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Travelling Light With Tamron 18-270mm & 60mm Lenses

Travelling Light With Tamron 18-270mm & 60mm Lenses - Will Cheung picks two versatile Tamron lenses as his travelling companions for a trip to Scotland.

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Category : Lenses and Optical Items
Product : Tamron AF 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 Di ll VC LD
Price : £627
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Tamron AF18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC LD Aspherical (IF) Macro
Tamron SP AF60mm f/2 Di II LD (IF) 1:1 Macro
Summary
Specifications 
 
Will Cheung travels light in the company of the Tamron AF18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC LD Aspherical (IF) Macro (left) and the Tamron SP AF60mm f/2 Di II LD (IF) 1:1 Macro.
 
Okay, I will come clean. Whenever I go away, be it for pleasure or business, it is very rare that I travel light. I was never a boy scout but I like to be prepared and do not like missing out on any photo opportunities that may arise. I think it is a reaction because I have been caught out in the past and the experience has never been good.
 
Excuse the rambling introduction but what I am getting at is that I am a photographer who packs the proverbial kitchen sink when I go away. However, as age and creaky knees take their toll, I am appreciating (and enjoying) the concept of taking less kit on trips. Perversely, there is a benefit to this and I end up taking more pictures than ever because I spend less time contemplating which lens to fit and I just shoot away exploring the opportuinities.

On a recent trip to Edinburgh to a friend's wedding where I was a guest, I kept things simple and took a pair of Tamron lenses, the AF18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC LD Aspherical (IF) Macro and the SP AF60mm f/2 Di II LD (IF) 1:1 Macro. I figured that the pair would cover most of my photographic needs given that I would not have huge amounts of spare time to go out shooting personal images.
 

Tamron AF18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC LD Aspherical (IF) Macro



Despite its enormous 15x zoom range, the Tamron AF18-270mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC LD Aspherical (IF) Macro is impressively compact and comes complete with a lens hood.

At its 18mm setting, the 18-270mm is incredibly small and light. Zoom right out and the lens gets significantly larger.

Current prices from Warehouse Express are £428.99 for the 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 and £389.99 for the 60mm f/2 macro. Buy either before June 12 2010 and there is a £25 cashback offer, so get your skates on if you fancy one of these optics.
 
The Tamron AF18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC LD Aspherical (IF) Macro has an impressive 15x zoom range. In fact, it holds the world record for the widest zoom range found on any interchangeable zoom lens. Its 18 to 270mm range equates to 27 to 405mm range in 35mm full-frame terms on my Nikon D300. In other words, it goes from wide-angle to long telephoto in a remarkably compact and lightweight package.
 
It is difficult to truly appreciate the pulling power of a 15x zoom until you try it. In a typical scene, you can truly zero in to a tiny part of the scene without changing your position. Take the pair of shots taken in Princes Street gardens with Edinburgh Castle in the background. The 18mm gives a fine general view but being able to zoom right into a statue without moving is amazing.
 
The potential danger, of course, is camera shake, but Tamron have thought of that and have installed VC (Vibration Compensation) technology into this lens. If you want to learn about the technology of the system, click here.
 
The technology is very clever but the important things is that it works and in actual situations the benefit is clear. With a long focal length, frame up a scene in the viewfinder and you will notice very obvious movement as you waver around. Now touch the camera’s shutter release and almost instantly you can see the VC kick into action and the image stabilises. The benefit is immediately apparent. In this review I was getting acceptably sharp pictures at long focal lengths, even at shutter speeds as slow as to 1/8sec.
 
I would not pretend that VC technology makes tripods redundant because that is not the case, but what it does allow is remarkable freedom in situations where you do not have a tripod handy. In practice, for me that is most of the time so now low light need no longer stop play and sharp pictures are possible at slow shutter speeds. Of course, sound camera holding technique is still important, so good stance, gentle breathing and a smooth shutter release action are critical.
 
Lens handling is sound. Autofocusing is reasonably quiet and sensitive and should you need to use the override AF system, a switch on the lens takes you into manual focusing quickly. Manual focusing is fast because it requires very little rotation of the focusing barrel (less than one-quarter) to go from infinity down to the lens’s minimum focusing distance of 49cm. This minimum focusing distance is possible at all focal lengths and at the 270mm setting gives a macro magnification ratio of 1:3.5.
 
The lens’s zooming action is smooth throughout the range with a noticeable resistance around the 70-100mm area, but this does not hinder operating speed. There is a lock that holds the zoom barrel at the 18mm position and that is a welcome feature when carrying the camera around. One thing I would like to see, however, is for Tamron to develop a zoom lock that can be applied at other focal lengths, say at 35mm and 50mm too.
 

Tamron lenses are always well finished and the 18-270mm is no exception. See here the short travel from infinity to minimum focus.

The VC (Vibration Compensation) can be turned off - for example, when the camera is being used on a tripod.
 

Generally I was happy with the image quality possible from this zoom. You have to bear in mind that the range is enormous so there is a pay off between quality and convenience. Click here for our full testbench review.
 
Sharpness and contrast are at their best at the short to medium telephoto settings and at mid aperture values. Overall image quality is less impressive at the very long end of the zoom but still worth using. I did some shots at the Bupa Great Edinburgh run and the long end came in very useful in this situation.
 
The superzoom is ideally suited for shooting about town.
 
The 18-270mm has plenty of pulling power as this shot shows, taken at the 155mm setting.
This handheld exposure was made at 1/8sec at f/4.5 and it is still sharp.
 
VR technology means low light shooting is easy. Shot at 1/45sec, f/3.5 and ISO 1600.
 
 
Click on the thumbnails below for high resolution images

An overall view of Edinburgh Castle taken at the 18mm setting.

Taken at the 270mm showing the pulling power of the 15x zoom range.

 
Click on the thumbnails below to view high resolution images
Tamron's VC (Vibration Compensation) feature works well so long lens shots and slowish shutter speeds can be tackled with confidence. Both shots here were taken at 1/8sec at 240mm, no VC on the left, with VC on the right.
 

Tamron SP AF60mm f/2 Di II LD (IF) 1:1 Macro

 

The 60mm f/2 macro lens comes supplied with a deep lens hood as standard.

Of the many great lenses that Tamron have produced over the years, quite probably the best known is the 90mm f/2.8 macro. It has been seen in several guises but top optical performance has always been its biggest selling point. It still is and you can read our full review here.
 
The 90mm macro is compatible with 35mm full-frame format as well as digital SLRs using smaller APS-C size sensors. Tamron's latest macro lens, the 60mm f/2 that I have been using here, is compatible only with APS-C size sensors. On the cropped sensor of my Nikon D300 it gives the same image magnification as the 90mm on the full-frame Nikon D700.
 

A simple switch lets you quickly move from autofocus to manual.
 

This macro lens gives 1:1 magnification and the f/2 aperture provides a bright image.

With Tamron's pedigree with macro lenses you will not be surprised to hear that it is a fine performer that handles well. It is compact, so makes a good companion to the 18-270mm, and the 1:1 macro magnification means that you can get even closer to the subject. Its other major advantage is its fast f/2 maximum aperture that provides a brighter viewfinder image, does a better job of throwing the background out of focus in portraits and means more options when it comes to low light shooting.
 
On my Scottish sojourn I used the 60mm in tandem with the 18-270mm, but also on occasion took it out on its own too. The short telephoto focal length is perfect for many subjects including candids and the added flexibility of macro focusing just increases your creative options.
 
Handling is very respectable. The autofocus motor makes a whine as it focuses but it is respectably swift on the D300. Macro lenses are notorious for searching for focus in close-up shooting, so being able to very quickly switch to manual is important. With this lens on the Nikon D300, the lens can be left in AF mode and if you need to focus manually just adjust the focusing barrel as normal – there is no need to switch to MF. Manual focusing is smooth and precise.
 
Optically, as you can see from the images taken on the Royal Yacht Britannia, resolution and contrast are first rate even at wide apertures. There was no problem with flare even in the brightest conditions - this was thanks to the deep lens hood and shows one clear advantage of fixed focal length lenses.
 
Click on the thumbnails below to view high resolution images

The Tamron 60mm macro is capable of excellent quality images.

As you move in closer, depth-of-field gets narrower so focus with care.


The maximum f/2 aperture helps to keep shutter speeds high in low light.
 

The 60mm focal length is ideal for detail shots and gives a comfortable working distance.
 

Summary

 
 

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I really enjoyed using this pair of Tamron lenses and there are few situations where you would want for any other lens.
 
Priced at £428.99 from Warehouse Express, the 18-270mm superzoom is a tempting proposition if you want one lens for almost every occasion. It is compact, handles well and performs capably. There is no escaping the bald fact that the 15x zoom range of the 18-270mm is a remarkable achievement in optical design and Tamron's designers deserve a sizeable slap on the back. The efficiency of the VC feature is something else the designers should be proud of. While it should not be considered a replacement for a camera support, the VC system does mean that you can shoot at slow shutter speeds and still get sharp pictures. It is very effective.  
 
As for the 60mm f/2 macro lens, which sells for £389.99, it is excellent at delivering high quality images at close quarters and is also very useful as a portrait lens too with the added benefit of the fast maximum aperture that helps greatly when you want to throw the background out of focus.
 
This pair of lenses make for a fine team and I can certainly recommend them if travelling light is important to you. Together they have a combined weight of less than 1kg and that potentially means less effort and more pictures.





 

Tamron AF 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 Di ll VC LD Specifications

ManufacturerTamron
General
Lens Mounts
  • Nikon AF
  • Canon EF
Lens
Focal Length18mm - 270mm
Angle of ViewNo Data
Max Aperturef/3.5 - f/6.3
Min Aperturef/22
Filter Size72mm
35mm equivalentNo Data
Internal focusingNo Data
Focusing
Min Focus49cm
StabilisedYes
Construction
Blades7
Elements18
Groups13
Box Contents
Box ContentsNo Data
Dimensions
Weight550g
Height101mm

View Full Product Details

Tamron SP AF 60mm F/2.0 Di II LD (IF) Specifications

ManufacturerTamron
General
Lens Mounts
  • Canon EF
  • Minolta AF
  • Nikon AF
  • Sony Alpha
Lens
Focal Length60mm
Angle of View0 - 27
Max Aperturef/2
Min Aperturef/22
Filter Size55mm
35mm equivalentNo Data
Internal focusingNo Data
Focusing
Min Focus10cm
StabilisedNo
Construction
Blades7
Elements14
Groups10
Box Contents
Box ContentsNo Data
Dimensions
Weight400g
Height80mm

View Full Product Details
 

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