Zoom lenses - What do the zoom numbers mean?

First of all, I am not a professional or expert photographer which probably makes me just like many of you here.  I like to take pictures that I will enjoy looking at....mainly relating to family events.  Wanting something better than a regular point-n-shoot camera, I bought a Canon 400d with the standard 18-55 lens.  Great pictures straight away!  It was clear though that I really wanted to be able to zoom in much further. 

Brief laymans explanation of the numbers.......difference between the numbers describing the lens relate to the range of zoom.  18-55 isn't really that much.  18 is wide angle, suitable for landscapes or maybe someone standing close to you.  There are wider lenses but 18 seems to be a fairly standard starting point.  The higher number relates to how much you can zoom in.  The 55, explained very basically, seemed to be good for zooming into someone about 5-10 metres away, maybe on the other side of a room. 

View Details Nikon Af Fit Sigma 170-500mm Apo F5 / 6.3 Dg Telephoto Zoom Lens Full Frame • 279£

Nikon Af Fit Sigma 170-500mm Apo F5 / 6.3 Dg Telephoto Zoom Lens Full Frame

Auction
View Details Canon EF 24-70mm F2.8 L MARK II USM AF Zoom Lens • 265£

Canon Ef 24-70mm F2.8 L Mark Ii Usm Af Zoom Lens

265£ 24 bids | 02d 15h 29m 54s

View Details Canon EF AF 24-105mm F/4 L IS USM Zoom Lens Full Frame • 320£

Canon Ef Af 24-105mm F/4 L Is Usm Zoom Lens Full Frame

Auction
View Details Canon EF-M 18-150mm F/3.5-6.3 IS STM Lens - Graphite • 255£

Canon Ef-m 18-150mm F/3.5-6.3 Is Stm Lens - Graphite

255£ 30 bids | 00d 00h 30m 53s

View Details Sigma APO DG 170-500mm F/5.0-6.3 - Sony A Mount Telephoto Zoom Lens • 215£

Sigma Apo Dg 170-500mm F/5.0-6.3 - Sony A Mount Telephoto Zoom Lens

Auction
View Details Nikon Af-s 70-300mm F/4.5-5.6 G If Ed Vr Lens • 240£

Nikon Af-s 70-300mm F/4.5-5.6 G If Ed Vr Lens

240£ 20 bids | 00d 00h 24m 57s

Auction
View Details CANON Zoom Lens EF 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 L IS Ultrasonic    |2 • 310£

Canon Zoom Lens Ef 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 L Is Ultrasonic |2

310£ 12 bids | 01d 01h 24m 25s

View Details Canon 24-105mm F/3.5-5.6 IS STM EF Full Frame Zoom Lens With Pouch + Canon Hood • 249.99£

Canon 24-105mm F/3.5-5.6 Is Stm Ef Full Frame Zoom Lens With Pouch + Canon Hood

249.99£

Auction
View Details Canon EF 100-400mm F4.5-5.6L IS USM Telephoto Zoom Lens Hood, Caps • 270.50£

Canon Ef 100-400mm F4.5-5.6l Is Usm Telephoto Zoom Lens Hood, Caps

270.50£ 8 bids | 00d 16h 54m 14s

Main lens options I looked at:

70-300 Lens

Good value and being able to zoom to 300 would be great.  Information I could find says that you really need a tripod once you zoom past about 200.  Main problem for me was that I would have to change lenses, between the 18-55 and 70-300.  This doesn't have to be a big deal, but I'd prefer to just carry one lens.  Changing lenses also increases the chances of getting dust inside the camera.

28-300 Lens

This looked like a great solution until I discovered that the zoom difference between 18 and 28 is significant.  Starting at 28 means you are already zoomed in enough to affect many pictures.  See the examples above.

18-200 Lens

Now we're talking!  A lens that starts at the same wide-angle point as my other lens but goes all the way to 200.  Not cheap, but so far has been great.  It's hardly any longer than the original.  Suddenly, I can take a group shot but when I see an individual doing something in the group, I can very quickly zoom into them and get some great pictures.

Most photographers, amateur and professional, will take good care of their lenses so a second-hand item of this quality is likely to in good condition.  Of course, you still have to check this with the seller!  It still won't be cheap so check the obvious things....feedback, seller helpfulness, returns policy, payment protection.

Hopefully you found this guide to be of use.  If you did, please click the 'Yes' button below.....ahhhh, go on!

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