Lens Buying Guide

Our opinionated take on the Lenses we've tested.

CANON EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS$255, street For Canon soccer moms and vacationistas wanting image stabilization. It's got light weight, satisfying magnification (1:2.85), and the right price. not the most rugged build with a plastic lensmount and scaleless barrel, but quite sharp. STANDOUT SPEC That price. With IS and excellent optics, it's a lot of lens for a little cash. MOUNTS Canon EF-S WEIGHT 0.8 pounds LENGTH 4.2-5.84 inches FILTER SIZE 58mm STABILIZATION 2-2.5 stopsRead Full Review CANON EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM$1,235, street, with hood and case Excellent introduction to pro-grade glass, and much lighter and less expensive than the brighter Canon f/2.8. You still get L-series construction, optics, and handling, however. Tripod collar (A-2) is a separate purchase ($150, street). STANDOUT SPEC All. every feature and capability is worthy of its lofty L-series status. MOUNTS Canon EF WEIGHT 1.71 pounds LENGTH 6.73 inches FILTER SIZE 67 mm STABILIZATION 1.5-3.5 stopsRead Full Review
CANON EF 70–200mm f/2.8L IS USM$1,950, street, with hood, tripod collar, case Almost a must for serious Canon shooters . Sharp, fast, and very well built with quick, accurate and quiet autofocus. Well-sealed against dust and moisture. very visible barrel distortion at 70mm (1.28%). STANDOUT SPEC Speed. Its f/2.8 aperture and IS make handheld, low-light shots doable. MOUNTS Canon EF WEIGHT 3.9 pounds LENGTH 7.81 inches FILTER SIZE 77mm STABILIZATION Not tested. NIKON AF-S DX VR Zoom-Nikkor 55-200mm f/4-5.6G IF-ED$225, street, with hood and case For Nikon newbies wanting a taste of vibration reduction, this 82-300mm equivalent utility zoom is sharp, light, and relatively distortion free. Its plastic lensmount and more-than-usual corner vignetting are minor flaws. STANDOUT SPEC Value-very useful glass, hard-to-say-no price. MOUNTS Nikon AF-S WEIGHT 0.78 pounds LENGTH 3.9–5.32 inches FILTER SIZE 52mm STABILIZATION Not testedRead Full Review
NIKON AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 55–200mm f/4–5.6G ED$185, street, with hood and case This price-is-right nonstabilized zoom has quiet, if somewhat slow, AF. Its lensmount is plastic and there's very visible pincushioning (1.01%) at 105mm. STANDOUT SPEC Contracted, it’s the shortest 200mm here. MOUNTS Nikon AF-S WEIGHT 0.6 pounds LENGTH 3.09–4.5 inches FILTER SIZE 52mm STABILIZATION No NIKON AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor 70–200mm f/2.8G IF-ED$1,950, street, with hood, tripod collar, and case A pro's bread-and-butter lens, this speedster provides sharpness, excellent handling, and relatively distortion-free shooting. Heavy! STANDOUT SPEC Cosmetics. A true beauty, this massive lens' matte-black finish and contrasting gold accents announce that You Have Arrived. MOUNTS Nikon AF WEIGHT 3.27 pounds LENGTH 8.51 inches FILTER SIZE 77mm STABILIZATION 2–3 stopsRead Full Review
OLYMPUS ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 35-100mm f/2$2,050, street, with hood, tripod collar, case For Olympians who want the optical best, this 70-200mm equivalent, with rubber gaskets to seal out moisture and dust, is extraordinarily sharp and distortion free. but, ouch, the weight! STANDOUT SPEC That bright f/2 aperture, the fastest in its class. MOUNTS Four Thirds WEIGHT 4.04 pounds LENGTH 8.46 inches FILTER SIZE 77mm STABILIZATION In the cameraRead Full Review PENTAX 60-250mm f/4 PENTAX DA* ED SDM$1,300, street, with hood, tripod collar, and case The superlative performance and solid build quality of this newest Pentax zoom are detailed in this issue (see page 86). but it's f/2.8-heavy, and f/2.8-pricey-considering that it's an f/4. STANDOUT SPEC Freedom from flaws, as in virtually no distortion or light falloff. MOUNTS Pentax KAF2 WEIGHT 2.35 pounds LENGTH 6.7 inches FILTER SIZE 67mm STABILIZATION In the camera
SIGMA 55-200mm f/4-5.6DC$150, street, with hood For beginners yearning for reach, this should do the trick: It scales up to 85.25-310mm (equivalent) on most DSLrs. but distortion at 105mm was high (0.83% pincushion). STANDOUT SPEC That price. It should lure many telephiles. MOUNTS Canon, nikon, Sigma, and Sony WEIGHT 1.09 pounds LENGTH 3.42–4.66 inches FILTER SIZE 55mm STABILIZATION No SIGMA APO 70-200mm f/2.8 II EX DG HSM$800, street, with hood, case, tripod collar Well-suited to wildlife, sports, and portraits, it scales up to 105-300mm on most DSLRs. Autofocus is fast and quiet, and the build robust. Sorry, though-no extra moisture or dust resistance. STANDOUT SPEC Compatibility with Sigma teleconverters for up to twice the reach. MOUNTS Canon, Nikon, Four Thirds, Pentax, Sigma, Sony WEIGHT 3.07 pounds LENGTH 7.25 inches FILTER SIZE 77mm STABILIZATION NoRead Full Review
SONY DT 55-200mm f/4-5.6$230, street, with hood A step-up tele zoom for budget-bound Alpha shooters, this 82.5-300mm equivalent has somewhat lethargic AF, but provides excellent sharpness and contrast even at 200mm. STANDOUT SPEC ED glass for controlling chromatic aberration, unusual in a sub-$250 lens. MOUNTS Konica minolta, Sony WEIGHT 0.71 pounds LENGTH 3.32–5.31 inches FILTER SIZE 55mm STABILIZATION In the cameraRead Full Review TAMRON AF 55-200mm f/4-5.6 Di-II LD$175, street, with hood An excellent tele step-up zoom (85-310mm equivalent) with light weight and good magnification at a very attractive price. The hitch: Somewhat sluggish, whiny autofocus. STANDOUT SPEC Unusual metal/plastic hybrid lens mount keeps it from getting too heavy. MOUNTS Canon, Nikon, Sony WEIGHT 0.69 pounds LENGTH 3.33–4.67 inches FILTER SIZE 52mm STABILIZATION NoRead Full Review
TAMRON SP AF 70 –200mm f/2.86 Di LD (IF)$175, street, with hood An excellent tele step–up zoom (85–310mm equivalent) with light weight and good magnification at a very attractive price. The hitch: Somewhat sluggish, whiny autofocus. STANDOUT SPEC Macro. The 1:2.85 maximum magnification is among the best in this range. MOUNTS Canon, Nikon, Pentax, and Sony WEIGHT 2.91 pounds LENGTH 7.79 inches FILTER SIZE 77mm STABILIZATION NoRead Full Review CANON EF 85mm f/1.8 USM$440, street The favorite portrait lens for many a wedding pro, it's unusually sharp and well built, and handles flawlessly, with near-silent AF. only magnification (1:8) leaves something to be desired. STANDOUT SPEC Speed. Its maximum aperture and focal length make this lens a natural for available-light portraits. MOUNTS Canon EF WEIGHT 1.2 pounds LENGTH 2.81 inches FILTER SIZE 58mm STABILIZATION No
CANON EF 135mm f/2 USM$1,070, street, with hood and case Perfect for tight headshots. very sharp and fast, with a focal length well-suited to portraits and close-ups (1:5.3 max. magnification). expensive, but endlessly useful and reliable. STANDOUT SPEC At f/2, it delivers beautifully defocused backgrounds and allows for fast shutter speeds. MOUNTS Canon EF WEIGHT 1.65 pounds LENGTH 4.44 inches FILTER SIZE 72mm STABILIZATION No NIKON AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.8D$450, street, with hood Does almost everything Nikon's legendary 85mm f/1.4 does, but at half the price and a third less weight. Its Achilles' heel? So-so (1:9) maximum magnification. STANDOUT SPEC Small size. This short tele/portrait lens comes in a package just a bit larger than a 50mm f/1.8. MOUNTS Nikon AF WEIGHT 0.8 pounds LENGTH 2.31 inches FILTER SIZE 62mm STABILIZATION No
NIKON AF DC Nikkor 135mm f/2D$1,300, street, with hood A 200mm equivalent on most Nikons, it's for portraitists wanting bokeh control. Defocus Control lets you fine-tune softness in defocused areas. Yikes, who knew bokeh could be so expensive? STANDOUT SPEC Defocus control ring lets you adjust fore-or background softness. MOUNTS Nikon AF WEIGHT 1.75 pounds LENGTH 4.82 inches FILTER SIZE 72mm STABILIZATION NoRead Full Review PENTAX SMC DA* 200mm f/2.8 ED (IF) SDM$960, street, with hood and case For wildlife, sports, and more, this 300mm equivalent provides high-grade moisture and dust resistance, plus a hood with window for adjusting rotating filters. The hitch? None! 0.01% pincushioning. no light falloff, either STANDOUT SPEC Distortion. There was none—we measured MOUNTS Pentax KAF2 WEIGHT 1.85 pounds LENGTH 5.31 inches FILTER SIZE 77mm STABILIZATION In the cameraRead Full Review