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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Toolbox: Wide-Angle Zooms

The benefits of a wide-angle zoom aren’t just for grand scenics—they’re essential for indoor photo opportunities, too

Labels: LensesGear

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Whether taking professional candids at events or family snapshots at parties, the winter season means an abundance of holiday festivities, and that also means more photos taken indoors. It’s important in these situations to be able to move quickly on your feet while dealing with low light and tight quarters, and a quality standard zoom that starts wide will cover many of the unique compositional needs working in environments where close-ups matter as much as being able to capture the full view of the scene.

Most standard zooms start wide in the 24mm to 28mm range, but choosing how much to spend will influence how far into the telephoto range a standard zoom will go. While a longer focal range definitely will cost more, nine times out of 10, having that extra throw will make the difference between missing a photographic opportunity and catching it. Your zoom can move much faster than your feet, after all.

Another important consideration is the aperture of the lens. Remember that large apertures will provide you with faster shutter speeds for working in dimly lit interiors, and they also will bring a nicer bokeh to images, especially with backgrounds that often include festive lights.

With a rumored replacement imminent for the popular 24-70mm ƒ/2.8L, the EF 24-105mm ƒ/4L IS USM wide-angle to portrait-length telephoto zoom from Canon might be a better choice for photographers looking to make a purchase now. The lens extends an extra 35mm over the focal range of the 24-70mm, and though you lose a stop of light from the 24-70mm ƒ/2.8L, you also spend $200 less for a much longer zoom. The 24-105mm sports IS Image Stabilizer Technology for up to three stops of shake reduction. (The 24-70mm replacement is expected to offer image stabilization, as well, but the current model doesn’t have it.) Lens construction features one Super-UD glass element with three aspherical lenses for minimizing chromatic aberration and distortion throughout the zoom range. The ring-type USM (Ultrasonic Motor) provides autofocus with an exterior switch for quickly switching to manual focus. On sub-full-frame APS-C cameras, the 24-105mm translates to about a 38-170mm range. List Price: $1,249.

The new AF-S NIKKOR 24-120mm ƒ/4G ED VR standard zoom offers a fixed aperture in a big 5x zoom. Nikon’s VR II (Vibration Reduction) image stabilization helps to reduce camera shake by up to four stops, making it an ideal choice for handheld shots and quick framing. Nikon is known for excellent autofocusing capabilities in its cameras, and the Silent Wave Motor in the 24-120mm provides fast and quiet autofocus. There’s also an M/A Focus switch for disengaging autofocus to manual. The lens includes two Extra-low Dispersion ED elements and three aspherical lens elements for minimizing chromatic and other kinds of aberration, as well as a Nano Crystal Coat for reducing ghosting and interior flare and a Super Integrated Coating (SIC) for enhancing light transmission efficiency. The versatile lens provides a 35mm equivalent of 36-168mm when used with Nikon’s sub-full-frame cameras. List Price: $1,299.


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