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Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8 Di III VXD Hands-On First Look

John Riley takes a look at the new Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8 Di III VXD lens for Sony FE full-frame cameras, sharing a few pre-production sample photos and describing how this new optic looks, feels and performs.

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0.4 sec | f/16.0 | 88.0 mm | ISO 100

Tamron is introducing a new 70-180mm f/2.8 zoom lens for the Sony FE full-frame system cameras. We have been able to secure the loan of a pre-production lens, shoot some sample images and get a feel for the handling of this interesting new optic.

Mirrorless system cameras do offer the potential for reducing the size of lenses, and this may also account for Tamron's decision to curtail the long end of the zoom at 180mm, rather than the more usual 200mm or 210mm. The faster f/2.8 aperture is retained, and it is interesting that the result is a lens that is slightly shorter and around the same weight as the recently reviewed Pentax 70-210mm f/4.

Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8 Di III VXD Key Features

  • 19 elements in 14 groups
  • 810g weight
  • 67mm filter thread
  • Closest focus 0.85m, 33.5 inches, 1:4.6 magnification
  • Special ultra-close setting at 70mm and in Manual Focus only 0.27m, 10.6 inches, 1:2 Magnification
  • Zoom lock switch


Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8 Di III VXD  Handling

0.6 sec | f/16.0 | 60.0 mm | ISO 100

This is a pre-production sample, but it is still extremely well put together and the overall quality of materials and construction seems to be excellent. Everything works smoothly and as expected, but of course there may well be tweaks and firmware adjustments before the full release. However, nothing, in particular, presents itself as a glitch or needing further work and any changes may be subtle.

It's an interesting choice of focal lengths, starting as expected at 70mm but stopping short of the usual 200mm and instead, offering 180mm at the longest end. This difference is subtle as well, and if it helps to make the lens more compact then that could well be an appropriate trade-off. Combined with the 42MP Sony A7R III body the combination goes well together and is an efficient package.

Focusing is fast, virtually silent and precise and no particular vices were revealed during the testing period. Of most interest is perhaps the extra feature that the lens shows when manual focus is selected on the camera.

1/6 sec | f/16.0 | 68.0 mm | ISO 100

When using AF, the minimum focus is 0.85m, or 33.5 inches, giving us a very reasonable maximum magnification of 1:4.6.

When using MF, at the 180mm end of the range the focusing is the same as in AF, but if set to 70mm then a close focus of 0.27m, or 10.6 inches, is achievable, giving a maximum magnification of 1:2, or half life-size. This is as good as older macro lenses could achieve, although current ones do tend to go down to a full1:1, or life-size. 70mm is also a useful focal length for portraits and the close focus here is quite an advantage.

Although this is an exciting feature, there is a caveat in that the behaviour of the lens tends towards the sort of special effects that we might expect from Lensbaby. In this case, that means a sharp central core and an outer field that moves quickly out of focus. The degree of effect can be controlled by stopping down and the initial thought is that it could be an interesting creative tool for portraiture in particular, although also for many other subjects. The bokeh effect can be adjusted by using various apertures, giving further versatility.


1/4 sec | f/16.0 | 60.0 mm | ISO 100

It is interesting that Tamron has included this option, and it is a feature that makes the lens more useful. By the time our focusing distance reaches the standard 0.85m then the image is sharp across the field in both AF and MF modes.

The only other feature on the lens itself is a zoom lock, provided to prevent the lens extending whilst being carried. In fact, there seems little need for this as the zoom is tight enough not to creep. However, maybe it will be necessary if the lens is used extensively and wear and tear start to take their toll.

In summary, this is a very likeable and useful lens and we look forward to receiving a production sample in due course and producing our full review. Meanwhile, we have a selection of sample images.


Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8 Di III VXD (A056) Sample Photos


Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8 Di III VXD (A056) Specifications

Lens Mounts
  • Sony E Mount
  • Sony FE Mount
Focal Length70mm - 180mm
Angle of View13.42į - 34.21į
Max Aperturef/2.8
Min Aperturef/22
Filter Size67mm
35mm equivalentNo Data
Internal focusingYes
Maximum magnificationNo Data
Min Focus27cm
Box Contents
Box ContentsFlower-shaped hood, Lens caps

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ChrisV 15 2.3k 26 United Kingdom
22 Apr 2020 2:00PM
So am I right in thinking the zoom is not internal?

Having recently acquired a 7rii this is a lens I may consider in future (Iím currently using a mix including adapted EF 70-200 f2.8, which is front-heavy and gives mixed results). It would be useful to know the dimensions including extended.
22 Apr 2020 2:44PM
@ChrisV I've just measured it for you and the length is approx. 151mm at 70mm and approx. 181mm at 180mm. It's not extending particularly far in relation to the size of the lens overall and doesn't seem to tip the centre of gravity forwards to any significant degree.

Hope that helps!
ChrisV 15 2.3k 26 United Kingdom
22 Apr 2020 3:22PM
Thanks John. Sounds like a very modest extension. Given thatís acceptable on standard zooms I canít see why that should be a deal breaker for medium telephoto range.

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