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Tamron 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 XR Di AF

Lens Reviews / Tamron Lenses i Lab tested

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Lab Test Results

  • Blur
  • Chromatic Aberration
  • Vignetting
  • Geometric Distortion
  • Blur
  • Chromatic Aberration
  • Vignetting
  • Geometric Distortion
28-300mm $378
average price
image of Tamron 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 XR Di AF

(From Tamron lens literature) Maintaining the high performance of the previous model, Tamron's new 28-300mm zoom lens now features our "Di" design, making it the ideal lens for use with both digital and film cameras. The "Di" design is achieved by applying a new optical design to its coated surfaces, and by further enhancing our already stringent quality control system. Whether you shoot film or digital, the lens provides high image quality for both platforms. When used with APS-C size digital SLR cameras, the lens provides an angle of view equivalent to approximately 44-465mm, covering the standard to ultra telephoto range with no sacrifice of quality or aperture range.

Test Notes

Lenses like this one have often been called "vacation lenses," because they're perfect for times when you just don't want to hassle with lugging along a whole kit of lenses. The range of 28-300mm went from a pretty wide angle to a longish telephoto back in the days of film, but with current sub-frame DSLRs, the 28mm wide angle end translates into only a 42-45mm (depending on your camera) focal length, just slightly wider than what's considered normal (that is, neither wide angle nor telephoto). So the Tamron 28-300mm f/2.5-6.3 XR Di AF still covers a useful range of focal lengths, but you'll want to take along a shorter zoom to handle any wide-angle shots as well. (Really, the Tamron 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 XR Di II LD Aspherical IF AF or Tamron 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II LD Aspherical IF Macro AF fulfill the role on sub-frame cameras that was formerly played by lenses like the 28-300mm on full-frame file bodies.) Still, if you want to cover a broad range of focal lengths from normal to really long telephoto, a lens like the Tamron 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 could be just the ticket. Let's take a look at how it performs!

Unfortunately, while the convenience is great, it's awfully tough to design a lens with this long a zoom ratio yet with good optical characteristics. - Or at least, to do so while keeping the price down to something mere mortals can afford. The softness of this lens (particularly at telephoto focal lengths) is also exacerbated by the itty bitty pixels of digital sensors: It'd look quite a bit better on film than we see here in the blur plots taken from our EOS-20D test body. Wide open, it's a little soft from 28mm till about 100mm or so, but probably acceptable range for many casual shooters across that range. At 135mm though, the corners start to fall apart, and most of the frame is very soft at 200mm, improving slightly (but only slightly) at 300mm. Closing the aperture one stop helps quite a bit, and the lens actually performs surprisingly well from 28-70mm. Even stopped down though, it's quite soft from 200-300mm, to the point that we wouldn't really consider it usable for anything beyond snapshots across that range.

Chromatic Aberration
Chromatic aberration is high at both wide angle and telephoto, and moderate to moderately high in between. At wide angle focal lengths, CA improves noticeably a full stop down from maximum aperture, but is only what we'd consider to be good from 50-70mm.

Shading ("Vignetting")
As is generally the case with full-frame lenses used on sub-frame bodies, the Tamron 28-300mm showed very uniform exposure across the frame, with less than 1/4 EV of light falloff across the entire aperture/focal length operating range.

There's a moderate amount of barrel distortion at maximum wide angle, transitioning to a moderate amount of pincushion at telephoto focal lengths. The distortion passes through zero somewhere around 45mm.

AF Operation
As is often the case with long-ratio, inexpensive consumer zoom lenses, the Tamron 28-300mm is no speed demon when it comes to focusing. This is a lens you'll want to have prefocused on places where the action is likely to occur, rather than counting on its AF motor to move the elements around in a hurry. It is an internal focusing lens though, which is nice when shooting close-ups, although the 1.6 foot (49cm) working distance leaves you with a healthy 12 inches or so of working room between the subject and the front of the lens at the 300mm focal length.

We were actually surprised to find that our Canon test bodies could focus properly with this lens, as the f/6.3 maximum aperture at 300mm is smaller than Canon AF systems are supposed to work at. (As far as we know, f/5.6 is the usual limit.) We're not complaining, but you might want to try this lens on your camera before committing to its purchase, just to make sure that it will focus properly for you at full tele.

Manual focus adjustment can be a little tricky with this lens, as there's very little rotational travel on the focus ring, from closest focus to infinity. We found we could focus it manually OK, but it was definitely a little tweaky with middling subject distances.

Macro operation happens as a natural consequence of the lens's design: There's no separate macro mode that you have to select for close focusing. Normal focus operation covers the full range from 1.6 feet to infinity.

Build Quality and Handling
The Tamron 28-300mm handled better than we might have expected from a bargain super-zoom: Zoom operation in particularly was very smooth and fluid, and the lens as a whole felt quite solid and well-built. The downside of the very smooth zoom operation though, was that the lens showed a slight tendency toward zoom creep. When we held the camera body with the lens pointing down (a typical position if you're carrying the camera/lens combo with a neck strap), the friction of the zoom movement was just barely enough to keep the zoom from drifting toward the telephoto end of its range. Any amount of jostling would let it overcome the restraint and zoom out beyond wherever we had left it. It wasn't as bad in this respect as some zooms we've used, but it's definitely still something to watch for. Besides its smooth zooming, we were also pleased by how compact this lens is: Set to its widest-angle position, it extends only about 85mm (about 3.3 inches) from the camera's lens-mount flange. Stowed at its wide angle setting, it presents a surprisingly demure profile, great for times when you don't want your camera rig to call a lot of attention to itself.

The Competition
As of this writing (in early February, 2007), we haven't tested any other lenses that cover this particular focal length range, but from what we've seen to date, it's awfully hard to find any sort of a zoom lens (even a more purely telephoto zoom) that performs well at 200-300mm for an affordable price. We're going to keep testing and looking, but at this point, it seems that the only way to get decent performance from 200-300mm is to drop something like $600-800 (or more) on a premium tele zoom. (For instance, the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM does quite well, but will cost you close to $600.

As we mentioned earlier, the Tamron 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 XR Di II LD Aspherical IF AF and Tamron 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II LD Aspherical IF Macro AF, or Sigma 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 DC really fill the role for digital bodies that the Tamron 28-300mm was originally designed to handle in the film era. These lenses likewise aren't stellar performers at telephoto focal lengths, but they do offer the one-lens solution for vacation travel that many casual users are looking for.

Bottom line, this Tamron 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 could be a good choice if you do a lot of shooting from 35-70mm, with only occasional excursions out to the 300mm limit, and/or if you tend to print many of your shots at 5x7 inches or below. Since this describes the shooting and usage patterns of a lot of casual photographers, the Tamron 28-300mm could indeed be a good choice for vacation use when you don't expect to need a lot of wide angle capability.

Full-Frame Test Notes:

Given the larger image circle that's required, we were surprised to see that the 28-300mm's corner sharpness in the trouble zone from 200-300mm didn't deteriorate much at all when we moved to the full-frame EOS-5D body. On the other hand though, the corners got a lot softer from 35-70mm.

Chromatic Aberration
Looking at chromatic aberration, the increased demands of the larger image circle very closely balanced the relaxed tolerances of the 5D's larger pixels, leaving CA performance more or less the same on the 5D as on the 20D body.

Shading ("Vignetting")
Shading is probably where you'd expect to see the biggest difference going to a full-frame body, so it's probably no surprise that this was exactly what we saw with the 5D. Worst-case light falloff was about 1 EV (wide open at 28mm), but there were a lot of zoom/aperture settings that produced more than a half EV of shading. You can correct this in Photoshop reasonably easily, but who wants to spend that much time?

Geometric distortion was also quite high on the 5D, interestingly shifting from strong barrel to strong pincushion over a very narrow range of focal lengths (from 28-50mm) Pincushion distortion decreased slowly from about 70mm onward.

We've said it before, and we'll doubtless say it again in the future: If you've invested in a full-frame DSLR, it really doesn't make sense to subsequently try to economize by buying cheap lenses for it. If you only shoot snapshots with your own 5D or 1Ds Mark II, you might be happy with the Tamron 28-300mm on it (which does in that case provide truly wide-angle shots at its short end). But if you're just shooting snapshots, do you really need a full-frame DSLR?

Tamron 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 XR Di AF User Reviews

6.7/10 average of 9 reviews Build Quality 6.6/10 Image Quality 6.3/10
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  • 8 out of 10 points and recommended by (33 reviews)
    zoom-range & compact size
    it's a tad heavy compared to the average kit zoom

    ...eh I'm going to vastly streamline this review.
    Let's put it this way: I'm happy with the lens, even if it doesn't have IS and only cost me $150 on eBay. In fact having had both the VC and non-VC versions I prefer the non-VC version. It's much lighter, a little smaller, a fraction of the price, doesn't draw nearly as much power and I rarely need IS anyway. Even so it's just better to avoid needing to use it. Trying to take handheld shots when it's so dark that I need to use IS, that's not a great way to get good photographs. On this I have to chalk one up for "old-school" lenses. They force me to either use good technique or not bother to take the shot.

    Telescoping isn't a problem with the lock and having checked-out the Nikon and Canon options this lens actually looks the best, in terms of overall performance. I don't know why SLRgear hasn't tested the Panasonic 14-140 OIS & Tamron 28-300VC but for the money this lens is a steal. It just pays to know how to get the most out of it, and to realize that at the longer focal-lengths you're going to need to shoot F13 or so to get a reasonably flat-sharp shot and a decent DOF. I'd go through the blur-chart and note the F#s of lowest blur at each FL. I wish that I could just program those into my camera.

    Beyond that, buy and enjoy.

    reviewed December 15th, 2010 (purchased for $150)
  • 8 out of 10 points and recommended by (2 reviews)
    Great if you only want to bring one lens, very affordable
    Depends on the camera for low light sensitivity

    It is interesting to read the wide variety of reviews (pro and con) of this lens. It may not have the technical specs of a group of available lenses that together encompass this large zoom range, but for one lens it has no competition as far as I've found.

    To put what you are about to read in context, I am an accredited photojournalist and have won several awards for my photography. I originally bought this non-VC Tamron 28-300 mm lens when I bought my Nikon D-100. I was on a tight budget and the camera store recommended it, so I took their advice. I have since upgraded my cameras several times, now shooting primarily with a Nikon D3, with a D300 as a second camera body. I also have several Nikon lenses, for limited-use applications. The problem is a lack of a broad range, Nikon brand zoom lens for their full frame FX sensor Nikon cameras (as opposed to DX lenses for the smaller chip). Even though I never use my D100 anymore, most of my shots taken with the D3 are taken in combination with my trusty Tamrom 28-300mm lens. It consistently takes good photos. I made a huge mistake a few months ago by buying Tamron's new VC version of this lens. That lens is a disaster. After missing several easy shots at my daughter's graduation due to the lens not focusing (instead, it hunted back and forth), I took the lens back to the store -- only to learn that other shooters had returned their Tamron VC 28-300mm lenses too. Another of my fellow journalists returned his for the same reason. He is still peeved that he blew an opportunity to get a $300 Nikon rebate on a combination D300 camera and lens purchase, because he chose to buy just the camera body and the Tamron VC lens instead.

    This non-VC Tamron 28-300mm Nikon-mount lens is great if you want or need to travel light by bringing only your camera with a single, attached lens. It has a great zoom range and auto-focuses well. Note that there are some Nikon models that this lens will not auto-focus with, so be sure to verify your application before ordering one.

    Granted this lens is not great in low light with older cameras, but the newer Nikons (including the D3, D300, D700 and others) have terrific low light sensitivity so the lens' low light capabilities do not matter that much. Simply set these camera bodies in their Auto-ISO mode, attach this Tamron lens and you'll be good to go for most situations. Using a relatively high shutter speed, my Nikon D3 and my aging Tamron lens, I was able to shoot sharp shots of a motorcycle stunt-jumping exhibition outside of the Palms hotel (in Las Vegas) at night, during the recent SEMA Show. The motorcycles, as they jumped high in the air, were lit only by a couple of spotlights. The results were amazing.

    I have repeatedly asked Nikon reps for such a lens from Nikon for use with their new, full frame cameras (D3 and D700). They tell me they cannot make one that would sell for a low enough price that people would be willing to pay. Go figure. Perhaps someday Nikon will listen and make such a lens available. In the meantime, especially considering there is now a $50 rebate on this Tamron lens, I am tempted to buy another of these for when (or if) mine finally wears out.

    reviewed November 30th, 2008
  • 5 out of 10 points and not recommended by (2 reviews)
    size, weight, zoom range
    zoom creep, soft, distortion, narrow "sweet spot", speed

    I have an older non-DI version I bought as a travel lens because of the zoom range. I've used it on a F3, F100 and a D80. The lens is generally soft with lots of barrel/pincushion and is not very contrasty. Because mine is made for FX, much of the distortion is cut off on the D80-which helps. The lens seems to have its best optical performance between 50mm and about 180mm at f8-f11. Forget about the extremes in range and f stops, it just gets soft and washed out. I recently bought a Nikkor 55-200VR for the D80 which I think is a much better lens over the Tamron's usable range - for less money.

    reviewed September 18th, 2008 (purchased for $370)
  • 6 out of 10 points and recommended by (6 reviews)
    compact. large focal range.
    slow lens, soft at long end.

    I've taken some outstanding shots with this lens. But... I've also taken some not so good shots which could have been better had I had a sharper, faster lens.

    Good all around lens which I would readily recommend it to those who can accept it's limitations (slow lens, not as sharp as others, some softness) for it's merits (28-300mm zoom in one lens).

    reviewed July 21st, 2008 (purchased for $500)
  • 7 out of 10 points and recommended by (10 reviews)
    Great zoom range.
    Slow AF and aperture.

    A nice all round lens. But since its zoom range is so wide, it suffers from optical setbacks. Apertures are too small at 300mm @ f6.3. It makes it totally useless in getting sharp photos in not so bright light. Image quality isnt too good especially at 300mm where it can be quite soft.

    Another gripe is the AF. Its slow and noisy. You can't use this to track fast cars or birds.

    Overall good value for money and a great deal for those who don't want to change lenses.

    reviewed January 15th, 2007 (purchased for $500)
  • 8 out of 10 points and recommended by (36 reviews)
    Very useful zoom range, great macro ability, small and light
    Image quality very good but could be better

    I had a pretty good experience with this lens. On a D70, I could not fault its image quality. I used it through a trip to Africa, and brought back some very memorable images, including ones that I have printed as 12 X 18 prints that look just fine. See for example:


    However, when I upgraded to a D2x, I checked all my lenses to see how they did on the higher-resolution sensor that camera has, and the Tamron fell a bit (not hugely, but a bit) short. Particularly at the wider apertures (if you can call f/6.3 to f/8 "wide") at the telephoto end, it could not keep up with the D2x sensor in resolution,a nd its contrast was not as good as other lenses I had, such as a Sigma 70-300, and (even more so), a Nikkor 75-300 (an older AF lens). I have since sold my Tamron and Sigma, and use the Nikkor if I really want 300mm tele.

    I sometimes regret selling it, though, as the focal length range makes it a really great companion lens to a 12-24 wideangle. The extra reach you get at the long end really helps, as compared to an 18-200, and if you are carrying a wideangle anyway, losing a bit at the wide end is not such a problem. Its macro ability is really excellent, getting down to what I recall as around 1:4 or better, and although that happens at the extreme tele end of the zoom, because the focal length shortens as you focus closer, the effective focal length at minimum distance seems pretty close to 100 or 135mm, which is my favorite focal length for macro work.

    For a 6 MP or maybe an 8 MP DSLR, I would certainly recommend this as a carry-around lens, particularly if you are also going to be carrying a separate wideangle.

    reviewed January 6th, 2007
  • 3 out of 10 points and not recommended by (12 reviews)
    Lightweight, range.
    barrel creep, optics, build, CA,

    Great Range, Affordable and lightweight! The lure to buy this lens is great. I bought it to have one single lens on my camera for travels. Ive used it extensively for a year. And Im glad I got rid of it.

    My first impressions were positive, as the zoom range looks great when youre looking through the viewfinder, and you do have the ability to take pictures of stuff thats far-far-away, but unfortunately, these pictures are close to useless when you actually decide to print them. The optics are generally soft, the contrast is lousy, CA is a serious issue in backlit conditions and dont even think about getting a little light to hit the front element.

    After a while in use, the barrel creep sets in, even though it has a separate lock to prevent this (which of course everybody you ever borrow youre camera to completely ignores and instead tries to force the zoom) you pretty much have to hold the lenz at its place while pointing it somwhere else tha horizontal. And if you do forget the lock, theres a chance the whole thing creeps out in your bag and breaks in a jolt, for the build quality is seriously plastic. After a while, the whole lens develops a slack in every moving bit and mine could be moved quite a bit at the end. I reckon it would have been the equivalent of a Lensbaby by now, but luckily some guy absolutely wanted to buy it, no matter how much i told him that the lens was no better than paperweight.

    Go ahead, buy it, but youre going to sell it again in 6 months.

    reviewed December 21st, 2006 (purchased for $400)
  • 5 out of 10 points and not recommended by (9 reviews)
    10.7x Zoom, weight, size
    IQ, plastic build

    This is what I carry with me when I go on my ship. You can’t beat its weight and size in a 10.7x zoom for both film and digital SLR’s. Granted it is a bit slow, especially on the long end, and the image quality dips at 200+mm, but it replaces a case-load of lenses that I don’t have the room for.

    This lens is compact to carry when it is at 28mm, and balances quite nicely on the D100 (where it is basically a 42-450mm lens) and I find it nearly perfect on the ship for most of the things I want to shoot. I would like to have a bit wider angle but the lens does well enough for most applications.

    When the lens is zoomed out, the barrel extends like a telescope. The body is mostly plastic, so you can’t beat it up too much. There is a removable lens shade as well as lens cap that round out the configuration. The focusing throw is quite short, and the focusing is done internally. The focus speed is very slow, so this is not at all a lens to be used with quick moving action. The front element is a decent 62 mm, which allows for relatively inexpensive filtering.

    In addition to a large zoom range, the lens will also close focus at all focal lengths, and will get down to 1:4 at 300mm which is nice for more skittish creatures. The lens is a great travel lens, and will cover most situations if you can’t afford to bring along anything else.

    The fact that it does not provide exceptional imagine quality must be taken into account, although I have produced nice 8x10 images from the lens at 300mm on the D100 (6.1 MP).

    This lenses range on the DSLR’s has been mostly replaced by the various 18-200’s out there which probably offers better performance and would be my choice if I had to do it again.

    reviewed December 10th, 2006 (purchased for $350)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by (2 reviews)

    I purchased this lens just prior to a visit to the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, KY and was glad I had it. During my four days there, it never left my Nikon and produced some truly extraordinary photos from that trip.
    Even using available lighting inside fairly dark rooms (We weren't allowed to use a flash) the photos were remarkably detailed after minor PP in Photoshop to bring up highlights. Details were sharp, crisp and color accuracy was almost dead on. There was some softening in the corners, but overall, this is an excellent lens that covers a wide enough range to be one of very few walk about lenses I'd recommend

    reviewed December 2nd, 2006