The All-In-One Super Zoom Lens Option

The main reason for purchasing a DSLR is the ability to switch lenses in order to obtain maximum image quality, which brings the concept of super zoom lenses into question. If you really want a do-it-all super zoom lens then maybe a DSLR is not the best way to go. Check out Super Zoom Point and Shoot cameras such as Canon's PowerShot SX1 IS. They are less expensive, smaller, lighter and offer similar if not better performance (with the exception of high-ISO). However, if you really want/need a one lens do-it-all solution then these are your best options:

1) Canon 18-200 f/3.5-5.6 16 (29-320mm): $595
Every lens in this category provides a huge zoom range but seriously compromised image quality, whether Canon, Tamron or Sigma. The Canon seems to be the least compromised of the lot but also offers a slightly shorter zoom range, just keep in the mind that many of the super zooms completely fall apart beyond 200mm so they are of limited value.

2) Tamron 18-270 f/3.5-6.3 VC PZD (29-432mm): $650
Amazingly compact for such a monstrous zoom range. The Canon provides slightly better optical quality and better autofocus performance but if you must have that extra not-so-sharp 70mm of zoom then this is the way to go.

3) Canon 24-105 f/4L IS (38-168mm): $1,059
While hardly a super zoom it is closest you can get to having normal focal length and longer telephoto focal length in one lens without compromising image quality. Ideally you would couple this lens with a Canon 10-22 for ultra wide angle.

4) Canon 28-300 f/3.5-5.6L IS (45-480mm): $2,420
The cost, size, weight and push-pull zoom action of this lens are huge compromises but this is the only true super zoom that offers good image quality. The money spent on this single lens could get your 2-4 separate lenses that as a whole provide superior image quality through the same zoom range.

The Two Zoom Lens Option
If you can handle carrying and switching two lenses then you will get much better results over the single super zoom lens. Here are your best options:

1) Canon 70-200 f/4L IS (112-320mm): $1,210
The best tele zoom made by anyone. You will be most happy and impressed by this lens. There two downsides to this lens, the cost and the fact that it does not cover the wide to standard focal length, so you will need at least two lenses. Coupled with the 17-55 f/2.8 IS for $1,060 you have the best optics produced by any manufacturer on crop sensor DSLR!

2) Canon 70-300 f/4-5.6L IS (112-480mm): $1,600
While not as fast as the 70-200 f/4L IS at the long end, more expensive and overall slightly lower overall optical performance, this lens does provide excellent performance for such a large zoom range. Also consider the much less expensive Canon 70-300 f/4-5.6 IS for $550. While not as good in all regards as the 70-200 and 70-300 "L" versions, it costs a lot less. Once again, you will need to purchase and carry another lens to cover the wide and standard focal lengths. Consider keeping the 18-55 f/3.5-5.6 IS kit lens or stepping up to either the 15-85 f/3.5-5.6 IS for $720 or 17-55 f/2.8 IS for $1,060.

3) Canon 55-250 f/4-5.6 IS (80-400mm): $255
Another step down in quality but also price. This lens is super cheap, compact, light weight and a very good performer considering the above three points. Once again, you will need to purchase and carry another lens to cover the wide and standard focal lengths. Consider keeping the 18-55 f/3.5-5.6 IS kit lens that came with your DSLR, as it offers similar cost, size, weight and performance characteristics/advantages as the 55-250. This combination beats any of the super zoom lenses for image quality and also costs less.
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