Fea­tures to look for…

NPhoto - - Test Team -

There are plenty of things to con­sider when pick­ing out your ideal su­per­zoom

Lock it down

So-called ‘zoom creep’, where the lens stretches out while it’s be­ing car­ried around, can be awk­ward. All of the lenses in this test fea­ture zoom lock switches to stop this hap­pen­ing.

Keep it light

Su­per­zoom lenses haven’t al­ways en­joyed the best of reputations. They’re clunky things with du­bi­ous im­age qual­ity and heinous dis­tor­tions… or so some say. And surely, one of the big­gest attractions of SLRs and other in­ter­change­able-lens cam­era sys­tems is that you can change the lens, fit­ting the ideal op­tic for the task at hand. How­ever, that’s not al­ways con­ve­nient.

If you’re jet­ting off on hol­i­day, pound­ing city streets or even hik­ing up into the hills, a large col­lec­tion of heavy lenses is the last thing you need. Some­times it’s nice to be able to have a sin­gle lens that gives wide-an­gle cov­er­age, gen­er­ous tele­photo reach, and ev­ery­thing else in be­tween.

Then there’s the fact that dig­i­tal SLRs can suf­fer a nasty re­ac­tion to dust. In mucky en­vi­ron­ments where there’s grit, sand or other con­tam­i­nants blow­ing around, chang­ing lenses can be nervewrack­ing. Again, a su­per­zoom lens can come to the res­cue, en­abling ter­rific ver­sa­til­ity with­out re­quir­ing you to lay bare the in­nards of your cam­era to the el­e­ments.

Aut­o­fo­cus fin­ery

All three Nikon lenses on test have ring-type ul­tra­sonic aut­o­fo­cus. The oth­ers have ul­tra­sonic mo­tors (see Jar­gon Buster, be­low), apart from the Tam­ron 18-200mm, which has a more ba­sic elec­tric mo­tor.

The long end

Shoot with sta­bilis­ers

Op­ti­cal sta­bil­i­sa­tion is def­i­nitely worth hav­ing, es­pe­cially for any hand­held shoot­ing at the tele­photo end of the zoom range. It’s fea­tured in prac­ti­cally all re­cent de­signs of su­per­zoom lens. 10cm or less in length. How­ever, down­siz­ing isn’t al­ways good news. Rea­son­ably com­pact lenses with mod­est-sized front el­e­ments can’t of­fer very wide aper­tures. As such, most cur­rent su­per­zooms have a widest avail­able aper­ture of f/6.3 at the long end of the zoom range.

The rel­a­tively nar­row max­i­mum aper­ture at tele­photo fo­cal lengths isn’t as big a prob­lem as you might think, how­ever. The lat­est Nikons of­fer ex­cel­lent im­age qual­ity at high ISO set­tings, so it’s not a big deal to in­crease the sen­si­tiv­ity in dull con­di­tions when you need fast shut­ter speeds. Also, the majority of cur­rent su­per­zooms have op­ti­cal sta­bil­i­sa­tion built in, so you’ll only need a fast shut­ter speed when you want to freeze ac­tion, rather than re­ly­ing on it to fend off cam­era shake for all hand­held shoot­ing.

All in all, most of the lat­est su­per­zoom lenses of­fer mighty zoom ranges in eas­ily man­age­able sizes, mak­ing them more at­trac­tive propo­si­tions than ever be­fore. Let’s see how the var­i­ous makes and mod­els mea­sure up…

Most DX-for­mat su­per­zooms have a short­est fo­cal length of 18mm, equiv­a­lent to 27mm when us­ing a full­frame cam­era. The Tam­ron 16300mm bucks the trend, with a greater max­i­mum view­ing an­gle. Lens weight ranges from 405g for the non-sta­bilised Tam­ron 18-200mm to 830g for the big­ger of the two Nikon 18-300mm lenses. This can be an im­por­tant con­sid­er­a­tion when you’re choos­ing a ‘travel’ or ‘walk­a­bout’ lens. 200mm used to be the typ­i­cal cut-off point at the long end of the zoom range. Many re­cent de­signs push the bound­aries, stretch­ing to 250mm, 270mm or even 300mm.

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