My 4 favorite always-on lenses on the DSLR

If I had to decide which lens I would take to a remote island, I would use one of my always-on lenses. It doesn’t matter if you have only little space in your luggage, if you don’t want to carry a lot of weight or if you just don’t like to change the lens: With the lenses on this list, you’ll still be flexible for most of your motives.

One thing you will notice about my list: All the following lenses are made by Sigma. First of all, this is because these lenses are available for all kinds of camera mounts, from Canon to Nikon to Sony, and therefore should be interesting for most of my readers, no matter which camera brand you really belong to.

On the other hand I have been a big fan of Sigma lenses for years. The imaging performance and value in haptics and operation are simply grandiose. Especially with the lenses of the Art and Contemporary product lines. My enthusiasm for Sigma was not always so pronounced: Especially in the mid-2000s, some cheap kit lenses were thrown on the market that kept my opinion of Sigma very much within limits at that time. But those times are over.

Should you, my readers, nevertheless decide against Sigma, you can at least orientate yourself by the focal lengths and specifications given here and look for similar lenses from your trusted manufacturer.

The price is hot and medium heavy: Sigma 17-50 mm F2,8 EX DC OS HSM

At the end of 2018 I took a cruise to the Orient. I had only little space in my luggage for the photographic equipment, but needed a lens that gave good results even in low light conditions. Aggravating was the fact that in certain regions, such as the desert of the United Arab Emirates or Oman, I could not and did not want to change lenses. Otherwise the fine drifting sand would find its way deep into the mechanics of the camera within seconds.

The lens is great: bright, 0.56kg light, pleasant to use and the integrated image stabilizer allows shake-free shots even where you would otherwise have needed at least two f-stops less.

The only drawbacks are in the quality of the haptics and for only slight chromatic aberrations, which can be easily corrected in the development process using software. This Sigma lens is not yet part of the high-quality product lineup of Sigma’s Art, Contemporary and Sports lenses. But it is also the cheapest lens on my list. With a new price of about 270€ we get a lot of lens, flexibility, low weight and good imaging performance for little money.

Sigma 17-50 mm F2,8 EX DC OS HSM-Objektiv (77 mm Filtergewinde, für Nikon Objektivbajonett)
  • Standard Zoomobjektiv
  • OS (Optical Stabilizer) und HSM (Hyper Sonic Motor). Kameraanschluss: Pentax K-Mount, Sony A-Mount, Canon EF-Mount, Nikon F-Mount,...

Lightweight for Crop-Sensors: Sigma 17-70 mm F2,8-4,0 DC OS HSM Makro Art

Unrivaled and unquestioned: The Sigma 17-70mm (Amazon Affiliate Link) offers the most flexibility with its 53mm focal length bandwith, making most lens changes obsolete. High light output at F2.8, still acceptable performance at 70mm and F4.0.

The most exciting: This lens weighs 465g and is therefore the lightest lens in this list. If you are going on a reportage trip with light luggage: Here is your lens for about 418€.

Nevertheless: Nothing says “I am a compromise” more than F4.0 at the upper end of the focal length. If you want more, you better have a look at the following Sigma 24-70mm (Amazon Affiliate Link) and better try to cover the lower focal length range with a dedicated wide angle.

Sigma 17-70 mm f2,8-4,0 Objektiv (DC, Makro, OS, HSM, 72 mm Filtergewinde) für Nikon Objektivbajonett
  • Standard Zoomobjektiv, 16 Linsen in 14 Gruppen
  • DC Reduziert Sensor-Reflexionen Linse, ASP Asphärische Korrektur, HSM Ultraschallmotor, IF Innenfokussiertes Objektiv, OS Optischer...


The heavy Allrounder: Sigma 24-70mm F2,8 DG OS HSM Art

With 0,9kg the Sigma 24-70mm (Amazon Affiliate Link) is quite a heavy full format glas to carry around. But the 24-70mm focal length gives us all imaginable flexibility for reportage and even for portraits and landscapes. Outstanding performance, high light value, great feel, valuable haptics, nothing more needs to be said. But one more thing: the image stabilizer is a knockout.

Sometimes I have the feeling that the autofocus is not quite precise in the outermost part of the image: a common problem with this focal length with almost every manufacturer. If you use this full-frame glass on a DX or crop sensor camera, you won’t notice this problem because you never project this area of the lens onto the sensor. Even in full format, however, this is not necessarily a problem for me, but rather grumbling on a very high level. When do you ever use the outermost AF points? And if so, then in such settings that I prefer manual focusing anyway.

With approx. 1160€ this option is not a cheap bargain, but worth every cent for this ingenious lens. A clear recommendation for those who are looking for the optimum and for whom weight hardly plays a role.

Sigma 24-70mm F2,8 DG OS HSM Art Objektiv (82mm Filtergewinde) für Nikon Objektivbajonett
  • Das lichtstarke Standard-Zoom-Objektiv ist perfekt für die heutigen hochauflösenden Digitalkameras geeignet
  • Die OS-Funktion und der neu konzipierte Hyper-Sonic-Motor garantieren den Erfolg bei jeder Aufnahme

Sophisticating muse for the Crop Sensor: Sigma 18-35mm F1,8 DC HSM Art

What comes next is my little secret tip. I love this lens – even though it is inferior to the previous lenses in terms of flexibility due to the shorter focal length range alone. From 18 to 35 mm, we only have a bandwidth of 17mm and thus presumably very little flexibility, but on the other hand the Sigma 18-35mm (Amazon Affiliate Link) scores with flexibility elsewhere, namely the possible areas of application: Astrophotography of the Milky Way, architecture, landscape, portrait. And in each of these disciplines it delivers brilliant results.

With F 1.8, so much light comes in here that it hardly hurts that we lack the image stabilizer. At the same time I have to say that this lens does an excellent job for portraits on 35mm, but handling it, especially with aperture values below 2.2, needs some practice: At these aperture values the depth of field is really minimal. You have to be able and willing to master this. Nevertheless I fell in love with the bokeh of this lens.

For about 680€ we get a high quality lens that challenges us and motivates the photographer to try something new. With 0,8kg not really a lightweight, but a high quality lens with internal focusing. The latter means that the center of gravity of the lens doesn’t shift when the focus or focal length changes, and the outer lens doesn’t rotate, which is a real blessing when working with polarizing filters.

If you want to treat yourself to something really fine, this is the right place. It is the fastest lens for cameras with sensor sizes up to APS-C.

Sigma 18-35mm F1,8 DC HSM Art Objektiv (72mm Filtergewinde) für Nikon Objektivbajonett
  • Kategorie A-Art; Abmessungen (Durchmesser x Länge): 7,8 x 12,1 cm
  • Standard-Objektiv mit einer Anfangslichtstärke von F1,8