There's a lot of talk about prime lenses and how great they are.
And though they are certainly good lenses with excellent sharpness, low-light capabilities, and versatility, if you really want versatile, a zoom lens is the way to go.
I think there's sometimes a misconception that experienced or professional photographers never use zooms.
That's just not the case.
So set aside your preconceived notions about zoom lenses, and allow me to extol the virtues of one of the best zooms you can buy: the 70-200mm.
Clearly, having the ability to range from 70mm to 200mm is going to make this lens a highly versatile one.
You can shoot portraits at the wide end, wildlife at the long end, and just about anything else you can think of in between.
Granted, the lens will be more of a telephoto if mounted to a crop sensor camera, but even so, it will provide you with an array of possibilities with an effective focal length in the neighborhood of 100mm to more than 300mm, depending on the manufacturer of your camera.
That means you get a lot of bang for your buck, particularly if you shop for high-quality used lenses that allow you to stretch your budget even further.
It's Built Like a Tank
By and large, 70-200mm lenses like the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS USM shown above, are built to withstand all sorts of abuse.
Now, this isn't to say that you can drop it and throw it around...
But if it's your everyday lens and you work in harsh conditions and it gets bumped around a bit, you'll likely find that it stands up to such abuse quite well.
Super Fast Performance
Since many photographers use zoom lenses for subjects on the move - sports, wildlife, and the like - it's important that zooms have fast autofocus systems.
That's true of many 70-200mm lenses, which gives them a leg up on some prime lenses that lag in the fast performance department.
Granted, the less expensive 70-200mm lenses aren't going to match the same level of performance of the higher-end 70-200 lenses, but even less expensive models have decent speed that will allow you to photograph subjects on the move with ease.
There's a Variety to Choose From
Whether you shoot Canon or Nikon, the chances are good that there are at least a couple 70-200mm lenses from which to choose.
If you have a bigger budget, a f/2.8 version like the Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8G IF-ED VR shown above gets you the versatility of an excellent zoom range combined with a large aperture.
If you want to save a little extra cash, you can also opt for a less expensive, though still highly capable 70-200mm f/4 lens.
Perhaps even better, third-party manufacturers like Tamron and Sigma make 70-200 lenses for Nikon and Canon cameras, representing yet another avenue to get a good lens without breaking the bank.
You Can Get All Sorts of Different Shots of the Same Subject
Earlier, I mentioned that one of the nice things about a zoom lens is that you can use the shorter end for something like portraiture and the longer end for something like wildlife photography.
However, you can also use the zoom range to get many different types of shots of the same subject.
For example, at 200mm, you might get an up-close shot.
At 150mm, you might frame up a 3/4 length portrait.
At 70mm, you can get a full-length portrait.
So, without having to switch lenses (or even move your shooting position), you can get a variety of photos. Talk about versatility!
Image Quality is Spot On
Prime lenses will beat out zoom lenses in the image quality and sharpness departments just about every time.
However, that doesn't mean that you can't get clean, sharp images with a 70-200mm lens.
This is especially true with the higher-end glass from the likes of Canon and Nikon.
But in recent years, Tamron and Sigma, in particular, have stepped up their game and offer some really good lenses that get you nice results.
You Can Shoot Handheld
Shooting handheld is not something you can say for all zooms.
But the 70-200mm is a great hand-holdable option, especially if you opt for the wider f/2.8 version of the lens.
Shooting wide open, you can get much faster shutter speeds that help keep camera shake at bay.
What's more, if you're trying to freeze the movement of a subject - an athlete running by, for example - you can do that too.
Even f/4 versions of this lens are hand-holdable to a point. You won't be able to use them without a tripod in dim lighting conditions like you can with an f/2.8, but in normal lighting conditions, you'll likely find that f/4 is still enough to allow you to forego your tripod.
Lens Compression and Bokeh are Excellent
The nice thing about the longer end of the 70-200mm focal range is that you get wonderful compression from front to back.
That allows you to make distant subjects seem nearer (and larger) in the frame.
But at the same time, 70-200mm lenses, like the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM shown above, have gorgeous bokeh when shooting at f/2.8, which gives you blurry backgrounds that are ideal for setting your portrait subject apart in the shot.
Wrapping It Up
If you're in the market for a new lens, it's hard to look past the 70-200mm.
As noted above, it's a versatile lens that offers you a wide maximum aperture that allows for hand-holding without camera shake.
What's more, it can be used for anything from portraits of couples and families to photographing sporting events.
And with plenty of options - f/2.8, f/4, and lenses from the likes of Canon, Nikon, Sigma, and Tamron, just to name a few, you can easily find a lens for your camera system and for your budget. That's especially true if you buy a good used lens!
There's a reason why so many photographers place the 70-200mm lens as one of the few must-have lenses for your camera bag. Get an overview of its many benefits in the video above by DigitalRev TV.
Find great deals on these lenses, and see precisely how one can help you take better photos!