all-in-one/zoom travel lens?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Rossatron, May 4, 2016.

  1. Rossatron macrumors 6502a

    Apr 4, 2013
    in a ziplock bag inside a car's trunk
    Hey, I'm looking for a good zoom lense, that will allow me to tak good landscape photos, but also close-up zoom photos like animals here and there. I don't need anything crazy in that regard, but I have 18-55, and it's just not enough when I see something interesting and can't get close enough. I want something in the 18/28(or thereabouts)-xxx that will provide good quality on both ends of the scale as in between. The reason I don't want a 55-xxx lens is because I do not want to switch lenses in the middle of everything, plus since it's off-road, there maybe some dust here and there (but not to the extent I will need a dust-proof/weather-proof lens). Also, since the pictures will be taken mostly in day time, I'm not worried too much about aperture.

    my camera is a Nikon d5500, and here are some lenses that fit in my budget:

    Nikon 18-140 af-s dx f3.5-5.6g ed vr
    Sigma 18-250 f3.5-6.3 dc macro os hsm
    Sigma 18-200 f3.5-6.3 dc macro os hsm contemporary
    Tamron 28-300 af f3.5-6.3 xr di ld (if) macro
    Tamron 18-250 af f3.5-6.3 xr di-ii ld (if) macro

    Where the Tamrons are the limit of my budget.
    Thanks for the help
  2. Macyourdayy macrumors 6502


    Sep 9, 2011
    I've used the Nikon 18-200 since 2008 and it's brilliant. It's the only digital lens I've owned for the reasons you're looking for. It focuses to 500mm at full zoom and with the excellent stabilisation, you can do hand held macro type type shots as well. I can't believe how useful it is having a quality lens with that range and haven't felt the need for anything else or regretted the purchase as it suits my opportunistic style and is essentially a bag of lenses in one. This is particularly important with digital as the chance of dirt ending up on the sensor due to lens changing, especially in bad weather, is astronomical compared with film, never mind the likelihood of missing the shot or dropping something while changing over.
    The 28 will never be enough but the 18 is adequate for most wide angle needs. I tend to find I'm usually at one end or the other, even though I almost never used telephoto when I shot on film and made do with a 28-85 Canon. Having had the 18-200, I can't imagine going back to a 3x zoom and I don't have the skills or discipline to stick with fixed focal lengths, even though I often did it with film due it's speed and resolution limitations.

    I strongly suggest you go with a Nikon zoom as I've never found the non camera brands to perform satisfactorily. I know there are many "reviews" suggesting otherwise, but unless you can do useful testing to prove it to yourself, I'm pretty sure you'll regret cheaping out. I've seen my shots on a retina screen and I couldn't believe sharpness compared to my screens, whereas I could see fringing, uneven focus, lack of contrast and general sogginess on what I think was a Tamron 18-250 on my non retina devices.
    The combination of the 5500 and a Nikon zoom will amaze you, especially after the rather ordinary 18-55. You can take pics in almost any light. Remember, the stock lens is a fraction of the price of the 18-200 and you really do get what you pay for here, and I'm using the original version. Please remember to get a quality UV filter immediately to protect the lens. Do not be tempted to even take it out of the box till you're ready to put the filter on in a clean environment.
  3. Ray2 macrumors 6502a

    Jul 8, 2014
    For travel, these long zooms take a toll on me. I used to travel with the 18-200 or 24-300 on FF. Too much, I'm now shooting mirrorless and my zooms are lighter than fast DX or FF primes.

    A point to consider if you're carrying for long periods.

    My recollection of the 18-200 is its soft at the wide and long ends. It's a compromise and "good quality" is subject to a lot of interpretation. My view is its a flexible lens but too big and heavy to want to carry it during travel. Our travels tend to be urban Europe where I need to deal with walking in close quarters with hard stuff sticking out all over the place and cafe/restaurant tables being the size of postage stamps. If I trekked with a donkey carrying my gear I might feel different.
  4. mofunk macrumors 68020


    Aug 26, 2009
    I've always said to fellow photogs to rent before they buy.

    Since its a DX camera you could probably get the reach you want with any of the kit lenses that comes with D7100 or D750. Like the 24-120mm or 18-140mm. Both can be found for under $500 used.
  5. JDDavis macrumors 65816


    Jan 16, 2009
    Nikon 18-300. Probably a bit above your budget ($600 used) but it's better than the 18-200 and that extra 100mm on a DX can mean the world with wildlife. It's not small or light but it's still within reason for all day carry. For a zoom with that focal range it manages to take pretty decent pictures. It's certainly soft on the edges both at the wide and long end but lenses like these are always a compromise. When I only had my D90 and I only wanted to carry the camera and lens and be ready for anything then it was the 18-300. The VR works pretty well too.

    These days when I want only a camera and 1 lens (bringing no other lenses) and want to be ready for anything it's my D750 and a 50mm. It's compact and light and I zoom with my feet where I can and crop if I have to. But that does limit what you can realistically shoot (no eagles across the field or wide angle interior shots). Everything's a compromise. If it was physically possible to make a compact/light 24-500 f2.8 with little distortion and no fall off then Nikon would probably put themselves out of business.
  6. Apple fanboy macrumors Penryn

    Apple fanboy

    Feb 21, 2012
    Behind the Lens, UK
    Imagine the cost though! I'd love a 14-500 f1.2 pancake lens!
    Compromise is the key word here.
    Want the best? Carry primes.
    Want an all in one, expect to see drop off in performance.
    Personally I go the middle ground with my Nikon trinity and a few other additions.
    I rarely go out with less than three lenses (although not always the same three!), and a couple of bodies.
  7. Rossatron thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Apr 4, 2013
    in a ziplock bag inside a car's trunk
    the 18-300 is indeed nice, but way way over my budget.
  8. v3rlon macrumors 6502a

    Sep 19, 2014
    Earth (usually)
    I used the prior Tamron 18-270 VC lens on my DX cameras before for a similar reason. I loved the versatility of that zoom range. 18-300 (27-450 on a D5500) should cover 99% of the focal lengths you need in general shooting. All of these lenses suffer from a bit of distortion fully extended.

    Now the downside - Aperture. That F3.5 (F7 equivalent in DOF), will be a little limiting. I didn't mind the 6.3 at the other end as much because of how I used it, but the 3.5 drops off fast.

    I would take the Tamron or Sigma over the Nikon by virtue of a greater zoom range over the same aperture range. I personally prefer Tamron over Sigma. Once you get the new lens, you won't be looking back at that 18-55 much. If you can manage the trade, swap the 18-55 for a prime 50mm f1.8 for low light and shallow DOF options (f1.4 if you can find THAT deal). The Nifty fifty is small and easy to carry, so it won't add much weight/bulk, but it will give you some versatility. At 75mm equivalent, it is mildly telephoto and they are usually very sharp.
  9. phrehdd macrumors 68040


    Oct 25, 2008
    To the OP

    I admit I might be a bit old fashion but in your shoes, I would possibly do the following -
    Search the internet for reviews of all those lenses you listed and narrow down to those that best meet your criteria.

    While I admit I am not one for wide to long telephoto lenses due to various inherent issues, others do find them perfectly acceptable in terms of handling and the level of image quality. As such, best to get some good test/reviews and some data on the lenses themselves.

    In the past I used to use two cameras, a medium format film rangefinder with a fixed wide angle lens and then a short zoom on a 35mm camera. This was my typical travel set up. Here is my reason why - the medium format wide angle allowed for cropping and a combo of focus and zone shooting (DOF exploited). The shorter midrange zoom on the 35mm was the based on highest specs. A counterpart today might be a high end point and shoot (small and portable) along with my main camera DX or FF with a top quality short zoom akin to an 80-200. I am a big believer in walking around to get the best shot rather than depending on just the zoom. The latter actually helped me understand and see all the options I had with respect to the subject and exploring more opportunities for angles, relative distance impact and leveraging lighting (natural or otherwise).

    Last - I am glad to see those that have these longer lens share their enjoyment of using them. Just remember that doing good research first is akin to measure twice and cut once.

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