Ryan Brenizer lauds the Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 zoom lens. I agree as it has become my go-to everyday lens on my SLR.
It's not light, in fact it's a bit of a beast, but then again when I bring out my SLR I'm usually not optimizing around weight but around picture quality. If I want a light carry-around camera I either use my phone or my Panasonic LX3.
The Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G ED AF-S Nikkor Zoom Lens is not cheap at about $1,800 each right now, but most beginning photographers make the mistake of spending too much on the camera body and too little on lenses. Two reasons this makes little sense:
- The lens, much more than any of the modern SLR bodies you're likely to buy from Canon or Nikon, is responsible for image quality. SLR bodies from Nikon and Canon have reached a point where you really can't go wrong. But there are still shots you just can't get without the right lens. Now, at the margins, and for specialized uses, for example if you're a professional sports photographer, the SLR body makes a difference. But even there, the most important piece of equipment they own are their fast, top-grade lenses.
- Great lenses, or "good glass" as photographers refer to them, retain or increase in market value, camera bodies start losing resale value the moment they hit the market. Whereas Nikon and Canon will replace an SLR every year or two, roughly, the great lenses in their lines are often around for many years. Some lenses have never been replaced with a suitable equivalent and become highly coveted collectors items selling for thousands of dollars on eBay (for example, try to find a Nikon 58mm f1.2 on eBay, and if you do, it's likely selling for $3K).