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.
DT 18-200mm ƒ/3.5-6.3 (Model name = SAL 18200) ($529 MSRP)
DT 18-250mm ƒ/3.5-6.3 (Model name = SAL 18250) ($579 MSRP)
Sony offers two superzooms designed specifically for their APS-C-format DSLRs. When attached to Alpha full-frame cameras, the image size is automatically adjusted to 11 megapixels, so there’s no vignetting in the recorded image. The optical viewfinder is equipped with indicators to identify the corners of the cropped frame, and the view will show vignetting. The DT 18-200mm ƒ/3.5-6.3 features 15 elements in 13 groups, including two ED and three aspherical elements to counter aberrations and distortion. It measures a compact 2.9x3.4 inches and weighs just 14 ounces. The DT 18-250mm ƒ/3.5-6.3 adds 25% to the long end, yet has the same compact measurements and weighs just 15.5 ounces. The SAL18250 has two aspheric elements (instead of the three used in the SAL 18200), and is 2mm wider in diameter. These lenses also can be used on old Minolta DSLRs.
Contact: Sony, www.sonystyle.com.
AF18-200mm F/3.5-6.3 XR Di II LD Aspherical (IF) Macro ($299 MSRP)
AF18-250mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II LD Aspherical (IF) Macro ($499 MSRP)
AF18-270mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC LD Aspherical (IF) Macro ($629 MSRP)
Tamron’s designed-for-digital superzoom trio includes 18-200mm, 18-250mm and 18-270mm models, the last being the widest-range zoom available for DSLRs at 15x. All were designed specifically for the APS-C format, and all feature LD (low dispersion) and aspherical elements to minimize aberrations and distortion, plus internal focusing. The 18-200mm lens also employs Tamron’s XR (extra-low refractive index) glass, which can bend light at steeper angles and helps decrease lens length and diameter while minimizing aberrations. The AF18-270mm VC is available for Canon and Nikon. The AF18-200mm and the AF18-250mm are available in mounts for Canon, Nikon, Pentax and Sony DSLRs; the Nikon versions include a built-in focusing motor, so will autofocus with the Nikon bodies that lack one. All three Tamron Di II superzooms have handy zoom locks.
Contact: Tamron, www.tamron.com.
AT-X 16.5-135mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 DX ($499 MSRP)
Tokina produced a 35-200mm superzoom back in 1982, but today its widest-range zoom is the AT-X 16.5-135mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 DX. While this falls a bit short of our 10x benchmark, it provides a versatile 25.5-202.5mm-equivalent range when used on the APS-C DSLRs for which it was designed and gives a little more punch on the wide end than the 18-XXX zooms. SD and aspherical elements minimize chromatic aberration and distortion and maximize contrast. There’s no zoom lock, but a high-precision mechanical zoom cam system minimizes end play and zoom creep—handy when shooting upward or downward (where a zoom lock wouldn’t help, anyway, since it just locks the lens at its shortest focal length for travel). The AT-X 16.5-135mm is available in Canon and Nikon mounts (the Nikon version does not contain an AF motor, so the lens won’t autofocus with Nikon bodies that lack one—the D40, D60, D3000 and D5000).
Contact: Tokina (THK Photo), www.thkphoto.com.
Lumix G Vario HD 14-140mm ƒ/4.0-5.8 ASPH MEGA O.I.S. ($849 MSRP)
Okay, it’s not really a DSLR lens. It’s sold with the Lumix DMC-GH1, which looks like a DSLR, but isn’t. But the Lumix G Vario HD 14-140mm ƒ/4.0-5.8 is a 10x superzoom, and it has a unique twist: It’s designed for video shooting with video-capable cameras like the GH1. The lens has a continuous aperture and a silent AF motor, so operating sounds aren’t picked up by the camera’s built-in microphone. It provides smooth, continuous contrast-based autofocusing for both still images and video clips. The 14-140mm contains 17 elements in 13 groups, including two ED elements and four aspherical ones, and can focus down to 19.7 inches. It even has Panasonic’s built-in MEGA O.I.S. optical image stabilizer to counter handheld camera shake. Like all Micro Four Thirds System lenses, the Lumix G Vario HD 14-140mm can be used with any Micro Four Thirds System camera and with standard Four Thirds System cameras using the DMW-MA1 lens mount adapter.
Contact: Panasonic, www2.panasonic.com.
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