MILCs and Superzooms vs 2 or more Zooms

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Foto4x4 Senior Member • Posts: 2,559
MILCs and Superzooms vs 2 or more Zooms

There’s been some sometimes heated debate in another thread that I’ve been involved in that has helped me confirm that I prefer the multi-lens option when it comes to FF, especially high Mp ones like my A7RII.

So, why am I writing this? To maybe help others when they come to decide what lenses they should buy and why I came to my conclusions over nearly 40 years of photography.

There’s a lot of people who like the convenience of superzooms and I’ve had my time with some very good ones. But also some bad ones too. Though this is primarily about superzoom lenses, I cannot ignore that a lot of people love bridge cameras like the Sony RX10III and IV or Lumix FZ1000. They are great for what they’re designed for. I owned an RX10III for 18 months and for travel it was pretty darn good. My issue was that every now and then I needed another camera to get the shot. It might have been light, or resolution or it was too big at the dinner table with friends. So despite it doing much of the shooting, I still carried other gear with me. I have an A6300 and when it was released, I got the 18-135 (27-202 eqv). It’s pretty darn good and compact too. But the APS-C isn’t my main camera so it’s more a backup for me. But for a travel camera, I’d rate it above the RX10III even though a much more limited range. Still it was the RX10III that I sold as I have longer lens requirements covered (more below). Though other superzoom options are available, on APS-C and FF, I always seem to have had a 24-70 and 70-200 or 300. And there’s two big reasons.

  1. Weight. 85% of images are at or below 70mm. So to me it makes sense to keep a smaller lens on the body for most of the time. If I anticipate needing a longer lens, then it goes into my sling bag in case. But what’s in my hand or around my neck mostly is less weighty than a big superzoom.
  2. Image Quality. The longer the zoom, the more the compromise. The best IQ superzoom I’ve used has been the RX10III. The lens is a miracle to be frank. But it’s also out gunned by APS-C and FF, and yes my M4/3 gear below 200mm, even my humble 28-70 kit has more detail within its common range. 

Here’s how I’ve arrived at where I am on this question...

I started on my photography journey in earnest in the early 80s with a Canon SLR and two lenses, a Tamron 35-70 and 80-210. Pretty basic but affordable lenses.It never occurred to me in those days that one might own more than one camera. I used them for about 18 years before switching to an EOS SLR. With that I used a 28-105 and a 70-300, again base models. No L lenses for me then. My first DSLR was a 300D with the EF-S 18-55 kit lens backed up by the EF 70-300. By this time I also had a compact digital camera for their convenience. When I got my first megapixel (18Mp) 60D, I tried the Tamron 18-270. I quickly learned it was a compromised lens in terms of edge sharpness and wasn’t too flash in the centre either. I soon replaced it with a Canon 18-135 STM. I was happy with that and it spent a lot of time on the camera, only using the 70-300 sparingly.

Then in 2014, while in NY I visited B&H and bought a used Nex-7 with 18-55 and 55-210. A friend had a Nex-5 and it’s small size impressed me. But I was back in familiar ground with two lenses. Over the next few years I’ve updated bodies and even briefly tried an A7 with a 24-70ZA. I was disappointed with the A7 and it’s unreliable AF so sold both without being too much out of pocket as both were purchased used. Before the E18-135 was released, I was somewhat disappointed with the various Emount zoom lenses and with nearly 40 years of zoom use, primes were too much bother except for portraits which I don’t take a lot of. So I looked into M4/3 and their reported good lenses.

I won’t dwell on that experience, but I do enjoy my EM1.2 and lenses. The glass is fantastic as it should be for what they cost though nowhere near GM prices. At first I used a 12-40 Pro and 75-300II. Notice that there’s a common thread here. Always a something like a FF 24-70 and a 70-300? Then I moved on to a 12-100 and Lumix 100-400. These are simply great lenses. I’ve been very happy with this setup. The 12-100 is a 24-200 in FF terms and the best near superzoom I’ve shot with. Even on the 20Mp M4/3 sensor, it is incredibly sharp and the Leica is nearly as good.

Then a few weeks ago, on a whim (or was it GAS) I bid on a used A7RII. I won it quite unexpectedly since I thought my bid would be gazumped. Now it came with the 28-70 kit. To my surprise it works amazingly well on the R2 where I thought that lens only so so on my earlier A7. For now I’m happy to use it. I thought about what to get for a longer zoom. These came to mind...

  • 70-200 G OSS - A proven good performer but short at the long end.
  • 70-300 G OSS - A good length though reportedly not as sharp at the long end.
  • 70-200 Canon L USM non-IS - A cheaper alternative to the first here.
  • 24-105 G OSS - I’d like this lens but not long enough so it would be more a replacement for the kit an I’d still want a long zoom.
  • 24-240 OSS - Well priced (especially used), appealing range, but with mixed reviews.

I ruled out the Canon first. I’ve used adapted lenses but I need the lens to shoot fast enough to get my grandsons playing sport so native was needed.

I knocked out the 24-105 because it is quite costly here in Australia even used when they come up. Without the length, it would be a great regular lens but I’d still need to spend money on a longer zoom which I probably could do without if I took my EM1.2 and 100-400 with. But that’s a lot of extra weight. If I do replace the kit lens, I’m more likely to get the Tamron 28-75/f2.8. But I’m in no hurry.

I’ve spent a lot of time reading reviews, and looking through Flickr at images. As appealing as the zoom range of 24-240, it simply doesn’t measure up to what I already have. It’s also much bigger and heavier than I’d like for everyday use. I bought the A7RII for maximum IQ and cropability. Compromising on this lens didn’t make sense. When I’ve bought lenses like these in the past vis a vis the 16-70ZA APS-C lens I’ve regretted it fairly quickly and moved them on.

I chose the 70-200G in the end. My shop had a really good sale on it recently at 1/3rd less than the 70-300G and I felt was a better lens for me. Long enough for my use, constant f4.0, sharp throughout and across the frame, and on the A7RII I could crop or even shoot in crop mode for 300mm and still have an 18mm lens.

So there it is. I think there is a very good reason the most common zoom pair are the 24-70 and 70-200/300. It’s a best of both worlds thing. Sometimes convenience isn’t the total answer.

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Quote: “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.”, Robert Capa

 Foto4x4's gear list:Foto4x4's gear list
Sony a6300 Sony RX100 VI Sony a7R II Olympus E-M1 II Panasonic Lumix DC-GX9 +12 more
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