Best zoom lenses 2024: The best picks from Canon, Sony, Nikon and more

The best zoom lenses help you to get closer to your target whatever kind of photography you specialize in, and they're particularly beneficial for landscape, wildlife, sport and astrophotography. These long lenses offer much longer focal lengths than the average lens, allowing you to capture subjects as far away as planets and other celestial bodies in the night sky. The best of them can even rival telescopes for magnification power, so they're the perfect companion for budding astrophotographers.

If you're looking to shoot the night sky, you'll want to consider the aperture of the lens as well — the bigger, the better for soaking in lots of light and enabling you to capture distant galaxies. At this level of magnification, shakes and vibrations can easily mar your photos, so it's worth exploring lenses with built-in image stabilization functionality, too. Our reviewers have tried all these lenses out in the field to bring you a list of the very best performers in this category.

For the best results, consider combining one of the lenses on this list with one of the best cameras for astrophotography and one of the best tripods for stabilizing your shot. We also have guides to other handy accessories for your night-time shooting sessions, such as the best headlamps, best camera backpacks and best lens heaters.

The quick list

Below you'll find an overview of all the lenses included in this guide, with some pros and cons to help you find the ones that best suit your needs and budget. In this section, you will find links to read more detailed reviews of the products you're most interested in. 

The best zoom lenses we recommend in 2023

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The best zoom lens overall

Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G Master OSS

Deep sky astrophotographers will love the huge focal length — just bear in mind you'll need a good star tracker to make this work

Specifications

Mount: Sony E-mount
Focal range: 200-600mm
Aperture range: f/5.6-6.3
Filter thread size: 95mm
Weight: 4.7 lbs (2.1kg)

Reasons to buy

+
Superb image quality
+
Impressive focal length for astrophotography
+
Well-designed and made

Reasons to avoid

-
Almost 5 lbs of weight requires a hefty star tracker
-
Expensive — cheaper alternative available
Buy it if

✅ You want a versatile lens: the zoom and wide aperture means this is suitable for astro and daytime photographers alike.

✅ You can invest in a well-built lens: it has quality ergonomics and is designed very well.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You're on the go a lot: At 4.7 lbs, this is a hefty piece of kit that requires a good star tracker and tripod.

❌ You're on a budget: Although it's not the most expensive lens on this list, it will still set you back close to $2,000.

❌ You want to shoot wider astro shots: The 600mm maximum zoom costs you a bit of light as the aperture can only be opened as wide as f/6.3 once you crank it in.

The bottom line

🔎 The Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G Master OSS is a versatile telephoto zoom lens perfect for deep-sky astrophotographers and daytime photographers alike. The impressive zoom and aperture range combine to create pin-sharp images, even at 600mm zoom. However, the hefty weight means you'll need a decent tripod and star tracker to support it. ★★★★½

Topping our list of zoom lenses is a real titan of a lens from Sony. Catering to both astrophotographers and daytime photographers, this high-quality lens is perfect for capturing deep-sky images at night or for shooting wildlife, nature or sports during the day. This makes it a versatile bit of kit with a wide appeal.

Design: This lens has a couple of drawbacks. It's relatively heavy at 4.7 lbs, which can be challenging to handle when attached to a heavy camera. To achieve the best professional results, you might need to invest in a powerful star tracker, which will further increase the overall cost. In addition, you'll also need to invest in a quality tripod in order to carry this level of payload.

Performance: This is a lens that stands up incredibly well to the torture test of being shot with the aperture wide open, which is essential if you're considering using it for astrophotography. The center of the image is almost absurdly sharp, even when fully zoomed in at 600mm. The maximum zoom achieved by this lens is an impressive feature. Admittedly, using the maximum zoom does cost you a little light as the aperture can only be opened as wide as f/6.3 once you crank it in, which will cost you either shutter speed or ISO (or a bit of both). 

Functionality: When you think about the potential weight of a 600mm lens with a faster aperture and the image quality that modern sensors can deliver, the trade-off is worth the price. Especially if you have a recent full-frame camera that can produce good image quality at high ISO settings. This lens provides significant magnification, opening up spectacular photographic opportunities. And with the Sony, you can get all this for under $2,000.

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Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G Master OSS
AttributesNotes
DesignA very hefty lens.
PerformanceAbsurdly sharp, even at 600mm.
FunctionalityOffers fantastic magnification for astrophotography.

The best Nikon telephoto

Absolutely spellbinding image quality, although could be overkill for some

Specifications

Mount: Nikon Z-mount
Focal range: 70-200mm
Aperture range: f/2.8 constant
Filter thread size: 77mm
Weight: 3.1 lbs (1.4kgs)

Reasons to buy

+
One of the very best 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses out there
+
Large maximum aperture great for astrophotography

Reasons to avoid

-
Cutting-edge tech equals cutting-edge price
-
Longer focal lengths available for the same, or less, money
Buy it if

✅ You want the highest possible image quality: the quality of the images achieved with this lens is nothing short of phenomenal.

✅ You need a lens for all weather: astrophotographers are often shooting out in all types of weather, and this lens can certainly handle that. 

✅ You want a lens with autofocus: a handy feature for astrophotography shots, the autofocus on this lens is fast and quiet.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You're on a budget: all the features and the amazing image quality come with a hefty, hefty price tag.

❌ You want close-up shots of celestial objects: If you're interested in detailed shots of the moon, you might need to resort to a lens with a bigger zoom or a teleconverter.

The bottom line

🔎 The Nikon Nikkor Z 70-200mm f/2.8 S-Line is a flexible telephoto zoom lens that delivers sharp images of incredible quality. With autofocus and image stabilization, it predictably also comes with a very high price tag - but we think it's worth your hard-earned money if your budget stretches that far. ★★★★½

The Nikon Nikkor Z 70-200mm f/2.8 S-Line is easily one of the best zoom lenses on the market, offering incredibly sharp images right to the edges alongside fast autofocus and built-in image stabilization.

Design: This lens isn't small or light, weighing over 3 lbs and measuring 8.7 inches in length, but it has an elegant and functional design with a detachable foot for fixing it to a tripod. It's a tough and weatherproof piece of kit, with a fluorine-coated outer lens to prevent scratches, and it has plenty of on-body control options. There are three focus rings, the first for aperture, the second for focusing and the third for focal length, and it also features an OLED screen on top for displaying your current settings — a handy addition since you can assign up to 21 different functions to the lens itself.

Performance: In our Nikon Nikkor Z 70-200 f/2.8 S review we found the sharpness of the image quality on this lens staggering no matter how far we pushed the settings. The f/2.8 aperture allows you to capture super-sharp images of stars, but the lens is equally capable of capturing superb daytime landscape shots. The only limitation for some astrophotographers will be the focus range since 200mm isn't quite enough to capture detailed close-ups of the Moon, but this is the payoff for the low f-number and can be solved with the addition of a 1.4x teleconverter.

Functionality: The lens features fast and quiet autofocus as well built-in image stabilization, which Nikon calls Vibration Reduction. This is extremely helpful when shooting handheld and adds to the versatility of this impressive multi-functional lens.

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Nikon Nikkor Z 70-200 f/2.8 S
AttributesNotes
Design3.1 lbs weight won't overwhelm most star trackers.
PerformanceFast & quiet autofocus.
FunctionalityConstant f/2.8 aperture great for astrophotography.

The best Nikon F-mount telephoto

A surprisingly versatile lens with stunning optics.

Specifications

Mount: Nikon F-mount
Focal range: 70-200mm
Aperture range: f/2.8 constant
Filter thread size: 77mm
Weight: 3.1lbs (1.4kgs)

Reasons to buy

+
Practical focal length and aperture combination
+
Beautifully built
+
Very tempting second-hand purchase

Reasons to avoid

-
Deep sky photography calls for more reach
-
Better quality available on Nikon's mirrorless cameras
Buy it if

✅ You want to buy a second-hand lens: this lens has been a mainstay of professional photojournalists for years. Now over five years old, it's worth buying second-hand.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You want to shoot deep sky images: Deep sky photography calls for more reach than this lens packs.

❌ You're after the latest tech: you can get better quality results using one of Nikon's mirrorless cameras.

The bottom line

🔎 The Nikkor AF-S FX 70-200mm f/2.8 FL-ED VR is a super lightweight and versatile telephoto zoom lens. It's a classic for a reason, with excellent light transmission and aperture. As one of the more lightweight options, it's also great to travel with and means you won't need a high-performance star tracker to use it. ★★★★½

Design: This lens is crafted from lightweight fluorite elements, and it comes with customizable buttons on the lens barrel that make it a breeze to track your subjects. The zoom and focus rings are super smooth and easy to use, and you can comfortably hold the lens with your left hand and operate these rings with just a finger or your thumb.

Performance: During our review of the Nikkor AF-S FX 70-200 f/2.8 FL-ED VR, we found the edge-to-edge sharpness of this lens incredible at any aperture. Shooting wide open at f/2.8 is what this lens is known for and makes light work of any low-light environment. Deep-field astrophotography is where the Nikkor AF-S FX 70-200mm f/2.8 FL-ED VR really excels, thanks to the wide constant aperture and intelligent Vibration Reduction that switches off automatically when it detects it’s on a tripod.

Functionality: Because of its Silent Wave Motor and internal focusing, this lens has lightning-fast and super quiet autofocus. It even gives you an extra half-stop of Vibration Reduction to help keep your view steady when shooting handheld, allowing for longer shutter speeds. Plus, its wide f/2.8 aperture stays the same throughout the zoom range, which is great for astrophotography because you don't have to fiddle with settings throughout your shoot.

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Nikon Nikkor AF-S FX 70-200 f/2.8 FL-ED VR
AttributesNotes
DesignCustomizable buttons make for easy subject tracking.
PerformanceExcels at deep-sky astro, but could do with more reach.
FunctionalityLightning fast and super quiet autofocus.

The best Nikon ultra-telephoto

It's ultra-long and ultra-heavy, but a great all-rounder that suits deep-sky photography

Specifications

Mount: Nikon F-mount
Focal range: 200-500mm
Aperture range: f/5.6 constant
Filter thread size: 95mm
Weight: 5.1 lbs (2.3kgs)

Reasons to buy

+
Great image quality
+
Very tempting combination of focal length and maximum aperture
+
All-round hero for those interested in multiple photographic disciplines

Reasons to avoid

-
Very heavy
-
Will require an uprated star tracker
Buy it if

✅ You're a deep-sky photographer: this lens' combination of focal length and maximum aperture yields incredible results.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You're on the go a lot: at 5.1 lbs, this is one of the heaviest zoom lenses in this guide.

❌ You're a beginner: this bulky lens is probably not the best for a beginner when there are cheaper and lighter 70-300mm lenses out there.

The bottom line

🔎 The Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR is a great choice for photographers interested in sports, wildlife or deep-sky photography. It performs well in low-light environments as well as daytime shoots. ★★★★½

Design: This lens is one of the heaviest in this guide, tipping the scales at 5.1 lbs. This might be a challenge for less sturdy tripods or star trackers, but if you're using such a powerful lens, it's likely you'll need a professional-grade tracker that can handle the weight.

Performance: Wildlife photographers will love this lens, and it performs well for astrophotography too. During our Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR review, we found there was minimal chromatic aberration on extremely contrasted edges, even at 200% crop. Although the lens suffers a little from some vignetting around the edge, this can easily be removed in image editing software. 

Functionality: This lens can reach an impressive 500mm focal length and also comes with a constant f/5.6 aperture. This means that, unlike other superzoom lenses, the aperture doesn't close down to reduce the light reaching the sensor as you zoom in. It also has four switches on its side to restrict autofocus distance, with options of FULL (which will autofocus the entire range from its minimum focusing distance to infinity) or infinity — 6 meters to cut AF hunt time.

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Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR
AttributesNotes
DesignOne of the heaviest lenses.
PerformanceSlight vignetting, but can easily be fixed in post processing.
FunctionalityConstant f/5.6 aperture even at 500mm.

The best Canon wide-zoom

An incredible lens with a hefty price tag — this lens produces stunning images that are hard to argue with

Specifications

Mount: Canon RF
Focal Range: 28-70mm
Aperture Range: f/2 constant
Filter thread size: 95mm
Weight: 3.15 lbs (1.4kgs)

Reasons to buy

+
Outstanding image quality — no lens flare
+
Impressive in low light

Reasons to avoid

-
Extremely fat & heavy
-
Very expensive
Buy it if

✅You're a professional photographer: this premium lens is worth the money for the incredible quality shots you get, in our opinion.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You're on a budget: at upwards of $3,000, this lens is not cheap. But for what it's worth, we think it's worth every cent.

❌ You're an astrophotographer or wildlife shooter: this lens may not be the one for you due to its focal length range being too long for astro and too wide for wildlife.

The bottom line

🔎 The Canon RF 28-70mm f/2L USM lens is one of the best zoom lenses ever made, in our opinion. Sure, it's big and expensive, but the image quality you get in return is unparalleled. ★★★★½

Design: This lens has an incredible amount of glass and an impressive 95mm filter thread, allowing it to let in an insane amount of light. It's fully weather-sealed and only missed out on the five-star rating from us due to its size, weight and price.

Performance: When we reviewed the Canon RF 28-70mm f/2L USM lens we were staggered by the quality of image created by this lens. It performs extremely well when shot wide open at f2 in low light conditions, despite not being the best focal length for astrophotography. We were pleasantly surprised by how well it tracks moving objects, and it also has excellent eye tracking (we thought it rivaled Sony's). Even more impressive is the fact that it gave no lens flare when shooting directly into the sun, which is almost unheard of.

Functionality: This lens offers a customizable control ring, an AF/MF switch, a lock button and a smoothly-operating, quiet zoom ring. Although it lacks image stabilization, the lens is so large and bright that we didn't really miss having IS — although, considering the incredibly high price, we were surprised that it didn't have it.

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Canon RF 28-70mm f/2L USM
AttributesNotes
DesignVery fat and heavy.
PerformancePerforms incredibly well in low light.
FunctionalityLacks image stabilization, but doesn't suffer for it.

The best Canon telephoto

This is incredible for pixel-peepers, and surprisingly light

Specifications

Mount: Canon RF-mount
Focal range: 70-200mm
Aperture range: f/2.8 constant
Filter thread size: 77mm
Weight: 2.4 lbs (1.1kg)

Reasons to buy

+
Surprisingly light
+
Fantastic image quality
+
Fast maximum aperture

Reasons to avoid

-
Longer focal lengths available elsewhere
-
Not cheap
Buy it if

✅ You want a light telephoto lens: at just 2.4 lbs, this lens is surprisingly light for the performance it packs.

✅ You want a customizable lens: the control ring can be customized to adjust any number of camera settings.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You're a deep-sky photographer: deep-sky photographers may want to opt for something with a greater focal range.

❌ You only shoot astro: as this lens isn't compatible with teleconverters, you might want to think twice if you're looking for purely an astro lens.

The bottom line

🔎 The Canon RF 70-200mm f2.8L IS USM is undoubtedly one of the most compact telephoto zooms of its kind. It's expensive, but the lightweight, high-quality build means you can get loads out of it even in low-light settings. ★★★★½

Design: The Canon RF 70-200mm f2.8L IS USM is one of the lightest and most compact telephoto zoom lenses on the market owing to the design of its zoom mechanism. Instead of taking place inside the barrel of the lens, it telescopes in and out externally, allowing the lens to collapse into its compact form and shifting the center of gravity back closer to your eye, which makes it very well balanced when shooting handheld. The only downside of this design is that it doesn't leave any room at the back for a teleconverter, which will be a major limitation for some given that the maximum focal length is capped at 200mm.

Performance: This lens offers beautiful image quality which peaks at f/4, although results are still pleasing when shooting at f/2.8. It provides stunning contrast all the way to the edges, with only some minor vignetting when shooting wide open which can be easily corrected in post-production. In our Canon RF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM review we also really enjoyed the bokeh offered by this lens.

Functionality: A particular highlight of this lens is its powerful autofocus which operates almost silently thanks to the twin Nano USM motors — perfect for capturing noise-sensitive wildlife. You also get up to eight stops of image stabilization, and the included lens hood has a useful window which can be opened to adjust the position of any filters without having to remove the entire hood. To top it off, the rear control ring can be customized to let you change exposure settings from the lens itself, with options for the ISO, aperture and shutter.

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Canon RF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM
AttributesNotes
DesignSurprisingly lightweight.
PerformanceTop-notch in every aspect.
FunctionalityFast maximum aperture.