The Best Zoom Lenses For Your Camera System


Ready to get a better zoom lens than what you’ve got? Well, why go for a vanilla lens? There are lots of zoom lenses available that truly stand out from the rest. And so we’re rounding up a bunch of those. We truly believe that these are the best zoom lenses on the market right now. And our reviews are backing that up. These lenses have something special that makes them especially unique.

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 in these roundups. 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 Choose the Best Zoom Lenses

Here’s some insight into how we chose the best telephoto zoom lenses in this list:

  • Our ethics don’t allow us to include products in these roundups that we haven’t tested before. So with that said, all of these products are ones that we’ve got full reviews of. You can check them out as we’re providing hyperlinks to all of those. And trust us, we really have tested the best zoom lenses and much more.
  • All of the product images and sample images are shot by our staff.
  • We’re choosing these lenses based on build quality, image quality, autofocus speed, pricing, and image stabilization.
  • You’ll get beautiful images from these lenses, we’re very positive about that. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be calling them the best zoom lenses.
  • No photographer in the world wants to be carrying around something that’s overly heavy.
  • These lenses that we’re selecting have some sort of really incredible innovation happening. That’s part of what makes them the best zoom lenses available.

Canon RF 28-70mm f2 L USM

Pro

  • Beautiful image quality
  • Very sharp
  • The fastest full-frame zoom lens with a practical range on the market
  • Weather sealing
  • Built incredibly well
  • It got even better with the latest firmware update

Cons

In our review, we said:

By and large, the Canon RF 28-70mm f2 L USM is the best zoom lens I’ve tested with a standard range. Part of this is due to the constant f2 aperture. While the Canon RF 28-70mm f2 L USM and the EOS R don’t have the most resolution, I think that, in the hands of an expert photographer, the combo will do very well. The EOS R doesn’t have the best dynamic range compared to modern Panasonic, Sony, and Leica cameras. But luckily, lenses like the Canon 28-70mm f2 L USM are great. You’ll get fantastic bokeh, exceptional sharpness, lens character, beautiful colors, and no real problems with technicalities. When it comes to image quality, the Canon RF 28-70mm f2 L USM isn’t really something you can fault.

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Tamron 35-150mm f2-2.8 Di III VXD

PROS

  • 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

CONS

  • Slower to focus on moving subjects with the a7r III, but not by much. It’s noticeable if you’re a seasoned and trained reviewer. Make sure you’re using the appropriate focusing type.
  • A tad heavy
  • Someone is bound to complain about the lack of image stability. But I’d argue to hold the damn lens correctly in the first place and control their breathing.

In our review, we said:

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 one is a full stop faster. Tamron has also done a world’s first with building a USB port into the lens directly. This port is sealed the same way 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 to do. It’s brilliant.

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

PROS

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

CONS

  • Tamron is a beautiful diamond being wasted on the sad Ringpop that is the Sony APS-C camera system.

In our review, we said:

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 all this the vibration compensation, sharp optics, and weather sealing features. Then realize that it’s under $1,000. To me, this sounds like a no-brainer.

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Leica SL 24-90mm f2.8-4

PROS

  • Weather sealed
  • It’s built incredibly solid.
  • Nice bokeh, especially because of the longer focal length vs. a 24-70mm
  • A genuine attempt at doing something different
  • Great image quality
  • Like all things Leica, it’s pretty easy to use once you actually understand it.
  • Focuses pretty fast and reliably, moreso with the Panasonic S5

CONS

In our review, we said:

One of the reasons you pay for a Leica is that they don’t play around with build quality. Leica went ahead and IP rated their cameras, but not their lenses. However, the Leica SL 24-90mm f2.8-4 is very weather sealed. We’ve taken it out into the rain, snow, and other conditions. The lens kept working: this is a very reliable lens.

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Nikon Z 24-120mm f4 S

PROS

  • Nano Crystal and ARNEO lens coatings
  • Super silent S-line lens
  • Macro focusing capabilities as close as 1.15 ft at 120mm
  • Weather sealed lens barrel and rubber gasket over the lens mount
  • Customizable L-Fn button
  • Dedicated manual focus ring in addition to the control ring
  • Only $100 more than the Z 24-70mm f4 S that doesn’t have most of the above capabilities
  • 77mm filter thread means I can use a lot of my existing circular filters from F-mount pro lenses
  • Rugged construction. Mine fell from 4 feet high and smashed to the ground. Apart from a broken UV filter, a few missed AF shots on the day, and some scuffing, it continues to work perfectly.

CONS

  • No Vibration Reduction in the lens. I’m guessing this was left out to keep the costs down. Nikon Z full-frame bodies have in-body stabilization already.
  • You’ll miss the satisfying zoom ring lock if you’re upgrading from the Z 24-70 f4 lens.
  • Not the most satisfying bokeh at 120mm

In our review, we said:

This lens takes first priority in my kit when I want to keep my bag light. Be it street photography or event coverage, I toss this in my camera bag with a speedlight, and I’m good to go. In the past, I’d take along a 105mm or 70-200mm for extra reach because 70mm wasn’t enough. Leaving these extra lenses at home has been an enjoyable experience when doing corporate shoots over four hours long.

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Panasonic Leica 25-50mm f1.7

PROS

  • Bright f1.7 aperture consistently through the zoom range, yet it’s not a prime
  • Weather-sealed, metal design
  • Subjects are really sharp, with only minor softness at the corners and extreme edges.
  • Great bokeh that doesn’t look like Micro Four Thirds
  • Flare adds some character
  • Decent autofocus

CONS

  • Heavy
  • Pricey
  • Occasional chromatic abberation
  • Aperture ring not compatible with Olympus

In our review, we said:

The Panasonic Leica 25-50mm f1.7 has the aperture and sharpness of a prime lens, yet the versatility of a zoom. The optic mixes lovely, soft backgrounds with sharp subjects and some fun flare. But it’s pricey and heavy, and there is some occasional chromatic aberration.

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