Photography News 84 Web

Technique

The case for superzooms appears compelling: one lens that covers wide-angle to telephotomeans less weight, it suits many subjects and there’s no need to swap lenses, so nomissed opportunities and less chance of dust getting on your sensor One lens for all occasions

razor-sharp, distortion- and flare-free images and, finally, it needs to be the size and weight of a 50mm f/2 prime with a 52mm filter thread. That’s not asking for much and such a lens would truly be one lens for every occasion, but the sad fact is, until we learn how to change the laws of physics, such a lens is not possible and we have to settle for something more modest. A superzoom in the real world goes from around 24mm or 28mm wide-angle to 200mm or so telephoto (in 35mm format) and has a relatively modest maximum

ONE LENS FOR all your photographic needs sounds great, but it needs to be something special. So what is a superzoom? If you were to imagine what the ideal superzoom could be, it’d be a lens starting at 20mm (for those expansive vistas) stretching to 85mm (for flattering portraits) and ending at 600mm (for those frame-filling wildlife shots), and be able to focus close for macro work. And you’d want all that with a constant f/1.4 maximum aperture to get round any low-light issues. Naturally, it would have to deliver

ABOVE A superzoom is ideal for general photography, so perfect in urban settings where a huge variety of subject matter can present itself. Modest maximum apertures are not too much of an issue with the fine image quality possible at high ISO speeds

Speaking of apertures, there is also the considerable benefit of speed at the telephoto end. Buy a high- spec – and expensive – 70-200mm zoom and you have a constant f/2.8 aperture throughout the range. And using a 200mm f/2.8 is so much easier than using the 200mm end of a superzoom, where you are working at f/5.6, a whole 2EV less. It means not having to ramp up your ISO or rely on the camera/lens image stabiliser, and there’s the pictorial benefit of shooting wide-aperture telephoto shots when you are after a nice, fuzzy backgrounds and bokeh effects. In the end, it is all about personal preference and how you like to work, and budget, but with the way technology has developed, the modern superzoom is well and truly worth serious consideration – and this time without some of the previous compromises. For some photographers, a superzoom could be the ideal one- lens outfit, while for others it could be a handy option to have when they want to travel light and leave their heavy kit bag at home. Whatever the scenario, the case for a superzoom is more compelling than ever. “For some photographers, a superzoom couldbe the ideal one-lens outfit”

aperture, typically f/4 at the short end and f/5.6 as you move into the telephoto region. Superzooms aren’t new, and early models like the Kiron 28-210mm f/4-5.6 – which came out in the late 1980s – were well received and, yes, it was an OK lens, but it and the many ‘me too’ models that subsequently followed didn’t compare that favourably with the prime lenses that were the staple of most keen photographers back then. Optical performance was on the modest side of good, especially at the wider aperture values that were often needed when film was the only option. You have to appreciate that quality-conscious photographers were shooting with films in the ISO 50-100 range, so wider apertures were

the norm and image stabilisation systems were new. So, in film days and even the early days of digital, when lower ISO speeds were still essential for the best results, the reasons to avoid superzooms were well justified. However, coming right up to date, with the photographic world having changed almost beyond all recognition, it’s time to look into the potential of superzooms again. Superzoom lenses have also evolved – most significantly in optical performance – thanks to the use of specialised glass elements, updated lens coatings and new designs, so results are better than ever. Image sharpness is high, even at wide apertures, flare and ghosting is dealt with well and if there is any distortion, this can be resolved in-camera or with editing. There have even been moves on maximum apertures too, as shown by the latest Tamron 28-200mm, which is f/2.8 at the 28mm end. Despite it all, however, the majority of photographers still prefer to have, say, two or three zooms (or even several primes) in their bag rather than one to cover the same range, so a 24-70mm and 70-200mm rather than a 24-200mm. Of course, there are sound reasons for the multi-lens approach, so it is perfectly understandable. For a start, the ultimate performance of lenses with less ambitious zoom ranges is still better than a wide-ranging superzoom, especially at wider apertures – of course, if we took this further to its logical conclusion, we’d all be using prime lenses not zooms, but that’s a story for another day.

ABOVE The pictorial flexibility of a superzoom makes life so much easier and you don’t have to deal with a heavy bag on your back. This was shot at 28mm

FOCAL LENGTHCOMPARISON

24mm

200mm

To give you an idea of the coverage possible with a superzoom, here are two views of Peterborough Cathedral taken on a Nikon Z 7 with a Z 24-200mm superzoom from the same spot. On the left is the 24mm shot, with the zoomed-in 200mm shot on the right

Issue 84 | Photography News 23

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