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I love my primes, but some days I just want to go out with a camera slung over my shoulder and have nothing else to worry about. I’m going to ignore the obvious differences between zooms and primes for the sake of this piece, since that’s a whole separate topic. So, here is a list of some solid zooms that you should consider adding to your set.
One of the first of the G Master series to make it to market, the 24-70mm f/2.8 is, optically, a phenomenal lens. It is a little big for the mirrorless system for which it was designed, but if you want a one-lens solution, an excellent 24-70mm is going to be hard to beat. If you aren’t a Sony mirrorless shooter, don’t worry—pretty much every brand has its own 24-70mm f/2.8, or equivalent, option.
Most of us can’t justify having a series of super-telephoto optics lying around our house or apartment, so it is almost a necessity to pick up one zoom that covers all you might need. Nikon’s 200-500mm reaches out farther than most super-telephoto zooms, it sports a decent f/5.6 constant aperture, and still manages to stay relatively affordable. This is pretty much all you could ask for from this type of lens, so if you shoot Nikon and want to go super telephoto, it is a must-have.
When it comes to wide-angle zooms, the Canon 11-24mm f/4L is an outstanding ultra-wide option. It is the widest full-frame zoom lens currently available and it is extremely sharp. Distortion is kept to an absolute minimum, which is impressive considering the range it covers, which is much more dramatic than it seems by the numbers. For Nikon owners, there’s the almost-as-wide AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, which is loved by many landscape photographers for its relatively fast maximum aperture and excellent optical performance.
I know I said I would talk about specific lenses only, but I love this focal length. The 70-200 is so versatile if you need a bit of reach for your shots. Normally, I don’t reach for anything longer than my 90mm macro, so having one lens that covers everything I need past that is super useful. Also, if you get an f/2.8 model, you can create portraits with extremely shallow depth of field, and generally, as a higher-end option, these lenses are great optically. If you want something a little more compact, f/4 models are very good and bring the same extended reach.
APS-C shooters can benefit from Sigma’s latest groundbreaking f/1.8 zooms. An 18-35mm lens, equivalent to 27-52.5mm, and a 50-100mm lens, equivalent to 75-150mm, are available with this super-fast constant maximum aperture. As a part of Sigma’s Global Vision Art series, they have some serious technology and optical optimizations that help guarantee sharp images with excellent color rendition. If you purchase both, you will have excellent coverage and large apertures, making these some of the best choices for replacing your primes.
I wasn’t sure whether I should include this or not, but those 28-300s, 24-240s, 18-200s, 12-100s, and many others are useful if you just want one lens to cover any possible situation you could encounter. They sacrifice constant apertures and usually aren’t perfect optically, but the ability to zoom from wide-angle to super telephoto without changing your lens is unmatched. Also, many manufacturers are able to keep them quite compact for their zoom ranges, so for your family vacations or weeklong hike through the mountains, cutting down on size and weight might make more of a difference to you than a slightly faster aperture or marginal improvements to sharpness.
Now, there are still quite a few other unique lenses out there that didn’t get covered, such as the Sigma 24-35mm f/2 and Canon’s 200-400mm with built-in 1.4x teleconverter, but this should hopefully be enough to get those prime lovers interested in some zoom lenses. Lens manufacturers are always trying to push the limits of modern optical technologies, so I’m sure more and more spectacular zooms are on the way, as well.
What are some of your favorite zoom lenses? Tell us about it in the Comments section, below.