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What are the tradeoffs when replacing two zoom lenses with a superzoom?

I'm after a zoom range of 28mm to 200mm. Budget is £600 GBP

The Nikon 18-200mm VR II has a decent MTF chart and covers the entire zoom in a single lens. I've no idea how good it is at focusing accuracy or zooming speed. I'd hope they were both good.

The Sigma 17-70mm f2.8-4 and Nikon 55-300mm look reasonable and cost only £500 for the pair. MTF does not look as good as the 18-200mm which I find very surprising. I always thought a smaller zoom range would offer better quality.

What recommendations could you give for good lens(es) covering that zoom range, given my miniscule budget? I may be able to stretch a little on the budget.

So my requirements are, a short lens perhaps 24-70 ish for normal everyday photos. And a zoom lens (180mm to 300mm) for Rugby sports shots.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Didn't spot that question. I'll take a look now. Thanks. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 23, 2012 at 17:18
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ MTF charts aren't always comparable between manufacturers due to different methodologies in creating the charts. Most are generated from lens simulations not actual measurements and represent the maximum theoretical performance. \$\endgroup\$
    – Matt Grum
    Oct 23, 2012 at 17:22

2 Answers 2


In most cases, lenses with higher focal range have inferior image quality compared to equivalent quality lenses having a shorter focal ranges, although they do have the convenience of not having to change lenses frequently.

Considering your budget, my recommendations for the standard to medium zoom are:

  • Tamron SP 17-50mm f/2.8 (non-VC)
  • Nikon AF-S 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G VR
  • Sigma AF 17-70mm f/2.8-4 DC HSM OS

Out of these, the Tamron has the best image quality, the Nikon has the most focal range and the Sigma slots in between. Tamron also has a constant f/2.8 aperture throughout the focal range. The Nikon and Sigma come with VR/image stablization, which the Tamron lacks. There's a version of the Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 with VR/VC, but that's more expensive and has inferior image quality compared to the non-VC version.

For the telephoto zoom lens, I would recommend the following models:

  • Nikon AF-S 70-300mm f/3.5-5.6G VR
  • Tamron AF SP 70-300mm VC USD

The image quality and sharpness is more or less the same on both models, although the Tamron is supposed to be sharper between the 200-300mm range. The Nikon has better build quality and much faster autofocus.

You may have to up your budget a little for these, but the results will be worth it.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks Parampreet. I have been going cross eyed looking at all the slrgear.com MTF charts and reviews. I also have come to the same conclusion as you for the lens list. There are some truly epic lenses out there, all of which are unfortunately out of my budget. I will read some more and make a final descision soon. Many Thanks. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 26, 2012 at 10:05

This is extremely difficult to answer for outsiders who are not familiar with your personal shooting style.

Smaller zooms used to have better MTF charts (and prime lenses even more so), but that has changed - in fact, Hasselblad's zoom lenses have equal or better performance than some of the primes they cover. Of course compromises must be made, but I wouldn't worry about them too much and be more concerned about the practical side of things.

Sometimes, two lenses are better than one - perhaps it is the additional reach of 300mm, just bringing the one you need, or having faster speed on the short end. But not always: if you often find yourself wanting to go from long to wide to long rather quickly without the luxury of multiple bodies, a single lens that covers the full range has huge benefits to swapping lenses. Or when you're on day-long trips and that second lens adds weight and bulk to your pack. Or you're shooting in environments where changing lenses is difficult (thanks to salt water spray, snow, sand, or dust). And so on. So the decision isn't always about having the best possible optical performance - it is practically always more complicated than that.

That said, I would go for the 18-200. If you're not sure what you're after, this will allow you the flexibility of exploring photographic possibilities without losing time constantly swapping lenses.


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