Tamron 70-200 f2.8

The Tamron SP AF 70-200 f2.8 Di LD zoom lens is a high end optic offered at mid-range prices (around $780). Canon’s and Nikon’s 70-200 f2.8 lenses often go for nearly three times the price. Given the much lower pricer tag, what exactly do you give up with the Tamron? Build quality? Optical quality? Brand name prestige? The answer is you give up some of all these, but less in the optical quality department than might normally be assumed. The biggest sacrifice Tamron has made to attain a lower price point involves sacrifices in the AF performance, build quality, and lack of SR. In other words, Tamron has given up on state-or-the-art lens technology in order to keep the price down. But this means the lens is not optimal for use with cameras lacking in-body shake reduction. This limits the usefulness of the lens on Nikon and Canon cameras, while sacrifices in AF performance limit the lens’s usefulness in sports and action photography. Tamron has also cut corners in build quality. The Tamron features a plastic outer shell and lacks any kind of weather sealing. Despite the plastic, the mount is metal, and the lens on the whole feels heavy and durable. I would not, however, expect the lens to exhibit the same level of durability as the Nikon and Canon stalwarts.

Optically, the lens performs surprisingly well, especially when the price is factored in. Although I have never shot with either the Nikon or the Canon 70-200 f2.8 lenses, I’ve seen plenty of images derived from that glass, including large prints, and I would give the OEM lenses a slight edge, optically, over the Tamron. The Nikon and Canon glass feature a bit more lens contrast, better color fidelity, better light transmission. But the differences are subtle, and, some instances, would require a sharp eye to notice. Optically, the Tamron 70-200 f2.8 delivers the goods, as we shall see when we examine images taken from the lens on a Pentax K-5iis.

Let’s begin with a landscape image taken at 70mm, f8. All shots were given basic exposure/contrast corrections in Lightroom, although nothing radical was used.

And the 100% center crop:

And the 100% edge crop:

This is respectable performance for a zoom lens. We’re dealing with some very fine detail, and few zoom lenses would do as well with an APS-C camera.

Now let’s look at another 70mm shot, this one taken at f3.5:

And the 100% crop:

Again, good performance. With a little sharpening added in post, this image will actually look quite impressive, in terms of the resolution of fine detail:

I will not bother providing corner crops for non-landscape shots, as sharpness on far edges and corners is not important if you’re taking pictures of subjects (which will tend not to be scrunched up on the edges of the frame!). And all the crops, from this point on, will be sharpened in Lightroom to around ~50 (the default is 25) so as to show what the lens is capable of when combined with some modest PP.

Next is an image taken at 87.5mm, f4:

Now in image at 92.5mm, f6.3. This image was somewhat desaturated in post:

And the 100% crop:

For another shot taken at 92.5mm, f8:

And the 100% center crop:

And the 100% corner crop:

And now for a shot taken at 107.5mm, f4:

And the 100% crop:

And a shot taken at 140mm, f4:

And the 100% crop:

Next we have a shot taken at 150mm, f8:

And the 100% center crop:

And another 150mm shot, this time shot at f4.5:

And the 100% center crop:

Now for a 160mm shot, taken at f2.8:

And the 100% crop:

And now for a 200mm shot, taken at f2.8:

And the 100% crop:

And another shot at 200mm, this time f4:

And one more 200mm shot, this taken at f8:

And the 100% center crop:

As can be seen from these samples, the Tamron SP AF 70-200 f2.8 Di LD is sufficiently sharp and contrasty at all focal lengths from wide open at least from wide open through mid-apertures. Shots from the Tamron zoom may need a little more help from PP than shots from comparable OEM glass; but that is about the sum of the difference between the Tamron 70-200 and those by Nikon, Canon, and Sony. Despite it’s limitations in terms of non-optimal auto-focus and less than stellar build quality, this particularly Tamron lens goes to the top of the list of value high end glass, particularly for Sony Alpha mount and Pentax K-mount shooters, who won’t miss the lack of in-lens stabilization in the Tamron zoom.

More images from the Tamron 70-200 f2.8:

At 70mm f8:

At 82.5mm, f8:

At 115mm, f4:

At 122.5mm, f2.8:

At 170mm, f2.8:

At 180mm, f3.5:

At 200mm, f2.8:

At 200mm, f3.5:

At 200mm, f4: