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Tips & Tutorials >> All Tips & Tutorials In Focus: Lens Basics- Part 8

Lens Basics #7: Standard Zoom & Superzoom Lenses

With their versatility and focal range, standard zoom and superzoom lenses are very popular lenses especially for beginners. Let’s find out more about their special features. (Reported by: Tomoko Suzuki)

Travel street photography

 

Characteristics of standard zoom lenses & superzoom lenses

1. They can be used for a wide variety of scenes, including natural landscapes, portraits and street photography.
2. They tend to have smaller maximum apertures, which results in a larger depth-of-field.
3. Superzoom lenses are standard zoom lenses with an enhanced telephoto focal range. They thus tend to be a little bigger.

Previously, we took a look at zoom lenses and how they differ from prime lenses. Here, we will take a closer look at two popular types of zoom lenses: standard zoom lenses and superzoom lenses.

Mirrorless and DSLR camera kits usually include a standard zoom lens. These lenses cover a focal length range that includes 50mm (at 35mm film equivalent), which gives the same field-of-view as the human eye. This makes them highly versatile. Meanwhile, superzoom lenses are like standard zoom lenses with an especially powerful telephoto range. Their largest advantage lies in how just one lens can cover a focal length range from wide-angle to telephoto.

Both of these types of zoom lenses have an excellent ability to handle a wide variety of scenes. As you can very quickly switch from a wide-angle focal range to a telephoto focal range, standard zoom and superzoom lenses are also great for handling sudden, unexpected shutter opportunities.

The standard zoom and superzoom lenses that have relatively smaller apertures (larger maximum f-numbers) have a larger depth-of-field (area of an image that appears in-focus), which helps you to avoid taking images that are (unintentionally) out-of-focus. There are many such lenses that are compact and lightweight, which also makes it easier to carry them around.

 

Main types of standard zoom lenses

Full-frame, fixed aperture

EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM

EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM

EF24-105mm f/4L IS II USM

EF24-105mm f/4L IS II USM

 

Full-frame, variable aperture

EF24-105mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM

EF24-105mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM

 

For EF-S/EF-M

 

EF-S18-55mm f/4-5.6 IS STM

EF-S18-55mm f/4-5.6 IS STM

EF-M15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM

EF-M15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM

 

Main types of superzoom lenses

Around 8x magnification

EF-S18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM

EF-S18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM

EF-M18-150mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM

EF-M18-150mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM

 

Around 11x magnification

EF28-300mm f/3.5-5.6L IS USM

EF28-300mm f/3.5-5.6L IS USM

EF-S18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS

EF-S18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS

 

Canon’s standard zooms can be classified into three categories:

1. Fixed aperture zoom lenses have just one maximum aperture throughout the entire focal length range. This maximum aperture tends to be relatively large, which makes the lens great for creating defocus (bokeh) effects. However, because of that, fixed aperture lenses also tend to be larger and more expensive. 
2. Variable aperture zoom lenses tend to be more affordable and lighter than the fix aperture type. The maximum aperture varies throughout the focal length range.
3. EF-S/EF-M lenses are for use with DSLR cameras with APS-C size sensors and EOS M series mirrorless cameras respectively. Some are fixed aperture and others are variable aperture, but they all tend to be more compact and lightweight than lenses for full-frame cameras.

Superzoom lenses can be categorized by zoom magnification level. There are currently two categories: 8x zoom, and 11x zoom. Lenses with 8x zoom have a telephoto range that exceeds 200mm (at 35mm film equivalent). If this range exceeds 300mm, the lens is considered to have an 11x zoom. To capture subjects that are very far away, you would probably be better off choosing the latter type.

 

An illustration of focal length ranges

 

Focal length range of standard zoom lens v.s superzooms

Standard zoom lenses usually have middle focal length of around 50mm (35mm film equivalent) and cover a range that includes wide-angle and a telephoto range of around 70mm to 100mm. Superzoom lenses cover an even wider range, from wide-angle up to as much as 300mm.

 

Try with your standard zoom/superzoom lens

2 tricks for getting an even better defocus effect
Compared to prime lenses, standard zoom lenses and superzoom lenses tend to have a smaller maximum aperture. To get a stronger defocus effect beyond what the minimum f-number on the lens suggests, try either or both of the following: 1. Move as close to the subject as the minimum shooting distance (closest focusing distance) allows. 2. Choose a background that is far away from the subject.

1. Close in on the subject

Shot close to subject

EOS 6D/ EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM/ FL: 24mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/4, 1/125sec, EV-2)/ ISO 100/ WB: Daylight

2. Ensure the background is far away

Flowers with a faraway background bokeh

EOS 6D/ EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM/ FL: 105mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/4, 1/50sec, EV+0.3)/ ISO 100/ WB: Daylight

 

Standard zooms & superzooms are great…

Land and sea photograph

EOS 5D Mark III/ EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM/ FL: 105mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/4, 1/800sec, EV+0.3)/ ISO 100/ WB: Manual

…for when you want to travel light!
One standard zoom lens can cover both wide-angle and telephoto focal length, which makes it perfect for travelling light. For this image, I shot with the telephoto end (105mm), framing the beautiful scenery in a simple composition.

 

Street photograph of man on bike

EOS 80D/ EF-S18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM/ FL: 78mm (125mm equivalent)/ Aperture-priority AE (f/8, 1/125sec, EV-0.7)/ ISO 100/ WB: Auto

…for when you want to take casual snapshots!
A superzoom lens covers a huge range of focal lengths, which is ideal for street photography as you can casually snap away at all sorts of subjects without having to change your lens. The ability to quickly change the angle of view from wide-angle to telephoto (or vice versa) gives you that crucial split-second to capture sudden photo opportunities.

 

Confused about different types of lenses? Read these articles to learn more about what makes each type of lens unique! 
Lens Basics #1: Zoom Lenses
Lens Basics #2: Prime Lenses
Lens Basics #3: Creating Bokeh
Lens Basics #4: Deep Focus
Lens Basics #5: Perspective
Lens Basics #6: Wide-angle Lenses
What is the difference between an f/2.8 and an f/4 telephoto zoom lens?
What is the difference between a 200mm and 300mm telephoto lens?

 


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Tomoko Suzuki

Tomoko Suzuki

After graduating from the Tokyo Polytechnic University Junior College, Suzuki joined an advertisement production firm. She has also worked as an assistant to photographers including Kirito Yanase, and specializes in commercial shoots for apparels and cosmetic products. She now works as a studio photographer for an apparel manufacturer.