It’s the lightest and most compact telephoto zoom in its class, but is it a must-have for Sony E-mount users? Michael Topham put it to the test
Tamron 70-180mm F/2.8 Di III VXD: Features
Starting as it does at 70mm means you’re unlikely to find that you miss out on any focal length coverage between the long end of your standard zoom and the short end of this telephoto lens. By limiting the reach at the long end to 180mm it has enabled Tamron to achieve their goal of keeping it as light as possible while upholding a constant maximum aperture of f/2.8 throughout its range.
Compared to a pro-spec telephoto zoom like Sony’s FE 70-200mm f2.8 G Master that weighs a hefty 1480g, this lens is 670g lighter, which plays a bit part in keeping the weight of kit bearable when it’s being carried for any lengthy duration over long distances.
The optical construction is a complex one, with 19 elements arranged in 14 groups. To ensure the lens achieves impressive resolving power and controls aberrations well from the centre to the edge of the frame, Tamron has employed one eXtra low dispersion (XLD), five low dispersion (LD), one glass molded aspherical (GM) and two hybrid aspherical lens elements. In addition, a Broad-Band Anti-Reflection Generation 2 (BBAR-G2) coating has been applied to some elements to help suppress ghosting and flare.
The AF motor is different to the Rapid eXtra-silent stepping drive (RXD) used in Tamron’s other E-mount zoom lenses. The VXD acronym refers to a new voice-coil eXtreme-torque motor, which has been designed to operate faster than any of the company’s previous AF drive focus mechanisms and maintain positional accuracy down to 0.005mm, which equates to one-tenth the width of a human hair. As well as promising an incredibly quick response when focus tracking, the VXD motor has been structured to reduce internal vibrations whilst remaining quiet during operation.
Tamron has again opted against the idea of equipping the lens with their Vibration Compensation (VC) system. This will encourage Sony users to take advantage of their camera’s effective in-body stabilisation to compensate for camera shake. It is worth noting though that anyone who uses this lens with a first generation A7-series model won’t have any stabilisation available at all as IBIS has only been present since the A7 II in 2014.
At full telephoto the lens has a minimum focusing distance of 85cm, which does reduce to 27cm at 70mm if you’re prepared to focusing manually. Screw-in filters and adapter rings are attached via a 67mm filter thread at the front and a bayonet mount accepts a flower-shaped plastic hood. Unlike some lens hoods there’s no lock button that has to be depressed before it can be released.