A new generation of superzoom telephoto lenses has arisen that can take in scenic vistas, zoom in on distant subjecs, and focus up close for near-macro shots. Will one of them be your next lens?
One of the great advantages of DSLR photography is the wide range of lenses, but until recently, superzoom lenses were mainly found on EVF cameras. The problem with such cameras is that their sensors are about the size of a typical compact digital camera, so image quality, once you get past, say, ISO 200, is not so great. Wouldn't it be nice if there was a lens for my DSLR, which records higher image quality, that zoomed from very wide to long telephoto range, just like the lenses on superzoom compacts? Well, thanks to recent developments in computer-aided optical design, now there are. In this exclusive Adorama Learning Center round-up, we'll look at seven interchangeable lenses that cover at least a 10X zoom range on APS and full-frame sensor DSLR cameras.
An all-in-one lens covers a full range from wide angle to fairly long telephoto; the 18-250mm range shown above is typical. Some models also focus into macro (or at least very close-up) territory. That covers a lot of photographic possibilities without changing lenses. Hence the all-in-one designation. Another advantage of an all-in-one is that, since you are less likely to change lenses, you are also less likely to run afoul of a scourge of DSLRs, sensor dust. When removing a lens, you leave the sensor surface exposed to the elements, and during that time specs of dust can fly in and land on the sensor surface. Invisible to the naked eye, they cause spots and blotches on your images. Sensors are tricky to clean; done incorrectly, they can be ruined. Using a lens you'll rarely (if ever) take off the camera goes a long way towards solving this problem.
There are, of course trade-offs. Most long-range zoom lenses have variable wide apertures. A lens that is an f/2.8 at its widest setting may only be an f/5.6 by the time it reaches its telephoto range. Optically, long-range zoom lenses may deliver optical performance that may be fine for snapshooters and many hobbyists, but which might not cut muster for advanced users. This is especially true at the longest zoom settings, since the high magnification also magnifies the lens's imperfections.
Also read: "Upgrade Your 18-55mm Kit Lens and Turn Good Photographs into Great Ones" at the Adorama Learning Center
But if you're traveling and space is tight, and you're looking for a lens that's relatively light (compared to a bag full of primes or shorter, more specialized zooms) and convenient (again, compared to a bag full of lenses), an all-in-one zoom lens may be the right lens for you. Let's look at 7 all-in-one zooms.
This is not an all-inclusive list; most of the brands listed offer other 10x or longer zooms as well. Visit the DSLR Lens Store at Adorama to see all the lenses mentioned here, and more! Follow the links for more information and to purchase a lens. Prices are accurate as of November 24, 2014.
Recommendations for All-in-One Camera Lenses
Canon EF-S 18mm-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS
Adorama price: $699
Designed for use in APS sensor cameras such as the Canon EOS 7D Mark II or Canon Rebel T5i, the Canon EF-S 18mm-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS, which is available from Adorama, is an enthusiast-oriented optic that offers a slightly more than 10x range that's equivalent to 28-320mm on a 35mm sensor. Containing 16 elements in 12 groups and a circular aperture ring, it is touted as producing excellent bokeh. The lens focuses as close as 1.5 feet, with a magnification of 0.24x, and accomodates 72mm filters. Image stabilization comes in handy at the longer focal lengths.
Canon EF 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6L IS USM
Adorama price: $2,549
Designed for advanced amateur and professional use, the Canon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6L IS USM lens, which is stocked by Adorama, works on both APS sensor and full-frame sensor cameras such as the Canon 5D Mark III. This lens is designed to offer consistent high-quality images throughout the zoom range; internal focus is fast and nearly silent, and the camera focuses as close as 2.3 throughout the zoom range, making it a versatile travel lens for top-quality images. A tripod ring lets you mount the lens to a tripod for extra stability.
Olympus Zuiko 18-180mm f/3.5-6.3 EZ Digital
Adorama price: $499
The light and compact 18-180mm f/3.5-6.3 Olympus Zuiko Four Thirds lens is the perfect companion to the equally small and light Olympus OM-D E-M5 or Olympus Digital Pen EP5 Micro Four Thirds cameras via an adapter. If you bought an Olympus DSLR before they were quietly discontinued, used together with this lens you get a dynamite travel kit. The lens offers a 10x zoom range equivalent to 36-360mm and is said to offer fast and accurate autofocus and very good image quality. It can focus to approximately 18 inches and accommodates 62mm filters.
Tamron 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD
Adorama price: $399
The second generation version of this long-range independent manufacturer lens is available for Nikon, Canon, Sony and Pentax cameras with APS-sized sensors, and has 27- 405mm (35mm equivalent) range. It's on the bulky size, especially when compared to its predecessor, the still-available Tamron 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 Di VC LD Aspherical [IF]. However, the newer lens delivers faster autofocusing thanks to its new Piezo drive, and more effective image stabilization thanks to a magnetized VR system. The lens focuses down to 19 inches and accommodates 62mm filters.
Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED-IF AF-S VR II
Adorama price: $1,046.95
A mid-range zoom designed for photo enthusiasts and professionals, the Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED-IF AF-S VR II works on both full-frame and APS sensor DSLRs (such as the Nikon D7100) but is designed primarily with full-frame cameras such as the Nikon D610 in mind. It focuses down to 18 inches at all focal lengths, has Nikon's latest Vibration Reduction technology that give users a claimed 4 extra stops of hand-held exposure, and boasts 2 Extra-Low Dispersion and 3 aspherical lens elements for better contrast and fewer chromatic aberrations. It has a zoom-lock button, and 9 rounded aperture blades for good bokeh. For quality-conscious Nikon shooters, this lens is a great travel companion.
Nikon 18-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED IF AF-S DX VR II
Adorama price: $996.95
At 16x one of the longest-ranging DSLR zoom lenses, the Nikon 18-300mm f/3.5-5.6G works on APS-sensor cameras such as the Nikon D3300 with an equivalent 27-450mm angle of coverage. It focuses internally and quietly thanks to the Nikon Silent Wave motor, has 9 rounded aperture blades for pleasing bokeh, built-in zoom lock switch, and 19 elements in 14 groups (three Extra-low Dispersion Glass (ED) elements and three aspherical lens elements) to minimize flare and chromatic aberrations while improving light transmission. The lens focuses as close as 1.5 feet and accommodates 77mm filters.
Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED IF AFS DX VRII
Adorama Price: $596.95
If you are willing to shave off 100mm for the convenience of a smaller and lighter lens, the Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G is worth considering. As with the 18-300mm, this lens is designed for use in APS-sensor Nikons, but has a more modest but still impressively long 27-300mm (35mm equivalent) range. A Silent Wave Motor keeps operation quiet, while a zoom lock switch prevents accidental zooming. The lens has two Vibration Reduction modes, Normal (regular hand-holding or panning) and Active (reduces extreme camera shake; use this when shooting out of a moving tour bus). The lens focuses down to 1.6 feet, so you can get very close up to your subject, and accommodates 72mm filters
Sigma 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 DC Macro OS HSM
Adorama price: $349
The latest generation of Sigma's 18-250mm long-ranger is available for Canon and Nikon APS-sensor DSLRs and offers a 35mm equivalent range of 27-375mm. More impressive, it focuses down to 13.8 inches, for a 1:29 magnification ratio, which is close to macro territory and makes this a very flexible lens for a wide variety of shooting situations. TSC (Thermally Stable Composite) material allowed Sigma to make the lens smaller and more able to handle a variety of weather than its predecessors. Optical stabilization is said to provide 4 stops of additional stability, and super multi-layer coating reduce flare and aberrations and improves image contrast. (Note: There are very similar-sounding Sigma lenses but they are the previous generation; follow these links for Canon, Nikon, and Sigma to get the latest version described here at Adorama.)
Sony 18-250mm f/3.5-5.6
Adorama price: $648
Sony's 14x zoom for its lineup of DSLRs delivers a 35mm equivalent range of 27-375mm, and is seven rounded aperture blades create pleasing bokeh. The lens uses an internal focusing system, and focuses to a foot and a half. The lens is constructed of 16 elements in 13 groups, including three aspheric lenses. The lens accommodates 62mm filters and works with any Sony DSLR, which is available at Adorama.
Tamron 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di VC PZD Aspherical (IF) Zoom
Adorama price: $849
Designed for use with both APS-C and full-frame DSLRs, the Tamron 28-300mm uses a PZD (Piezo drive) quiet AF system, Vibration Compensation, a circular diaphragm for natural-looking blurred specular highlights, and splashproof construction. Tamron has incorporated four Low Dispersion glass elements, three Molded Glass Aspherical elements, one Hybrid Aspherical element, one Extra Refractive glass element, and a UXR (Ultra-Extra Refractive index) glass—all of which is designed to generate contrasty, sharp images with minimal glare or optical anomalies. Available in Canon, Nikon, and Sony A Mounts.
Tamron 16-300mm f/3.5-6.4 Di II VC PZD Macro Zoom
Adorama price: $579
Just a couple of millimeters make this 18.8x model the longest-ranging interchangeable zoom lens currently available. Compatible with APS-sensor models, it offers a 35mm equivalent angle of view comparable to at 24.8-465mm lens. Its 16 elements, in 12 groups, include three molded glass aspherical elements, one hybrid aspherical element, two Low-Dispersion elements, one Extra Refractive index glass element, and one Ultra-Extra Refractive Index glass element. This all adds up to sharp images with minimal reflections, flare and ghosting and compensation for optical aberrations. All of this is crammed into a compact, quiet and fast-focusing lens lens that can focus to 15.3 inches at all focal lengths for a maximum near-macro magnification of 1:2.9. Tamron 16-300mm f/3.5-6.4 Di II VC PZD Macro Zoom is available from in Canon, Nikon , and Sony A mounts.
What's your favorite long-range zoom lens? Let us know, below.