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Thursday, October 9, 2008

Buyer's Guide 2009: Lenses

What to know about the most important part of your camera system

Labels: LensesBuyers Guide

This Article Features Photo Zoom

When it comes to extreme zooms, the range isn't just from really long to even longer. Extreme zooms are named for the overall focal range they cover. The Sigma 18-200mm ƒ/3.5-6.3 DC OS is an excellent example of the versatility and portability that ultra-zooms provide. In lieu of carrying several prime lenses, or even two powerful tele-zooms, this lens packs a whopping 11x zoom range into a compact, easy-to-carry package. Designed for the APS-C sensor size, the lens includes Sigma's Optical Stabilization technology to increase handhold-ability even in low light. List Price: $820.

The Tamron AF18-270mm ƒ/3.5-6.3 Di II VC LD Aspherical (IF) Macro is another extreme zoom, with a 35mm-equivalent, 15x range of 28-419mm. Di II lenses from Tamron are designed for APS-C sensors, and this model is available for Canon and Nikon mounts. It features Tamron's Vibration Compensation mechanism to stabilize your shots, and is relatively light and very compact considering its impressive range, weighing in at 19.4 ounces and measuring 3.9 inches in length with a 3.1-inch diameter. It can focus as close as 19.3 inches throughout the entire zoom range. Estimated Street Price: $599.

The Birth Of A New Lensbaby
Lensbabies have grown up. The manufacturer of popular selective-focus, special-effects lenses has officially changed its name and upgraded its offerings.

The Muse ($110-$150) is the replacement for the Original and 2.0 model lenses, incorporating the new Optic Swap System to give photographers the freedom to switch out optics for customized sharpness and focus effects within the same lens. The Control Freak ($270) is the upgraded 3G, which also includes the Optic Swap System, and like the 3G, it has the same locking rods to hold focus and maintain a consistent sweet spot.

The brand-new flagship Lensbaby is the Composer ($270). Simple to use with precise controls, the lens stays positioned where you set it, with no locking knobs or other adjustments required. The focus is controlled via a user-friendly manual-focus ring, making it easier to keep the sweet spot sharp and allowing photographers to focus in a more conventional way.

Whatever Lensbaby you choose, the Optic Swap System provides added versatility. Lenses are available with double-glass optics for a higher percentage of tack-sharp shots or with singlet (single glass) optics for a slightly more diffused look. Like the singlet, the Plastic optics option utilizes adjustable magnetic aperture disks, but the Plastic lens produces a more diffused look and softer focus comparable to the popular plastic lenses in Holga and Diana cameras. There’s even a Pinhole/Zone Plate optic that lets the lens switch quickly from pinhole to Fresnel at the flip of a switch. It creates equally sharp—rather, equally soft—images from edge to edge. The beauty of this system is the potential for new effects lenses in the future that will snap right in to your favorite Lensbaby model.

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