Reviews

Tamron 70-200mm F/2.8 Di VC USD Hands-On

We just took the latest Tamron 70-200mm F/2.8 Di VC USD for a test drive on our Canon 5D Mark III at the beach in the middle of November. The 70-200mm F/2.8 is a staple lens in the bag of any working professional photographer. From sports to portraits, the reach and shallow depth of field of this lens design combine for a great image with plenty of flexibility, even in low light scenarios. This lens features 23 elements in 17 groups, reaches minimum focus at 51.2 inches, and has 9 rounded aperture blades. The lens also features four LD (low-dispersion) elements to combat chromatic aberration. It’s got a host of other features, but let’s see what it looks like.

Build:

The build quality is very similar to Tamron’s recent 24-70mm F/2.8 Di VC USD. A nice black matte finish across the entirely lens is very at home for Nikon shooters. It features weather-sealing around the rear bayonet and an internal focus scale window displaying distances in meters and feet. The zoom ring is on the distant ring of the lens with a nice 1.5 inch grip. This movement of the zoom element will cause a few missed shots for Canon and Nikon shooters as they adjust to the new layout, as the zoom has always been closer to the camera body. While it might be uncomfortable at first, theoretically it makes more sense to be holding the lens further away from the body for additional stability. Manual focus is closer to the camera on a much smaller ring. Just like the 24-70mm, those planning to shoot video will have to be cautious of their follow focus rings being on the narrow path, but it was certainly possible. Movement is just the right amount of stiffness on both rings to prevent zoom creep, but allow for a smooth zoom/focus rack. The focus ring travels from near to far after ~120 degrees, while the zoom movement range is rather limited around 75 degrees.

The Tamron 70-200mm F/2.8 VC ships with a solid plastic HA001 bayonet style pedal hood that clicks into place snugly, with no worry of it getting bumped off in the field. It is the same model as Tamron’s previous 70-200mm.

Similar to the other manufacturers, the lens features a 77mm front filter diameter.

One point of contention is the tripod foot. It is the same design as Tamron’s previous 70-200mm F/2.8. I normally like to hold on to the tripod foot while carrying these heavy lenses or pulling them out of bags. The foot on the Tamron is so tight to the body that it interferes with manually focusing, and I can’t get my finger between it and the body of the lens. On the older 70-200mm, this was a much larger problem as the zoom ring was towards the back of the lens, and your hands would hit the foot, stopping your zoom motion. Now that the zoom and focus rings have been reversed, it’s not as much of an issue. A nice touch is the rugged knob that allows you to remove the entire collar from the lens. There is only one 1/4-20 screw on the tripod foot. It would have been nice to see an additional 3/8″ thread or an alignment pin for use with gimbal or Arca-Swiss style plates.

Not that you’ll need it, but the Tamron comes with a 6 year Canadian warranty and 1 year international warranty.

Optical Performance:

We don’t tend to like focus charts here at PHOTONews. We’re all about looking at the images these cameras and lenses produce in the real world, and letting you be the judge. The previous Tamron 70-200mm F/2.8 was well known for it’s image quality, and even with the addition of vibration compensation, Tamron was able to keep that high level of image quality.

Vignetting
These images were shot from a tripod, VC off, at ISO 100 – F/2.8. Straight out of the camera with no adjustments in Lightroom. We can see about a 1/2 stop of vignetting, especially at the telephoto end, but Lightroom had no trouble correcting this.

70mm


100mm


135mm


200mm

Working on a darker scene and focusing closer (approximately 15 feet) we see more pronounced vignetting, although it was cleared up around F/4-4.5.

Image Quality

We were certainly impressed using the latest Tamron when it comes to straight image quality and sharpness. The lens features one XLD (Extra Low Dispersion) element and four LD (Low Dispersion) for incredible image quality. Vertical lines were rendered straight with no visible distortion. Color and contrast were exceptional straight out of the camera, much like Tamron’s previous 70-200mm F/2.8. We couldn’t find any chromatic aberration in the trees of our test photos, even in the extreme corners at F/2.8.

Bokeh / Shallow Depth of Field:

Simply put, the Tamron renders out of focus areas beautifully. The 9 rounded aperture blades combine to create soft, perfectly round bokeh. Just click on the photos to view some large samples. We did notice some of the ‘onion effect’ in the highlights of the bokeh on one shot below. The slanted light is due to the shape of the Christmas lights.

Autofocus Speed

This was the number one complaint of the older Tamron 70-200mm F/2.8 Di lens. Acquiring focus and tracking birds in flight was just painful. Tamron have really stepped it up with this version of the lens and it is on-par with the Nikon and Canon equivalents that we’ve tested. All of the images shot in this review were straight out of the box without any micro-adjustment.

A great addition is the full-time manual focus override. Previously, you had to slide the lens collar into manual focus to adjust the focus manually if autofocus missed, or your wanted to fine tune. Now, the focus ring can over ride autofocus whenever you need.

One feature the Tamron is still lacking is the focus limiter. When shooting sports or wildlife, it is common to have a focus limiter so the lens will not back focus under a certain distance (eg. it will only focus on objects 10 ft away or greater). This way, if the lens is hunting for focus, it won’t rack through the entire focus range and back out to infinity while looking for something to lock on to.

Vibration Compensation:

Tamron claims that the new Tamron 70-200mm F/2.8 features 4-stops of vibration compensation, similar to the VC system in their recently introduced 24-70mm F/2.8. In our testing, we were seeing noticeable improvement in handheld shooting between the VC On and Off. Not quite sure that it was actually four stops, probably closer to three, but we were able to get sharp photos at 1/60 in some 30+mph winds.

Both shots at 1/8 sec @ f/2.8. ISO 800. VC Off (L) and VC On (R)

Price Point:

Update: This lens is expected to hit store shelves at $1599.99.
Here’s the breakdown of other competing products in Canada (current street prices as of publication):
Sigma 70-200mm F/2.8 OS EX DG – $1249.99
Nikon 70-200mm F/2.8 AF-S VRII- $1999.99
Canon 70-200mm F2.8L IS II USM – $2349.99

Mounts and Availability:

This lens will be available in a Canon, Nikon and Sony mount for now. No word on a Pentax mount unfortunately. The Canon mount is expected to arrive in the first or second week of December, with Nikon to follow and Sony after that. No specific dates have been given on their release. The Sony model will not feature VC in the lens, as it is contained in the body.

Silkypix:

We had never heard of Silkypix before, but it is a RAW processing software Tamron has included a license to in the box. The software is similar to Lightroom in it’s ability to catalog and edit RAW files. The included license gives the lens owners a slightly slimmed down version of the Silkypix Developer Studio 4. Tamron has said they will continue to support the Adobe Lightroom and Camera Raw lens corrections, but no complaints about a free alternative with a lens purchase.

Overall:

The Tamron 70-200mm F/2.8 Di VC USD brings Tamron’s legendary optical performance into the 21st century with the addition of USD and VC. The autofocus is fast with the addition of USD, the VC is effective , and the image quality is what we’re used to from this legend. Tamron has fixed a few quirks of the older version and we’d feel comfortable taking this lens on any job or just a walk in the park. The deciding factor for this lens will be the price point.

Additional Samples:

1/8 sec @ f/3.5 – ISO 800 – VC Off – Tripod

1/25 sec @ f/2.8 – ISO 1600 – VC On – Handheld

1/20 sec @ f/2.8 – ISO 4000 – VC On – Handheld

1/30 sec @ f/2.8 – ISO 2000 – 200mm – VC On – Handheld

1/8 sec @ f/2.8 – ISO 800 – 135mm – VC On – Handheld

Ed Note: PHOTONews Canada is owned by Amplis Foto Inc. Amplis Foto Inc. is the distributor of Tamron lenses for Canada. The words are our own based on the lens we were provided by Tamron Japan.

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  • Wesley

    These photo’s look nice, thanks for the test! But since this new lens also comes in the L series price segment, what whould you rather buy a slightly used or new Canon 70-200 F2.8 IS II VS Tamron 70-200?

    • http://www.facebook.com/camphoneguy Paul Rentz

      You ask a good question. I bought the Canon before there was really any competition. Although I really love the lens the way that Canon has been pricing lenses is crazy. Look at the increased price on any of the Series II vs. I! And when I bought this one my DEALER price was still $2375!.

    • ogotaj

      I’m actually a Nikon user and have a similar dilemma – should I get this new Tamron or the older version of Nikkor with VR which runs around $1500 used. I don’t even consider current version of that lens with VRII for $2500 because I simply can’t afford. It scares me at times what Nikon and Canon are doing with prices while quite frankly not always offering superior performance comparing to third party manufacturers.

  • http://www.facebook.com/trevor.howard.733 Trevor Howard

    Yikes, heres hoping it doesnt come in at that MSRP in Canada…. Thats WAY too high for this considering the Canadian price on the Canon, Sigma made the same mistake in the US at first and the lens sold badly until the price dropped $400….. in the US the price is listed at a reasonable $1499 vs the 70-200 f/2.8L IS II’s $2100 which gives it a comfy price difference, the Sigma is still cheaper at $1249 however.. However that said im glad to hear they fixed the biggest complaint I’ve had with every Tamron lens I’ve ever tried to be happy with, the anemic terribly inaccurate AF…. I might get this actually…

    • http://www.photonews.ca PHOTONews Canada

      Looks like the price will be $1599.99 in Canada. Compared to $2349.99 for the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II that’s a healthy difference.

      • http://www.facebook.com/trevor.howard.733 Trevor Howard

        Good to hear!

    • http://www.facebook.com/camphoneguy Paul Rentz

      That $2100 price is based on a $400 rebate right now so Canon is already feeling the heat from competitors. Wonder what they’ll do after the rebate. (US prices)

      • Roberlini

        Last year the Canon was less than $1900 USD at this time! I didn’t have the money then but should’ve bought it! Maybe Canon is having problems with the Yen or they don’t want to come too close to 3rd party pricing and loose some pricing prestige.

    • Zoran

      I have new Tamron SP 70-200 f2.8 Di VC USD for more than two weeks on my Canon 60D. It is very sharp and with very quiet, accurate and fast focus. 9 of 10 photos are in focus. Very good manual focus. I have a bit of hunting in very low light but Canon EF 70-200 f2.8 IS II that I borrowed from my friend for a few hours did the same so problem is probably related to the limitation of my camera.

      Only difference I noticed between two lenses on 60D body are:

      - Canon is a bit sharper at 200mm f2.8 and has a bit sharper extreme corners, but Tamron is a bit sharper at 70mm.Everything between looks the same.

      - Tamron has more pleasing back ground “bokeh” on other side canon has better build quality.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rsdofny-Us/100001944301315 Rsdofny Us

    The Canon 70-200f2.8 II is one of the sharpest lens around. For $600, I won’t even consider Tamron at all.

    • Obie Greenway

      The Canon 70-200f2.8 II is one of the sharpest lens around. For $600!

      Canon’s lens is sharp, but its cost about $2500. You your estimate price is wrong.

      • throwaway567

        i’m pretty sure this person means that for an additional $600 instead of the lens actually costing $600.

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  • Mark L.

    I have had my eye on a lens of this f-length and speed, and I am extremely happy with the Tamron 17-50mm I purchased earlier this year. looks like another New Years Resolution to add to the pile.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/camphoneguy Paul Rentz

    The price point on the Canon lens must be after rebate- no rebate and its $2499. I own the Canon and am extremely pleased with it. My buddy has the older Tamron 70-200mm and the focus was really slow so glad to hear that’s been fixed. I’d want to rent this lens before deciding to take it over the Canon but glad to hear Canon is being challenged as they have been pricing lenses like they own the market. Next I’d love to see Tamron, Sigma, somebody build a reasonably priced 500mm or 600mm f5.6 APS-C lens to match to the Canon 7ds and Nikon D7000 bodies which can do great work for those of us that don’t have unlimited funds for great wildlife/sports lenses.

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  • patrick

    omg I just tried the lens and was floored how well it was. Been shooting Nikons and Canons for over 16yrs. I don’t know if it’s worth the price difference anymore.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/RobertZimiga Robert Zimiga

    there are 2 reasons I wouldnt get this…for one tamrons customer service is horrible..and 2 Im not convinced its weather sealed like the canons..They are very sneaky about trying to find reasons to make your lens out of warranty when you send it to them…say you take it out in the rain(as I do with my canon) and it gets water inside(my canons bone dry) even though they say its weather sealed..they will void your warranty and the money you think you saved by purchasing this lens will fly right out the window. they consider any kind of bag rash to be impact damage and you will have to pay the repair cost….I would be interested in seeing where the “sealing” is located on this lens..i saw another side by side and compared to canon the colors arent as good…I really would like to see the focus speed compared to nikon and canon for me thats important because I shoot sports and wildlife..also the low light focus..

  • louis_m_c

    WHEN !!!! ? I want it!