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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Zooms: Pros & Cons Of All-In-One

Having a single lens to cover everything from ultrawide to strong telephoto is incredibly appealing, but how well do these extreme zooms perform in a variety of situations? We’ll show you where the trade-offs are.

Labels: LensesGear
This Article Features Photo Zoom
That's in contrast to shorter-range pro zoom lenses, which typically have ƒ/2.8 maximum apertures and maintain that maximum aperture throughout their focal-length range. This makes the pro zoom much better for shooting in dim light, especially at the longer end of its range. An ƒ/2.8 aperture lets in twice as much light as an ƒ/4, and four times as much light as an ƒ/5.6, for example. Faster lenses also provide a brighter SLR viewfinder image for composing and visual focus confirmation, and faster lenses help considerably with autofocus. And a wider maximum aperture means you can shoot with less depth of field, which is necessary for selective-focus images of flowers and such at the long end of the focal-length range.



We've pictured several popular models. 1) Canon EF 28-300mm ƒ/3.5-5.6L IS USM; 2) AF-S Nikkor 28-300mm ƒ/3.5-5.6G ED VR; 3) Sigma 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM.

If your shooting style usually requires maximum depth of field and you don't rely on fast autofocus, you may not feel the effects of a superzoom's slow maximum aperture too much. However, if you need top autofocus performance, the all-in-one zoom won't be an ideal choice.



4) Canon EF-S 18-200mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 IS; 5) AF-S DX Nikkor 18-200mm ƒ/3.5-5.6G ED VR II; 6) Sigma 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 II DC OS HSM.

PRO: Good Close-Up Capability
Most all-in-one zooms will focus down to under 20 inches, close enough to provide 1/4 life-size images at the image plane when set to their longest focal length. That's not true macro territory, which would be 1:1, but it's close enough to do some amazing flower and insect portraits.


7) Sigma 18-250mm F3.5-6.3 DC OS HSM; 8) Sony AF DT 18-200mm F3.5-6.3.
CON: Not True Macro Performance
Besides being able to focus down to 1:1, true macro lenses are optimized for close shooting distances. As "generalists," the all-in-one zooms aren't as sharp as true macro lenses at close range. Superzooms are able to focus down to 20 inches or less when set at their longest focal length, but many of them also shorten the actual focal length as they're focused at close range: an 18-200mm zoom set at 200mm and focused at its minimum focusing distance actually may have a focal length of 140mm or so. This isn't really all that significant of a problem. You don't get the magnification you might expect from 200mm at 20 inches, but you still get that 1/4 life-size or better magnification, and with it, good close-up capability.

PRO: Relatively Inexpensive
Many of the all-in-one zooms sell at estimated street prices of under $600, some for as little as $300. That makes them great deals in terms of cost and versatility. If you were collecting a number of lenses to fill the same 8x or greater superzoom focal range, you easily could spend a couple thousand dollars or more—much more. The superzooms incorporate low-dispersion and aspherical elements to reduce the adverse effects of aberrations and distortions, and do a remarkably good job, considering their cost and focal-length range. Their price makes a superzoom a very attractive option for many photographers.


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