Let me use little more realistic examples...
Using Nikon platform, I've experimented with Tokina 28-80 f/2.8 lens. This is ATX-280 model. At f/2.8 and blown up to 8x10 size, I could tell it was quite soft at long end, say 50 to 80mm. At wide end, it was good. By f/4.0, it was good all over. I considered this lens unusable between 50 to 80mm when wide open.
Nikon 35-135 f/3.5 - 4.5 lens... I have not noticed any flaws that bothers me - certainly not at 8x10 size. I really like this lens....
Nikon 50mm f/1.8, supposedly a great lens. I went though 4 or 5 to pick an OK one but wide open, it was soft. I could tell it was soft at 5x7 even. I had to send it in to get it "repaired". (lens was purchased new) It came back GREAT.
So it's really which particular lens you are talking about, and variations between samples/pieces can make some difference. I'd say don't shy away from zoom but keep your option to return and get exchange or refund open.
Develop, stop, fix.... wait.... where's my film?
I have a Tamron 28-75/2.8. At 2.8 it is sharper or just as sharp as the 28/1.8, 28/2.8 and even the 50/1.8 I had (it must be am exceptional copy!). Obviously it won't do f/1.8.
I also had a Nikon 17-35/2.8, when I was using Nikon digital. That was visibly sharper and more contrasty than the 20/2.8 and 28/2.8 Nikkors I had. On the other hand, I also had a Nikon 35/1.8 which simply obliterated it: at 1.8 it was way sharper than the zoom. So it kind of depends, but modern zooms can be very good, even better than some old primes.
The newer high-end zooms are quite good, almost as good as prime. However; the older zooms really don't perform well enough to use.
Like all blanket generalisations; it depends....
Originally Posted by djacobox372
Some classic 80-200mm zooms were *very* good, even early on.
Other older zooms in the 28-85/90mm range can be very good, but were (and still are) pricy.
M6, SL, SL2, R5, P6x7, SL3003, SL35-E, F, F2, FM, FE-2, Varex IIa
When zooms first became popular they certainly had a reputation (probably deserved) of convenience at the expense of quality. Many people like myself who have been 'into' photography for many years likely still view zooms as having that stigma when in fact it may not be true. I say 'may not' because like the OP, although I have a few zooms, I haven't used them enough to draw any conclusions, usually preferring to 'play safe' and hump around an assortment of fixed focal length lenses instead.
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The Nikkor 80-200/4.5 was famous for its performance. I have an SMC Pentax-M 80-200/4.5 which has given me very good results. My Pentax-M 24-35/3.5 is another solid performer. Old designs, but also limited ranges. In some situations the flexibility is very valuable. Still, for tip-top quality and least distortion I prefer single focal length lenses.
Originally Posted by Rol_Lei Nut
I do use a digital device in my photographic pursuits when necessary.
When someone rags on me for using film, I use a middle digit, upraised.
I use 3 high quality L series Canon zoom lenses on my 35mm EOS 3: a 16-35, a 28-70, and a 70-200. When I go out looking for pictures, I take all three and everything else I need in a realtively small backpack. I own prime lenses as well, but I mostly use them for portrait work and rarely take them out with me. The image quality I get from my zooms, at the size that I usually print (8x10) leaves little or nothing to be desired.
The old bromide to "Zoom with your feet" sounds clever and quaint, but it's a lot of crap. I completely agree with the Tony Spadaro rant about this (see the link in Toffle's post). I find using zoom lenses to be of utmost importance in filling my frames and obtaining a strong sense of composition under otherwise difficult circumstances. Consequently, I am able to compose almost entirely with the camera and almost always can then print full frame. When I look at 30 or 40 of my best photos, I realize how difficult, if not impossible, it would have been to obtain many of them if I had to rely only on prime lenses.
I have a couple of Canon FD zooms that are decent.
Thanks for all the replies. The reason for the original question is I want a lens for street work. Currently I use two bodies (occasionally three if I'm shooting colour too) with a lens of 24 or 28mm and a 50mm lens. Obviously street/people photography requires fast reactions to changing situations and picking up the second body takes time and can interfere with the other camera and so on.
I don't 'see' in extremes like 17mm or 200mm+ so I'm happy to try a lens of modest zoom range. The factors to balance are the extra time tromboning the zoom compared to carrying a second camera. I have a Nikon AF 28-80 3.5 - 5.6 that came as a kit lens but got some exceptionally good write ups and most importantly, is hardly any bigger than a standard lens. A wide aperture would be good but they tend to look and handle like a sports lens, obviously no use for street work.
The best thing to do is try it and see how it compares with two bodies.
I am a pro.. I shoot 90% or my images on a Nikon D700. My lenses// 105 1.8 AIS, 55 2.8 AIS, and 24mm f2.8 AIS.
I have a 28-70 f2.8 AF... doesn't get used much... Why... the images are inferior to the above lenses.
The 70-200 f2.8 AF VR is very nice and does get a lot of use.
People who are "into" DSLRS always ask why I run 30 year old Nikon lenses on a D700. They don't believe that those old lenses are so much better made than even the modern "prime" lenses.
BTW... few of the Nikkor's come close to the results of the Hasselblad and Zeiss T* lenses...film or digital.