The fast, full-frame 70-200mm f/2.8 telephoto zoom is a very popular lens. We test five of the best proprietary and third-party versions
Launched just a few months ago, the Tamron 70-200mm lens is the newest model in the group. The initial asking price is lower than those of the proprietary lenses, as would be expected of a third-party model, and it could come down even further. However, at £1,400 it is still significantly more expensive than the Sigma lens.
Currently, the Tamron zoom is available in Canon EF, Nikon F and Sony Alpha mounts, with the Canon version used for this test.
At 196.7mm long and weighing 1.47kg, this is one of the shortest and lightest lenses in the group, although, as already mentioned, any difference in size and weight between these bulky lenses is hard to notice.
Its barrel is made of high-quality plastic, rather than the metal of the brand versions. So while it is well made, it may turn out to be less durable.
A key difference between the proprietary and third-party lenses is that the zoom ring on the third-party lenses is at the front, while the focus ring is closer to the rear. This set-up works well because both rings are in close proximity – the hand can comfortably remain in the same place and access both rings, whereas the brand lenses require more of a stretch between them.
Each ring on this Tamron lens is beautifully dampened for a smooth rotation. Along with the Sony and Nikon zooms, the focal-length ring on the Tamron lens rotates anti-clockwise, from 200mm to 70mm. Canon owners using the Tamron lens will need to adjust to an opposite rotation.
Two switches on the side of the lens barrel represent a simple control over stabilisation and focusing. One switch changes between auto and manual focus, while the other turns Vibration Correction on and off.
Unlike the brand lenses, the Tamron and Sigma models do not feature a focus-distance limiter switch, which is a useful control for reducing the range the lens must ‘hunt’ to find focus on its subject.
Tamron’s Vibration Compensation (VC) offers up to 4 stops of usable shutter speeds when shooting handheld.
The complex lens construction consists of 23 elements in 17 groups, including four low-dispersion (LD) elements and one extra-low-dispersion (XLD) element to reduce distortions such as chromatic aberration.
Tamron’s Ultrasonic Silent Drive (USD) AF motor performs quietly and speedily. In a direct comparison with the Canon lens, it is hard to see a difference in speed, although the Canon version just edges it. Nevertheless, this means the Tamron lens is even more responsive than the Sony model.
Image: The out-of-focus candle lights in this image taken with the Tamron have possibly the most rounded edges of all the lenses here
Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD specifications:
Street price: Around £1,400
Filter diameter: 77mm
Lens elements: 23
Diaphragm blades: 9
Minimum focus: 1.3m
Lens mount: Canon EF, Nikon F, Sony Alpha