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

John Riley reviews the new Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8 Di III VXD telephoto zoom lens for full-frame and APS-C Sony E-Mount cameras.

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Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8 Di III VXD (A056) Review: 1/5 sec | f/16.0 | 40.0 mm | ISO 100

The Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8 completes a trio of lenses for the full-frame Sony mirrorless camera range. Joining the 17-28mm and 28-75mm lenses, Tamron now offers a full range of focal lengths from 17mm to 180mm in these three lenses, which match in terms of aperture and filter size, aiming for maximum convenience in operation as a set. We have already had a first look at the new lens, which was extremely promising, and now have the opportunity for a real in-depth examination. Let's see if it lives up to its promise, using the 42MP Sony Alpha A7R III camera body, although it is of course also suitable for use on the APS-C sensor cameras, where the “crop factor” would equate to a field of view of 105-270mm in 35mm format terms.


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

Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8 Di III VXD (A056) Review: 1/5 sec | f/16.0 | 60.0 mm | ISO 100

There are many 70-200mm lenses on the market, usually f/2.8 and also usually heavy and bulky. But fine lenses. For those who want to reduce the bulk then f/4 versions fit the bill, also reducing the price tag significantly. Tamron have here made a different design choice, reducing the size and weight by stopping the focal length range at 180mm instead of 200mm but enabling the retention of the f/2.8 maximum aperture. The result is a lens that weighs in at a very modest 810g and is usefully compact as well. Even zooming in to 180mm only extends the lens by 30mm. It is also very well made and what few controls there are operate smoothly and positively.

Starting at the front, we have a provided petal lens hood that bayonets cleanly into place. There is no tendency for it to detach in use. Within the bayonet is a standard 67mm filter thread.

The zoom ring is wide and clearly marked at 70mm, 100mm, 135mm and 180mm. There is a zoom lock ring that can be engaged at 70mm to prevent zoom creep when carried, but in fact there seems to be no tendency for this to happen. Maybe after extensive use this feature may prove to be useful.

The focusing ring has just the right amount of resistance and its function can be engaged via the camera controls. The usual Sony settings work, such as DMF (Direct Manual Focus) where focus can be tweaked whilst in AF mode and of course MF. AF can be single or continuous as desired.

In AF mode, focusing is down to 0.85m (33.5 inches), a maximum magnification of 1:4.6.

In MF mode and when set to 70mm, focusing is down to an amazing 0.27m (10.6 inches), offering a maximum magnification of 1:2, or half life-size. The result is that the edge resolution falls away, offering variable soft focus effects depending upon aperture. This effect has gone by the time we reach the standard close-focus point of 0.85m and from there onwards images are sharp from centre to edge. It does mean that there is an extra facility here for soft-focus effects more along the lines perhaps of a Lensbaby lens. This offers creative potential not available with any other lens in this zoom range.
Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8 Di III VXD (A056) Review: 1/6 sec | f/16.0 | 40.0 mm | ISO 100

Optical construction comprises 19 elements in 14 groups, including 1 GM (Glass Moulded Aspherical), 2 Hybrid Aspherical, 5 LD (Low Dispersion) and 1 XLD (Extra Low Dispersion). Coatings are Tamron's BBAR G2 nano-coating plus a fluorine coating on the front element to help repel grease, moisture and dirt. The lens itself has a moisture-resistant construction, always a welcome feature.

The VXD designation indicates that AF is delivered using a Voice Coil Extreme Torque Drive. This is lightning fast and virtually silent and although there are no sports events on at the moment to test this out there is every indication that it will serve well. One of the few indications for switching to MF will be when the special visual effects of the closest focus are required. It becomes quickly very clear that there is huge potential in exploring this for portraiture, but also for many other creative ideas.

As regards the focal length range, stopping at 180mm makes a very marginal difference in practice. Yes, it will make a difference for some wildlife photography, but at that point we are likely to be changing to much longer lenses anyway. The reduction in weight and bulk makes handling and carrying much easier and the trade-off is advantageous in many ways.

There is no vibration reduction in the lens, but that is because the Sony cameras have their own SteadyShot system built-in. Between 4 and 5 stops of reduction in camera shake can be achieved, helped by the excellent handling of the lens. Also controlled by the camera are any lens firmware upgrades.

Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8 Di III VXD (A056) Review: 1/4 sec | f/16.0 | 60.0 mm | ISO 100

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pablophotographer Avatar
pablophotographer 12 2.2k 450
19 May 2020 5:40PM
Good one Tamron!

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