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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

Olympus (Four Thirds)
The Zuiko Digital ED 12-60mm ƒ/2.8-4.0 SWD for Four Thirds cameras is compatible with the E-mount of Olympus cameras, as well as Panasonic’s LUMIX DMC-L1, L10 and Leica’s Digilux 3. Four Thirds mounts provide a doubled focal range thanks to the size of the Four Thirds sensor, which means that the seemingly conservative 12-60mm lens is the equivalent of a healthy 24-120mm zoom. (Though the sensor size is the same and the focal range is also doubled, the Four Thirds System is not to be confused with the newer Micro Four Thirds mirrorless mount. Four Thirds lenses can be used with Micro Four Thirds bodies via an adapter, however.) Olympus’ very fast SWD Supersonic Wave Drive autofocusing system was introduced with the 12-60mm, and the lens is ideal for close-ups, too, with a minimum focusing distance of less than 10 inches. The lens works with Olympus’ In-body Image Stabilization for up to five shutter speed stops of blur compensation. List Price: $999.

Olympus (Micro Four Thirds)
Though the cameras feature a sensor the same size as the Four Thirds System, the advantage to Micro Four Thirds mirrorless cameras is a more compact design, which means lighter and more efficient lenses. Compatible with Micro Four Thirds System cameras like the Olympus PEN series and the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-G1, GH1, GF1, G10, G2 and GH2 (as well as the upcoming Panasonic AG-AF100 video camera), the Micro Four Thirds M.Zuiko 14-150mm ƒ/4.0-5.6 from Olympus offers a 35mm equivalence value of 28-300mm for a very long range in a single portable package. Measuring 2.5x3.27 inches and weighing only a little more than half a pound, the 14-150mm still manages to pack in 15 elements in 11 groups, including a DSA lens, Aspherical ED lens, ED lens and three HR lenses for keeping optical aberrations as minimal as possible. Just as in the Four Thirds System, Olympus chose to add In-body Image Stabilization to camera bodies rather than the lenses, resulting in cost and size savings for lenses. List Price: $599.

Pentax
The new 7.5x smc Pentax-DA 18-135mm ƒ/3.5-5.6ED AL [IF] DC WR may sound a lot like alphabet soup, but the acronyms spell out some interesting features. The DA line of lenses is designed specifically for the characteristics of a digital sensor with a more efficient and compact build. With a 27.5-207mm 35mm-equivalence value, the 18-135mm includes a Quick Shift system for switching from auto to manual focus, and a Direct Current DC internal focus IF motor provides autofocusing with minimal noise. Construction is weather-resistant (i.e., WR), with a Pentax SP Super Protect coating for repelling dust, water and grease. An AL aspherical lens element is included internally for spherical aberration compensation. List Price: $529.

Sigma
A popular standard zoom for a variety of mounts is the 17-70mm ƒ/2.8-4 DC Macro from Sigma. Available for Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sony and, of course, Sigma, the lens is designed exclusively for APS-C-sized sensors with a 35mm equivalence of approximately 27-112mm. (It’s not compatible with full-frame cameras.) OS Optical Stabilization has been added to the lens (excepting the Sigma model) for four stops of shake reduction. Depending on the mount, the minimum focusing distance is 8.7 or 7.9 inches, and maximum magnification is 1:2.7 or 1:2.3, making it a great close-up and macro lens as well. The HSM Hyper Sonic Motor (not included with the Sony version) provides quiet and fast autofocus with a manual override switch, and SLD Special Low Dispersion glass elements, aspherical elements and a super multi-coating optimize light transmission. Estimated Street Price: $449.

Sony (A-Mount)
For Sony Alpha-mount cameras (and Minolta DSLRs), the SAL-2875 28-75mm ƒ/2.8 zoom has a fast constant aperture throughout the zoom range, making it a great choice for shooting indoors when you prefer to use as little flash as possible. The lens is lightweight at only 20 ounces, and the minimum aperture of ƒ/32 offers larger depth of field than most other zooms in this class. The SAM Smooth AF Motor works quickly and quietly and, conveniently, the SAL-2875 has a built-in lens hood rather than one that need to be affixed to the front of the lens, saving you time during lens changes and making it a little easier to move around. Keep in mind, unless you’re using the full-frame A850 or A900, the 28-75mm lens is the approximate 35mm equivalent of a 45-120mm lens on Sony’s sub-full-frame APS-C cameras. List Price: $799.

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