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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

One Lens To Shoot Anything

Big-range zooms (10x and more) aren’t just for travel anymore. With good sharpness and contrast across their focal lengths, today’s models are some of the most advanced optics on the market and they’re designed for digital.

Labels: Lenses

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Special Focusing Motors. Some superzooms incorporate special ultrasonic focusing motors that provide quicker and quieter operation. Nikon’s 18-200s use Nikon’s AF-S Silent Wave focusing motor, and Sigma’s 18-200mm and 18-250mm HSM lenses incorporate Sigma’s Hyper Sonic focusing motors. Ironically, Canon, whose USM was the first such motor, doesn’t include it in its EF-S 18-200mm superzoom. Olympus and Tamron also produce lenses with such focusing motors (SWD and USD, respectively), but neither uses them in their superzooms at this time.

For this article, we’ve chosen to highlight models with 10x or greater range. We feel this is what defines the term “do-it-all superzoom.”

EF-S 18-200mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 IS ($699 MSRP)

Introduced in Fall 2008, the EF-S 18-200mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 IS superzoom was designed specifically for Canon’s APS-C-format DSLRs (except the old 10D and earlier models, on which it can’t be mounted). Among its 16 elements (in 12 groups) are two UD and two high-precision glass mold aspherical elements to control chromatic and spherical aberrations, along with a configuration and coatings designed to minimize flaring and ghosting and yield excellent color balance. The Image Stabilizer (IS) system is said to be good for four shutter speeds—if you can get sharp handheld shots at 1⁄320 sec. at the 200mm setting without stabilization, you should be able to get sharp handheld shots at 200mm at 1⁄125 sec. with the IS switched on. The lens features a handy zoom lock to keep the lens from extending as you carry the camera. The zoom ring is much wider than the focusing ring and toward the rear of the lens, with the narrow focusing ring at the front, so you aren’t likely to mistake one for the other in use.

Contact: Canon, www.usa.canon.com.

AF-S DX Nikkor 18-200mm ƒ/3.5-5.6G ED VR II ($849 MSRP)
AF-S DX VR Zoom-Nikkor 18-200mm ƒ/3.5-5.6G IF-ED ($784 MSRP)

Nikon introduced its first 18-200mm superzoom late in 2005, the AF-S DX VR Zoom-Nikkor 18-200mm ƒ/3.5-5.6G IF-ED. Designed specifically for the DX (APS-C) format, it features Nikon’s VR II second-generation vibration-reduction system, said to be good for up to four stops (if you can get sharp handheld shots with an unstabilized 200mm lens at 1⁄320 sec., VR II theoretically allows you to do it four shutter speeds slower: 1⁄20 sec.). Nikon’s Super Integrated Coating (SIC) reduces ghosting and flare. Two ED elements and three aspherical elements minimize chromatic aberrations and distortion, while a Silent Wave Motor provides quick and quiet autofocusing. The AF-S DX Nikkor 18-200mm ƒ/3.5-5.6G ED VR II superzoom introduced in mid-2009 offers the same features and 16 element/12 group construction, but adds a useful zoom lock to keep the lens from extending as you carry the camera. (On the newer lens, the VR logo is in gold; on the earlier version, it’s in red.)

Contact: Nikon, www.nikonusa.com.

Zuiko Digital ED 18-180mm ƒ/3.5-6.3 ($499 MSRP)

Equivalent to a 36-360mm zoom on a 35mm camera, the Zuiko Digital ED 18-180mm ƒ/3.5-6.3 superzoom can be used on all Four Thirds
System cameras (and, via adapter, on Micro Four Thirds System cameras, too), not just those from Olympus. At its minimum focusing distance of 17.6 inches, it produces a magnification of 0.23x at the image plane, but the Four Thirds format’s 2x “crop” factor means a given subject will fill as much of the frame as at a 0.46x magnification with a 35mm camera. Two ED and two aspherical elements compensate for aberrations throughout the focal-length range.

Contact: Olympus America, www.getolympus.com.

18-200mm ƒ/3.5-6.3 DC ($510 MSRP)
18-200mm ƒ/3.5-6.3 DC OS HSM ($690 MSRP)
18-250mm ƒ/3.5-6.3 DC OS HSM ($800 MSRP)

Sigma offers three designed-for-digital superzooms. All will focus down to 17.7 inches at all focal lengths. The two OS lenses come with Sigma’s Optical Stabilizer, which automatically adjusts a lens group to compensate for handheld camera shake, and Sigma’s HSM Hyper Sonic focusing motor, which provides quick and quiet autofocusing. All three feature inner focusing, aspherical and SLD (Super Low Dispersion) elements to correct aberrations and distortion, and handy zoom locks. All are available in mounts for Sigma, Canon and Nikon DSLRs; the non-OS 18-200mm and the 18-250mm are also available in mounts for Pentax and Sony/Minolta DSLRs. Nikon-mount versions have built-in AF motors so they autofocus with the Nikon bodies that lack one (D40, D60, D3000, D5000).

Contact: Sigma, www.sigmaphoto.com.


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