Tamron AF 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD

The Tamron 18-270mm Superzoom packs an impressive zoom range into an equally impressively small body.

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Tamron AF 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD lens

Tamron AF 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD: The new AF 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD super zoom is being branded an ideal choice for travel photographers, so Peter Bargh took it out on a weekend jaunt in Derbyshire.

What do you do when you already hold a record for the world's largest focal length range in an impressively compact body? That's the scenario Tamron were in last year. Not content to sit on their laurels and wait for the competition to catch up, they smashed their own record by created an even smaller version of their award-winning* lens but, not only that, the engineers added a Piezo Drive to deliver faster, quieter focusing.
*EISA Photo Award "Travel lens of the year" 2009-2010
Tamron AF 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD: The focal length extremes of the Tamron 18-270mm
In a lens that covers an incredible focal length range from 18mm wide- angle to 270mm super telephoto, this lens is not only shorter than its predecessor, it's also slimmer and 100 grams lighter.

This not only means a saving in size, but also in cost of filters as this new version takes 62mm filters rather than the larger and more expensive 72mm variety. It also means you can use the Cokin P system rather than larger Z-Pro system.

Without the lens hood attached the Tamron 18-270mm is no bigger than a conventional 28-80mm zoom. Add the supplied petal hood and it extends another 3cm or so, but when not in use this can be flipped and attached back on in reverse to take the lens back to its original length.

For those who still think in 35mm terms the focal length range is equivalent to 27-405mm, which is a very useful range for most subjects.

The lens, like its predecessor, has Tamron's Vibration Compensation (VC) technology, making it easier to use at slower shutter speeds hand held. This version also has the all new Piezo drive - an innovative ultrasonic autofocus motor based on an advanced piezoelectric design.
It makes the lens a great choice for when you're out with the family and don't have time to be playing around with a tripod or several lenses, or as a travel lens where weight and flexibility are key requirements.

As a result of the compact size this lens really balances well on a APS sensor camera like the Nikon D90 used on my trip out to Derbyshire. 

The lens has two main controls - one for manual focusing at the front and a larger central barrel for the zoom control. With most modern cameras the need to manual focus is reduced for most subjects as cameras are so sophisticated they usually get the focusing right. But on the occasions where you do need access it's good to know that the ring is wide and easy to control. Infinity to the closest focus of 0.49m can be reached in less than a quarter of a turn.

The zoom takes about a third of a turn to go from one extreme to the other. This was useful when I saw some small detail that quickly needed the magnification of the 270mm setting.

It's actually more effort to click and drag the slider in the illustration on the right than it is to go through the zoom range on the real thing!

Apart from a slight hiss in quiet locations you don't know the Vibration Compensation (VC) is at work. If you switch it off and look through the viewfinder at the 270mm setting you may see some juddering of your hand shake. This is removed when VC is switched on.

The mount is all metal and fits snugly to the camera body and locks positively. This feels very much like a pro lens. 
 Click and drag the slider to see the lens zoom

Tamron AF 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD: Waterfall taken using Tamron 18-270mm
In use
My first stop was Bakewell, a picturesque village, famous for Bakewell tarts and situated in the heart of the Peak District.

It was a dull day so I had to make the most of the light. Despite the conditions the image through the viewfinder was crisp and bright, even at the 270mm focal length where the aperture is reduced to f/6.3.

My first shots were taken as I crossed over the bridge on the river Wye, from the larger car park.

Here's where I'd planned on taking photos of a few ducks, but I hadn't realised the village has a huge issue with seagulls now and the area is overpopulated with wildfowl due to visitors over feeding.

Tamron AF 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD: Buns taken through a shop window using Tamron 18-270mm This made it even more important to use the extreme end of the zoom to single out birds from the crowded river.

While I was there I also took some shots of the waterfall and that was my first experience of the lens' VC feature. I wanted to shoot the water at a slow speed to get the blur effect. You'd normally need a tripod and a neutral density filter, but here I was able to use the lens at its maximum aperture of f/32 which gave me a speed of 1/13sec. This speed is just slow enough to show ample movement, but too slow to normally hand hold safely with a lens at 127mm.

The lens offers the flexibility to zoom out and get the whole of the buildings in the frame or zoom in for finer details. I was able to crop tightly on close ups in the shop windows, illustrated to your right with this shot of the famous Bakewell tart. The photo was taken through a window and has caused the lens no issues - sharp and trouble free. The extreme range also helped when shooting distant detail such as the clock (see photo at the top of the page) and gargoyles on the church.

Another test of the VC was performed inside the Old Original Bakewell Pudding shop. The light was much lower inside, but I was able to hand-hold at speeds of around 1/8sec.

I then moved on to Buxton, a spa town known for its opera house and other fabulous architecture, such as the Concert Hall in the Pavilion Gardens.

Tamron AF 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD: Distortion is minimal with the Tamron 18-270mm I spotted the bandstand which not only offered a raised platform, but also gave me a natural frame for the Concert Hall.

I knew this would be a challenge for the lens at its widest setting as zooms are notorious for distortion and curvature at extremes. Yet here it did surprisingly well with minimal problems.

I was very impressed with the result (right) taken at 18mm and f/8.   

I took other shots of the Buxton Opera House, St Anne's Well, the Palace hotel and the glass window of the Victorian railway station. I also intended to take shots of the Crescent, but it had barriers in place and posters announcing its restoration, so didn't look attractive. The lens delivered a superb selection of results, proving itself as a very capable performer.

My final destination was Baslow Edge - away from the hustle and bustle and really showing where the lens size comes into its own. While previously I'd always been a stones throw away from the car, on Baslow edge you have a decent walk to get to the best areas, and here the size and weight of this lens made light work of carrying the camera. I hardly knew I had it with me. This is a refreshing change from the usual bag full of gear and one reason why superzooms are receiving so much recognition.

I intended to shoot a sunset, but the weather didn't have the same idea. It was mostly grey, but even so the lens didn't let me down. It delivers plenty of contrast, so shots looked brighter and more impactful than the conditions I was shooting. 

Tamron AF 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD: Cow taken using Tamron 18-270mm I also dropped lucky in that the sky changed for a brief period while I was over at Wellington's monument. Here I found a herd of Highland Cows grazing and was able to utilise the longer focal length to take frame-filling portraits, until I realised it was safe to walk right up to them and shoot wide-angle.

Once again the versatility of this lens really impressed me.

I lowered the camera and pointed up into the cows' faces and used the built-in flash to add some fill. With the hood off I was able to shoot as wide as 20mm without getting any shadow from the lens.  In this shot, taken at 35mm, notice how even the sky is; superzoom lenses often have a level of vignetting towards the edges. This photo is even right across the frame.

Well that's my weekend trip over. Due to the versatility of the Tamron's 18-270mm range I ended up with a much wider range of subjects than I usually take. I shot everything from landscape, architecture, still-life, candids and wildlife. The only thing this lens lacks is a decent macro for insects and such like, but that's where the Tamron 90mm comes in...

Tamron AF 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD Specifications

Lens Mounts
  • Nikon AF
  • Canon EF
  • Sony A
Focal Length18mm - 270mm
Angle of View5.55° - 75.33°
Max Aperturef/3.5 - f/6.3
Min Aperturef/22 - f/40
Filter Size62mm
35mm equivalent27mm - 405mm
Internal focusingYes
Maximum magnificationNo Data
Min Focus49cm
Box Contents
Box ContentsPetal shaped lens hood

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