Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 Di LD IF Macro SP AF

 
Lens Reviews / Tamron Lenses i Lab tested
70-200mm $769
average price
image of Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 Di LD IF Macro SP AF

(From Tamron lens literature) The new Tamron SP AF 70-200mm Di LD (IF) Macro (Model A001) is an ƒ/2.8 fast tele-zoom designed for full-size format SLR cameras. It inherits the product concept of the award-winning SP AF28-75mm ƒ/2.8 XR Di (Model A09) standard zoom lens that is highly acclaimed for its compactness and speed, which lets photographers enjoy a high cost to performance uniqueness.

SLRgear Review
December 29, 2008
by Andrew Alexander

The Tamron 70-200 ƒ/2.8 telephoto zoom was announced in February 2008, updating and replacing their existing 70-200mm ƒ/2.8 zoom lens. The economical lens was originally available only for Canon and Nikon lens mounts; Tamron has now made versions for Pentax and Sony users, however on these bodies the ''one-touch'' AF/MF switchover mechanism requires that the camera body be set to manual focus as well.

The lens features a constant ƒ/2.8 aperture across all focal lengths, and is designed to work on both sub-frame (APS-C) and full-frame 35mm image sensors. On sub-frame camera bodies the lens will have an equivalent field of view of either 112 - 320mm (Canon) or 105 - 300mm (others).

Of all lenses in this category and specification, Tamron's is the lightest at 1,100 grams. The lens ships with a soft nylon case and a petal-shaped lens hood, and is available now for around $700.

Sharpness
Tamron has produced another lens that offers remarkable results for sharpness. Let's look first at the results of the lens mounted on the sub-frame D200. We see excellent results for sharpness when used wide open at ƒ/2.8. At 70mm we note central sharpness in the 1-blur unit range, with corner softness in the lower left and right areas at around 2 blur units; performance is similar across other focal lengths, with a sweet spot of 100mm, but 200mm shows some uneven performance with the center being somewhat softer than the corners (2 blur units in the center, 1.5 in the corners).

Stopping down to ƒ/4 cures the majority of any corner softness (or in the case at 200mm, central softness), and ƒ/5.6 presents the optimum setting for this lens across all focal lengths. Setting the lens to ƒ/8 or ƒ/11 still presents excellent results - hard to tell from the results at ƒ/5.6. Diffraction limiting appears to set in around ƒ/11, but it's negligible, only really becoming a factor at ƒ/16, where the lens shows 2 blur units at 135-200mm. Results at ƒ/22 or ƒ/32 are uniformly soft, at around 3 and 4 blur units respectively.

Performance on the full-frame D3 is even better, though the corners show up some softness that isn't apparent when used on the sub-frame D200. Between 70-100mm at ƒ/2.8, the lens produces tack-sharp results, but different lens elements must come into play at 135mm and 200mm, where we see significant corner softness (135mm) and odd central softness (200mm). Neither of these results is so extreme as to be overly noticeable, but they're worth mentioning.

As with the D200, stopping down to ƒ/4 tames any wildness and we note essentially tack-sharp results across the frame at all focal lengths. Using ƒ/5.6 as the aperture again produces optimal results, but it's hard to tell the difference between this setting and ƒ/8 or ƒ/11. Diffraction limiting sets in by ƒ/16, but it's not until ƒ/22 that blur results even approach 2 blur units, and ƒ/32 where it barely exceeds that level.

In a nutshell, the Tamron 70-200mm ƒ/2.8 produces remarkable results, seen more on the D3 than the D200. The results are slightly eccentric at ƒ/2.8 above 100mm, but stopping down to ƒ/4 cures anything that might be unpalatable.

Chromatic Aberration
The Tamron 70-200mm ƒ/2.8 handles chromatic aberration quite well. On the D200, we note some subtle CA in the corners at 70mm, but between 85-135mm this CA effectively disappears. Above 135mm, it returns, but only if you stop down to ƒ/8 or smaller; the worst case scenario is 200mm and ƒ/32, where we note significant corner CA (9/100ths of a percent of frame height) and also significant chromatic aberrations throughout the frame, not just the corners: in this case, just over 4/100ths of a percent of frame height.

On the full-frame D3, the results are predictably amazing, as the D3 removes CA automatically when shooting JPEGs. Consequently we also shoot these test results in RAW mode and convert them with minimal processing in Bibble, to give a more accurate picture of how the lens performs. In this case it's similar to the performance noted on the D200: very good at 85-135mm, with some weak spots at 70mm and above 135mm.

Shading (''Vignetting'')
The Tamron 70-200mm ƒ/2.8 produces almost no light falloff when mounted on the D200; only when used at 200mm and ƒ/2.8. In this case, we note that the corners of the frame are 1/3 of a stop darker than the center. Not much to write home about there.

On the full-frame D3 however, light falloff is a bit more significant. In this case using the lens at any focal length and ƒ/2.8 produces between a half-stop and 3/4-stop of corner darkening, with an emphasis on the telephoto range. Stopping down to ƒ/4 cuts this effect in half, and anything more drops this light falloff to below 1/4 of a stop.

Distortion
The lens contends with distortion very well, with some barrel distortion when used below100mm, and some pincushion distortion when used above 100mm (the lens is effectively undistorted when used at 100mm). When used on the D200, the lens produces 0.3% barrel distortion at 70mm, and -0.3% pincushion distortion at 200mm - in both cases, the results are evident in the corners. Average distortion is always barrel, but it's statistically negligible at under 0.1%.

On the D3, the results are a bit more significant, following the same pattern as noted on the D200, but a bit more skewed. At 70mm we note 0.6% barrel distortion in the corners, and at 200mm it's -0.5% pincushion distortion. These aren't wild numbers, but if you need your straight lines to be straight, you'll need to apply some post-processing correction to your images.

Autofocus Operation
Tamron has moved away from mechanical lenses, by adopting electrical in-lens motors that move the lens elements. Consequently there is no screw to drive the elements, and older bodies that use this method will not be able to focus this lens automatically. However this does mean that the lens focuses significantly faster than previous mechanically-driven lenses, but it doesn't reach the blisteringly fast speeds of Canon's USM or Nikon's AF-S technologies. The lens also isn't as quiet as these styles, but it isn't objectionable. Then manual for this lens indicates that you shouldn't touch the focus ring when it autofocuses, as it could cause damage to the lens (presumably, because the focus ring moves during autofocus). This version of the 70-200mm f/2.8 doesn't seem to do this, suggesting the manual hasn't yet been updated.

Macro
The Tamron 70-200mm ƒ/2.8 is labelled as a macro lens, and with a reproduction ratio of 0.32x (1:3.1) it performs this function well. Minimum close-focusing distance is just over three feet (37.4 inches, 95cm).

Build Quality and Handling
The Tamron 70-200mm ƒ/2.8 employs a plastic lens body, allowing the lens to be much lighter, and presumably to cut down on the cost. Given the price point of the lens, there are no dust or moisture seals. The lens mount is metal; the filter ring is plastic. The lens offers a windowed distance scale, marked in feet and meters. Tamron uses a unique system for setting the lens into manual focus mode: you shift the focus ring backwards and forwards. A standard accessory of the lens is a removable tripod ring.

The zoom ring is about an inch wide and rubber-coated, long ribs with small ridges in the middle. The ring takes about 70 degrees to turn through the entire zoom range. Because the lens uses an internal zoom operation, the lens doesn't extend and zoom creep isn't an issue. Interestingly, great attention has been paid to the focus ring, which is much larger than the zoom ring (2 inches) and uses a longer version of the ribs used in the zoom ring. Manual focus operation is very smooth, with only the finger and thumb required to glide the focus along. There's a good range of travel, just over 90 degrees so it's easy to achieve proper focus. The lens has hard stops at either end of the focus range, and will focus just past infinity.

The front threads on the lens take a 77mm filter, and are plastic. However, the front mount doesn't rotate while focusing or zooming, so good news for polarizer users. There's no aperture ring, so it may not work with older film bodies that can't set the aperture of a lens. The petal-shaped lens hood works well to prevent lens flare, and reverses on the lens for storage. The interior of the lens hood is ribbed. Using the hood will add 3.5 inches to the overall length of the lens.

Alternatives

As the 70-200mm ƒ/2.8 is one of the most popular lens configurations, there is great competition among manufacturers.

Nikon 70-200mm ƒ/2.8G ED-IF AF-S VR ~$1,600
The Tamron offers results comparable to the Nikon, however the Tamron edges out the Nikon for sharpness, especially at 200mm. We haven't tested the Nikon on a full-frame camera however, so take those results with a grain of salt. Autofocus speed and build quality is substantially better on the Nikon.

Canon EF 70-200mm ƒ/2.8L IS USM ~$1,600
The Tamron is just slightly sharper than the Canon at ƒ/2.8, but stopping down to ƒ/4, the Canon shows better results. Full-frame sharpness is just slightly better on the Tamron. Other results are similar between the two lenses, with the exception of distortion, where the Canon provides just slightly better results. Again, the Canon USM autofocus and L-class build quality is much better than the Tamron.

Sony 70-200mm ƒ/2.8 G ~$1,700
The performance of the Sony at ƒ/2.8 isn't as good as that found on the Tamron; stop the Sony down to ƒ/4, and it's comparable, with perhaps a slight edge to the Sony at 200mm. Other results are similar, with perhaps an slight edge to the Tamron.

Pentax 50-135mm ƒ/2.8 ED AL IF SDM SMC DA* ~$725
Pentax doesn't currently offer a 70-200mm, so this is the comparable lens. Unfortunately, we haven't yet tested it.

Sigma 70-200mm ƒ/2.8 EX DG HSM APO ~$800
Sigma has since updated their 70-200mm to a type 'II' version, so these results may be a bit out of date. The Tamron is sharper than the Sigma at ƒ/2.8, but stopped down to ƒ/4, the results are comparable. Results for chromatic aberration and distortion are almost identical, but the Sigma shows a bit more light falloff than the Tamron.

Conclusion
Price is obviously the major consideration when considering a lens in this category, and with exceptional results for image quality, it's not just about the money when considering the Tamron 70-200mm ƒ/2.8. Sharpness results meet and even exceed those for ''brand-name'' manufacturers, however the concession is build quality and autofocus speed. Professionals may require these; everyone else may not. Either way, if it's image quality you're after, the Tamron 70-200mm ƒ/2.8 delivers, and doesn't hit too heavily on the pocketbook.

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 70-200mm f/2.8 Di LD IF Macro SP AF User Reviews

8.2/10 average of 11 reviews Build Quality 8.1/10 Image Quality 9.1/10
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by (5 reviews)
    Sharp (!) and low weight
    AF is on the slower side

    No VR and no weathersealing but very high optical performance at a price you can't withstand.
    Tested with a D700, D5100 and D600.
    .

    reviewed November 20th, 2013 (purchased for $497)
  • 2 out of 10 points and not recommended by (1 reviews)
    none
    Poor construction, lame material

    I bought this lens at B&H on 10/15/10. I thought it would last at least 10-15 years of use. Last new year's day (12/31/12) I tried to take some pictures and I realize that there was NO focus, automatic or manual. The manual focus was extremely hard to turn, so I decided to send it to Tamron to repair, since I did take the 6 years guarantee that they offer. Last week I receive the veredict: my lens were broken inside! They say that were sign of shock... It never has been subdued to shocks... I wonder where, 'cause it was in two possible places: at my hands or inside a LowePro SlingShot 302 AW. Weird... I do care for all my electronics (video, audio, computers) and I do have a Minolta X-300 with lens that I bought in Germany in 1991, it still works today...

    reviewed February 1st, 2013
  • 8 out of 10 points and recommended by (1 reviews)
    Very sharp; large lens; easy to focus manually
    very heavy; shallow dof at low aperture

    I bought it used and am very happy with it.

    In a single day I took over 600 pictures with this lens. It does tend to get heavy by the end of the day and sometimes the auto focus is a bit slow

    However, the pictures were super sharp, very pleasing perspective and the lens is a delight to work with.

    reviewed August 16th, 2012 (purchased for $400)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by (24 reviews)
    A lot of quality for fairly little money & love at first sight!
    Not WR, not VR (aka OIS), nor dust-proof!

    This is an outstanding lens, considering its low weight, super sharp optics, and fairly low price. And it is also a fairly competent macro lens.

    You can't buy an equally competent lens for a similar cost, no matter what make :-)!

    reviewed September 5th, 2010
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by (1 reviews)
    Great build, super sharp, great macro performance
    Slow autofocus, tripod collar

    This is the best lens in my bag on many counts. It's sharp as a tack and consistently takes incredible pictures. I also have the much cheaper, but also well rated Sigma 70-300 APO 4-5.6 and there is no comparison in the pictures from the two lens.

    Like all lens, this one won't make you a great photographer, but it certainly does provide a photographer with the quality glass necessary to take exceptional pictures.

    While not a true macro lens I especially love the close ups this lens takes, they are remarkable. The primary subject will be tack sharp and the background will have that truly beautiful dreamy bokeh.

    A downside of the lens is that autofocus is not fast and at times the lens will hunt for focus. I love being a Pentax shooter, but on my K10, this isn't a great lens in that regard. The K10 is a bit slow to begin with and this lens magnifies that. I hope it becomes less of an issue when I upgrade to the K-7 shortly.
    My only other complaint is that while the tripod collar is well made, it's not quick on and off and the screw can cross thread even when I'm being careful.

    I would probably buy this lens again, but after owning it for 9 months, would also take a close look at the Sigma 70-200 2.8 just because focus is stronger on that model. However, the Sigma doesn't have the great macro performance this lens does, so I would probably end up at the same place all over again because this really is a great lens.

    reviewed March 18th, 2010 (purchased for $650)
  • 5 out of 10 points and not recommended by (1 reviews)
    very sharp
    Focusing is just painful, no stabilization

    All the reviews I've read on this said not to use it for sport. I see why now. I tried to use it for swimming, a fairly slow moving sport (compared to others). I didn't think there would be a problem go by instead of at or away from you. I was wrong. In continuous focus mode on a nikon D300 I could not get the lens to focus where I wanted. I don't have this problem with any other lens.

    I have the Tamrom 200-500mm (my favorite piece of glass). I was thinking this 70-200 was a compacted version if the 200-500. It definitely is not. I use the 200-500 for swimming, don't have any problem getting lots of good shots. I just don't need that much zoom at most pools.

    I've tried it for other shots, again it does not always focus where you tell it to. I can't check every shot to see if I need to redo it. The shots I did get were great, with out a flash. If this would have focused even close to my nikon 18-200mm it would have replaced it for 90% of my shooting. Instead I returned it.

    reviewed February 1st, 2010 (purchased for $650)
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by (2 reviews)

    Excellent image quality lens..

    reviewed July 30th, 2009 (purchased for $850)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by (1 reviews)

    Exelent

    sample photos with camera Fuji S5 Pro:

    http://photo-forum.net/forum/read.php?f=1&i=1009499&t=1009499&phorum_uriauth=

    reviewed April 20th, 2009
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by (1 reviews)
    Image Quality, Near Macro Performance, Light size & weight for lens type
    slow AF, somewhat noisy

    I found this to be an excellent lens for photographing plants/flowers and also very good for most wedding photography. I was planning o repacing my Canon 70 - 200 F4 with this one. However, it's too slow for sports. I will definitely keep it but I won't be able to get rid of my old Canon F4 version of this focal length. I found the quality to be on par with the Canon and the ability to shoot at 2.8 to be advantageous over the F4 lens indooors. I forgot to add that I have a full frame camera (5d).

    reviewed January 1st, 2009 (purchased for $699)
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by (4 reviews)
    Very high center and corner resolution even at wide apertures, very good color reproduction and contrast, relative low price for the given optical performance
    Slow focusing speed

    My copy has on the Sony DSLR-A300 a center resolution of 2000 to 2300 LPH and corner resolution is typically between 1900 to 2200 LPH, measured for apertures from f2.8 up to f8. One exception from this is the 200mm focal length, where corner resolution is between 1800 to 1900 LPH. Those values are quite impressive, particularly the very high corner resolution. Such little fall-off of corner resolution as compared to the very high center resultion shows the optical excellence of this lens. I use the lens from its lowest aperture of f2.8 up to f11 at all focal lengths.

    Slight chromatic aberration is noticeable in the corners at the two focal length extremes of 70mm and 200mm, but is almost unnoticeable at other focal lengths and disappears towards the center. I did not notice any distortion, vignetting or flare that is worth mentioning. Color and contrast are natural and quite attractive. Out-of-focus blur is, for my taste, very nice. Build-quality is acceptable for amateur-use. Focusing can be very slow, if the lens has to travel a long distance to find the focus, but has typically been very accurate. If you do sports photography, you need to pre-focus the lens to be ready in time.

    To increase the maximum focal length to 280mm, I use the Kenko 1.4x Teleplus Pro 300 teleconverter. Center resolution drops by about 200 to 300 LPH in the center and 300 to 400 LPH at the corners. Given the already high resolution of the lens without teleconverter, you still get photos of quite acceptable quality when using this teleconverter. Chromatic aberration appears to me very slightly increased in the corners, when directly comparing images. I do not notice deterioration of color, contrast, distortion or vignetting. Please note, that the actual aperture values are reduced by 1.4x, but the camera does not show this reduction on the display. For instance, if the camera shows an aperture of f2.8, you actually have an aperture of f4.0 when using the teleconverter. Exposure times are increased correspondingly.

    Overall the lens is absolutelly usable through its entire focal length, even at its highest aperture. The optical performance is just outstanding. Combined with the Kenko 1.4x Teleplus Pro 300 teleconverter, you can see a slight drop in image quality, which is expected, but the images are still very good and clearly outperform such lenses than the Tamron AF70-300mm F/4-5.6 Di LD Macro 1:2 or the Minolta AF 100-300 F4.5-5.6 APO, who cover this range without teleconverter.

    reviewed December 24th, 2008 (purchased for $699)
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by (6 reviews)
    image quality, MFD, cheap, fast,
    slow AF, no image stabilization, no range limiting switch

    I couldn't afford the 70-200 f/2.8 VR, and this one is a bargain at ~$1000 less. It seems a bit soft at 200mm and 2.8, but sharp everywhere else. I tried the 80-200 f/2.8 nikkor, and this is probably sharper than that lens wide open, and focuses at about 3 feet as well.

    Speaking of focus, that's one downside here, as Lex mentioned below. It's kind of slow, especially if you have to go through the whole range (maybe partly a tradeoff for doing better macro than the name brand lenses), and every once in a while it seems like the camera is jumping back and forth past the proper focus. I don't agree that the AF is loud, though. It's very quiet on the Nikon mount model. One note: some macro lenses (the tamron 90mm macro, for instance) have a smaller maximum aperture at close focus, but this keeps 2.8 no matter the focus distance. I would like to have a focus range limiting switch to be able to keep it from focusing closer than 3 meters or so.

    Bokeh is very nice. Image stabilization would be useful.

    In all, not much to complain about. It's got the important things down unless you're a serious fast sports shooter.

    reviewed October 8th, 2008 (purchased for $700)