Tamron 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC LD Aspherical IF Macro AF

 
Lens Reviews / Tamron Lenses i Lab tested
18-270mm $339
average price
image of Tamron 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC LD Aspherical IF Macro AF

(From Tamron lens literature) Tamron Co., Ltd., has announced the development of a unique ultra high power zoom lens-the Tamron AF18-270mm ƒ/3.5-6.3 Di II VC LD Aspherical (IF) MACRO (Model B003), the first digital SLR lens in the world that delivers a remarkable zoom ratio of 15X (28-419mm equivalent) and is equipped with a highly effective Vibration Compensation (VC) mechanism.

SLRgear Review
January 5, 2009
by Andrew Alexander

The Tamron 18-270mm ƒ/3.5-6.3 currently holds the title as the vacation zoom with the greatest wide-angle to telephoto zoom range, besting Tamron's own previous effort of 18-250mm by 20mm. It's also the second Tamron lens to employ their VC (Vibration Control) technology, to aid the shooter in controlling camera shake.

The 18-270mm is a Di-II lens, meaning it was designed for the reduced size of a subframe (APS-C) digital sensor. As our lab technician Rob notes, ''you can fit it on a full-frame sensor, but it vignettes like crazy.''

On a Canon digital body this will equate to an equivalent 35mm field of view of 29-432mm, and on a Nikon digital body this equates to 27-405mm. This lens isn't a "constant" lens, in that as you increase the focal length, both the maximum and minimum aperture sizes decrease. The following table reflects the changes as you zoom:

Focal length (mm) 18 35 50 70 100 200 270
Max. aperture ƒ/3.5 ƒ/4 ƒ/4.5 ƒ/5 ƒ/5.6 ƒ/5.6 ƒ/6.3
Min. aperture ƒ/22 ƒ/29 ƒ/32 ƒ/32 ƒ/36 ƒ/40 ƒ/40

The lens ships with a petal-shaped lens hood, and is available now for around $600.

Sharpness
The Tamron 18-270mm offers a wide range of results, depending on the aperture and focal length. Its best performance for sharpness is only found with the lens significantly stopped down, to at least ƒ/8, making it useful only in scenarios with significant lighting. To its credit, the vibration control gives the lens a bit more of an opportunity to be used in ''lower'' light situations, but even then you'll either be pushing the ISO or seeking a lower aperture where the lens offers marginal results. Let's take a closer look.

Used with the aperture wide open, the lens offers fair to good results for sharpness in the central region, marred only by significant corner softness through every focal length. Any visible central sharpness is degraded when the lens is extended to 200mm or higher (just under 3 blur units in the center, and between 4-6 blur units in the corners at 270mm).

As indicated previously, stopping down the lens significantly helps achieve sharper results. Setting the aperture to ƒ/5.6 dramatically improves sharpness up to 100mm, after that you need to set it to ƒ/8. In fact setting the lens to ƒ/8 gives its best overall performance, the optimal setting being 50mm and ƒ/8, where the lens is almost tack-sharp across the frame.

Above 200mm the lens isn't exceptional - you get the feeling that they found a way to extend an 18-200mm lens to 270mm with a few modifications that, in the end, don't really perform. At ƒ/8 or ƒ/11 image sharpness hovers around the 3-4 blur unit mark across the frame, which isn't bad, but isn't that great, either.

When fully stopped down, the lens offers above-average results at ƒ/22 (around 3-4 blur units, depending on the focal length); any aperture setting smaller than this will produce dramatically soft and uneven results. Apertures in this range are best avoided.

In summary, this lens is the perfect example of the compromises that must be made in the vacation zoom category. It does extremely well in its mid-ranges (50mm, stopped down to ƒ/8) but in almost any other situation it shows some form of softness.

Chromatic Aberration
Tamron handles chromatic aberration fairly well with this lens, especially on the wide end and in the mid-range. At 18mm, CA is a factor, but not especially overt, at 6/100ths of a percent of frame height in the corners and 3/100ths of a percent across the frame; this occurs regardless of the aperture setting.

Between 35-200mm, CA is well controlled. It's only at 200mm and above that significant CA can be found in the corners. Readers may wish to consult our sample photos for a more visual explanation.

Shading (''Vignetting'')
Between 35-70mm, corner shading isn't a factor with this lens. It's only in the wide angle (18mm) and at 100mm and above that light falloff presents a slight issue. At 18mm, there's always at least 1/4EV of corner shading, and if you use it wide open at ƒ/3.5, that increases to 1/2EV. At 100mm, 200mm and 270mm, you get 1/3EV if you use the lens wide open.

Distortion
Predictably, the complex array of lens elements that allows such a vast range of focal lengths in one lens leads to some dramatic results for distortion. When used in the wide angle configuration, the lens provides uniform barrel (''bloat'') distortion up to around 25mm, with dramatic distortion in the corners (1.25%, quite significant). After 25mm, distortion across the frame remains consistently barrel-distorted, but at a moderately low level (around 0.2%, on average) and the extreme corner distortion turns into the pincushion (''squeeze'') style. The worst pincushion distortion at 50mm, where the corners show -0.6% pincushion distortion. Post-processing would be required to correct for these effects.

Autofocus Operation
Autofocus is conducted electrically, without the use of a mechanical screw. Autofocus speed is fairly quick, producing a slight noise during focusing, but nothing objectionable. Focus speed is not as quick as that seen on Canon's USM or Nikon's AF-S technologies, and isn't as quiet, either. The lens will autofocus on the ''screw-less'' Nikon D40, D40x and D60 bodies.

Macro
The Tamron 18-270mm ƒ/3.5-6.3 offers respectable macro capability, with a maximum magnification ratio of 1:3.5 (0.29x) and a minimum close-focusing distance of just over 19 inches (49 cm).

Build Quality and Handling
Tamron has economized on the design of this lens by using a plastic chassis, reducing weight and price, with a textured black finish. However, the lens mount is reassuringly metal and despite the plastic construction there is no noticeable rattling or flexing. The focus ring is mounted near the front of the lens, and the large zoom ring is found closer to the lens mount. Both rings use a nice rubber ridged pattern that is well dampened and easy to grip.

The lens is fairly uncomplicated to use, with only two controls to speak of: one switch to enable or disable the lens' autofocus operation, and another switch to activate or deactivate the vibration control feature. A distance scale is indicated on the lens, in feet and meters; no depth-of-field scale is present.

The zoom function of the lens is controlled by the larger of the two rings on the lens, rotating approximately 45 degrees to extend the lens through its entire range of focal lengths. The ring is made of a tough rubber, with recessed ridges, and is a comfortable 1 3/8 inches wide. The zoom ring is slightly stiff, unsurprising as there are a fair number of lens elements to push out. Zooming out to 270mm adds 3 1/4 inches to the lens' total length, going from a compacted length of 3 3/4 inches to almost double that, of 7 inches. There is some slight flexing of the lens when the lens is extended to 270mm. Zoom creep is a factor with this lens: the weight of the front of the lens will easily pull the lens into its 270mm configuration if held downwards, and slide it to 18mm if held upwards. Tamron has included a zoom lock switch to lock the lens at 18mm to contend with this issue.

The focus ring of the lens, located near the front of the lens, is 7/16 of an inch wide, composed of a deeply ridged rubber. There isn't a lot of travel for the purposes of manual focusing - approximately 30 degrees. There are hard stops at either end of the focusing spectrum, and the lens will focus past infinity. The front element does not rotate during focus operations, making life a little easier for filter users. The lens uses 72mm filters.

Vibration control is fairly good for this lens, and one day in the near future we will be publishing our detailed stabilization tests for this lens; at the moment though all we can say subjectively is that the VC system works well, and is a definite asset for this lens.

The included petal-shaped lens hood reverses onto the lens for storage. The hood is ribbed on the interior, and when mounted, adds almost 2 inches to the overall length of the lens.

Alternatives

If you want the absolute largest range of focal lengths, then at the time of writing (January 2009) this is the lens to get. If you don't need to go past 200mm, here are some other lenses to consider:

Canon EF-S 18-200mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 IS ~$600
Results for sharpness are similar between the two lenses, with a slight edge going to Canon at the telephoto range, however, the Canon tops out at 200mm compared to the Tamron's 270mm. The Tamron is just slightly more capable at contending with chromatic aberration, but shows its flaws at focal lengths the Canon does not extend to (200-270mm). Distortion is similar between the two lenses, and the Canon produces slightly more corner shading. Both feature image stabilization and 72mm filter mounts.

Nikon 18-200mm ƒ/3.5-5.6G IF-ED AF-S DX VR ~$600
The Tamron is noticeably sharper than the Nikon in the majority of focal length / aperture combinations, except at the telephoto end (200mm) where both lenses produce similarly average results. Chromatic aberration is similar between the two, perhaps better controlled in the Tamron in the mid-range (35-70mm). Distortion is similar between the two, and the Nikon shows more obvious corner shading when used with large apertures. Both feature image stabilization and 72mm filter mounts.

Sigma 18-200mm ƒ/3.5-6.3 DC OS HSM ~$380
The Tamron is much sharper than the Sigma, contends better with chromatic aberration, shows less corner shading but produces the same amount of distortion. Both lenses feature image stabilization and a 72mm filter mount.

Conclusion
As the Tamron 18-270mm and the ''name-brand'' competition are all floating around the same price point, the decision of whether to buy this lens or a Nikon / Canon equivalent comes down to how badly you need the extra 70mm of distance. Image quality is fairly consistent between these lenses, with perhaps a nod towards the Tamron, but autofocus speed and quality is better with the competition. For what it's trying to be though, the Tamron produces good results, an excellent alternative to carting around several lenses.

Sample Photos

The VFA target should give you a good idea of sharpness in the center and corners, as well as some idea of the extent of barrel or pincushion distortion and chromatic aberration, while the Still Life subject may help in judging contrast and color. We shoot both images using the default JPEG settings and manual white balance of our test bodies, so the images should be quite consistent from lens to lens.

As appropriate, we shoot these with both full-frame and sub-frame bodies, at a range of focal lengths, and at both maximum aperture and ƒ/8. For the ''VFA'' target (the viewfinder accuracy target from Imaging Resource), we also provide sample crops from the center and upper-left corner of each shot, so you can quickly get a sense of relative sharpness, without having to download and inspect the full-res images. To avoid space limitations with the layout of our review pages, indexes to the test shots launch in separate windows.

Tamron 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC LD Aspherical IF Macro AF User Reviews

8.4/10 average of 7 reviews Build Quality 8.3/10 Image Quality 8.4/10
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by (7 reviews)
    great range,good build,versatile,good optics
    sharpness at longer FL

    Much better than it has any right to be....as long as you stop it down a little.

    The range from 18-130mm is really good.Above that it softens progressively.But even at 270mm is not bad stopped down.

    Truly a one-lens solution.I never hesitate to pick this lens up when I want a light-weight,simple kit.Highly recommended!

    reviewed December 11th, 2010 (purchased for $599)
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by (2 reviews)
    VC works well, wide zoom range
    AF misses occasionaly

    My initial shoot with this lens was done under very bad conditions and I down-rated this lens. I have since shot under better conditions and now really like it.....so I am changing my post. This lens performs very well for the cost and range that it covers. It also passed an inadvertent drop-test as I caught my camera strap on my chair and pulled the whole camera and lens off my desk onto a hard floor. It hit right on the lens cap but I can see no visual damage and it still works perfectly.

    The lens is probably the best of the available wide to super zooms and is definitely a keeper.

    reviewed March 23rd, 2010 (purchased for $600)
  • 8 out of 10 points and recommended by (6 reviews)
    Fairly sharp, very extensive focal length range, VC works well
    Somewhat expensive, feels cheap

    Most people probably want a superzoom and want to get the best one. For my style of photography the the Tamron 18-270VC comes out on top.

    First: all super zooms are compromizes and do not match the quality of a shorter range zoom and not even close to primes. They make up for it by giving the user a wider range of possibilities when taking pictures without the need to carry a great deal of equipment and without switching lenses. They are very useful for just walking around on a sunny day. For low light, other lenses are generally better suited.

    Comparing: Nikon 18-200, Canon 18-200, Sigma 18-200, Tamron 28-300VC (on full frame) with Tamron 18-270VC.

    Sharpness: Nikon and Sigma were soft on the telephoto end. Canon was soft on wide end. Tamron was pretty good through the range to a little soft at 270mm. The Canon is notable for being very sharp at 200mm. 28-300 is sharp at the wide end, but soft at telephoto.

    CA: Nikon and Canon clear winners here.

    Contrast: Tamron and Sigma were better than Canon and Nikon but all were OK.

    Bokeh: Tamron clear winner. Canon was jittery.

    Focus: Canon very fast and accurate. Nikon good, Tamron good, Sigma a little awkward (on Canon body)

    OS/VC/IS/VR: All work well. I think VC is best, but a little quirky.

    Build: Nikon, Canon, Sigma, Tamron. The Tamron feels very cheap. The Nikon feels very well built. Tamron 28-300, focus was off and the lens telescopes when pointed down. Very annoying.

    For sports, the Canon is the best choice because of the fast focus and very good telephoto. The Nikon and Sigma will disappoint because of the lack of sharpness. The Tamron is a little slow at focusing.

    For me, because of the sharper wide angle and the good bokeh, I like the Tamron and can live with the cheap build. For telephoto I generally like to blur the background so the lack of sharpness in the corners is not much of an issue.

    Tamron 28-300VC. Not as good overall as the 18-270, but does offer a super-zoom solution on full-frame.

    reviewed March 15th, 2009 (purchased for $680)
  • 8 out of 10 points and recommended by (14 reviews)
    range , weight , optical-quality-as-superzoom.
    slow-AF.

    I have Canon EF-S18-200IS and Nikon AF-S18-200VR and this one got from my mom.

    I did not like it cause it is slow on my XSI , it is fast or fast enough on my 50D though , I dont need a superzoom for a camera like 50D or 5D2 so I returned it.

    Optically, this lens is sharper than both Canon and Nikon that I have compared to this lens.

    But most of times shooting action , the Canon wins with much faster AF and much higher keeper rate.

    I think this one is a bit shaper than my AF-S18-200Vr at tele end but the Nikon beats it at wide end.

    The Nikon vignettes more than this one but this one shows more CA, maybe because my D300 automatically correct CA of the Nikon lenses but not Tammy.

    Oh well, I returned the Canon version of this one but I kept the Nikon version for now, but I think I will keep the Nikkor over this since the VR is better than the VC.

    reviewed February 22nd, 2009
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by (3 reviews)
    from 18 to 100mm very good sharpness,clearness,neatness.100-270 is better that Nikon 18-200 from 100 to 200
    CA only at 270mm

    from 18 to 100mm very good sharpness,clearness,neatness. From 100 to 270 is better that Nikon 18-200 from 100mm to 200mm. Very good the Tamron zoom for difficult and hard lens plan with VC

    reviewed January 23rd, 2009
  • 6 out of 10 points and recommended by (1 reviews)
    Excellent Range, decent quality particularly considering the range
    Heavier than Nikon 18-200mm, slow focusing, particularly in low light

    My typical lens use is a Nikon 16-85 VR (I love this lens) and a Nikon 70-300 VR on a D40, however for a trip I wanted to avoid carrying extra lenses.

    The quality of construction is less than my typical lenses. It is not poorly constructed, but only a small step over the standard Nikon kit lens. The zoom is does not have a linear feel, but has heavier feel up to a detent ~100mm and then becomes quite a bit lighter in use. Lens creep is a problem when carrying with a strap so the lock is a necessity. Autofocus is slow when compared to my Nikon 16-85 lens. The manual focus is very, very light in use. In high movement, high light situations (like in a boat) in many instances the Tamron would not autofocus over 100mm at all with my D40 and the VC would often 'snap' visibly. In low light over 50mm the autofocus is very slow and often takes multiple tries to get a lock even with an SB-600. Autofocus over 200mm is noticeably slower at well over 1 second even in good light in less than high contrast situations. Maybe this would perform better with something other than a CAM-530 AF system.

    Never having used the Nikon 18-200 VR lens much to develop a great comparison, the Tamron is a bit less than what I was searching for. While it may have greater reach than the Nikon equivalent, it is quite a bit heavier and appears in passing to have more issues with developing a moderately quick autofocus lock in comparision. I would say that the pictures were of high quality (sharper than my limited experience with the Nikon 18-200). I did miss a number of shots due to slow autofocus that I feel should have been available.

    Overall I will probably hang onto this lens for the limited number of situations where one lens must cover all (the quality of shots when the AF works is good). However in low light, this lens is not an acceptable substitute for something shorter and faster. This lens is not a bad travel lens (although it is a bit heavy), but careful consideration must be taken for its use. AF is fairly slow at anything over 100mm which is the compromising experience with such a wide ranging zoom. Pictures are of good quality and build quality is acceptable but not at the Nikon 18-200 levels.

    reviewed January 8th, 2009 (purchased for $585)
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by (1 reviews)
    15x zoom range. Vibration Compensation.
    Short manual focus adjustment. Not USM

    I've only had the lens a couple of days but already love it.
    I have a Canon 40D on which I've used a Canon 18-55 and a Canon 75-300 III USM.
    The Tamron's vibration compensation works a treat. It takes about 1 second for the VC to be fully up and running.
    Focusing is not USM but it's good and reasonably quiet.
    Zooming is slightly stiff between 50-100 but no big deal.
    Sample shots on http://www.flickr.com/photos/dave-smart/

    reviewed November 22nd, 2008 (purchased for $592)