I quit using zoom lenses for my everyday work a few years back. The specs and review sites seem to agree that image quality from zoom lenses has caught up to high quality primes now. Personally I'm still not convinced but they are close IMHO. The last zoom lens I owned was the venerable Canon EF 70-200L F/2.8. When you need variable distances in the same shoot and don't want to change lenses or body combinations, that's the lens you want.
Fuji introduced a handful of zooms (premium & enthusiast) over the last year or two and I've got my hands on the XC 50-230mm variant. I've paired it up with the new X-E2 body and took it to the zoo for an afternoon photo-walk.
Unless you have lot's of cash to fund safaris and adventure trips to exotic locations, the zoo is the only place to get close to magnificent animals you might never otherwise come across....the morality of keeping an animal caged for our amusement aside of course.
My favorite way to shoot at the zoo is to zoom as close to the animals as possible to eliminate the background and surrounding cage/fence/etc. This isolates the subject and fills the frame and allows the viewer to submerge in the image without distractions.
Zoos are difficult places to shoot for a bunch of reasons:
Any critter that isn't earthbound is usually kept indoors in less than ideal lighting. Then there is the dirty, foggy, scratched up windows thru which you view the animals.
Normally I take a very fast focusing lens with apertures of F/1.2 to 2.8 and a matching camera body capable of rending fine details at high ISO. The XC 50-230mm is definitely not something I would pack for a trip like this.
I was pleasantly surprised.
The broad zoom range combined with image stabilization and the X-E2's high ISO performance got me a lot of shots I didn't think were going to work. I was shooting anywhere between ISO 800 and 3200 indoors and the body/lens combo rarely failed to lock on to the subject. It's no speed demon but it was good enough as long as the animals were not moving very fast.
That shot of the snake coiled on a branch was shuttered at 1/20 seconds with a focal length of 162mm (243mm in 35mm format), handheld. In fact I didn't use a tripod or monopod the entire day.
All of the images were taken with available light only and I shot in RAW. I trust Fuji in-camera processing completely but I wanted to evaluate how much Adobe Lightroom has progressed.
The lens is almost fast enough to completely blur the wires of the Eagle enclosure. Check out the details in his feathers, talons and the poor little chick he's eating. Gruesome..but nice.
Back when I got into photography full time, my cheap zoom lens was for emergency use only. I took it out of the bag when I needed more reach and couldn't move closer to the subject. For any serious work where image quality mattered I rented a premium lens until I could afford one. The truth is most lens manufacturers have figured things out. There are no truly bad lenses anymore, only much better ones. They charge accordingly of course. Using a slower aperture lens these days is effectively balanced out with good shooting techniques, image stabilization and much improved optics. Match that to a body like the X-E2 and you can pretty much shoot anywhere without a tripod or flash. It won't stop subject movement though without lot's of light for a fast shutter speed.
If you hover your mouse over each image, the shot settings with display in the lower left-hand corner.
The X-E2 was also nice to use...just like the X-E1. The AF was faster and there was less hunting. The button layout refinements are a nice touch as well. I never paid too much attention to the ISO setting except to ensure it was high enough for a fast shutter speed as required.
As mentioned, I shot everything in RAW and converted them to web-sized jpegs in Adobe Lightroom 5.3. No noise reduction was applied and the only other items that got any attention were color & contrast, highlight and shadow adjustment and sharpening upon export.
I have a feeling that Lightroom is still behind in extracting the maximum amount of detail from Fuji files. In fact, Silkypix still shows more information but using that software on a daily basis would drive me crazy.