Welcome to the golden age of lens technology
Camera Bag De-Clutterers
One true do-it-all zoom: Tamron 18–270mm f/3.5–6.3 VC
This category, not so very long ago, could have been called The Impossible Dream: a single zoom lens spanning the range from true wide angle to long telephoto, with decent close focusing, as well. Optics such as the full-frame 28–300mm f/3.5–5.6G AF-S Nikkor ED VR and APS-C 18–135mm f/3.5–5.6 Pentax-DA WR are now commonplace, and manufacturers issue upgrade models with some frequency.
Tamron’s 18–270mm f/3.5–6.3 Di II VC is as good a showcase for the virtues (and shortcomings) of this lens type as any out there. An APS-C-only lens, it’s the equivalent of 27–405mm in full–frame terms, for an industry–leading zoom ratio of 15X. And we exaggerated only slightly in our lab report when we called it “miraculously compact.” Close-focusing magnification can go as high as 1:3.24, and its Vibration Control gave our testers up to 3.5 extra stops of hand-holding leeway, on average.
But like every lens in this class, the Tamron is optically challenged at its longest focal length (where it dropped three grades down in SQF from the Excellent rating of its shorter focal lengths). Maximum apertures start at a sluggish f/3.5 and go to an oh-so-dim f/6.3 at long tele. Clearly, all-in-ones are not for available-light shooters.
But for those who want to travel light, who want a lens suitable for almost every type of outdoor shooting, and don’t want to bother swapping lenses off and on for family photos, all-in-ones are an attractive alternative.
Tech Talk: Most all-in-ones now have desperately needed image stabilization. In our tests, we’ve found these systems quite effective for reducing blur due to hand shake, so we recommend that you leave stabilization on. While shooting, give the shutter release a half-press and pause a moment to let the IS get settled. Don’t try to counteract any slight drift you see in the finder; instead, concentrate on keeping your eye trained on the subject. Squeeze, don’t push, the shutter button, and keep you finger on the button as you follow through—lifting your finger off the button can make for more shake. Remember that IS won’t prevent a moving subject from blurring: For action shots, you’ll just have to crank up the ISO to allow for suitable shutter speeds.