Best telephoto zoom lens: 8 tested

Best telephoto lenses to get you closer to your subject

Best telephoto zoom lens

Sony 75-300mm f/4.5-5.6 - £195/$250

This is the only lens, apart from the Sigma 70-300mm APO, that manages to duck under the £200/$250 barrier. Despite being more expensive than the Sigma, however, the Sony 75-300mm f/4.5-5.6 lens feels a lot more basic.

It lacks the Sigma's unusual macro facility or even a focus distance scale. Indeed, there are no switches at all on the barrel, so AF/MF switching has to be done via the camera body.

Autofocus is based on a basic electric motor that is slow, noisy and causes unpleasant vibrations in the lens itself. By contrast, manual focusing is quite precise, although the focus ring is awkwardly situated right at the front of the lens. Focusing isn't internal, so the front element rotates and moves out.

Build quality isn't great, reflected by the fact that this lens is the most lightweight in the group.

Sharpness isn't great at 70mm, peaks to a respectable level at 135mm, but then drops alarmingly at 300mm. Pincushion distortion is quite apparent in the longer end of the
zoom range and, at 300mm, colour fringing is very noticeable.

As well as its slow autofocus performance, there's a lot of hunting in dull lighting conditions, and the lens often fails to lock onto targets. Overall, performance is disappointing, and the Sony 75-300mm is proof that it's not always best to stick with the camera maker's own-brand glass when buying lenses.

Sharpness test

Best telephoto zoom lens

Mediocre at 75mm, it musters a respectable level of sharpness in the middle of the zoom range, but is downright disappointing at 300mm.

Fringing test

Best telephoto zoom lens

Not too bad at wider and mid-range zoom lengths, colour fringing becomes a real problem at 300mm across most of the frame.

Distortion test

Best telephoto zoom lens

There's not too much in the way of distortion at any zoom setting. It's only really pincushion distortion that's noticeable at 300mm.

Image test verdict

A lack of sharpness and noticeable colour fringing make this Sony lens's image quality the least impressive of any lens in the group.