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Tamron 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC Review

Tamron is a company on the move. Some of their recent releases like the 15-30mm f/2.8 VC have instantly been hailed as class-leading, professional-grade lenses and the expectations for the new stabilized primes (35mm and 45mm) are equally high.  Yet Tamron hasn’t forgotten the fact that there is also a large percentage of the market who aren’t looking for big, heavy, expensive lenses, but instead want something light, affordable, and convenient.  If that is you, then the lens we are considering today should get you very excited.

TitleThe new Tamron 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC is the lightest zoom lens in its class and does a number of things very, very well.  Best of all, it is available for a stunningly low price of $299 here in Canada!

This lens is the replacement for a lens with a similar focal length that Tamron released ten years ago.  It is there that the similarities end.  The new lens brings a whole host of modern upgrades and is the beneficiary of a “trickle-down” effect of Tamron’s innovations in its more expensive lens – including moisture resistance, VC (Vibration Compensation), improved chromatic aberration control, a round seven bladed aperture to produce nice, round bokeh, and a vastly improved AF system.  Let’s take a look at how these improvements play out in real world use.

Bokeh-1One of the most important new features on this new lens is VC (Vibration Compensation).  The Vibration Compensation (VC) is a huge asset in a lens that reaches a full frame equivalent 300+mm. Attempting to shoot handholding such a lens without stabilization at lower shutter speeds becomes nearly impossible. Thanks to an effective VC system, I was able to handhold 1/5th second shots at 200mm with fairly good results, and quite consistent results at 1/10th second. The VC also does a great job of stabilizing the viewfinder image, although I detected a consistent “shifting” of the viewfinder image down before the stabilization locked the image in place. One thing to remember is that no stabilizer system is going to stop your subject from moving, so if there is any movement in your subject, you will need to bring your shutter speed up to get sharp results.

Bokeh-5sI was impressed by was with the AF (autofocus) system on the lens.  Earlier lenses had a focus motor that was somewhat buzzy sounding and relatively slow to focus.  This lens improves on both of those qualities, with quiet, fast, and generally accurate focus.  The standout performance for me was when I put my camera in AF Servo mode and focused on a rapidly moving subject (my son) running full tilt right at the camera.  I fired off 19 frames in under 3 seconds and was pleasantly surprised to find every frame acceptably focused.  Wow!  That’s a great asset for those of you with fast moving children of your own.

Men's Samples-8My only gripes about the autofocus system is that there is no full time manual focus override, so be sure to switch the lens into MF (Manual Focus) mode before making adjustments.  This also means that the focus ring spins externally when the lens is focusing, and I found that my standard way of supporting the lens would sometimes interfere with that operation and I would have to move my hand.  These are the kinds of compromises one can accept in a lens with such a low price.

Sharpness and Crop-2sHow about the image quality?  This lens offers a huge 11.1x zoom range, so some optical compromises are expected in a lens that goes from fairly wide to quite long.  I think that Tamron has found a way to minimize the impact of most of these compromises.  When compared with the typical kit lenses that this lens will be replacing, I don’t think that any photographers will see a drop-off in image quality.  As previously mentioned, chromatic aberrations are really well controlled, meaning that your images won’t be ruined by a lot of green or purple fringes in high contrast areas.  The rounded aperture blades mean that you can stop the lens down to f/8 or even f/11 and retain nicely round circular highlights, and the bokeh is really surprisingly good from the lens.

The lens sharpness can sometimes impress and rarely disappoints.  Contrast isn’t as high as top lenses, but I didn’t expect it to be.  Color rendition is generally excellent.  Do be careful when putting the sun into the frame, however, as the lens showed a tendency towards flare even with the included lens hood attached.  One other area of weakness is the amount of distortion that is present on the wide end.  You will notice it if you have very straight lines in your photo.

Men's Samples-6s

One final plus is that the lens allows for a 1:4 reproduction ratio, or .25x magnification – a very useful figure. As this photo shows, I was able to fill the frame with a relatively small Black-Eyed Susan blossom.

I was pleasantly surprised to find the moisture resistance claim on this lens, as this is a feature normally found only on much more expensive lenses.  It really makes a lot of sense on a lens like this that will be used both for “life shooting” (general purpose) and travel.  . “Moisture-resistance” certainly doesn’t mean “feel free to dunk this lens in a fountain”, but it should help to allay some fears if you are traveling and need to shoot in a light rain. I’m not aware of any other all-in-one lens that offers moisture resistance, and that, combined with the exceptional 6 year warranty on the lens will give you a lot of peace of mind.  Just remember to check if your camera body also has moisture resistance!

All of this in a very light (400g) package that will balance nicely on your DSLR and not hurt your neck (or your wrists) if you carry it all day.  The build quality of the lens is very nice, with the only obvious concession to price and weight being a plastic lens mount like most kit lenses.


In conclusion, those of you who are looking for an inexpensive all-in-one lens will find little to be disappointed by. The 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC lens is a significant upgrade over its predecessor and basically offers all of the performance of the Canon/Nikon counterparts at less than half the price.  It will ably capture your family or travel photos, and the inclusion of even a bit of moisture resistance is a nice touch in such an inexpensive lens. The 11x zoom range coupled with nice close focus magnification opens up a very diverse range of subject matter. The lens has a few flaws (like distortion and being a bit flare prone), but all in all it is fairly mannerly in its performance. There always compromises made in a superzoom lens, but Tamron has done a nice job in minimizing those and delivering us a tool that is both useful and inexpensive.

About the Author

Dustin Abbott is a full time pastor/part time photographer from Pembroke, Ontario who shoots professionally but primarily for capturing beauty and sharing it with others. www.dustinabbott.net

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