better subject isolation due to its shallower depth of field.

Design and Ease of Use

Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 17-55mm F2.8G IF-EDSigma 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM A Nikon
Diameter x Length (mm)⌀85.5×110.5mm⌀78×121mm
Weight (gr)755810
Filter Thread (mm)7772
Weather SealingYesNo
Zoom MethodRotary (internal)Rotary (internal)
Distance ScaleYesYes
DoF ScaleNoNo
Hood SuppliedYesYes
Hood CodeHB-31LH780-03

Comparing the Nikon DX 17-55mm f/2.8 and Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8, the Nikon 17-55mm is slightly more compact with a diameter and length of ⌀85.5×110.5mm, while the Sigma 18-35mm measures ⌀78×121mm.

The Nikon lens is also lighter, weighing 755 grams compared to the Sigma’s 810 grams. Both lenses feature an internal rotary zoom method, which means the lens size remains constant as you zoom, maintaining a consistent balance and providing better weather sealing.

The Nikon 17-55mm lens offers an advantage in terms of portability due to its smaller size and lighter weight. This makes it easier to carry around, potentially more comfortable for extended periods of shooting, and more discreet for situations like street or wildlife photography.

On the other hand, the Sigma 18-35mm lens, despite being slightly larger and heavier, still falls within a reasonable range for everyday use.

Lens Mount and Barrel

Comparing the lens mounts and barrels of the Nikon DX 17-55mm f/2.8 and Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8, the Nikon 17-55mm lens mount is made of dull-chromed brass with paint markings and features a rubber ring for dust and water sealing. In contrast, the Sigma 18-35mm lens mount is made of plated brass without moisture sealing.

As for the lens barrel, the Nikon 17-55mm is composed mostly of metal with some plastic parts, a metal zoom ring and focus ring with rubber covers, and does not have an aperture ring or depth-of-field markings. The lens extends slightly at the extreme ends of the zoom range, which allows for a deeper lens hood.

The Sigma 18-35mm lens barrel, on the other hand, is made of a special Thermally Stable Composite material that offers exceptional hardness, better elasticity than polycarbonate, and minimal thermal shrinkage. It features a matte black finish and fine non-rubbery ridges for added grip. The barrel doesn’t extend while zooming, so there is no chance of zoom creep.

The Nikon 17-55mm lens mount and barrel are more durable due to the combination of metal and plastic materials, as well as the rubber sealing for dust and water protection. However, the Sigma 18-35mm lens barrel has an innovative design with its Thermally Stable Composite material, which provides a balance between durability and weight, making it a more lightweight option.

In conclusion, the Nikon 17-55mm lens mount and barrel offer superior durability and weather sealing, making it a better choice for photographers who prioritize sturdiness and protection in their gear. On the other hand, the Sigma 18-35mm lens mount and barrel provide a unique balance of durability and lightweight construction, which may be more suitable for photographers seeking a lighter and more portable option.

Weather Sealing

When comparing the weather sealing of the Nikon DX 17-55mm f/2.8 and Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8, the Nikon 17-55mm features a rubber ring at the lens mount that helps to seal out dust and water particles. This provides a certain level of weather resistance, allowing photographers to take shots in harsh weather conditions. However, it may not be fully weather-sealed like some other professional lenses on the market.

In contrast, the Sigma 18-35mm lens does not have weather sealing or a rubber gasket on the mount to prevent dust and debris from entering the camera. Instead, it is constructed of a special thermally stable composite material that can withstand extreme hot and cold temperatures without damage or performance degradation. There are no inner seals present on the rings, switches, and front of the barrel of the lens, and the front element does not feature a fluorine coating.

In conclusion, the Nikon 17-55mm lens has superior weather sealing compared to the Sigma 18-35mm lens, making it a more suitable choice for photographers who often shoot in harsh or unpredictable weather conditions. However, if weather sealing is not a top priority and you are more concerned about temperature resistance, the Sigma 18-35mm lens may be a viable option.


The Nikon DX 17-55mm f/2.8 and Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 both feature 2 rings: a zoom ring and a focusing ring.

The Nikon 17-55mm has a focus ring slightly wider than its zoom ring, positioned about halfway along the barrel, making it easy to control precisely. The zoom ring, on the other hand, is closer to the camera and slightly thinner, which could be challenging for those with bigger hands. The lens also boasts a windowed distance scale but lacks a depth-of-field indicator.

On the other hand, the Sigma 18-35mm has a larger focusing ring at about an inch and a zoom ring about 3/4 inch wide. The focusing ring has about 120 degrees of rotation, and the zoom ring rotates about 45 degrees from 18 to 35mm. There are no windowed distance scales or depth-of-field indicators on this lens.

In terms of ergonomics, both lenses have comfortable grips and textures for easy handling, with the Sigma 18-35mm offering slightly wider, rubbery-ribbed grips on its rings. Precision and control-wise, both lenses provide a well-damped, tactile experience, though the Nikon 17-55mm could benefit from a bit more turn for fine-tuning at longer distances. Both lenses seem to have good build quality and durability, but the Sigma 18-35mm has an overall smoother design that feels great in hand.

While aesthetics are subjective, both lenses have appealing designs. Tactile feedback is consistent in both lenses, with soft stops indicating approximate near and infinity focusing limits on the Sigma 18-35mm, and no zoom creep on the Nikon 17-55mm.

Ring placement on both lenses is intuitive, allowing easy access to both rings without accidentally bumping or adjusting one while trying to manipulate the other. The focus throw on the Sigma 18-35mm might provide finer control over focus adjustments with its 120 degrees of rotation, while the Nikon 17-55mm’s focus throw may allow for quicker focusing.

In conclusion, both lenses offer excellent performance and usability, but the Sigma 18-35mm have a slight edge in ergonomics, control, and overall design. The Nikon 17-55mm, however, has the advantage of a windowed distance scale for those who rely on such features.


The Nikon DX 17-55mm f/2.8 and Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 both feature simple, uncluttered designs in terms of switches and buttons.

The Nikon 17-55mm has a slider on the left side of the barrel, which allows you to select between M/A (autofocus with manual override) and M (manual only) focusing modes. Apart from this, there are no additional controls provided.

On the other hand, the Sigma 18-35mm lens takes a minimalistic approach with just an AF/MF switch located on its barrel. This switch enables quick changes between autofocus and manual focus modes. The lens does not incorporate a focus limiter, IS switch, or any other buttons, maintaining a clean and streamlined design.

Both lenses provide essential controls for photographers, making it easy to switch between different focusing modes. However, the Sigma 18-35mm lens boasts a more minimalistic design, which may appeal to photographers who prefer a clean and unobtrusive layout. In contrast, the Nikon 17-55mm offers an autofocus mode with manual override, giving users added flexibility when adjusting focus.

In conclusion, the superior switches/buttons design depends on individual preferences and needs. The Nikon 17-55mm lens provides an additional focusing mode with manual override, offering more versatility, while the Sigma 18-35mm lens features a minimalistic design for those who prefer a clean, uncluttered appearance.

Filter Thread

The Nikon DX 17-55mm f/2.8 and Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 differ in their filter thread sizes, affecting compatibility, availability, and cost of filters.

The Nikon 17-55mm lens has a plastic filter thread with a diameter of 77mm. This common size offers a wider range of filters, making it easy to find the ones you need at a reasonable price. The lens does not rotate when focusing, which simplifies the use of polarizers and graduated filters.

On the other hand, the Sigma 18-35mm lens features a plastic 72mm filter thread on its front element. This size is also easy to find and reasonably inexpensive. Like the Nikon 17-55mm, the front element of the Sigma 18-35mm lens does not rotate during focus, making it convenient to use with filters such as circular polarizers.

Both lenses have plastic filter threads, which are lightweight and less expensive than metal alternatives. Plastic threads are also more forgiving when dropped, as they can bounce back without staying bent. However, they may wear out with repetitive mounting and dismounting of lens filters.

In conclusion, the superior filter thread depends on your personal preferences and needs. The Nikon 17-55mm lens, with its 77mm filter thread, offers a wider range of filter options and easier compatibility with existing gear. The Sigma 18-35mm lens, with its 72mm filter thread, provides a slightly smaller and more affordable option. Both lenses have non-rotating front elements, making them user-friendly when working with various filters.

Lens Hood

The Nikon DX 17-55mm f/2.8 and Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 both come with lens hoods included in their packages.

The Nikon 17-55mm lens hood is a plastic bayonet HB-31 hood featuring a deep petal shape that effectively encloses the front element as it extends during zooming. This design does an excellent job of shielding the front element from extraneous light, reducing flare.

The smooth plastic finish and ergonomic bevel make it comfortable to grip. However, when mounted in reverse for storage or carrying, it adds significant diameter to the lens and is not secure.

The Sigma 18-35mm lens hood, on the other hand, is made of matching black plastic material with a solid feel and features a petal-shaped design. The hood locks securely in place with a light yet satisfying snap. The rear portion of the hood has a rubberized surface, making it easy to grasp for bayonet installation or removal.

The hood can be mounted regularly or in the opposite direction to save space in a camera bag, and it remains secure without wobbling once mounted. Overall, the lens hood is well-designed and adds to the overall quality of the lens.

In conclusion, the Sigma 18-35mm lens hood is superior due to its secure and stable design, whether mounted regularly or in reverse. The rubberized surface enhances grip, and the overall design complements the lens barrel’s aesthetics. The Nikon 17-55mm lens hood, while effective at shielding light and reducing flare, is not as secure when mounted in reverse for storage or carrying.

Focusing and Optical Stabilization

Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 17-55mm F2.8G IF-EDSigma 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM A Nikon
AF MotorSilent Wave MotorHyper Sonic Motor
Rotating Front ElementDoes not rotate on focusingDoes not rotate on focusing
Min Focus Distance0.36m0.28m
Max Magnification (X)0.20.23
Full-Time Manual FocusYesYes
Focus MethodInternalInternal

Focusing Performance

The Nikon DX 17-55mm f/2.8 and Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 both offer fast and accurate autofocus performance.

The Nikon 17-55mm lens utilizes Nikon’s Silent Wave Motor (SWM) technology, providing normal AF speed and perfect autofocus accuracy at every distance and focal length. In low-light situations, a focusing aid such as a flashgun’s illuminator can be helpful.

The lens features manual focus override for instant manual focus, a smooth focus ring, and an internally focusing design that maintains constant lens length. Notably, the Nikon 17-55mm does not have focus breathing, which is primarily of interest to cinematographers.

On the other hand, the Sigma 18-35mm lens features an electronic Hyper Sonic Motor that can focus from the closest distance to infinity in about 1 second. The AF motor is nearly silent, and manual focus override works well.

However, some users have reported autofocus issues at large apertures and in low-light situations, as well as audible clicking sounds during focusing, which may be picked up by the camera’s built-in microphone. The lens also has a smooth manual focus action and an internally focusing design, but there is some focus breathing.

In conclusion, the Nikon 17-55mm lens has superior focusing performance, with perfect autofocus accuracy at every distance and focal length, and no focus breathing. While the Sigma 18-35mm lens is fast, it may experience autofocus problems at large apertures or in low-light situations and has some focus breathing.

Optical Stabilization

Both the Nikon DX 17-55mm f/2.8 and Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 lack optical stabilization. However, this feature is not as critical for wide-angle lenses as it is for telephoto lenses. Wide-angle lenses, due to their shorter focal lengths and wider fields of view, are less prone to camera shake, and the effects of camera shake are less noticeable.

The Sigma 18-35mm lens, with its f/1.8 aperture, somewhat compensates for the absence of optical stabilization in scenarios where a reduced depth of field is acceptable. The larger aperture allows for faster shutter speeds and better low-light performance, reducing the need for stabilization.

Many modern cameras now offer in-body image stabilization (IBIS), which can work effectively with lenses to minimize the effects of camera shake. If your camera has IBIS, the need for optical stabilization in a lens might be even less critical. Additionally, using a tripod for landscape and interior photography can provide stability and sharpness, making optical stabilization less of a priority.

In conclusion, neither the Nikon 17-55mm nor the Sigma 18-35mm lens offers optical stabilization, but the Sigma 18-35mm lens with its f/1.8 aperture provides some advantage in low-light situations where a reduced depth of field is acceptable. It is essential to consider factors such as camera support, in-body image stabilization, and larger apertures to determine the necessity of optical stabilization in your specific use case.

Image Quality

Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 17-55mm F2.8G IF-EDSigma 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM A Nikon
Special Elements3x ED glass elements and 3x aspherical lens elements5 SLD glass elements, 4 glassmold aspherical elements
Diaphragm Blades99
Circular ApertureYesYes


The Nikon DX 17-55mm f/2.8 exhibits chromatic aberration throughout its zoom range, with fringing up to 1.5 pixels wide towards the edges when stopped down beyond f/16. This may become noticeable in large prints with high contrast near the edges.

Coma performance is generally not an issue, as it is difficult to detect any significant sagittal coma flare. Spherical aberration is somewhat controlled, though not outstanding, with issues related to field curvature at 17mm and slightly lower border sharpness at 24mm @ f/2.8 and at 55mm.

On the other hand, the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 demonstrates impressive control over chromatic aberration, with only moderate levels present at wide-angle focal lengths and significantly reduced levels as you zoom in.

Coma performance is exceptional, showing little to no smeared blobs around bright points of light, even in the corners of the frame. Spherical aberration is minimal, although some may be present in heavily backlit or contrasting situations. However, it is generally easy to remove in post-processing if needed.

In conclusion, the Sigma 18-35mm lens outperforms the Nikon 17-55mm lens in terms of aberration control. The Sigma 18-35mm offers better control over chromatic aberration and coma performance while maintaining minimal spherical aberration. This results in superior image quality, particularly in situations with high contrast or bright points of light.


The Nikon DX 17-55mm f/2.8 delivers sharp images with outstanding sharpness in the center and good levels towards the edges of the frame. Peak clarity across the frame is achieved between f/5.6 and f/8 for most focal lengths, while at 55mm, peak quality across the frame is realized at f/5.6.

The lens is super sharp wide open to mid-aperture, with great color and contrast, and locks into focus quickly. Sharpness performance is top-notch at all apertures and everywhere in the DX image, and only slightly less contrasty in the far corners at f/2.8. The lens is sharp on DX, and there is little diffraction softness even at f/22.

In contrast, the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 exhibits exceptional sharpness, even at its widest aperture of f/1.8. Center sharpness is outstanding, while corner sharpness is slightly weaker but still impressive, especially when stopping down to f/2.8.

The sharpest aperture for this lens is typically between f/2 and f/2.8, with minimal diffraction limiting even at f/16. The lens delivers professional-level image quality and remarkable sharpness across the frame, making it a standout choice for photographers seeking superior performance.

In conclusion, the Sigma 18-35mm lens has a slight edge over the Nikon 17-55mm lens in terms of sharpness. With exceptional center sharpness, impressive corner sharpness, and minimal diffraction limiting, the Sigma 18-35mm lens is an excellent choice for photographers looking for superior image quality across various focal lengths and apertures.

Bokeh Quality

The Nikon DX 17-55mm f/2.8 offers reasonably good bokeh quality. While it may not be the best among its competitors, it delivers satisfactory results for most situations, particularly considering the lens design and its primary purposes. The bokeh is generally smooth and more pleasing towards the telephoto end of the zoom range. However, there might be some minor issues with highlight rendition at certain focal lengths and apertures.

On the other hand, the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 produces a nice bokeh quality, with smooth and pleasing out-of-focus areas in most situations. The background blur helps create a three-dimensional effect in images, and the 9-blade aperture ensures that bokeh highlight circles remain round even when stopped down. However, it is worth noting that some light spots may appear triangular in the corners.

In conclusion, the Sigma 18-35mm lens offers a slightly superior bokeh quality compared to the Nikon 17-55mm lens. With its smooth out-of-focus areas, pleasing background blur, and well-rounded bokeh highlights, the Sigma 18-35mm lens is a better choice for photographers who occasionally require attractive bokeh in their wide-angle photography, such as environmental portraits or close-up shots.


The Nikon DX 17-55mm f/2.8 is prone to flare in most backlight situations, and there may be some visible contrast degradation and ghosting when the light source is directly in the picture. However, the supplied lens hood does an excellent job of keeping light from hitting the front element in most situations, and the use of thin glass UV filters, such as the Hoya Super Pro1 series, can help reduce flare and UV rays. It’s important to adjust your shooting angle and use good filters to minimize flare.

In contrast, the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 exhibits a moderate level of flare and ghosting, especially when the sun is directly placed in the frame. While it is not the most flare-resistant lens, the artifacts produced are often considered artistic and do not heavily detract from the image quality.

Flare and ghosting are more noticeable at smaller apertures, such as f/16, where intense flare patterns and loss of shadow detail are evident. As the focal length increases towards 35mm, the flare and ghosting become more magnified, although slightly less defined.

In conclusion, neither lens is perfect in terms of flare and ghosting control. However, the Nikon 17-55mm lens performs slightly better, especially when using the lens hood and thin glass UV filters to minimize flare.


The Nikon DX 17-55mm f/2.8 exhibits well-controlled vignetting characteristics. On digital bodies, light falloff is effectively managed throughout the focal range. Some users don’t mind vignetting and may even use it creatively to enhance their shots.

On the other hand, the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 exhibits varying degrees of vignetting depending on the focal length and aperture settings. At 18mm, there is severe vignetting, which decreases progressively as you zoom in. Even at 35mm, there is still visible vignetting in the corners, and it doesn’t entirely go away when stopping down.

However, when comparing this lens to others with similar focal lengths, the vignetting is relatively mild, particularly at f/1.8. By f/4, the peripheral shading is nearly gone, making it suitable for various photography applications, including night sky photography.

In conclusion, the Nikon 17-55mm lens performs better in terms of vignetting control, as it manages light falloff effectively throughout the focal range.

However, it’s worth noting that some photographers appreciate a certain level of vignetting for its artistic effect or to draw attention to the center of the image. In such cases, the Sigma 18-35mm lens could also be a suitable option, especially since the vignetting is relatively mild compared to other lenses with similar focal lengths.


The Nikon DX 17-55mm f/2.8 exhibits some distortion at both ends of the zoom range, with barrel distortion at 17mm and pincushion distortion at 55mm. However, the distortion pattern is uniform across the frame, which makes it relatively easy to correct using image editing software.

The distortion is also low in amount and not as obvious as in some other Nikkor designs. While distortion may not be a big issue for some photographers, it would require correction for architecture photography.

In contrast, the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 exhibits various levels of distortion depending on the focal length. At 18mm, there is noticeable barrel distortion, which transitions to pincushion distortion as the focal length increases. By 35mm, pincushion distortion reaches its strongest level. However, distortion can be easily corrected in post-processing using software like Lightroom and Adobe Camera RAW.

In conclusion, the Nikon 17-55mm lens has a slight advantage in terms of distortion control, as the distortion pattern is uniform and less noticeable than the Sigma 18-35mm lens. While both lenses exhibit distortion that can be easily corrected in post-processing, the Nikon 17-55mm lens may be the superior choice for photographers who prioritize minimal distortion, especially in applications like architecture photography.

On the other hand, the Sigma 18-35mm lens still offers a decent performance in distortion control, which can be corrected during post-processing if needed.

Final Verdict

In summary, both the Nikon DX 17-55mm f/2.8 and Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 have their strengths and weaknesses, making them suitable for different types of photographers and shooting situations.

The Nikon 17-55mm lens is more versatile, portable, weather-sealed, and offers better distortion control, making it a great choice for photographers who need a reliable all-around lens for various applications, including architecture photography.

The Sigma 18-35mm lens, on the other hand, excels in low-light situations, provides better subject isolation, and has superior image quality in terms of sharpness, bokeh, and aberration control.

It is also a more suitable option for those who appreciate a certain level of vignetting for artistic purposes. While the Sigma 18-35mm lens may require some post-processing to correct distortion, it remains a fantastic choice for photographers seeking exceptional image quality and performance in a wide-angle lens.

Ultimately, the choice between the Nikon 17-55mm and Sigma 18-35mm lenses depends on your specific needs, priorities, and shooting preferences. Consider factors such as your preferred subjects, shooting environments, and the importance of factors like portability, weather sealing, and image quality when making your decision.

Meet the Author

Wei Mao

Wei was a cruise photographer who worked at Disney Cruise Line. He is a lucky traveler who has been to more than 20 countries with his camera while working on an around-the-world cruise. Photography has changed his view of the world forever. Now he wants more people to benefit from photography through his blog.

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