Is It Time To Buy A Superzoom Lens For Travel?

By Geoff Harris

What Is The Best Superzoom Lens For Travel Photography?

Boys at Anse de Sables, nr Vieux Fort, St Lucia.

I blogged recently about how to pack more smartly for travel photography, and mentioned you should be cautious about all-in-one superzoom lenses. While it's true that even the best are rarely faster than f/3.5, they have improved in leaps and bounds over the last few years, so are worth considering if space really is tight.

 What Is The Best Superzoom Lens

What is a superzoom?

Put very simply, it's a lens with a very long zoom range – so you can shoot as wide as, say, 16mm, and then zoom in to 200mm or 300mm. Many offer image stabilisation/vibration reduction too, which is crucial when shooting at the far end of the telephoto range as camera shake can be a real problem handheld. So they are very versatile.

What Is The Best Superzoom Lens

Because superzooms are mainly aimed at enthusiast photographers with smaller, lighter SLRs, many (though not all) are designed for APS-C format cameras rather than full-frame. Check with the maker of a particular lens to be sure, however.

What Is The Best Superzoom Lens

A word about aperture

So why doesn't every photographer use them? The price you pay for such a versatile zoom range is limited aperture width – they're not that 'fast.' The aperture tends to shrink from f/3.5 to f/5.6 or even as narrow as f/6.3 as you move through the zoom range. Obviously, at f/6.3 you won't be getting as much light through to your camera sensor as you would if the lens was able to maintain f/2.8 throughout.

What Is The Best Superzoom Lens That said, the way that telephoto lenses work means you still may be able to blur out the background on portraits, etc, relatively easily. Distortion can also be an issue with superzooms when shooting wide-angle, but this varies between lenses.

Some best buys

So, now you know the pros and cons of a superzoom, which ones to buy? Here are some options that strike a good balance between size and weight and optical performance.

Sigma 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 DC Macro OS HSM/C

For around £400 (sorry, superzooms aren't particularly cheap), this is a great lens. It's relatively sharp throughout the range, with well-controlled distortion, and a powerful image stabiliser for when you're shooting handheld. Being a Sigma, it's available for most common mounts, including Pentax and Sony.


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Panasonic Lumix G14-140mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH POWER OIS

If you have an Olympus or Panasonic compact system camera based on Micro Four Thirds, this is a clear winner. As with most CSC lenses, it's smaller and lighter than equivalent glass for an SLR, and the image stabilisation works really well. It's not got the longest telephoto reach but works well as an all-in-one lens for around £450.


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Tamron 16-300mm f/3.5-6.3 DI II VC PZD MACRO

This is another good choice for Canon, Nikon and Sony mounts, and offers at very wide viewing angle at 16mm. It's well made and weather sealed, but you do notice more distortion at the wider end compared to its peers. Other helpful features include a focus distance scale and vibration reduction (for Canon and Nikon only). While not cheap at £450, this should serve you well on holiday, where constantly carrying and changing lenses can be a pain.


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Geoff Harris

I am a journalist and photographer and currently work as the Deputy Editor of Amateur Photographer (AP) the oldest weekly photographic magazine in the world. Before that I served as the editor of Digital Camera, Britain's best-selling photography magazine, for five years. During my time as editor it became the UK's top selling photo monthly and won Print Publication of the Year at the 2013 British Media Awards. As well as being lucky enough to get paid to write about photography, I've been fortunate to interview some of the greatest photographers in the world, including Elliott Erwitt, Don McCullin, Martin Parr, Terry O'Neill and Steve McCurry. This has been a wonderful learning experience and very influential on my photography. Beyond writing, I am a professional portrait, travel and documentary photographer, and reached the finals of the 2016 Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year competition. I am a Licentiate of the Royal Photographic Society and hope to take my Associateship whenever I can find the time. In addition I write about well being/personal development and antiques collecting for a range of other titles, including BlueWings, the in-flight magazine of Finn Air.

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