The Best Zoom Lenses for Photographers on a Budget


We get it: finding the best zoom lenses is a pretty difficult task when no one is making a bad one. But some are truly more innovative, unique, or balance things just right better than others. Professional photographers demand the best zoom lenses for the variety of work they do on locations and in studios. Further, passionate photographers everywhere love to be able to capture and create scenes they can share with engaged onlookers everywhere. So to make it easier for you, we dove in and found some of the best zoom lenses money can get you. Here they are.

The Phobographer’s Various product round-up features are done in-house. Our philosophy is simple: you wouldn’t get a Wagyu beef steak review from a lifelong vegetarian. And you wouldn’t get photography advice from someone who doesn’t touch the product. We only recommend gear we’ve fully reviewed. If you’re wondering why your favorite product didn’t make the cut, there’s a chance it’s on another list. If we haven’t reviewed it, we won’t recommend it. This method keeps our lists packed with industry-leading knowledge. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

How We Chose the Best Zoom Lenses for Professional Photographers on a Budget

Here’s some insight into how we chose the best zoom lenses:

  • The Phobographer’s staff aren’t allowed to comment on products we haven’t reviewed. You can see more about this on our Editorial Policies page. With that said, we’ve reviewed every single one of the best zoom lenses and more. Beyond that, we also shot all the product images you see here.
  • We recognize that not every photographer uses a full-frame mirrorless camera. For that reason, this roundup of the best zoom lenses includes those for Sony mirrorless and Fujifilm cameras, as well as Canon and Nikon DSLRs.
  • This is a sponsored roundup from Tamron reinforcing our high praise of their products. You can see that praise reflected in our full reviews which are hyperlinked throughout the article.
  • The best zoom lenses aren’t anything without a good photographer behind them and a bit of maintenance. We recommend cleaning the contacts on your lenses and cameras every now and again. In fact, we’ve got an article here on how to do that, to supplement your research.

Tamron 17-70mm F2.8 Di III-A VC RXD

Why It’s the Best

  • Small
  • Weather sealed
  • Under $1,000
  • Image stabilized
  • Basically a 24-105mm at f2.8
  • Lightweight

What We Think

In our review, we state:

“The Tamron 17-70mm F2.8 Di III-A VC RXD is the full-frame equivalent of a 26-105mm f2.8 lens. The depth of field will be around f4.2 in full-frame too. But the light gathering and true aperture will still be f2.8. This is the first time we’ve ever gotten a lens like this. Add onto this the vibration compensation, sharp optics, and weather sealing features, and then realize it’s under $1,000. To me, this sounds like a no-brainer.”

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Tamron 35-150mm F2-2.8 Di III VXD

Why It’s the Best

  • Beautiful image quality
  • Works with Sony’s autofocus algorithms on the Sony a1
  • Weather sealing
  • One of Tamron’s most solidly built lenses to date
  • Integrated USB port
  • Lightweight for what this is; a very innovative lens
  • Feels great in the hands
  • F2 aperture to start is nice!
  • Works very well on older Sony cameras if you’re using the appropriate autofocusing type
  • Can do pretty well in continuous autofocus
  • I adore that this isn’t one of Tamron’s sharpest lenses because it means that I don’t have to spend a ton of time retouching every pore
  • $1,899 isn’t too bad of a price

What We Think

In our review, we state:

“Where to start? The Tamron 35-150mm f2-2.8 Di III VXD is the only lens on the market that begins with an f2 aperture and goes down to f2.8. Tamron has a similar lens for DSLRs that starts at f2.8 and stops down to f4. But obviously, this f2 is a full stop faster. Tamron has also done a world’s first with building a USB port directly into the lens. This port is sealed the same way as one is on a phone. That means you can get rid of the dock to update the firmware. With this lens, you don’t necessarily need a 28-75mm and a 70-180mm lens. Instead, you’ve got one lens to do everything you’d realistically need. It’s brilliant.”

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Tamron 28-75mm F2.8 Di III VXD G2

Why It’s the Best

  • Beautiful image quality
  • Works with Sony’s autofocus algorithms
  • Weather sealing
  • Integrated USB port
  • Lightweight
  • Feels great in the hands
  • Works very well on older Sony cameras if you’re on the appropriate autofocusing type
  • Can do pretty well in continuous autofocus
  • It’s only $879.

What We Think

In our review, we state:

“The autofocus on the Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 Di III VXD G2 is very good. The only time I had any sort of trouble was with tracking a cat moving closer to the camera. (Specifically this was on the Sony a7r III; with the Sony a1 it was a bit better.) And for what it’s worth, I don’t think anyone would buy this lens with the intention of photographing their pets moving closer. You should also know that Sony owns part of Tamron, so the autofocus is bound to be fantastic!”

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Tamron 24-70mm F2.8 Di VC USD G2

Why It’s the Best

  • Fantastic sharpness
  • Great colors if you white balance and edit the right way
  • Reliable autofocus
  • Image stabilization
  • Weather sealing
  • Feels good in the hand
  • Very versatile
  • Not too heavy
  • Not badly priced

What We Think

In our review, we state:

“In situations where you’re shooting more environmental portraiture, you’ll find that the Tamron 24-70mm f2.8 Di VC USD does a fantastic job. It’s saturated and, even when it comes to skin tones, you’ll find the saturation a bit higher than normal. But it’s surely manageable if you’re using good shooting and editing techniques. By that, what I essentially mean is a locked white balance and finding a way to keep the various colors in the scene separate from one another for editing in specific color channels.”

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This piece is presented in partnership with TAMRON. We’ve independently and ethically reviewed all the products in this post already without sponsorship. And we worked with them to recommend a few key gems to you.





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