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Friday, January 12, 2007

Buyer's Guide 2007: Lens Strategy

How to select the right mix of lenses for your photography

For times when a normal zoom is too wide and a telephoto prime may be too limiting, telephoto zooms are ready to help. In 35mm terms, these are lenses with a focal length greater than 60mm or so, although many people consider telephotos longer than that. Whereas wide-angle lenses spread a scene, telephoto lenses provide compression and permit photographers to be very selective with the elements they choose to frame. They also have a narrower depth of field than wide-angles, which means that the point of focus can be more dramatically isolated from areas in the foreground and background.

Medium telephotos, in the 70mm to 150mm range, are ideal for portrait photographers who want to put the focus on their subjects' faces by shortening the depth of field and eliminating detail from the background. Longer telephotos, often up to 1000mm, are popular with sports and wildlife shooters who want to get close to small details that are often very far away.

The best thing about telephoto zooms, however, is that a range of these long focal lengths can be covered without having to carry what was once a very heavy array of lenses. Tokina's AT-X 840 AF D telephoto zoom provides autofocus and 80-400mm coverage in a designed-for-digital and lighter-than-usual package. The internal focusing system means that the heaviest elements in the lens don't rotate, making for much faster and smoother focusing. At press time, the AT-X 840 AF D is the smallest 400mm zoom lens available, weighing in at just over two pounds and about 5.4 inches long. For photographers who utilize polarizers and other rotating filters, the lens-hood design incorporates a spring-loaded thumbwheel for easy filter use without removing the lens shade. The built-in tripod collar helps balance the lens to remove stress from the compatible Canon EOS and Nikon D mounts.

The 35-100mm ƒ/2 PRO ED Zuiko Digital Zoom from Olympus is designed for Olympus E-System SLRs. This very fast telephoto zoom has a maximum aperture of ƒ/2, making it ideal for use in low-light conditions and when a fast shutter speed is required for stopping fast-moving subjects. The lens communicates directly with the camera, thanks to a built-in CPU that's protected by rugged all-metal components and rubber gaskets to ward off the elements. Such solid construction is the hallmark of pro-level quality, as are the ED and Super ED elements that provide the 35mm equivalent of 70-200mm coverage.



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