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Digital SLR zoom lens reviews

A digital camera zoom lens can take your photography to greater heights.
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01 .Introduction

Digital SLR zoom lense

Test results for 20 DSLR lenses priced from $249 to $1699

If you own a digital SLR camera (DSLR) and want to expand your photographic horizons the next step is to decide on the best lens to complete your kit. CHOICE put 20 DSLR lenses to the test to see how easy they are to use and how well they perform.

Our results show some are better than others at dealing with difficult photo-taking situations. While Nikon and Canon dominate DSLR sales, a new all-digital lens system developed by a collection of photographic companies and used in Olympus and Panasonic cameras is making a big impact. Known as the Four Thirds system, it is designed for digital photography so does not have to cater for older, film-based cameras. Our testing shows these new lenses more than hold their own against the other models on test, with several Four Thirds mount lenses among our recommendations.

For more information on Digital cameras, see Technology.

Please note: this information was current as of July 2009 but is still a useful guide to today's market. 

Models tested

Standard zoom

  • Canon EF-S 18-55mm F/3.5-5.6 IS
  • Nikon AF-S DX 18-105mm G-ED VR
  • Nikon AF-S DX-Nikkor 18-55 mm F/3.5-5.6 G VR
  • Olympus Zuiko Digital 14-42mm F/3.5-5.6
  • Olympus Zuiko Digital 14-54mm F/2.8-3.5 II
  • Panasonic 14-45mm F/3.5-5.6 Mega OIS
  • Pentax smc DA-L 18-55mm F/3.5 - 5.6
  • Sigma 18-50mm F/2.8EX DC Macro
  • Tamron SP AF 17-50mm F/2.8 XR Di II LD Aspherical IF
  • Tokina AT-X 16-50mm F/2.8 Pro DX


  • Canon EF-S 18-200mm F/3.5-5.6 IS
  • Canon EF-S 55-250mm F/4-5.6 IS
  • Nikon AF-S 55-200mm F/4-5.6 G IF-ED VR DX
  • Olympus Zuiko Digital 40-150mm F/4-5.6
  • Panasonic Lumix G Vario 45-200mm F/4-5.6 OIS
  • Pentax smc DA-L 50-200mm F/4-5.6 ED
  • Sigma 55-200mm F/4-5.6 DC
  • Sony DT 18-250 mm f/3.5-6.3
  • Tamron 18-270 mm F/3.5 - 6.3 VC LD Asph Di II
  • Tamron AF 55-200mm F/4-5.6 Di II LD Macro

How we tested

  • Modulation transfer function Measuring this is the best available indicator of a lens’ ability to replicate detail in a photographic image with appropriate contrast and sharpness.
  • Ease of use Our testers evaluate how easy it is to operate the zoom lens and change settings such as image stabilisation and aperture.
  • Distortion Our tester measures the ability of the lens to accurately reproduce the edge of an image, particularly when the zoom lens is at its widest setting. Distortion is usually evident when looking at an image with sharply defined lines such as the edge of a building.
  • Reflexes in lens This test measures the effect of extraneous light on the lens’ ability to faithfully reproduce an image. Unwanted light reflections within the lens lead to issues such as lens flare and spots of light on a photo.
  • Veiling glare This measures the amount of stray light in a lens caused by reflections of light between the surface of the lens element and the inside of the barrel of the lens. A lens that performs poorly will often show up as producing images with a washed-out look over most of the photo.
  • Vignetting measures the extent of darkening at the edge of an image compared with the overall image. This is often evident in close-up shots using a lens at its widest aperture (f2.8 or f1.8) where dark corners appear on the image.
  • Macro This test determines the ability to faithfully shoot images at a ratio approaching 1:1, with testers making an assessment of a close-up image shot at maximum aperture and medium aperture.

See also how we test digital cameras.

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