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I'm going to be traveling to Cuba, and am looking for a good lens that I can keep on my camera without needing to change it. I was originally looking at the Tamron 18-400mm, but the images don't seem to be very sharp (as would be expected of a lens with that much range).

I'm not sure if such a lens exists, but I'm looking for a lens that does something like 30mm to 200mm, but keeps excellent sharpness and contrast on the higher end of the focal length; I don't care how it performs at the lower end, as long as it can take photos there if I need to. I'm going to be bringing a 17-50mm as well, so I don't mind if there's fall-off towards the lower end of the focal length (for example, I'd like something that performs excellent from around 100mm to 200mm, and can take crappy photos from 30mm to 100mm if I need to)

I like to use a telephoto lens for most of my travel photography, but I don't want to miss out on a moment that happens close to me — it's better to capture it with okay quality than to miss it altogether because I'm trying to switch lenses. If I'm planning on shooting stuff that's nearby for a while, I would switch lenses, but I don't want to need to switch lenses if I need to take a nearby photo quickly.

This problem could be solved by bringing two cameras with different lenses, but that's not something I'd like to do.

I'm going to be shooting on a Canon 6D (full-frame sensor). My budget for the lens around $1,000 dollars, and I'd like to be able to actually carry the thing around.

Just to be clear, I’m not asking for substitutes or things that I could do instead. Rather, I’m interested in whether or not there’s a lens that performs awesome and is meant higher focal lengths, but can also be used to shoot unsharp photos at lower focal lengths if need-be. I’m not sure if that runs into problems with physics, or maybe it’s not a popular demand. Either way, I’d be curious to know if something like this exists (ignoring my budget and camera body)

closed as off-topic by Olin Lathrop, scottbb, inkista, Hueco, Caleb May 17 '18 at 13:52

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    have you. like, googled? maybe look at kenrockwell.com/canon/lenses/index.htm ? – aaaaaa May 12 '18 at 19:36
  • @aaaaaa Yes, but everything I've found is either a normal telephoto lens, or has a high range and "okay" quality throughout the entire range. I'm trying to see if there's anything with great quality at the upper end (like 200mm), but can also shoot at like 30mm with not-terrible quality – Jojodmo May 12 '18 at 19:48
  • I usually "solve" that with an xperia X as backup to a 75-300 lens. My point being that for wide shots, a decent phone can be a reasonable substitute. – Fábio Dias May 12 '18 at 20:17
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    "Can someone suggest a lens" questions are generally off-topic here (as are shopping questions on most of Stack Exchange). – mattdm May 12 '18 at 21:23
  • Don't confuse "telephoto" lens with "zoom" lens. – osullic May 12 '18 at 22:19
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There's a reason no one makes a 24-200mm FF lens. Several, in fact.

  • The main one is that not many photographers who know what they are doing would ever consider buying such a lens for a 20MP FF camera such as your EOS 6D.
  • To get anywhere approaching a constant, usable aperture the lens would be very heavy and large.
  • Such a lens would be very expensive to produce at any level of decent image quality.
  • Lenses with smaller zoom ratios can be smaller, lighter, cheaper, faster, and produce higher image quality than a larger, heavier, more expensive, slower lens with inferior image quality.

The entire point of an interchangeable lens system camera is to allow you to use different lenses that are better or even great at one thing but unsuitable for other things. Fixed lens cameras force you to use a single lens that is mediocre or worse at a lot of things but better at nothing. Insisting on using a single lens for everything on an interchangeable lens camera is not much different than using a fixed lens camera. In some cases the fixed lens camera may meet your needs better than an ILC with only one lens.

The best lenses are all prime lenses. That means a single focal length. No.Zoom.At.All. They're really good when they provide the field of view and other characteristics you need. This is because they can be optimized to do one thing at one focal length. A good flat field 100mm macro lens is different from a good 85mm, 105mm, or 135mm portrait lens. But they are not very flexible, so you need a lot of them for various different things. Some are pretty good for not much money (e.g. EF 50mm f/1.8 STM @ $120). Others are incredibly good for a boatload of cash (e.g. EF 400mm f/2.8 L IS II @ $10K). Most fall somewhere in between.

Compared to their zoom lens counterparts, in addition to equal or better optical quality at a lower price prime lenses can also be smaller/lighter, have wider maximum apertures, and often still be much cheaper.

Short ratio zoom lenses, that is zoom lenses with a less than 3X difference between their longest and shortest focal length, can also be very good. But the best ones cost a lot.

When you move outside of the 3x limit is when image quality really starts to noticeably go down. Some 4-5X zoom lenses that fall entirely in the telephoto range can be pretty good. But when you start trying to design a lens that goes from wide angle to telephoto and covers a 5X-10X or more zoom range, that is when it really starts getting difficult to keep it affordable and manageable with regard to size and weight and still provide excellent image quality. You'll usually get better image quality and spend less buying something like an 18-55mm and a 55-250mm pair of zoom lenses than you would get with an 18-200mm 'all-in-one'.

From the question:

I was originally looking at the Tamron 18-400mm, but the images don't seem to be very sharp (as would be expected of a lens with that much range).

The Tamron 18-400mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC is an APS-C only lens. It wouldn't work on your full frame 6D.

The Tamron AF 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 XR Di VC is a FF lens, but it can't even keep up with the lowly AF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 at their common focal lengths, much less the Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC (which is the older version of the current SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC G2).

enter image description here
At 70mm and f/5.0 the 28-300 is not as sharp as the 70-300 at f/4 and the 70-200 blows both away at f/2.8!

enter image description here
At 200mm it's even worse at f/5.6 than the 70-300mm at 180mm and f/4.5 and the 70-200mm again is much better even wide open at f/2.8!

In Tamron nomenclature, SP lenses are considered their premium line. Di II lenses are APS-C only, Di lenses are FF, and VC is Vibration compensation. You might be able to find a new copy of the SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC just within your stated budget. Be aware there is also an even older Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 Di Macro lens model that is not as good as the SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC.

I'd like something that performs excellent from around 100mm to 200mm, and can take crappy photos from 30mm to 100mm if I need to).

And from a comment by the OP:

Everything I've found is either a normal telephoto lens, or has a high range and "okay" quality throughout the entire range. I'm trying to see if there's anything with great quality at the upper end (like 200mm), but can also shoot at like 30mm with not-terrible quality

That's not the way lens designers think. It's also not the way corporate managers plan products. The goal of most zoom lens design projects is to give a lens the same level of acceptable image quality, whatever acceptable is defined as for that particular lens, over as much of the lens' zoom range as possible.

It's not the way lens design works out, either. Most zoom lenses, particularly wide angle zooms, are, in fact, better at the short end than at the longest focal length. Most consumer grade telephoto lenses, such the currently popular crop of 150-600mm lenses, are also better at the wider end their performance tends to fade at the longer focal lengths.

A few other related questions here at Photography at Stack Exchange:
70-200mm lens or 18-200mm lens for small studio like 25 feet?
How do I choose a lens for my first DSLR to replicate the capabilities of my bridge camera?
24-200MM lens for Nikon D850?
How is the quality of the Sigma 18-300 DC Macro lens?
Which Lens Should I Use For A Single Lens Solution On Sony a6500?

  • Thank you so much for the in-depth answer! I know that no one wouldn’t create one, but out of curiosity, do you know if it would be possible to make such a lens or if it would run into physics problems? – Jojodmo May 13 '18 at 2:49
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    @Jojodmo - physics problems is an understatement. For comparison, look at how bulky the 70-200 f/2.8 and 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 are - and those are ~2.5x and 4x zooms. You're asking about a 30-200 or, ~6.6x zoom. The aperture range will suck, because anything worthwhile will be cost prohibitive if not physically impossible, and the image quality as well. Like Michael said, there's a big reason you don't see good zooms over 3x. They're huge and prohibitively expensive to do right (by IQ standards) if it's even physically possible. – Hueco May 13 '18 at 5:50
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    If the entire range of focal lengths is in the telephoto range it's not that bad for a 4X or so zoom. The problem with going from wide angle through normal to telephoto is that the wide angle portion must use a retrofocus design and then the lens has to move different groups in different directions and amounts to switch to a telephoto design. – Michael C May 13 '18 at 7:04
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One other thing to note here:

Zooms that cover these ranges are certainly available, but for various reasons, zoom lenses tend to be at their sharpest at the wide end of the range, almost without exception. In fact, there are many lenses that are mediocre at the long end of their range that are quite good or even excellent at the wide end.

In effect, what this means is that the opposite of what you want is quite readily available - a wide-angle lens that can do telephoto photography in a pinch with okay results, but what you want - a telephoto lens that can do wide-angle photography in a pinch with okay results - doesn't exist.

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Given the budget, get a used 5dmk2 and a 70-200 f/4, also used.

The range you're looking for doesn't really ever describe itself as "sharp". Get really good at swapping lenses, or carry two cameras. Those are really the only options when it comes to having great glass on the camera. There is no super zoom that doesn't make a sacrifice in either speed, image quality, or both.

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    Use your phone. – Philip Kendall May 12 '18 at 20:07
  • Thank you — I'll take a look at the lens. Do you know if there's anything like it that with roughly the same quality in that range, but can also take crappy photos at a lower focal length if it needs to? Or does that start to run into problems with physics? – Jojodmo May 12 '18 at 20:12
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    @PhilipKendall is right. Use your DSLR to sport good glass that can reach. If something happens near to you, grab your phone. If you've got a few seconds, swap lenses. (My answer was somewhat snarky. I'd carry two bodies at a wedding - not while on holiday). Moreso I wanted to point out that the idea of one zoom to rule them all is, well, just as bad an idea as one ring to rule them all. – Hueco May 13 '18 at 5:54
  • @Jojodmo As stated in my answer above, no, that lens doesn't exist, but the opposite - good wide, poor tele - does exist. Inherent properties of optics make what you ask for impractical to build. – Jim MacKenzie May 14 '18 at 14:41
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Ignoring your body, I use a Nikon 28-300mm VR which seems to do what you are looking for. Its less then 1000,- and easy to carry. The sharpness is okay and the vignetting and distortion can be worked with. For traveling its a great lens.

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    Unfortunately, the Canon 28-300L isn't nearly as good a performer. – inkista May 14 '18 at 19:15
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The only superzoom L lens for full frame that Canon makes is the EF 28-300 f/3.5-5.6L IS USM, and even used, it's still above your $1k budget. However. Its performance is much-complained about (for an L), and nobody's ever liked paying L prices for it. However, if it's just for a trip, it might be worth renting the 28-300L.

Looking at the test data on the-digital-picture.com, it is a step up from the Tamron, particularly at the tele end. But superzooms are always going to be an image quality performance compromise at the ends of the range.

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