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Becoming a popular focal length range for purchase as a second lens on cropped sensors, starting at the points where most kit lenses finish. We take a look at how this offering from Tamron, designed for cropped sensors only, performs.
- Focal Length 55-200mm
- Construction 13/9 elements/groups
- Max aperture f/4.5-5.6
- Angle of view 28-7.5º
- Closest focus 0.95m
- Filter thread 52mm
- Dimensions 71.6x83mm
- Weight 0.295kg
- Hood yes (supplied)
- Mounts available Canon, Nikon, Minolta
Build and Handling
This lens from Tamron is designated as a Di 11 lens and, as such, will only perform well on APS-C style sensors. The lens body as well as the mount are of engineering plastics, which, along with the compact dimensions, accounts for the light weight.
The body has the usual AF/MF switch just left of centre in front of the mount with the next 55mm being occupied by the zoom ring. This is marked at 55, 70, 85, 100, 135 and 200mm and proved smooth in operation with 36mm of it covered in a ribbed rubber grip. As the lens steps down, there is a narrow manual focus ring that needs the AF turning off to operate. This ring rotates during autofocus. The front element, however, does not rotate and the supplied, cup shaped hood fits, bayonet style, around the front of the element, which in turn is fitted with a 52mm filter thread.
Zooming to the full length extends the single inner barrel some 34mm and the closest focus of 0.95m adds another 17mm. This close focus is supported throughout the focal range and at the 200mm setting gives a reproduction ratio of 3.5:1. Nice, but hardly Macro as claimed on the box!
Autofocusing is smooth, if a little whiny and although by no means fast, is sufficient for most general-purpose photography. Switching to manual, it is possible with a little practice to manual focus with one finger while holding the lens by the zoom ring.
Whoa! What happened here? The optical quality of this lens can punch way above it’s class! So much so that I checked that I hadn’t done something silly during the test procedure! But no, the tests had been carried out to the same strict procedures that all lenses go through and the results are, quite frankly, astonishing for the type of lens. Distortion is only evident under measured conditions and gave figures of –0.72% barrel at the 55mm end and 0.88% pincushion at the 200mm end. Distortion does not become noticeable until it reaches the 1.5% mark, so this was perfectly acceptable.
Chromatic aberrations are also fairly well controlled, with only a small amount of fringing detectable to the eye in very high contrast areas. Contrast and colour rendition are well rendered and the resolution is simply in a class above what you would expect from a lens in this price bracket. Although the lens benefits from stopping down a bit as the focal length increases, and the edges when wide open are a tad softer, the overall performance is very pleasing indeed. The performance is best at the wider end, quite usual for these type of zoom lenses, but the drop in quality towards the longer focal length is less than would be expected.
This harbour scene, shot at the 200mm end of the lens and at f/8 on an EOS 20D shows good detail in the full size file with even the boat names readable.
The lens coped well with this backlit woodland scene. Lens set at 114mm. 1/60sec at f/8 with fill flash
It took this extreme high contrast shot to show any signs of chromatic aberrations, which just creep in on the edges of one or two petals. 1/160sec at f/5.6 and 200mm.
Click on each comparision photo below to view full size versions
55-200mm set at 55mm and f/4
55-200mm set at 200mm and f/4
Below is our lens test data. To find out how to use these graphs look at this article: How we test lenses
Not the lightest in class and not the best build quality in class (but not the worst either), this offering from Tamron is certainly one of the cheapest in class and optically the best performer by a long way. The trend with this type of lens to rely overly on autofocus, with only token nods towards manual focusing concerns me a little, but the MF ring on this model is at least usable. It has to be one of the best budget buys on the market.
In summary, the positive points of the Tamron 55-200mm f/4-5.6 LD Di11 are:
Amazing optical quality for a budget lens
Price makes excellent value for money
The negative points are:
Plastic mount (can wear if much lens changing is practiced)
AF is a little slow and noisy.
Check out the latest price of the Tamron 55-200mm f/4-5.6 Di11 here
Discuss this lens and other related lens subjects here
Test by Ian Andrews www.wildaboutkent.co.uk