Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Choose Your Perfect Zoom
The modern zoom lens is a marvel of technology, and it’s the nature photographer’s best friend
A single-focal-length lens contains a number of elements, both individual elements and groups of elements cemented together to function as individual elements. The elements establish the focal length and compensate for aberrations and distortions, and some of them move to focus the lens at different distances.
The challenge for lens manufacturers is making a zoom lens that performs well throughout its focal-length range. With any lens, designers have to provide excellent resolution, contrast and color rendition, minimize peripheral illumination falloff (vignetting) and flare, and eliminate distortions, aberrations and field curvature. With a prime lens, they need to do this for only one focal length. With a zoom lens, they have to correct these things for the entire focal range, and correcting something at one focal length tends to make that particular problem worse at other focal lengths.
That said, pro prime lenses—also having the benefits of advanced materials and computer-aided designs—still outperform even the best zoom lenses. But you’ll have to be a “pixel-peeper” to see it.
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