Back in the day, pros used prime (single-focal-length) lenses because zooms back then weren’t very sharp. That has changed today, though, and most of the landscape pros we surveyed use pro zoom lenses. Improvements in optical materials, construction techniques and computer-aided design breakthroughs have made today’s top zoom lenses excellent.
That said, few pros would use the “kit” lenses that are sold with entry-level D-SLRs. These 18-55mm (or thereabouts) $100 wonders are great for D-SLR newbies, but they don’t have the sharpness, distortion and aberration correction, and in the case of longer zooms, AF performance, of the pro zooms.
Pro wildlife photographers still prefer the fast supertelephoto lenses over zooms, in part for their longer focal lengths and in part for their greater speed. The longest focal length available in a current Canon or Nikon zoom lens is 400mm, while the superteles go up to 800mm (Canon) and 600mm (Nikon). And both Canon and Nikon offer 400mm ƒ/2.8 supertelephotos, a stop faster than Nikon’s 200-400mm ƒ/4 supertele zoom and two stops faster than Canon’s 100-400mm ƒ/4.5-5.6 supertele zoom.
Zooms do offer a special advantage to the D-SLR user: fewer lens changes. Each time you change lenses on a D-SLR, dust can enter and settle on the low-pass filter that covers the image sensor. Once there, the dust will appear in every future shot. With zoom lenses, you won’t have to change lenses every time you want to use a new focal length.
Your Next Digital Darkroom Between the large image files today's new D-SLRs generate and the demands of the latest software tools, your old computer is probably starting to show its age. We have some suggestions when it's time for an upgrade. More »