Whether you’re exploring city streets, trekking through the countryside or jetting off to the other side of the world, a bag full of lenses can feel like a real burden. A superzoom enables you to travel light, delivering everything from generous wide-angle coverage to serious telephoto reach, all in a single and relatively compact lens. As well as being more travel-friendly, a superzoom enables you to react instantly to photo opportunities that demand wide-ranging focal lengths with a simple flick of the wrist.
Sticking to just one lens might seem counter-intuitive if you’ve bought a system camera that takes interchangeable lenses, and some superzooms can be a poor substitute for using the ‘right’ tool for the job; inevitably, a massive zoom range comes with compromise in terms of outright image quality, while wide apertures are off the menu, especially towards the long end of the zoom range.
However, with advances in high-tech optical design, and the increasing availability of in-camera corrections for aberrations like lateral chromatic aberration, peripheral illumination and distortion, the latest superzoom lenses tend to be capable of very pleasing results. Here are the best options to suit a wide range of cameras.
Canon RF 24-240mm f/4-6.3 IS USM
Most superzooms are designed for cropsensor cameras; indeed, this is the only full-frame compatible lens in this test group. Canon does make an EF 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6L IS USM for its full-frame DSLRs, but it hardly qualifies as a travel lens, tipping the scales at a hefty 1,670g; by contrast, this RF-mount lens weighs just 750g.
Attractions include a fast and virtually silent Nano USM autofocus system, five-stop optical stabilisation and an electronically coupled control ring, which is switchable for manual focus or a range of other functions.
Levels of sharpness are very good, but uncorrected fringing and distortions are dire at some focal lengths. In-camera corrections and raw processing software will fix this very effectively, though, so image quality is ultimately impressive.
Fujinon 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 WR LM R OIS
Eminently suitable as a travel lens, the Fujinon 18-135mm is compact and light but sturdily built, with a comprehensive set of weather seals. Build quality feels excellent in all respects, with a physical aperture ring. The 7.5x zoom range is the smallest of this group, though, equating to 27206mm in full-frame terms.
The linear motor autofocus system is fast for stills and delivers smooth, virtually silent focus transitions in movies. Another bonus is a highly effective five-stop optical stabiliser.
Despite the relatively limited zoom range, sharpness is only good in the central region of the frame, and drops off at the long end, while sharpness towards the edges and corners is lacklustre at all zoom settings. Colour fringing and distortions are relatively low, thanks to in-camera firmware corrections.
Nikkor AF-S DX 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR II
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August 13, 2020