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Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Lens Review

Gary Wolstenholme gives a World Exclusive first review of the Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD lens.

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Handling and features
Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD

This brand new lens from Tamron covers the ever-popular 70-200mm range with a fast constant aperture of f/2.8. It is one of  Tamron's 'SP' lenses, which denotes that it should be able to produce professional quality results and it sports moisture sealed construction. Vibration compensation should allow sharp images to be taken hand held, at slower shutter speeds than would be possible without and the USD focusing motor is silent and allows manual focus adjustments to be applied at any time.

This lens is available in Canon, Nikon and Sony mounts. The Sony compatible model will lack Vibration compensation, as this functionality is already built into Sony DSLR and SLT bodies. As this lens is a 'Di' optic, it is compatible with both full frame and crop sensor camera bodies.

Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD



Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Handling and features

High quality plastics have been used for much of the lens barrel's construction and the wide rubberised zoom ring is smooth and well damped. It weighs just under 1500g with the detachable tripod mount attached, which is fairly typical for an f/2.8 lens sporting optical stabilisation covering this range. It balances well on the Canon EOS 5D MkII used for testing, even without a vertical battery grip attached. Owners of DSLR cameras that are more compact may find the lens a little too heavy to use comfortably with their camera.

As this lens incorporates Tamron's USD silent focusing motor, focusing is quick and very accurate. Focusing speeds are a shade slower than equivalent lenses from Nikon and Canon, but they are not too far behind in all but the darkest conditions. Manual focusing is a pleasure as the narrow focus ring is well damped, which makes it easy to apply fine adjustments. Manual adjustments can be made at any time, whether in Auto or Manual focus mode. A minimum focus distance of 1.3m is fairly typical for a lens of this type.

Both focusing and zoom are performed internally, so the lens does not extend and the 77mm filter ring doesn't rotate, which makes this lens ideal for use with graduated and polarising filters.

With care, sharp images are possible hand-held at shutter speeds as low as 1/13sec at 200mm, approximately half the time. This is roughly four stops slower than the usual rule of thumb for sharp hand held images would permit. The VC system also provides a very steady viewfinder image, which can help with accurate composition and focusing.

Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD





Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Performance

At 70mm and f/2.8, sharpness in the centre of the frame is already outstanding, and the clarity recorded towards the edges of the frame is very good. Peak sharpness for this focal length is achieved between f/5.6 and f/8, where clarity is outstanding across the frame.

Zooming the  lens to 135mm results in a very slight reduction in clarity at f/2.8 in the centre of the frame and a slight increase in clarity towards the edges of the picture area. As with at 70mm, peak clarity across the frame is achieved between f/5.6 and f/8, where sharpness hovers between excellent and outstanding levels.

Finally, at 200mm sharpness in the centre at f/2.8 is reduced a little more, but is still very good, with good clarity towards the edges of the frame. Peak quality for this focal length is achieved at f/5.6 , where sharpness in the centre is excellent, and very good clarity is produced towards the edges of the frame.





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How to read our charts

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges. Averaging them out gives the red weighted column.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution. The taller the column, the better the lens performance. Simple.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II using Imatest.

Chromatic aberrations are well controlled throughout the zoom range, thanks to Tamron's use of XLD glass in the optical design. Fringing is most prevalent at 70mm where it just exceed 0.5 pixel widths. This low level of fringing shouldn't pose too many issues, even in images with high contrast edges towards the periphery of the frame.





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How to read our charts

Chromatic aberration is the lens' inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.

Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc. to minimize the problem, hence they usually cost more.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II using Imatest.

Falloff of illumination towards the corners of the frame is quite pronounced. At 70mm the corners are 1.85 stops darker than the image centre and at 200mm the corners are 2.09 stops darker. Stopping down to f/5.6 results in visually uniform illumination across the frame throughout the zoom range.

Distortion is very well controlled throughout the zoom range. At 70mm only 0.645% barrel distortion is present, which is replaced with 0.42% pincushion distortion at 200mm. If straight lines are paramount, then you'll be pleased to learn that the distortion pattern is uniform across the frame, making it relatively easy to correct in image editing software afterwards, although this distortion is so mild, very few people will actually need to apply any corrections.

During testing, there were very few issues with flare and ghosting, even when shooting into the light. A deep petal shaped hood is supplied with the lens, which does a decent job of protecting the front element from extraneous light that may cause issues.

Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD General Article Images

Additional sample photos and product shots are available in the Equipment Database, where you can add your own review, photos and product ratings.



Value for Money

At release, the suggested retail price for this lens will be £1649.99, which is currently about typical for a lens of this specification. Of the camera manufacturer's equivalent lenses, Canon's 70-200mm f/2.8 IS USM II is the only one that is more expensive, being available for around £1790. Nikon's AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II is actually cheaper, being available for around £1565, as is Sony's equivalent, which costs around £1520. Sigma's 70-200mm f/2.8 OS HSM, also includes optical stabilisation and a fast, constant f/2.8 maximum aperture, but can be picked up for under £800, which makes the Sigma look very good value indeed.

Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Verdict

This telephoto zoom from Tamron certainly delivers. Sharpness is excellent from maximum aperture through much of the zoom range, plus chromatic aberrations and distortion are kept well in check. The suggested retail price may come as a shock for many, who may be expecting this lens to be considerably cheaper than lenses from camera manufacturers. Even so, the performance of this lens is on a par with those lenses, and suggested price at launch is rarely the price a lens will eventually retail for.

  The Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD lens has excellent sharpness throughout the range in the centre as well as excellent build quality.

Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Pros

Very sharp throughout the range in the centre
Effective Vibration Compensation system
Excellent build quality
Moisture resistant construction
Low distortion



Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Cons

Suggested retail price at launch is higher than some camera manufacturer's equivalent lenses






Thanks to Harrison Cameras for the loan of the Canon EOS 5D Mark II used in the review.

Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Specifications

Lens Mounts
  • Nikon AF
  • Canon EF
Focal Length70mm - 200mm
Angle of ViewNo Data
Max Aperturef/2.8
Min Aperturef/32
Filter Size77mm
35mm equivalentNo Data
Internal focusingYes
Maximum magnificationNo Data
Min Focus130cm
Box Contents
Box ContentsFlower-shaped lens hood

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josa 10 25 Czech Republic
26 Nov 2012 6:18PM
It's a great day for Tamron friends...
dan3008 11 15 United Kingdom
28 Nov 2012 1:39PM
mmm, that reviews done in sheffield lol

On the other hand, looks like an amazing lens Smile
Tord 9 Sweden
28 Nov 2012 11:19PM
Looks like a slightly too expensive lens for me, but otherwise it seems superb!
AdenD700 11 1 England
30 Nov 2012 1:45PM
Looks very good, but I can't see any reason to upgrade, and for that price, I would buy a Nikon.
Scottelly 9 35 United States
5 Dec 2012 2:34PM
Why is there no mention of the onion bokeh? I've seen examples of it from one of these lenses, and that alone would make me NOT buy one, even if it cost half the price.
Scottelly 9 35 United States
5 Dec 2012 2:36PM
I'm sorry . . . I am thinking of the 24-70mm. I wonder if this lens has onion bokeh too.
theorderingone 18 2.4k
15 Jan 2013 5:22PM
Every lens with aspheric elements will display concentric rings in certain conditions (some worse than others). In other words, I wouldn't worry about onions, celeriac, carrots or broccoli ruining your images.
Wallis 9 United Kingdom
8 Jun 2013 6:58PM
I tried the older version of this lens before it had the optical stabilisation. It was very sharp but the auto focus wan't great. As this new lens has improved auto focus and the benefit of optical stability it must be a great lens.

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