Tamron @ CP+ 2017: Hands-on with three new zooms, including the Japanese-only 70-300
posted Saturday, February 25, 2017 at 4:21 AM EDT
Lens manufacturer Tamron recently announced a pair of newly-updated lenses for the global market, the SP 70-200mm f/2.8 VC G2, and the 10-24mm f/3.5-5.6, as well as debuting a refreshed SP 70-300mm F/4-5.6 Di VC telephoto zoom that, as of now, is designed solely for the Japanese market. All three lenses were on display at Tamron's booth at CP+, so naturally we sauntered over to get a closer look!
Both the 70-200mm f/2.8 G2 and 10-24mm II lenses follow the same modern design update as other recent Tamron lenses, which began back with the SP 35mm f/1.8 VC and SP 45mm f/1.8 VC lenses. The redesigned lenses offer a high-quality, premium build and a rather sleek appearance.
Starting with the most premium lens of the bunch, this SP-series lens is a full-frame lens and a tried-and-true classic: a 70-200mm optic with a constant f/2.8 lens. Also featuring built-in image stabilization, the Tamron 70-200mm G2 appears to be an excellent alternative to the much higher-priced Canon or Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 stabilized lenses.
In the hand, I was immediately struck by how hefty it felt, especially mounted on a Canon 6D. Looking at the specs, the lens weighs in at around 3.3 lbs. (1500g), which is nearly identical to the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II, so this is certainly a serious lens. Weight aside, the build quality felt very nice, and the lens' exterior design and matte finish look very nice.
One interesting design change that's not only different from Tamron's previous 70-200mm f/2.8 VC lens, but also other 70-200mm lenses from Canon and Nikon, is the reversed placement of the zoom and focusing rings. On the new Tamron 70-200mm G2 lens, the zoom ring is out toward the end of the barrel, while the focusing ring is closer to the camera. Most lenses have it the other way around. When you think about it, for a longer lens like a 70-200mm, you end up operating the zoom quite often and will inherently have a more balanced hold of the camera and lens with your hand placed further out. However, muscle memory threw me for a loop when I tried out the new lens; I kept trying to zoom with the focus ring! It seems like a such a small change, but it might be a bit confusing at first if you're not expecting it.
Another nice feature of the 70-200mm G2 lens is the metal tripod foot with a built-in Area Swiss-compatible dovetail, making it quick and painless to mount this to your Arca-compatible tripod clamp. As someone who uses such a tripod, I love when I don't have to bother finding, or buying, an extra plate. On the flip side, for those who don't use the Arca-Swiss-style tripod system, no worries there either, as the tripod foot also features standard mounting screws to add any manner of other tripod plates or to mount the lens directly to a monopod.
Like most trade show booth hands-on try-outs, there's not much of a way to thoroughly test AF speed, but from what little I could discern, the Tamron 70-200mm focuses very quickly, at both wide and telephoto ends. Small focus changes were nearly instantaneous, and larger distance changes were very fast.
On the exterior, the revamped 10-24mm f/3.5-5.6 II lens takes after other Tamron SP-series lenses with regards to overall design and styling, despite not having the "SP" designation in its model name. This APS-C-specific lens looks sleek, and in hand, the first thing you'll notice is how lightweight it is. Fairly compact, too, this ultra-wide-angle zoom lens certainly won't weigh you down.
The lens features image stabilization, which is a bit atypical for such a wide lens but is definitely an appreciated feature not only for low light situations but also for videographers. The lens is also weather-sealed, which also feels uncommon for a lens at this price point ($500 USD), but adds a certain reassurance if you find yourself out in a sudden downpour. Just be sure to pair it with a weather-sealed camera like a Canon 7D Mark II or a Nikon D7200 or D500.
One slight disappointment, however, is the feel of the focus and zoom rings. The focusing ring, especially, has a very light, plastic-y feel to it. The zoom ring, meanwhile, didn't feel as smooth as I'd hoped, though I was handling a tradeshow copy of the lens, which had likely been handled multiple times over.
The 10-24mm II is the first Tamron lens to use their HLD (High/Low torque modulated Drive) autofocusing drive system, which is said to improve AF performance. In my limited time with the lens, AF speed was indeed very quick, both a full wide-angle and zoomed-in.
Tamron SP 70-300mm F/4-5.6 Di VC USD
Lastly, we have the Japanese-only SP 70-300mm F/4-5.6 Di VC USD. This revamped compact telephoto zoom lens works for both full-frame and APS-C DSLRs and provides a variety of minor improvements over 2010's SP 70-300mm F/4-5.6 Di VC USD.
Externally, there's not a significant change to the styling, though Tamron toned it down slightly, going from a gold branding band to a "tungsten" silver color. The focusing ring also gets a tweak to its texture.
Under the hood is where most of the updates appear, including new control circuitry and AF algorithms that claim to improve AF performance and speed. The Vibration Compensation has also been improved, which offers a CIPA-rated 4-stops of correction. This should be a nice jump compared to the previous model, which we tested at around 2.5 stops at 70mm and about two stops at 300mm. Lastly, the front lens element gains a fluorine coating, making it more resistant to moisture and smudges and is easier to clean.
In the hands, the lens is quite long with the lens hood attached and especially so when fully extended to 300mm. Despite that, it's quite light and compact for the range it offers. The zooming action felt a bit stiff and wasn't the smoothest to rotate through the full range. Overall, it feels like quite a nice lens for the entry-level or amateur photographer looking for an easy to use, compact telephoto zoom for outdoor photography -- shame it's only staying in Japan.