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18mm to 200 SuperZoom - Best Marquee lens for all occasions?

Updated on June 14, 2011
The superzoom lens is great for close ups  David Lloyd-Jones 2010
The superzoom lens is great for close ups David Lloyd-Jones 2010
Wide angle setting is superb for groups  David Lloyd-Jones 2010
Wide angle setting is superb for groups David Lloyd-Jones 2010
Zoom and black & white using a superzoom lens  David Lloyd-Jones 2010
Zoom and black & white using a superzoom lens David Lloyd-Jones 2010
Close up 'wildlife' shots too - look at those horns!  David Lloyd-Jones 2010
Close up 'wildlife' shots too - look at those horns! David Lloyd-Jones 2010
Wide angle land/seascapes like the superzoom lens  David Lloyd-Jones 2010
Wide angle land/seascapes like the superzoom lens David Lloyd-Jones 2010
The light weight lens is ideal for reportage   David Lloyd-Jones 2010
The light weight lens is ideal for reportage David Lloyd-Jones 2010
But watch out, superzooms can get lens flair too.  A flair of the sunrise has cased an extra 'planet'  David Lloyd-Jones 2010
But watch out, superzooms can get lens flair too. A flair of the sunrise has cased an extra 'planet' David Lloyd-Jones 2010

The Superzoom is the true all-in-one lens

So, you have gone out and bought your digital SLR kit, complete with its obligatory standard lens. But, which out of the numerous prime or zoom lenses on the market do you go for next?  The choice to a newcomer or beginner is very often both staggering and completely bewildering.  The answer is however quite simple - A compact 18mm to 200mm superzoom will cover near all, if not all 'average' photographer needs all in one neat package. This true all-in-one lens will give the user a multitude of focal length options in a compact, light and manageable design - the ideal single lens to take on holidays.  

How Many Lens does a Superzoom Replace?

      Just think of all the lenses it replaces - 18mm, 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 70mm, 90mm, 135mm, 180 and 200mm. I bet your old shoulders are aching just think of all that weight of those lens in your camera bag. Also think of the time you can save by not having to changing lenses, or routing around in the bottom of your bag for the appropriate lens caps.  Another saving is that you only require one size of filter.

Benefits of a Single Lens :

    In fact, once you have fitted a 18-200mm lens to your camera body, you will find that you rarely need to take it off. Apart, that is for a spot of cleaning and perhaps an odd shot or two, where you may have to resort to the original 'standard' lens as the type of picture you wish to take is just beyond the limits of a superzoom. For example, extreme close-ups or wide-angle shots with a lot of straight lines, which can get distorted. Although, on most occasions, a compact superzoom lens will cope with almost all your photographic situations.

What is a Superzoom : 

     So what is a superzoom lens, and which is the best buy? The 18mm to 200mm superzooms have been on the market for a number of years now. Produced in the main by independent lens manufactures, such as Sigma and Tamron. Yet, in last fews marquee lens manufactures such as the mighty Nikon has seen the potential of superzooms and produced their own version of the 18mm to 200mm superzoom.

What is Low Dispersion Glass : 

    It has been the advances in lens technology with new multi-coating techniques and the use of low dispersion (LD) glass, which has allowed lens designers to fit such a vast zoom range into a short, compact and totally manageable design. The multi-coated, LD glass reduces flare from stray light bouncing around the inside of the lens barrel, and prevents the colours of each ray of light from splitting apart, which ultimately affects the image sharpness. 

Action shots are easy as you can compose with ease  David Lloyd-Jones 2010
Action shots are easy as you can compose with ease David Lloyd-Jones 2010
A large range of focal lengths make people pictures easy  David Lloyd-Jones 2010
A large range of focal lengths make people pictures easy David Lloyd-Jones 2010
Close-ups and indoor lighting handled with ease  David Lloyd-Jones 2010
Close-ups and indoor lighting handled with ease David Lloyd-Jones 2010
Fun close up for friend's wedding taken with a superzoom lens  David Lloyd-Jones 2010
Fun close up for friend's wedding taken with a superzoom lens David Lloyd-Jones 2010
Watch those parallel lines on buildings, the superzoom likes to curve them if it can!  David Lloyd-Jones 2010
Watch those parallel lines on buildings, the superzoom likes to curve them if it can! David Lloyd-Jones 2010
The 200mm zoom comes in handy for distant shots   David Lloyd-Jones 2010
The 200mm zoom comes in handy for distant shots David Lloyd-Jones 2010
Low light and flair can be controlled to produce stunning shots  David Lloyd-Jones 2010
Low light and flair can be controlled to produce stunning shots David Lloyd-Jones 2010

Optical Compromise?

     In order to cram so much lens into average barrel length of 82mm (at the 18mm end), there obviously has to be some optical compromise. First, most superzooms currently on the market have a very modest maximum aperture of only f5.6 at 200mm zoom end. While, the 18mm wide angle setting has a restricted close focusing of a possible minimum of 95cm. Another limitation associated with the design is the problem of minor flare, vignetting and pin cushion distortion at either the 18mm and 200mm ends.  

Overcoming Limitations :

     However, with a little care and thought while taking your photographs, these restrictions can be easily overcome. Once you know the limitations of the lens and how to avoid the problem areas - for example wide-angle shots that included many straight lines, such as buildings. These subjects are always a problem with wide angled lens, even prime lens, but due the superzoom design, the problem is therefore heightened.

     Don't let these minor quirks put you off buying a superzoom. They are optically very good. Most of the 800+ photographs I have had published in the last nine years or so have been taken with a 18mm to 200mm superzoom, including front covers of several magazines. This goes to prove that  superzooms are certainly no optical slouches.

Similar Basic Design :

     Superzooms seems to follow a similar basic design, weather they are from either a marquee or independent manufacturer. This is usually a compact polycarbonate body, which doubles its length when zoomed out to 200mm. The angle of view is from 750 to 12.50, while zoom ratio is 7.4. As mentioned before the filter size is normally 72mm and the maximum aperture is f22. Of course there are variations on the theme, but in the main they are all similar in design, appearance and performance.

     As lens technology advances even further, subsequent versions of the superzoom lenses are going to improve even further as manufactures address the minor problems associated with the design. In fact, the latest superzoom from Tamron has even shorter close focusing range of 45cm. 

Superzoom : The New Standard Lens

     As superzooms get even better, it will only be a matter of time before they will become the universal 'standard' lens offered in camera kits, replacing the obsolete 28mm or 35mm to 70mm or 80 mm lens currently being supplied. Until then, if you have been looking for a true all-in-one, compact, light-weight lens, which delivers the goods, then the 18mm  to 200mm superzoom is the answer to your prayers.


© David Lloyd-Jones 2010

Comments

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    • Midnight Oil profile imageAUTHOR

      Midnight Oil 

      6 years ago from Isle of Man UK

      The Superzoom lens is the true all-in-one lens

    • Paraglider profile image

      Dave McClure 

      7 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

      Nice article. The ramping to f 5.6 at long focal length could be a nuisance, but less so nowadays than in the time of 35mm film.

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 

      7 years ago from Miami, Florida

      The 18mm to 20mm is very useful for a variety of subjects, but has limitations for extreme close-ups and for skittish wildlife. Nevertheless it is a good all around lens.

      Particular to my needs is the 80mm to 400mm.

      Thanks for an interesting article.

    • Midnight Oil profile imageAUTHOR

      Midnight Oil 

      7 years ago from Isle of Man UK

      Thank you for the comments - I use to have "brokeneck camel" syndrome too, but I got rid of all the lens. One lens, one lens & one size of filter - life is much easier :)

    • profile image

      Charlinex 

      7 years ago

      Nice shots! A friend is using Nikon's 18-200 lens with good results. I don't have the confidence in the Canon ones though. As a result, everytime I go out to shoot, I feel like a "brokeneck camel"!

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