In an effort to update my lens collection over the past few years, I’ve started replacing my lower end stuff with some nicer lenses. I’m not a brand snob when it comes to camera lenses nor do I have deep pockets. So whenever I’m looking for a lens, I like to get the best performance for the price. For my last few lens purchases I’ve ended up going with third party lenses, and this time was no different. It all started when I was flipping through an edition of Outdoor Photographer and saw an advertisement that Tamron was running for this lens. The sample photo looked tack sharp. I was impressed and skeptical too, after all it is a magazine advertisement. I looked it up to see what other had to say about this lens, and surprisingly the lens was getting quite a few positive reviews. After much research and deliberation as to what kind of lens to get, I went with this one. Now that I have it, I’m glad I went with it and my buyer’s remorse has lifted.
While I don’t think I’d call this lens a “professional” lens, it certainly sports a number of nice features that helps it produce professional quality images:
- Vibration Compensation (VC) – VC is Tamron’s analog to Canon’s Image Stabilizer. Tamron claims up to 4 stops of compensation. After some test shots, I think this is pretty accurate.
- Extra Low Dispersion (XLD) glass –The primary focusing element is made from XLD glass and it has similar dispersion character to Canon’s “L” (fluorite) glass. This helps make sharper images with less chromatic aberration. My shots were certainly sharper than my Sigma 70-300. I wouldn’t go as far to say that XLD outperforms Canon’s “L” glass, but XLD glass certainly would give L glass a run for its money.
- A quiet, precise and fast auto-focus motor – Compared to professional auto-focus features, this one may seem a little slower. I found it to have satisfactory speed with high accuracy and virtually no noise. I was only aware of it making any such noise when the room was completely silent.
- An internal focusing mechanism – Low-end lens with similar range coverage focus by moving the front element, which causes it to rotate. This can be annoying if you are using filters, so Tamron moved the focal element inside the lens.
- A nice petal-style hood. This came in the box so you don’t have to buy a hood in addition to the lens. It stores nicely on the lens, but covers the zoom ring in the process. So you either have to remove it or extend the lens without the focal ring.
The combined effects of the Vibration Compensation, Extra Low Dispersion glass, and precise auto-focus allows for this lens to take some tack sharp images on par with lens that are 2 and 3 times the cost of this lens. I was sitting in a poorly lit room, turned on vibration control and zoomed it to 200mm I shot a image at 1/15th of a second without any blurring while hand-holding the camera. Likewise, I took this lens outdoors and shot some images of my niece while she was cheerleading, and it was again precise, fast, and sharp while doing some action shots.
The lens’ shell is made from polycarbonate and lacks the weather proofing of more expensive lenses. The overall build quality of the lens is to be expected at the price point’s offering: a solid construction and quality workmanship without the expense of exotic materials.
While I’m pleased with the lens overall, it does suffer from typical zoom lens problems such as barrel distortions and vignettes. Barrel distortions shows up in the sub 100mm range and a pincushion effect on the longer zooms. Neither are incredibly noticeable though. Vignettes are noticeable in bright daylight with long zooms. This might be a consideration when shooting outside in the afternoon. Usually, this can be mitigated some by stopping the lens down more though or can be fixed in post processing.
The bottom line on this lens is that you’re getting a lot of bang for the buck. Its price is significantly less than that of other lenses with similar features. It is also available on a variety of mounts too. I’d recommend this lens to anyone who doesn’t want to break the bank to get his or her hands on a high quality telephoto lens.