The zoom lens for digital SLR cameras and point and shoot cameras are the best thing to come down the photography pike... well, ever! For point and shoot cameras, they allow the buyer a wide selection of choices to meet needs and expectations, whether looking for a general "shapshot" type of camera or one that has more of a zoom range to take on trips and vacations. For those who own digital SLR cameras, they make lens selection so much simpler for amateurs and pros alike.
Zoom Lens For Beginners
Beginners' zoom lenses usually include two very good, but inexpensive "kit" lenses. The zoom lens that comes with many cameras has about a 4x range, which is quite useful for general use. In addition, many first-time buyers get another lens with longer zoom ranges, usually about 55-250mm. Again, these two lenses are typically made with economy in mind, but they really produce great photos when used correctly.
While the kit lenses are good, there are other choices for buying a first (or kit replacement) lens. Nikon, Canon, and others have developed what are termed "super-zoom" lenses. They are generally in the 10x zoom range, and some have even more reach. The range for Nikon and Canon is 18-200mm for their premier super-zoom lenses. They will cost a bit more than the pair of normal kit lenses, but the build and optics of these lenses are superior, by far.
When purchasing your Nikon or Canon digital SLR camera, you can choose to buy the "body only" version of the camera instead of the version that includes the kit lens. Then you would purchase the lens of your choice separately.
The beauty of these super-zoom lenses is that they can stay on your camera for almost all of your shooting needs. You can basically leave your camera bag at home.
Super-Zoom lenses are also a specialty of third party manufacturers such as Sigma and Tamron. These two lens makers produce quality products for the likes of Nikon and Canon, and in the case of 18-200mm lenses, they are very highly regarded by those who have purchased them. The best part is that you can save quite a bit of money by choosing these lenses over the brand name ones.
Special Purpose Zoom Lenses
While many pros still proclaim the merits of prime, or single focal length, lenses, zoom lens technology has improved greatly in recent years. Choosing a wide-angle zoom lens or a extra long telephoto zoom lens is now not only possible, but it is also an excellent deal as far as quality and savings are concerned.
In the past (and at present, too), a pro photographer would have to spend thousands of dollars on prime focal length lenses such as a 400mm beast. Now, you can choose a zoom lenses that meets the 400mm range for a fraction of the price. The same is true for wide-angle zoom lenses. Improved technology and decreased prices now make it possible to get some very nice and versatile zoom lenses into the hands of the common folk as well as professionals.
Zoom Lens Recommendations
It makes sense to get the equipment that will produce the best results for the type of photography you specialize in. If you don't know yet which lenses will best suit your needs because you are just starting out, definitely go with the kit lens. However, if you have already targeted your favorite type of photography, go for the zoom lens that will give your the best results in that type of photography.
Point and shoot camera buyers should choose the camera that has the right lens, as well. There are definite differences in the choices for compact cameras. Panasonic offers cameras with zoom lenses produced by the Leica company.
These lenses are excellent quality pieces, and, even though Panasonic is not the most popular brand in the point and shoot market, they provide some excellent lens choices, especially in the super-zoom category. Finally, do not take anything for granted.
Even great manufacturers are capable of turning out some "less than stellar" products. You really need to read the specs on each camera or lens you plan to purchase simply to make sure you are getting the best quality your money can buy.