Telephoto lenses are a key part in nearly every photographer’s camera bag. Having a solid long telephoto lens in our arsenal lets us be prepared for numerous scenarios without having to switch out our primes and possibly miss the shot. Tamron’s latest lens revamp is the 70-200mm f/2.8 DI VC USD, and it’s a solid option for those looking at this focal length.
What I have always loved about Tamron lenses is their Vibration Compensation technology. I say this every time I review one of their lenses, but I have to say it again: the VC is super handy for video and also allows you to hand-hold while below 1/60 second, going as low as 1/20 without having to worry about pesky blur. What this means is though you might miss out on the shallow depth of field that comes with an f/1.4 lens, you can shoot in very low light like you would if the lens was more wide open. All that said, an f/2.8 on any telephoto lens is generally speaking as wide open as you’re going to get, and for that I’m pleased with the Tamron.
The focal length of this lens, 70-200mm, is really versatile. It doesn’t give you the options that maybe a 50-150mm would, but it’s an excellent counterpart to your 24-70mm (because come on, I know you have one). With the 24-70mm, you cover a wide range of subjects near you and with the 70-200mm you can cover everything slightly farther away. If you have wanted to try portraits from a distance, this lens would be a great option for you.
The build quality of this lens is what I have come to expect from Tamron. The lens doesn’t feel like the highest quality, but it gets the job done. It’s a no frills lens, but for $1500 I kind of want a few frills. It makes me feel like I’m getting my money’s worth. Like I’ve said before, I wish Tamron used less plastic parts, or at least used a plastic and rubber that felt better in my hand. Unlike other Tamron lenses I have held, however, this one has a good weight to it. It feels sturdy, and I like that in a lens. The collar (which is great for tripod use) is metal except for the knob, which is plastic.
From a performance standpoint, the lens didn’t really let me down in any category. Sharpness, focusing and image quality were all at par or better.
Building a telephoto lens with consistent sharpness throughout is no walk in the park, but Tamron did a really good job with this one. The one area where sharpness was unimpressive was at 70mm. In studio, the exact same subject was significantly less sharp at 70mm than it was once I cleared 100mm. However, from 100mm through 200mm, the lens is quite sharp and very consistent. I was more than happy with the sharpness of the images, finding them to be better than most of the lenses I test.
Below you can see examples of sharpness. From left to right the images were taken at 70mm, 100mm, 135mm and 200mm:
The auto focus was far and away superior over the last Tamron lens I tested, which seriously disappointed me. In bright and normal light conditions, the 70-200mm was quick and tack sharp. It wasn’t the snappiest focus I have ever tested, but it was by no means a let down. In low light situations, the lens performed adequately. Sometimes it would have a hard time finding the subject, but it would usually succeed after a few seconds. I can’t say it ever failed, which is great.
The quality of the final images was above expectations, with little distortion or chromatic aberration. CA was nonexistent past 100mm, but was slightly present from 70-100mm. Granted, I did my best to try and get CA to appear and to only find it barely an issue (at 70-100mm in extreme circumstances) is quite an accomplishment. If you plan to shoot at 200mm frequently with the Tamron, it is pretty much flawless at that focal length. Any CA that appeared I was easily able to correct in post. I've seen far, far worse.
To compare the VC to other image stabilizers, there is no comparison. It’s just better. I think that’s all I need to say about that.
What I liked:
Sharpness at majority of focal lengths
Quality of images
What could use improvement:
Build quality/ look and feel
Sharpness at wider focal lengths
Generally speaking, this is a quality lens that most definitely deserves your attention. There are very few telephoto lenses that can truly be called flawless, and those that can be called perfect are generally the price of a small car. If you need a long telephoto that can be the compliment to your 24-70mm, you should consider Tamron 70-200mm. It’s one of those lenses that can handle being jostled in your bag and will continue to perform. Plus, the VC makes it indispensible for both video and stills.
You can grab the Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 DI VC USD for $1500.