Being a beginner, I can't see why I must choose an 80-200 over an 18-200. Are there scenarios where an 80-200 would be preferable over an 18-200?

I will be buying a D7000 soon and am looking at these:

but similar considerations would apply to other brands as well.


5 Answers 5


The biggest reason for difference in the two lenses is aperture. The 80-200mm is a constant f/2.8 throughout the focal range and the 18-200mm varies from f/3.5 to f/5.6, so substantially slower, especially at the far end. All this really means is that the 80-200 can let in more light at the same focal length over the other.

Also, generally, zooms with constant apertures are higher grade lenses. I hesitate to make this statement a truism, but it pretty much is. Consumer grade lenses are often massive zoom ranges with variable aperture whereas more professional grade variants are smaller zoom ranges and constant apertures. The professional variants tend to be fast, sharper, and better built. There are exceptions, but this is generally the case regardless of brand.

So, that is why you might make the choice of the 80-200mm lens. I made such a choice with a Pentax variant not so long ago...


To answer your other question, I would probably recommend the super zoom (18-200) for a newcomer if you want a single, general purpose, lens. I would expect the 80-200 to be optically superior, but also more expensive, and it would probably mean a second, equally expensive, lens to fill in the range. Worth it to some of us, but not for everyone.


Nobody is saying that you must choose an 80-200 over an 18-200. An 80-200 (f/2.8) has some severe drawbacks compared to an 18-200, price, size and weight being among them besides the obviously limited zoom range. On the other hand, an 80-200 is far better behaved optically; it will tend to focus faster and more accurately (on a given camera body, and assuming similar focus motor technology as the superzoom), it can let in four times more light at 200 mm (f/2.8 versus f/5.6) which can make all the difference. And if you are attacked by a rabid bull, you can easily beat it to death with the lens and still snap a photo of the carcass afterwards.

An 18-200ish superzoom tries to do all things and does nothing particularly well; an 80-200 f/2.8 does only one thing and does it supremely well. It is one of the bread and butter lenses for journalists. I have one myself. But, I must add, I have carried it around all day long as a tourist and that is no fun at all. Add a normal zoom to supplement the missing wide-angle of this lens and it is even less fun to lug it all around. Which is, I suspect, why superzooms were invented in the first place.

You should keep in mind that for a superzoom to work well, you have to have rather good light. As in bright daylight, preferably. An f/5.6 aperture is quite limiting both in terms of exposure and in terms of autofocus.

  • 11
    \$\begingroup\$ Ah, you kids have no stamina these days! ;) \$\endgroup\$
    – Joanne C
    Commented Apr 25, 2011 at 0:57
  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ +1, although I might put an 80-200 f/2.8 in the middle of the "does only one thing" continuum. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Apr 25, 2011 at 1:41
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @mattdm: Yup. At least it's not a "Prime" lens. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 25, 2011 at 3:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @John I've the stamina, but my spine doesn't like supporting a 40+lb bag of gear any longer. Age causes that, rather than youth :( \$\endgroup\$
    – jwenting
    Commented Apr 28, 2011 at 7:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ 80-200 does only one thing? It's maybe the most versatile lens in my arsenal, I'd leave home without my 28-70 before leaving my 80-200 behind. \$\endgroup\$
    – jwenting
    Commented Apr 28, 2011 at 7:48

As a really, really broad generalization, it's easier to make a high-quality zoom lens with a smaller zoom range, rather than a larger one. Although it's really tempting to look for one zoom that'll cover your entire range of shooting (Tamron's 18-270 comes to mind), these lenses tend to be fairly ill-behaved over portions of their range (at least), and suffer from softness and complex distortions that aren't easily fixed in post-processing.

The two lenses you indicate are really fairly different; the 80-200 is a fast lens (f/2.8), while the 18-200 is quite a bit slower. You'd be giving up a lot of optical performance to get that extra range, which is why most people end up covering this range with two lenses, more or less.


Optically a lot superior. Constant 2.8 aperture up-to 200mm focal length. Sharp as a razor across the zoom range. Superior bokeh. Better build quality. Faster AF (assuming you buy the AF-S version). Performs much better on Full Frame.


Usually lenses with a large focal ranges end up having poorer quality than lenses for each "normal" focal range (tele, wide, regular zoom). You get more versatility with lower image quality, it's a case of "Jack of all trades, master of none".


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