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13.02.13

Fast glass: Tamron 70-200mm

Tamron SP 70-200mm f2.8 Di VC USD

Non-marque lenses are something CRAIG FLEMING has tended to avoid since the higher end DSLRs became available. With better sensors you needed the better glass, so how does Tamron’s latest 70-200mm measure up?

Over the years I’ve used various lenses in this focal range. Some I’ve been happy with others not so, and I have to admit I don’t even own a 70-200mm zoom at all, preferring to opt for Canon’s prime 200mm f/2.8L simply because I hadn’t been happy with the quality that my Canon 70-200 f/4L was giving me. Also, whenever I reached for that particular lens I was generally using it at the 200mm end anyway, so I figured that my prime lens was not only a cheaper option but also would give me better image quality, which it did. The chance to test the Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD was a no-brainer, having tested their 24-70mm f/2.8 offering last summer and being more than impressed by the quality of that, I was eager to give this lens a run out.

First impressions
As always, first impressions count and upon holding the Tamron for the first time I got the feeling that it was a solid and well-put-together lens. The zoom and focusing rings are firm in use but not tight, which is good, and to be honest nothing more than I’d expect from an optic which is aimed clearly at the professional and top-end enthusiast market. A lens hood and tripod mount are both supplied and when both are attached you are left in no doubt that this is a serious piece of kit. The tripod mount itself is again a very sturdy addition without being too big – which I have seen in various other lenses – and worked faultlessly in operation, allowing me to switch from a landscape format to a portrait quicker than I would if I had to fiddle with the tripod head itself.

 

 

Vibration and aberration
The Tamron boasts VC (Vibration Compensation), which is this particular brand’s term for image stabilisation, and it does work too. I made a point of using this lens throughout my testing without a tripod as I needed to know just how well the VC was performing. Shooting at 1/400sec should, as we are often told, be enough to eliminate any camera shake with a 200mm lens, but I’ve never found that to be totally reliable and in the two magnified examples you can clearly see the difference Vibration Compensation has made to the sharpness of the image (pictured above).

 

Chromatic Aberration is a phenomenon which, simply put, occurs when a lens fails to focus all the colours present at the exact same point and can be seen in images as a kind of fringing of colour. It tends to be more noticeable in backlit scenes, particularly where lighter areas of the image meet the darker ones. In this instance if it is going to occur it’s probably going to happen on that little chap’s hood on the right, where the low winter sun catches it. Having looked at this image at full magnification in Photoshop I can see no evidence of fringing whatsoever (pictured above).

Head to head with the big boys
The big issue that I suppose any non-marque lens manufacturer has to deal with is how a lens stands up against the Nikon and Canon equivalents. Unless I test all three side by side and under the exact same conditions then I’m unlikely to come away with any definitive answers but based purely on what I’ve seen, the Tamron is more than a match. Certainly image quality-wise I’d be more than happy to deliver images to my clients shot on the Tamron. If we look at the fundamentals we’re talking handling, build, performance and price, and this optic does give you a tick in all those boxes. I’ve owned Tamron lenses before, namely the 90mm f/2.5 Macro lens which has something of a reputation and it’s because of that pedigree that I did have quite a lot of faith in the 70-200mm f/2.8. For my type of work, namely portraits, the lens more than coped with the difficult conditions I put it up against and one thing which impressed me hugely is how it coped with the often very contrasty light I was working under. So will it stand up to the big boys? Absolutely it does.

Pros and Cons
Often you see pros and cons done as a bullet pointed list but I’m not going to do that. The reason is simple: what one photographer sees as a con may be seen to someone else as a pro. So here goes. The Tamron is a bulky and, at 1470g, some would say a fairly heavy lens. That should surely be in the ‘con’ category? But no, I prefer a bit of weight in a telephoto lens as I feel I can hold it a lot steadier, especially in windy conditions. With an RRP of £1649, granted, this optic won’t be within reach of everyone. But a quick search on the web and I’m already being offered this lens by a very reputable online dealer for £1399. Although a lot more expensive than the Sigma counterpart, that still makes it cheaper than the Canon and Nikon equivalents. Build quality feels excellent but that is something that I can’t really put to the test over the month or so that I’ve used it. But as I mentioned earlier, I don’t get the feeling it’s anything other than well built and sturdy.
 

For more information please visit www.tamron.com and for more of Craig's work please visit www.craigfleming.4ormat.com

Spec
Street price: £1399
Groups-Element: 17-23
Angle of view: 34-12
Diaphragm Blades: 9
Maximum Aperture: f/2.8
Minimum Aperture: f/32
Minimum Object Distance (m): 1.30
Maximum Magnification Ratio: 1:8
Filter size (mm): 77
Weight (g): 1470
Diameter x Length (mm): 85.8 x 196.7
Focal Length (mm): 70-200


To download the high-res images featured in this article please click on their links below under resources.

 



Resources

  1. Craig Fleming

    Tamron model by fence

  2. Craig Fleming

    Tamron close up model

  3. Craig Fleming

    Tamron two boys

  4. Craig Fleming

    Tamron street image 2

  5. Craig Fleming

    Tamron street image 1

  6. Craig Fleming

    Tamron street image

  7. Craig Fleming

    Tamron model by tree

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