Why a Superzoom Lens Makes Sense

July 9, 2009 | Mark Goldstein | Photography Techniques | 24 Comments | |
Why a Superzoom Lens Makes Sense Image

The ability to use many different lenses with a DSLR camera body is one of the main attractions of the 35mm format, so why on earth would you want to fit and forget just one lens? Here are 6 good reasons...

Save your Back

Or your shoulder. Or your wrist. Do you wince when you pick up your camera backpack, shoulder bag, or even just your camera? Then it's time to leave all those other lenses at home and try a superzoom, which typically covers the same focal range as a typical standard zoom (28-70mm) and telephoto zoom (70-200/300mm). If you like to use prime lenses, the situation is even worse. You can easily fit a DSLR and superzoom in a small shoulder-bag, and never have cause to moan about the weight of your gear again.

Perfect Match for Entry-level DSLRs

Today's entry-level DSLR cameras are invariably small and light, making a superzoom lens a perfect partner. Despite their huge focal range, superzooms aren't as heavy or bulky as you might first think. Sure, they usually extend quite a long way, but they're also light because they're predominantly designed for travel. They provide a much better balanced package than a pro-level standard or telephoto zoom, and keep the overall weight and bulk down too.

Don't do that again honey!
Don't do that again honey! by pattpoom

Cover Most Angles

A superzoom lens can deal with virtually every photographic situation that you're likely to encounter, with the exception of extreme wide-angle and ultra-telephoto shots. When was the last time that you shot at less than 28mm or more than 300mm? If the answer's never, or very rarely, then a superzoom makes perfect sense, especially if you take pictures throughout the huge focal range that's on offer. From landscapes to close-ups of things you can barely see with your own eyes, one lens really can do it all (well, almost).

Never Miss the Moment

How many great photos have you missed whilst swapping lenses? We've all been there, rummaging around in a bag for the "right" lens, or frantically removing lens caps, whilst the action passes by in front of us. Even worse, eventually you get tired of swapping lenses and stick with just one, hoping that it will be the right choice for whatever comes along next (which it invariably isn't).

The platform
The platform by neilyb5d

Avoid a Dusty Sensor

It might seem like a cardinal sin to never take a lens off your DSLR, but at least you won't have to worry about getting unwanted dust and debris on your sensor. True, you won't avoid it completely, as all non-prime lenses suck in dust when you zoom in and out, but you'll definitely avoid the worst of it. And if your DSLR has an effective built-in anti-dust system, you may never actually have to clean your camera's sensor, a potentially tricky and costly process that most photographers hate doing.

Save Money, and the Environment Too

Buying a superzoom is more often than not cheaper than the cost of buying a typical standard zoom and telephoto zoom combination. You'll also boost your green credentials because only one product has gone through the production process, rather than two. So save some money and help the planet too!

In the next installment of this short series, we'll consider why a superzoom DOESN'T make sense...

Entry Tags

lens, DSLR, super zoom, telephoto, sigma, superzoom, tamron, ultra

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Your Comments

24 Comments | Newest Oldest First | Post a Comment

#1 PaT

I agree, but what about very slow lens, which are so popular these days? Most of entry level product only offer an f-value of 3.5, not really what a serious photographer would hook on its camera…

12:40 pm - Thursday, July 9, 2009

#2 Paul

As almost always, it is not a case of better or best, but a case of what fits (situation, style, ambition, customer, ....). Sometimes a super zoom fits. If you want a lens that lasts a lifetime instead of being disposed off when it fails after a couple of years, because you care about the environment, buy L glass only ;-)

What super zoom would you recommend for a Canon 5D mkII ?

1:38 pm - Thursday, July 9, 2009

#3 Rob B


The Canon 28-300L f/3.5-5.6 IS, of course.

3:16 pm - Thursday, July 9, 2009

#4 Robert

For me it doesnt really make sens. I think it made for those who dont want to but 2 or 3 lenses and doesnt have a lot of budget. I would rather like a canon L 70-200 than something cheaper. Honestly, I prefer fixed focal lenses.

6:16 pm - Thursday, July 9, 2009

#5 terry chay

It’s about shooting with the lens you have on you. Sometimes you can’t bring your entire kit and a superzoom covers most of it on an APS-C for the bulk of less than the old film cameras with one utility zoom.

As for speed, ISO’s have gotten quite high so really you’re arguing about depth of field for most cases. Not a really good argument against a superzoom.

Obviously, if you have the time/energy to lug a tripod and gimbal, then you have the time/energy to carry a 70-200f2.8 or above. So those exceptional cases aren’t really an issue.

12:18 am - Friday, July 10, 2009

#6 kamera gue

I consider Nikon lens with 18-105mm range as a (almost) super zoom.It can cover 28 - 157mm which is sufficient for medium wide to medium tele, has a f/5 at 50mm, descent built quality, small and lightweight, and easy for the money.

For those who needs range beyond 105mm (up to 200mm) should consider 18-200mm which cost twice than 18-105mm. But it adds more weight and size too..

(my gear is just D40 + AF- 18-105mm VR)

3:21 am - Friday, July 10, 2009

#7 hagen

5D Mk 2 and 100-400 L IS no doubt. While not short/wide, has the reach, is L glass and will work with the Mk to maximum IQ.

3:31 pm - Friday, July 10, 2009

#8 terry chay

BTW, here is my take from last year.

8:44 am - Monday, July 13, 2009

#9 John

Two years ago, I bought a Nikon D80, along with an 18- 200 VR 3.5 - 5.6. I also bought an 80-400 Tokina and a couple of other lenses. I took them on vacation, and for the most part, the 18-200 stayed on my camera. Since that time, I’ve upgraded my camera to a D300, and purchased several additional lenses including a Sigma 120-300 2.8, a Tamron 300 2.8 with a 2X converter. If I’m going to shoot a specific event, then I’ll bring one of these along, but if I’m going out for the day to shoot, and don’t know where I’ll be or what I’ll be doing then the 18-200 is still my goto lense.

9:18 am - Monday, July 13, 2009

#10 Ben Goren

If I may suggest—if the arguments presented in the article ring true with you, you’re probably even better off with a non-SLR digicam with a superzoom. Such digicams have wonderful photographic qualities and are more than amply capable of taking great pictures for prints larger than 8x10, and they’re smaller, lighter, and more user-friendly. And cheaper, too.

A superzoom on an SLR really only makes sense in limited situations. Frankly, I can only think of one that isn’t better served by a digicam, and that’s to put on the backup body for an event photographer. You’ve gotta have the SLR in case your primary body goes tits-up, and you want the wide focal range choice for your ``Wait! Look over there!’’ moments, and you’d rather not carry a third camera (the digicam).

But that’s not the choice I’d make, and I don’t think very many others do. Instead, a standard (24-70, 28-75, etc., preferably constant aperture) zoom on the backup makes much more sense. You’ve got better optical quality, you’ve probably got a faster (much faster) lens (which is arguably more important for emergency shots than focal length), and you still have your specialty lenses you’re carrying anyway for the primary camera if you need wider or longer—not that you’re likely to need much past the standard zoom for emergency shots, anyway.

And, if you’re now wondering: ``Why on Earth would I want to lug around not one, but *two* cameras, plus a half-dozen lenses?’’ then my reply comes back to the start: whatever you perceive as limitations of a digicam almost certainly have been fixed in the past several generations of them, and the areas in which SLRs still excel are not served by a superzoom.



6:30 pm - Monday, July 13, 2009

#11 Lyndon

I have just returned to photography after a long illness.
I have a Fuji S20 PRO just been repaired by Fuji a few years old now but still a very good camera. What zoom lens would you recomend for this camera.

12:30 pm - Tuesday, July 14, 2009

#12 rob

I agree with Ben that a hybrid superzoom camera makes more sense than a DSLR with a superzoom lens.

In my own private opinion, a superzoom lens on a DSLR makes sense in one scenario only: when you go on vacations and don’t want to carry your usual equipment, but you still want to have some means of documenting your travels. And only if you do not care too much about image quality or slowness of the superzoom lens.

10:38 pm - Tuesday, July 14, 2009

#13 peter k.

For me, personaly, a superzoom on an SLR doesn’t make much sense. The 16-105mm is quite o.k. for most of the time. Anyway, I always have with me the 50mm f1.7 and I’ll soon have the 70-200 f2.8 also. A superzoom will never have the quality of two or three lenses put together to cover the same focal range. More than that, superzooms are quite slow, so their use is limited to good lighting conditions (at least when taking shots containing moving subjects).

8:10 pm - Wednesday, July 15, 2009

#14 Robby

it depends, actually. i have sold my zoom lenses for primes and i love the quality of my pictures. but that aside, i think cheap zooms don’t defeat the purpose of avoiding dust. once on a trip to australia, i had the 18-135 that came with my d80. back then, that was my only lens and i thought i didn’t have to worry about dust on my sensor. but low and behold, my pictures of the opera house while on the ferry had specs of dust when i finally viewed them on the computer. of course, after visiting the beach and knowing that the ferry ride would be terribly windy, i’d be extra careful with my camera. apparently, the small gaps between the lens barrels channel air, and of course, dust, when you zoom in/out. so, if you ask me, zooms don’t really solve the problem completely.

8:24 pm - Thursday, July 16, 2009

#15 Xtian

I’ve been using a 10x non-SLR for 5 years with good results (http://www.cristianghezzi.it/photo). Lately I’ve been getting increasingly concerned about digital image quality, and I’m considering stepping up to a better image sensor. Be it a 4/3 or a APS-C camera, I’m definitely not going to have more than one lens or less than 10x.
So there it goes, my only option is a superzoom and it makes a lot of sense.

2:18 pm - Thursday, September 3, 2009

#16 anuraj

How will i take a fine clarity having focused object and blurred background. I am having Olympus 590 UZ having 12MP and 26X optical zoom. Hope u guys help this begineer.. thankss.. :)

5:02 pm - Thursday, September 17, 2009

#17 Matt

I think the big drawbacks with superzooms are the Chromatic Aberation, lack of sharpness, and slow f-stops.

But, I think that’s where technology can help out. These arent the days of fil where anything about ISO 400 is grainy beyond recognition, I routinely have my D80 set at iso 800 and i find the lack of noise to be astounding. The new D3S, which has technology that will eventually trickle down to the replacement for the D300, has a max ISO of over 102400!!! That’s just ludacris, and even at 10,800 noise levels are like my camera’s at 1600. I think better noise reduction technologies and ‘smarter’ sensors will reduce the need for fast lenses. VR technology also makes a big difference by often allowing ‘reasonable’ ISO’s.

Sharpness can often be corrected in post-capture editing.. but I’ll admit that there is no substitute for high quality glass. Same goes for chromatic aberration. But just look at sigmas addition of FLD glass elements.. I think it won’t be long before we see these areas improve as well.

I’ll always happy that I can change a lens, especially if I want to do something more extreme (ie with a tilt shift, hooking up to a telescope, or something wide like 8-16) but I think a superzoom can cover all my ‘standard’ shooting situations.

4:09 pm - Saturday, June 12, 2010

#18 Quazi Ahmed Hussain

It’s nice to carry fewer quantity of equipment while on a photography mission.  However, serious hobbyists are unlikely to be satisfied with that.

I am a hobbyist landscape and wildlife photographer.  My ideal setup is:  2 bodies and 3 lenses.  In the field, 2 bodies are fitted with 2 tele lenses (1 prime + 1 zoom) while wildlife shooting.  For landscape shooting, one body features one wide angle lens while the other body retains the telezoom lens in case sth shows up.

10:02 am - Wednesday, January 5, 2011

#19 Hanata

At the price of a superzoom lens I rather buy a superzoom compact camera. Superzoom doesn’t make any sense at all! A compact is much lighter and if you’re really fussy about image quality, you’ll stay away from superzooms.

I can only image a superzoom lens to be useful when shooting action documentary such as a riot. Even then, it will be on a backup body.

6:07 pm - Tuesday, February 15, 2011

#20 Michael Yap

I am using a Nikon D90, am I able to use Tamron 18-270mm on my camera, if not, which lens of similar quality would you recommend,Thank You

Michael Yap

6:22 pm - Friday, July 22, 2011

#21 John

@Michael Yap, I haven’t seen any reviews on this lens (primarily because I haven’t been looking). It is a DI lense, in this case DI II, so it is specifically made for your camera. The only zoom I own from Tamron is the 28-75 2.8 that I use for portraiture. I love that lens, but every lens is different.

11:21 am - Saturday, July 23, 2011

#22 bum


9:03 am - Thursday, August 2, 2012

#23 BUM


9:05 am - Thursday, August 2, 2012

#24 Ca park manchester airport

The ability to use different lenses with a digital SLR camera body serves as one of the most significant attractions of the 35mm format, so why would you want to fit just one lens and forget it? Here are six good reasons why a super zoom lens makes sense?

1:06 pm - Sunday, January 10, 2016