Photography lenses come in a wide variety of focal lengths, giving photographers creative flexibility when taking photos. One of the most versatile and popular lens types is the 10x optical zoom lens, which is also referred to by several other names.
Overview of 10x Zoom Lenses
Lenses with a 10x optical zoom provide a focal length range that gives photographers a lot of room for composing different types of shots. For example, a typical 10x zoom lens may offer a 35mm focal length equivalent of 24-240mm. This means at the wide end, the lens can capture wide landscape scenes and group portraits. When zoomed in to 240mm, the lens has enough reach for sports, wildlife, and distant subjects.
In addition to their versatile zoom range, 10x lenses tend to be compact and lightweight. This makes them a convenient all-in-one lens to carry for things like travel photography or day-to-day general purpose shooting. They strike a useful balance of zoom versatility without the large size and weight of extreme telephoto lenses.
Other Names for 10x Zoom Lens
While 10x zoom is the most common way to refer to this popular lens type, you may also see it described by other names:
- Superzoom lens
- Ultrazoom lens
- Megazoom lens
- Power zoom lens
Manufacturers use these terms somewhat interchangeably when marketing their 10x zoom lens models. “Superzoom”, “ultrazoom”, and “megazoom” put emphasis on the extended zoom range of these lenses versus standard 3x zoom kit lenses.
“Power zoom” refers to another feature commonly found on 10x zooms – electronically-controlled zooming. This allows smoother, more precise zoom control versus manually turning the barrel on the lens.
Superzoom and Megazoom
“Superzoom” and “megazoom” are two of the most popular alternate names used for 10x zoom lenses. What’s the difference between them?
The terms are fairly synonymous, but “megazoom” tends to be used for even larger zoom ranges like 12x, 15x, 20x or greater. So while a 10x lens qualifies as a superzoom, it may be at the lower end of what would be considered a megazoom. The table below compares superzoom vs megazoom terminology:
|10x to 12x
|12x to 24x
As you can see, there is a lot of overlap in how these terms are used. The main point is that “superzoom” and “megazoom” both refer to lenses with very generous zoom ranges, of which 10x is one of the most popular.
Advantages of 10x Zoom Lenses
Why are 10x zoom lenses so popular? What advantages do they offer over other lens types?
- Versatile focal range – As discussed earlier, a ~24-240mm zoom range lets you shoot wide angle and telephoto, making it very versatile for different photos.
- Convenient size – A 10x zoom is much smaller and lighter than a 24-240mm telephoto zoom lens. This makes it ideal for travel.
- Value – You get an immense focal range for a reasonable price vs. multiple prime lenses.
- Optical stabilization – 10x zoom lenses often feature image stabilization to reduce blur from camera shake.
- Macro capabilities – Most 10x zooms focus closely enough for macro photography of small subjects.
In addition to their versatility and convenience, 10x zooms tend to offer very good image quality too. Manufacturers have gotten better at producing sharp, crisp photos across the entire focal range in compact lens packages. Combined with today’s high-resolution digital cameras, a 10x zoom lens can meet the needs of most photographers looking for an all-purpose walkaround lens.
Common Brands and Models
Pretty much every camera maker offers their own take on 10x zoom lenses. Here are some of the most popular models from the major manufacturers:
|10x Zoom Lens Model
|Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS
|Nikon AF-P DX 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR
|Sony E 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS
|Tamron 16-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD
|Sigma 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 DC OS HSM
As you can see, most of these lenses cover focal lengths from wide angle to telephoto in the 18-135mm, 16-300mm, or 18-250mm range. This provides exceptional versatility for everyday shooting. Canon, Nikon and Sony make 10x zoom lenses for their mirrorless and DSLR cameras, while third parties like Tamron and Sigma offer models with mounts for the various brands.
Considerations When Using a 10x Zoom Lens
While 10x zooms provide a ton of versatility in a compact package, there are some considerations to keep in mind when using them:
- Image quality can suffer at the extreme ends of the zoom range. Shoot at middle focal lengths for optimal sharpness.
- Maximum aperture is slower, usually around f/3.5-5.6. This leads to reduced light gathering ability.
- Relatively narrow aperture results in less ability to achieve shallow depth of field.
- Not ideal for low light action photos due to slower aperture.
- Photos may exhibit more distortion, vignetting and aberrations versus prime lenses.
None of these drawbacks are dealbreakers though. The convenience and versatility of a 10x zoom outweighs the compromises. Just be aware of the limitations and work around them to maximize image quality. Often, stopping down the lens aperture by one stop (e.g. from f/5.6 to f/8) will give sharper results across the frame.
Should You Buy a 10x Zoom Lens?
If you’re in the market for a new interchangeable lens for your DSLR or mirrorless camera, a 10x zoom is a very compelling choice. It can serve as a versatile walkaround lens or lightweight travel lens. You can capture a huge range of focal lengths and scenes without swapping lenses constantly. Image stabilization built into many 10x zooms allows sharp handheld shots.
Serious photographers may still want to complement a superzoom lens with some faster primes lenses for very low light, wide aperture portraits, and professional work. But for general hobbyist use, vacation photos, walking around town and other everyday use, a 10x zoom gives amazing flexibility and convenience. The image quality produced by premium models today can satisfy all but the most demanding photographers.
If you’re looking for an all-in-one lens with a huge zoom range plus a reasonable price, portability and generally great performance, a 10x superzoom/megazoom lens is tough to beat. You may also hear it referred to as an ultrazoom, power zoom, or by specific model names from the major camera brands. Whatever you call it, this versatile lens will equip you for an incredible variety of photographic situations and let you leave the rest of your lenses at home.