Super Zooms


One of the advantages of a superzoom is that you can compose your scene precisely as you wish from a given spot. Remember, though, that changing the focal length changes the framing and the magnification, but not the perspective. Physically moving closer will "expand" perspective, exaggerating the size difference between near and far objects in the scene, and the apparent distance between them; zooming to a shorter focal length from the same camera position won’t do this.

Conversely, moving farther away will "compress" perspective, reducing the size difference between near and far objects and the apparent distance between them. Again, merely zooming to a longer focal length won’t do this; you could produce a potentially noisier, but otherwise identical image just by cropping a wider-angle shot made from the same camera position to match the area shown in the longer-lens shot.

For maximum expanded perspective effect, move in close and use a short focal length to provide the desired framing. For maximum compressed perspective effect, move far away and use a long focal length to provide the desired framing.

All-in-one zooms also tend to be slower than shorter-range zooms or prime lenses of any given focal length, in both maximum aperture and AF performance. Maximum apertures are generally ƒ/3.5 or ƒ/3.8 at the wide end of the zoom range and ƒ/5.6 or ƒ/6.3 at the long end. These relatively slow apertures mean the viewfinder image won’t be as bright as with faster lenses, you’ll have to use a longer shutter speed in dim light, and AF performance will slow many cameras (most AF systems perform better at apertures faster than ƒ/5.6).

A number of all-in-one zooms have built-in image stabilization, which helps with handheld shooting at the slower shutter speeds (Olympus, Pentax and Sony DSLRs have sensor-shift stabilization, which works with any lens), but slower shutter speeds still limit action-freezing ability. If you specialize in low-light photography or fast-action subjects, you’ll be better off with the faster prime lenses or shorter-range zooms.

One more consideration: As less-expensive lenses, most all-in-one zooms lack the ruggedness and weatherproofing of the more costly pro zooms and primes. This could be a factor if you shoot in harsh conditions, but it’s not a big deal otherwise.

While superzooms won’t be the best choice for every subject or desired result, they’re incredibly versatile and affordable, and give you a lot of compositional flexibility in a compact, lightweight package. If you’re still shooting with the kit lens that came with your camera, a super-zoom is a good next step to expand your system’s capabilities and discover how extended focal length options can broaden your creative options.

Panasonic Lumix G Vario HD 14-140mm ƒ/4.0-5.8; Pentax DA 18-270mm ƒ/3.5-6.3 ED SDM; Sigma 18-200mm ƒ/3.5-6.3 II DC OS HSM; Sony SEL 18-200mm ƒ/3.5-6.3 OSS; Tamron AF18-270mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD; Tokina AT-X 16.5-135mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 DX.

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