Tamron 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II LD Aspherical IF Macro AF

 
Lens Reviews / Tamron Lenses i Lab tested

Lab Test Results

  • Blur
  • Chromatic Aberration
  • Vignetting
  • Geometric Distortion
18-250mm $349
average price
image of Tamron 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II LD Aspherical IF Macro AF

(From Tamron lens literature) A lightweight, compact and ultra high power zoom lens designed exclusively for digital SLR cameras with APS-C sized imager sensors. The AF 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 Di-II LD Aspherical (IF) Macro is the ultimate high power zoom lens boasting the world's greatest zoom ratio* of 13.9X, a milestone that Tamron, the pioneer of high power zoom lenses, has achieved by commanding its technologies to further expand the capabilities of high power zoom lenses.

To prevent the lens from becoming bulky, the design concept of the AF 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 XI Di-II LD Aspherical (IF) Macro (Model A14), a popular lens among the world's digital SLR users since it is the ideal high power zoom lens, was the basis for this new lens that features an expanded focal length to 250mm at its tele-end. With the new AF 18-250mm zoom lens that provides enhanced image quality, Tamron has achieved an astounding 13.9X zoom power, the world's greatest in the class of zoom lenses; yet the increase in size is confined to a mere 0.2mm more in its maximum diameter and just 0.6mm in overall length, in a lens that offers a 388mm ultra telephoto focal length (diagonal angle of view of 6.38 degrees) when converted to the 35mm film format.

The new zoom lens covers up to a 250mm telephoto focal length, the longest focal length among zoom lenses that start with an 18mm wideangle focal length available on the market for exclusive use with digital SLR cameras. Thus, it provides an overwhelmingly impressive telephoto effect that is entirely different from the effect obtainable at 200mm on conventional high power zoom lenses. The new zoom lens will satisfy the expectations of photographers that are used to the 300mm tele-end of Tamron's AF 28-300mm Di (Model A061) when used on a digital SLR camera.

* As of September 2006. Based upon Tamron's research of lenses for exclusive use with digital SLRs equipped with APS-C sized image sensors.

Note: Tamron has announced a motorized Nikon version of this lens compatible with the popular D40 and D40x digital SLRs. See the Tamron press release for more details.


Test Notes
Long-ratio zoom lenses like the Tamron 18-250mm are frequently referred to as "vacation lenses," as that's arguably the situation where you'd most want to cover the range from wide angle to telephoto in a single lens, without the bother of lugging multiple lenses along, or changing them back and forth between shots. This Tamron 18-250mm takes the genre farther than ever before, with its exceptional 13.8x zoom range, from a good wide angle to a pretty long tele. (Note that this is a digital-only lens, with a reduced image circle. This means it can only be used on cameras with sensors having crop factors of 1.5x or higher. It will vignette strongly on full-frame cameras.) It competes against other long-zoom designs, both in the form of the original Tamron 18-200mm, as well as the Sigma 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 and the Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VR (vibration reduction) optic. While it's clear that a $500 ultra-zoom will never compete with higher-priced, lower-ratio zooms, let alone prime lenses, we were pleasantly surprised by how well the Tamron 18-250mm stacked up against the competition. Read on for all the details...

Sharpness
This was the area where we observed the most dramatic improvement over its 18-200mm predecessor. It shows noticeable corner softness across its focal length range when shot wide open, but center sharpness is always surprisingly good, vastly better than that of the 18-200mm. One notch down from maximum (representing a range from f/4 to f/8 across the zoom range), the corner sharpness improves significantly, and almost the entire frame is surprisingly sharp from 35-50mm. At maximum tele, the corners never get really sharp, even stopped down to f/11, but there's a sweet spot in the center that stays quite sharp, no matter what. Pretty impressive, particularly in light of the 13.8x zoom range and street price of less than $500.

Chromatic Aberration
Chromatic aberration ranges from low to high, depending on where you're working within the zoom range. CA is highest at maximum telephoto, somewhat lower at maximum wide angle, and best in between the extremes, and with the lens stopped down a notch or two. The Tamron engineers appear to have split the difference in terms of CA and focal lengths: The 18-250mm does better than the earlier 18-200 at the ends of its range, but not as good in the middle of its range. I think this was a good trade-off to make though, as it delivers reasonable performance across the entire range, rather than a range from excellent to poor, as was the case with the 18-200mm.

Shading ("Vignetting")
Shading is a little high with this lens at the 18mm end of its range, hitting a maximum of 0.6 EV wide open, dropping to 1/4 stop from f/5.6 onward. At all other focal lengths though, shading is never more than 1/3 stop wide open, and generally 1/4 stop or less as you stop down. All in all, a very good performance in this respect.

Distortion
Distortion is perhaps this lens' weakest point, with a maximum value of 1.29% barrel at 18mm (among the highest we've seen). As is often the case in long zooms, the barrel quickly shifts to pincushion as you zoom out, reaching 0.59% at 35mm, and then decreasing gradually at longer focal lengths, finally flattening out at 0.36% at 200mm. These distortion figures are higher than we like to see, but the good news is that geometric distortion is relatively easy to correct in Photoshop and other image-editing tools, for those really critical shots.

AF Operation
The Tamron 18-250mm uses a conventional focus motor (as opposed to an ultrasonic design), and the elements have a fair distance to travel when the lens is zoomed to its telephoto position. As a result, the maximum AF slew time (the time to go from closest macro focus to infinity) is on the order of a second and a half at telephoto (but only about a half a second at wide angle). This may not be your first choice if you're a dedicated sports shooter, but it should be more than adequate for most other uses. (If you're using it to shoot your kids ball games, just learn to anticipate the action, focusing ahead of time on the base they'll be sliding into, the goal they're heading toward, etc.)

The focus motor is quite audible, but I wouldn't go so far as to say that it's obnoxious. It's fairly typical of the non-ultrasonic motors I've heard.

While the Tamron 18-250mm works well enough in AF mode, like many modern lenses, it's less than stellar for manual focusing. This is because the entire focus range from maximum macro to infinity is compressed into only about an inch and a half (a bit over 3cm) of focus ring motion. This makes it very ticklish to set focus precisely when working manually. Not a show-stopper for most users, but well worth mentioning for those who like to focus manually.

Macro
The Tamron 18-250mm carries a "Macro" designation, and it does surprisingly well at close focusing. The closest focus distance at 250mm is about 21cm (8 inches) from the subject to the front of the lens element, at which point it captures an area about 73mm (~2.9 inches) wide on our Canon EOS-20D test body. (A 1.6x crop factor camera.) That's a pretty small area, and the 8 inches of working distance would be very welcome in working with some subjects.

Build Quality and Handling
Our sample of this lens operated quite smoothly, with virtually no play between any of the elements, and the zoom adjustment was nice and smooth. You can definitely tell that it has a plastic rather than a metal body, but it always felt very solid when working with it. Pointing straight up or straight down, the zoom ring is just stiff enough to keep the zoom from creeping in or out: Any vibration though, and it'll wander. Carrying it on a camera slung about your neck with the lens barrel pointed down, you're likely to find it creeping out on you as you walk along, but there's a small locking tab that you can slide into a recess on the lens body to keep it locked at its wide angle (retracted) position.

This is very decidedly an external-zoom lens, meaning the lens barrel extends a lot (79 mm, about 3.1 inches) as you zoom from wide angle to telephoto. This is also an internal-focus design, which means that the front element doesn't rotate during focusing (or while zooming, for that matter), a nice feature for use with polarizers and graduated neutral-density filters. A standard bayonet mount hood comes with the lens, doing a good job of preventing flare at the wide angle end of the range, but a considerably poorer one at the telephoto end. (As you'd expect, any hood that doesn't crop your images at 18mm is going to be almost entirely ineffective at 250mm.) Jim found the hood a bit of a bother to put on and take off, but it didn't bother me that much. (And in practice, you'd rarely find a need to remove it anyway.)

All in all, this was a very nice-handling zoom, and one that felt very nicely balanced on our Canon 20D test body.

The Competition
As noted above, the Tamron 18-250mm competes with three other lenses currently on the market. These are: The original Tamron 18-200mm, the Sigma 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 and the Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VR (vibration reduction) lenses. Let's take a quick look at how the Tamron 18-250 mm stacks up against each of these.

Tamron 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 XR Di II LD Aspherical IF AF (~$350 street)
This is perhaps the easiest comparison to make, as the differences are pretty striking. Given its shorter zoom range, you'd expect the original 18-200mm lens to outperform the new 18-250, but that proved not to be the case. The 18-250mm beat its 18-200mm predecessor all hollow when it came to sharpness. Wide open, the 18-250 was much better behaved, and sharpness was markedly better across the board. The 18-200mm did better in the chromatic aberration department at medium focal lengths, but the 18-250mm was better at both ends of the range in that parameter. Shading and geometric distortion performance was similar between the two lenses, but the 18-200mm did slightly better in both categories at maximum wide angle. Looking mainly at the differences in sharpness between the two lenses, the 18-250mm is a significantly better optic, easily justifying the roughly $100 difference in street price between them.

Sigma 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 DC (~$310 street)
Sigma lenses have a well-deserved reputation for sharpness, and the 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 DC follows suit, but the Tamron 18-250 edges it out for wide-open center sharpness across most of their shared focal length range. Interesting things happen in the corners between these two lenses though. As Jim points out in his Tanner Report, the average corner sharpness of the two lenses is virtually identical. That said though, the Sigma's corner sharpness varies a lot more than that of the Tamron. While the Sigma is significantly better at some focal length ranges, it's also radically worse at others. The average comes out too close to call, but the Tamron is more consistent when shooting wide open across its focal length range. Stopped down, both lenses improve, but the Tamron is arguably flatter across the board, with the possible exception of 200mm at f/11, where the Sigma is slightly flatter across the frame. The Sigma does win in the area of chromatic aberration though, particularly in the middle range of focal lengths. Shading is very similar between the two lenses, the Sigma doing slightly better overall, while distortion numbers favor the Sigma somewhat at 18mm, but the Tamron from 35mm on. All in all, a very close-fought race between the two lenses: I'd give the nod to the Tamron for sharpness, but the Sigma is close behind, and has better CA over much of its range. The Sigma is also quite a bit cheaper, with a street price as of this writing (June, 2007) a good $150 less than that of the Tamron. If you need the greater focal length range, the Tamron wins hands down, and you can be happy about its somewhat greater sharpness. If you're budget constrained though, the Sigma will win out, and you can be happy with its better CA performance.

Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED AF-S DX VR (~$890 street)
Here, we get into a rather different category of lens, as this Nikon lens incorporates Nikon's excellent VR (Vibration Reduction) technology, to reduce the effects of camera shake when shooting at slow shutter speeds. This increases the lens somewhat, as does the higher (apparent) build quality of the lens. The net result is a lens selling for street prices ranging from $800 to $1,100, as compared to the roughly $430 - $499 range of the Tamron. While the Nikkor optic wins on build quality and VR capability though, the Tamron very much holds its own optically. Wide open, the two lenses are quite similar in their sharpness characteristics, with similar center sharpness and roughly equivalent corner performance: The Nikon generally edges the Tamron on corner sharpness, but gets a little wild at 35mm. The average corner sharpness across the focal length range probably favors the Nikkor slightly, but the differences are fairly slight. The Nikon also does better across most of its range (at all but maximum wide angle) in terms of CA, sometimes bettering the Tamron's performance by a good margin. - But when you look at shading behavior, the Tamron comes back into the ring and handily beats the Nikon lens. Turning to distortion for the final round of the competition, Nikon beats Tamron (slightly) at 18mm, but Tamron beats Nikon (slightly) from 35mm on. All in all then, the contest between these two lenses is nearly a tie optically. If you're a Nikon shooter, want VR, and are willing to pay for both it and the Nikkor's higher build quality, then the Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G DX is a great vacation lens. If you have less money and are willing to forego the VR, the Tamron delivers very similar optical performance for almost half the cost.

Tanner Report
Jim delved into this lens and some comparisons with others in his inimitable, meticulous way, with charts and graphs galore. Where I focused exclusively on other vacation lenses, Jim also took a look at how the 18-250mm stacked up against a Canon 18-55mm lens (the USM version of the common 18-55mm "kit" lens) at the short focal length side of its range, and against a 70-200mm Canon "L" lens at the longer end. No surprise, the L glass wins hands down, but the 18-250 beats the 18-55 in many characteristics, supporting its use as an all-in-one lens: At least you don't lose anything in the 18-55mm range relative to the kit lens you might otherwise use. Read his Tanner Report for all the details.

Conclusion
We tend not to expect much from "vacation" zooms, so were pleasantly surprised by the Tamron 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II LD Aspherical IF Macro AF. It maintained good center sharpness across its entire focal length range, softness in the corners was average to better than average, and things flattened out nicely when we stopped it down just a bit. Other optical characteristics are in line with the rest of the field, and its build quality was quite good for its price range. All in all, a very nice lens, a great lens to bring, if you're bringing only one!

Tamron 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II LD Aspherical IF Macro AF User Reviews

8.2/10 average of 13 reviews Build Quality 7.5/10 Image Quality 8.0/10
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by (22 reviews)
    Incredible zoom range with very strong IQ. As long as focus is set to center-only, pictures are clear. Color fidelity is quite good.
    Slow at 250, zoom creep in use

    Great lens for family outings, so long as there is enough light. Easy to always-have in bag. Still like it as much as when I bought it.

    reviewed December 29th, 2010 (purchased for $460)
  • 8 out of 10 points and recommended by (12 reviews)
    decent all in one solution
    tromboning, no AFS/USM, no VR/IS

    This is one of those odd lenses. the list of flaws include
    an annoying habit of tromboning, no afs/usm and no VR/IS and it isn't as sharp as Tamron's 17-50 and yet as an all in one package it takes surprisingly decent photos.

    The lack of VR is less of a problem to me as I use it as a vacation lens or on family days out (when lens switching isn't going to happen) which does tend to mean good light.

    should you buy one? if you are after the ultimate in image quality no, but if you are after a very competent travel zoom then it is a good package.

    reviewed April 7th, 2009 (purchased for $450)
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by (4 reviews)
    great little lens for portability and range. good images
    have to lock it in place or it will extend

    we got this lens to take on vacation because of its size and range. it was unbelievable how well it performed. we used in on a 400 xti and the results were outstanding. it is not made for low light or professional quality but it is so much better than a compact camera. my wife used one of those tiny digitals and the pictures were not even close to what i was able to get with this lens. It is really neat. close up to long range, it is a deal

    reviewed October 5th, 2008 (purchased for $445)
  • 8 out of 10 points and recommended by (5 reviews)
    Good images, for what it is (a vacation lens); GREAT zoom range
    Image quality is never great, tends to slip easily

    This is a "vacation lens", so take it for what its worth. You won't get a prime's lenses sharpness, and there is some CA, but, you're getting a lens that covers everything from wide-angle to a fairly long zoom. When I'm out and about, on vacation or around town, and have no idea what I may run into next, I keep this lens on my camera. I don't always have the time to switch lenses, and sometimes you need to be ready at a moment's notice, and this lens works great for that (especially if you're not carrying a bag full of other lenses). If I know where I'm gonna be, and what I'll be shooting, I'll change to a different lens, but for the quick, spur of the moment, "accidental" shot, this lens is impossible to beat.

    reviewed July 7th, 2008 (purchased for $550)
  • 7 out of 10 points and recommended by (8 reviews)
    Good price to performance
    Soft at 18-24 and 200-250, too noisy AF

    For this price, it's good enough for a walk-around len. I like it much more than Sigma's one.
    It may be soft at both end and very noisy AF, but in my opinion, it's one of good lens.

    If you want only one len for everything, this may be your answer. But if you're hope for perfect image, try some shorter range zoom lens or fix lens.

    reviewed June 1st, 2008 (purchased for $480)
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by (33 reviews)
    excellent value, light, small yet sharp even at F5.6, very good at F8
    well, aside from the lack of VR not much

    ...all I'm going to say is that I've bought 5 of these lenses.

    Well ok I have to add that I routinely get keepers at 1/50s handheld at 375mm effective with this lens on a Sony A200.

    reviewed February 24th, 2008 (purchased for $400)
  • 8 out of 10 points and recommended by (1 reviews)
    Great zoom, excellant for travelling
    Cannot take filters without heavy corner shading in wide angle shots

    I bought this lens just before going to Thailand and Cambodia on holiday. I had just purchased a Pentax K10D and needed a good vacation lens. having had a Tamron in the past I naturally had a preference for one, although one or two others such as Sigma where also rans.

    Generally speaking I found the lens to do everything I had read here. However the reason for writing these comments is a major issue I found when adding filters to it. Something that I didn't find commented on in the reviews or comments.

    Normally I like to run around with a UV filter on to protect the lens and when outside, a polariser. What I found was that even with just one filter on, the shots at the 18mm wide end had heavy corner shading in the corners. Sometimes going right to black. Obviously the edge of the frame in at the wide end is right next to the edge of the glass so in adding a filter you effectively block off the corners of the picture. Effectively with 1 and especially two filters, the zoom range is more like 100mm - 250mm.

    This was not something that occured to me to check for in a lens as I've never encountered it before. Certainly in future I will be checking for it. But I wanted to write it up here for others to consider.

    I'd also like to ask the slgear reviewers to check the lens with at least 1 filter in place when doing a review.

    Thanks
    Derek

    reviewed November 25th, 2007
  • 8 out of 10 points and not recommended by (13 reviews)
    versatility, good quality, reasonably fast
    avoid "extremes" settings

    It is such a pleasure to walkaround with this lens. If you're out on anything but for photography, but still want to make great shots, the versatility of this lens, zoom and macro capacity, is just awesome. This lens is my travel lens and as such, there is no other. To complement, for indoor, I also carry a cheap and light 50mm F1.8. I also always carry my flash with me. This kit gives me all the shots I need while away from home.
    At home, I replace this lens for my Canon 70-200 F4 outside and sometimes my 17-55 F2.8 IS. Although, to be honest, I dont expect to replace it that often.
    construction is decent: 7
    Image quality is very good really: 8
    Overall: I give it one extra point for versatility that no other lens offers: 9

    reviewed November 23rd, 2007 (purchased for $520)
  • 8 out of 10 points and recommended by (2 reviews)
    Good focal length. Decent quality. Auto focus fairly good
    lens extends if carried around neck. Must lock in 18mm position.

    Recently purchased a Pentax K100D Super. Bought this lens as I do a lot of general travel photography and need and focal lenth without delay. I am no expert and just like reasonable quality shots.
    Quite happy so far.

    reviewed October 19th, 2007
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by (1 reviews)
    Versatility
    shadowing

    As a general travel lens this is brilliant. I use it on the Nikon D70 and D70s with great results on both. Having just returned from a trip to Northern Australia we managed a respectable 3000 shots through it in two weeks.

    Some of the shots display shaowing around the edges at the 250 mm end but as long as you consider this when taking the photo these are easily removed br cropping.

    The creep on the lens, if you do not have the lock on occurs very easily, and when you have the lock on you need to rememebr to flick it off quick when looking fo rthat grab shot.

    I am very happy with the lens and when compared in price to the Nikon equivalent it comes up good for me.

    The focusing can be a little disturbing some times and many reviews and comments have been made about this lens and it sfocusing. It can easily go past the shot and then back to minimum. PLaying around with the ofcusing gets it there but you can miss the shot if you are not careful.

    Overall though I ma happy with the lens and like all things practice makes perfect and I am sure it will not take long and the shots will become better form this lens

    reviewed October 19th, 2007 (purchased for $357)
  • 8 out of 10 points and recommended by (1 reviews)
    very wide range
    bit soft at longer focal lengths 200mm+

    I use this lens on a Sony A100. Not sure I would recommend use to someone using a camera with out image stablizing.

    It equals result I have seen out of the Nikon zoom.

    CA weaknesses in the lens correct in software like DxO Optic Pro 4.5.

    I was very surprised at the lens' performance and sharpness.

    reviewed July 23rd, 2007 (purchased for $495)
  • 8 out of 10 points and recommended by (4 reviews)
    Light, compact, solid build, very good image quality, all metal mount
    f/6.3 at the long end

    I think the formal review hits the mark. Color and contrast are very good.

    I use mine on a Canon Rebel XTi and AF is plenty quick enough and always very accurate. Without IS, the long end is a bit wobbly to hand hold (400 mm, equivalent).

    This is the ideal travel lens. Not too big and heavy, well made, sharp and contrasty, very nice color. It's really longer than you need for most travel, but the long end is there if you do need it, and it's pretty sharp. You just need to brce it against something. I had a Sigma 18-125, and this lens is better and no bigger and heavier. I didn't like the Tamron 18-200, but tamron got it right this time around.

    Macro at around 100 mm is sharp and flat field. All of the fine detail in a US $20 bill is there and nice and sharp. Plenty of magnification at closest focus.

    reviewed June 18th, 2007 (purchased for $480)
  • 8 out of 10 points and recommended by (24 reviews)
    good optic results between 18-200, good colours and resolution
    200-250 isn´t so good, price

    It´s a quiet good allrounder without strong weekness. Better than the 18-200-brother from Sigma. As well a bit better than the Tamron 18-200. Of course you will find some distortion and cornershading, but its really acceptable. The resolution is good between 18-200 and the colours are nice.
    From travelling-zooms it´s the best choice, but still a bit expensive!

    reviewed May 18th, 2007 (purchased for $440)