Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di LD Macro 1:2 AF

Lens Reviews / Tamron Lenses i Lab tested
70-300mm $208
average price
image of Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di LD Macro 1:2 AF

Lab Test Results

  • Blur
  • Chromatic Aberration
  • Vignetting
  • Geometric Distortion
  • Blur
  • Chromatic Aberration
  • Vignetting
  • Geometric Distortion

(From Tamron lens literature) Tamron now offers a lightweight, compact, high-image-quality telephoto zoom lens with macro capability of 1:2 that can be used with digital cameras. This new lens is a Di type lens using an optical system with improved multi-coating designed to function with digital SLR cameras as well as film cameras.

With this 70-300mm telephoto zoom lens, flipping a macro switch in the focal length range of 180mm to 300mm obtains a maximum magnification ratio of 1:2 at a minimum focus distance as short as 37.4", enabling close-up shots of flowers, insects, and other objects that normally require the use of a specially designed macro lens. Moreover, this is a zoom lens that casually offers the distant capture and foreshortening effect pleasures of the 300mm ultra-telephoto world.

Note: On January 21, 2008, Tamron announced a Nikon version (part number A17NII) will be available with built-in motor for AF compatibility with all Nikon DSLRs including D40 and D40x.

Test Notes

A telephoto zoom is often the first lens amateur photographers add to their kit after purchasing an SLR. The ability to reach out and bring distant subjects up close is immensely appealing, and essential for many subjects. The 70-300mm focal length range was a traditional one in the film days, covering a range from relatively short to fairly long focal lengths. In the digital world (with its smaller sensor sizes), this lens roughly translates to a 105-450mm zoom, pretty long by any standard. The Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di LD Macro 1:2 AF is very appealingly priced for novice users, and throws in surprising macro capability as a bonus. But how did it handle our battery of tests? Read on for all the results!

As is often the case with inexpensive lenses, this entry-level Tamron is somewhat soft when used wide open. It becomes very soft as you approach the 300mm end of its zoom range. Closing the aperture by one stop improves matters greatly though, delivering respectable sharpness from 70 to about 180mm, while results at 300mm remain fairly soft. Closing down by two f-stops produces slight additional improvements, but results at 300mm never approach what we'd call sharp. Many photographers will find this lens usable over a range from 70-200mm, but most will probably find images shot at 300mm on the soft side. (On the other hand, with a street price well under $200, it may be the only way for many amateurs to afford a lens that long, so some softness can perhaps be forgiven.)

Chromatic Aberration
Chromatic aberration is quite reasonable from 70-180mm, and very good in the vicinity of 100mm. As with blur though, chromatic aberration becomes quite pronounced at 300mm, particularly in the corners of the frame.

Shading ("Vignetting")
Here we can see one benefit of using a lens with a 35mm image circle on a digital SLR with a sub-frame sensor: Light falloff in the corners of the frame is very low by any measure, and absolutely excellent one stop down from maximum aperture.

As with shading, so went distortion: The Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6 showed relatively slight pincushion distortion across most of its zoom range, switching to very slight barrel distortion at 70mm.

AF Operation
AF speed is one area where the Tamron 70-300mm's bargain construction shows: It's downright leisurely, particularly as the focus point is approached, where it seemed to "gear down" on our 5D body. That said though, it almost always went right to the proper focus setting, only rarely "hunting" back and forth. This lens wouldn't be a first choice for situations requiring high focusing speed. That is, it might do fine for a sport like baseball, where the action frequently happens at certain well-defined locations (the bases), but would likely struggle with a sport with wide-ranging action like soccer or football.

Manual focus adjustment is pretty smooth, with a decent range of travel that makes it easy to home in on the precise focus point you need. The focus ring moves so easily though, that it's easily jostled from its setting by a casual touch.

The macro setting on this lens is restricted to use between 180 and 300mm, unfortunately the range where the lens is at its softest. Note that the macro/normal switch, focusing ring, and zoom collar are all interlocked, so you have to have the zoom set to between 180 and 300mm before you can switch into macro, and you won't be able to switch back out again until you move the focus ring outside the macro range. (This could cause some confusion if you weren't expecting it, a case where reading the manual (or this review) might be helpful. At 300mm, the minimum working distance is just over three feet (just under one meter), a pretty long working distance that can either be a benefit or limitation, depending on the subject you happen to be photographing. At that distance, it takes in a subject area a bit under three inches wide on a full-frame camera, correspondingly less on a sub-frame model.

Build Quality and Handling
For an inexpensive lens, the Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6 felt surprisingly solid and operated quite smoothly. As noted above, we'd actually like just a little more resistance in the focus ring, but the zoom ring worked very smoothly, and with just the right amount of resistance: It was stiffer than many zooms in this respect, but the upside is that it showed virtually no tendency toward "zoom creep" when the camera was held with the lens pointing straight up or down. Overall, the Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6 felt better than we'd normally expect from a lens with such a low street price, a pleasant surprise in the handling department.

The Competition
As of this writing (early February, 2007), we haven't tested any lenses in this focal length range from the camera manufacturers, nor any competing models in the same price bracket from other third-party manufacturers. The lenses most Canon or Nikon DSLR owners will probably consider against this Tamron model are the 55-200mm lenses from the respective camera makers. Priced slightly higher than the Tamron 70-300mm the Canon EF 55-200mm f/4.5-5.6 II USM is also a full-frame lens, although we only tested it on a sub-frame body. (It was one of the first lenses we tested, before we began using the EOS-5D for full-frame tests.) It's actually quite close to the Tamron unit's performance in many areas, although the Tamron is a fair bit sharper, even at 300mm than the Canon is at 200mm. Chromatic aberration is roughly similar on both lenses, although the Canon does noticeably better in the middle of its focal length range. Distortion and shading are quite similar between the two optics, so the Tamron probably gets the overall nod for its combination of lower price, longer focal length range, and somewhat better sharpness from 180-300mm.

In the Nikon camp, the Nikkor 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED AF-S DX is a reduced image-circle lens build specifically for digital SLRs with sub-frame sensors. It's moderately sharper than the Tamron across its focal length range, and has lower chromatic aberration at large apertures, but similar CA when you stop down. Distortion and shading are both quite a bit higher than in the Tamron model though, so the Tamron again probably gets the nod, although the better sharpness of the Nikon lens is appealing.

While there are a few standout bargains to be found, the lens world is much like the rest of life: There's no free lunch, you tend to get what you pay for. It's thus no surprise that lenses as inexpensive as the Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6 don't perform as well a those costing three or four times as much. Within its price bracket though, this Tamron competes quite strongly against the camera makers' own offerings, delivering as good or better image quality, a long zoom range, decent build quality, all at an exceptional price. If you need a long zoom on a tight budget, the Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di LD Macro 1:2 AF is worth a close look.

Full-Frame Test Notes:

The larger pixels of our full-frame Canon EOS-5D test bed make for somewhat better blur performance. We were surprised by how well the lens did in the corners of the frame, where we often see increased softness at the edges of a lens' image circle. A surprisingly good performance, as long as your camera's pixels are large enough.

Chromatic Aberration
Chromatic aberration was also somewhat better on the 5D, although it did get a little high at maximum telephoto.

Shading ("Vignetting")
While the Tamron 70-300mm's blur characteristics held up quite well on the 5D's larger sensor, shading was another matter. There was a full 1/2 stop of light falloff in the corners at all focal lengths, decreasing as the aperture was stopped down. One stop down cut the falloff about in half, two stops brought it down to a pretty low level.

There's once again very slight barrel distortion at 70mm, but that quickly changes to rather pronounced pincushion distortion as you zoom. You may not notice this much on landscape or nature shots containing few straight lines, but shots of buildings or other man-made objects will show pronounced curvature where straight edges run parallel to the edges of the frame.

While the larger pixels on our full-frame EOS-5D test bed helped some aspects of this lens' performance, its distortion and vignetting become quite high when you ask it to cover the full 35mm frame. Stopped down, it might do in a pinch, but if you've invested in a full-frame camera, you should probably make the extra investment in quality glass to get the most from it.

Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di LD Macro 1:2 AF User Reviews

7.4/10 average of 16 review(s) Build Quality 6.6/10 Image Quality 7.3/10
  • 7 out of 10 points and recommended by TheSnore (1 reviews)
    Auto Focus noisy and sluggish.

    This is a full frame lens and I'm using it on a crop sensor body. I am very pleased with the image quality. Real life isn't tack sharp why should the images we capture be any different? The softness this lens reputedly suffers from is nothing that correctly used software can't sharpen and maybe it's just me but I like the realism the lens captures. One bugbear. Autofocus is incredibly noisy and annoying sluggish. This problem is easily eliminated by switching the lens to Manual and using it the old fashioned way.

    reviewed January 8th, 2013 (purchased for $159)
  • 7 out of 10 points and recommended by dugong5pm (52 reviews)
    surprisingly sharp, Macro mode, lightweight
    slow & noisy focus

    I bought it for $129 used. Nothing can go wrong for the price. This lens is surprisingly sharp, and it does well in Macro (1:2) too. Handling is good, feels comfort and easy to grip. It also has that solid feel in your hand (doesn't feel cheap). It comes with a nice hood.

    The minus side is the focusing mechanism. It has slow focusing (esp. in Macro mode). I prefer using manual override for macro. Sometimes it hunts too much when used in lowlight situation.
    Overall, it's a great telezoom for travelling. It's lightweight, sharp & does Macro too. Nice!

    reviewed October 12th, 2012 (purchased for $129)
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by iamipa (2 reviews)
    Light weight, Excellent value for money, Very useful macro capability
    Awkward engagement and disengagement of macro function

    I bought this lens about 18 months ago for use on my Nikon D80. Mine is the built in motor version, which focusses a bit slowly, but accurately.

    I was immediately impressed with its usefulness as a nature photography lens, being able to photograph birds in flight or at rest, or switch to macro and take excellent photos of insects, small animals, flowers, etc. Being able to then switch to the macro capability is very useful in the field, with the long working distance at the maximum magnification of 1:2 being ideal for photographing nervous insects etc.

    The Nikon 70 - 300 VR lense I bought subsequently does a better job of photographing birds (at a much higher cost). I also bought a Nikon 105 VR Micro lense which, while excellent, does not provide the same working distance as the Tamron lense.

    The 2 Nikon lenses are also much heavier, more expensive and slower to swap over in the field.

    The Tamron lense on the other hand can be converted from zoom telephoto to zoom macro quickly (see below!) before your subject leaves.

    Cons: On the negative side, I would say that images taken with the Tamron lense do not have the richness of colour of the Nikon lenses, however this can be adjusted in post processing to the user's taste.
    Also, the process for engaging and disengaging the macro function is fiddly and needs some practice to be used comfortably.

    Conclusion: Overall, an excellent lense for the beginning photographer on a budget.

    reviewed May 2nd, 2011 (purchased for $195)
  • 4 out of 10 points and not recommended by Simen1 (6 reviews)
    Cheap, light
    Image quality at 200-300mm, build quality, slow AF

    Despite its quite big, the weight is low. It feels like hollow plastic. Metal mount is positive.

    I bought this much because of the 200-300mm range, but this range disappoints me. Its quite soft and have bothersome CA in this range. At 70-200 its quite good for its price. Always stop it down one aperture for best results.

    Auto focus is very slow and hunts for focus a lot in the 200-300mm range. Sometimes it just get stuck at the wrong end of the focus range. I often end up switching to manual focus to get the job done.

    Macro mode has quite good image quality but it might be difficult to hand hold the camera steady about 1 meter away. Use manual focus in macro mode.

    Reversing the hood from storage position to shooting position can be difficult because it rotates the focus ring and front element.

    Spend a little more and get something better. Even if the alternative doesn't go all the way to 300mm.

    reviewed June 15th, 2009 (purchased for $217)
  • 7 out of 10 points and recommended by Bogdan (2 reviews)
    max magnification 0.50X (at300mm)
    soft at 300mm, CA at 300mm, focusing speed

    The Tamron 70-300 DI macro LD f/4-5.6
    Unlike most lenses who have macro in their name and don't really offer that much max. magnification this was
    a nice surprise when i heard it's max. magnification was 1:2
    The lens is quite sharp till about 200mm and then things get soft when shooting at 300mm i usually use f8
    Build quality:
    it feels good mounted on the camera really balances things and unlike the kit lens it doesn't
    wobble around if you shake it (don't try that too much at home!) the plastic used is quite good the only 2
    things i hate about it are for one the rather stiff zoom ring and when it is at 300mm and MFD of 0.95m
    then the lens really extends to twice it's size and to me really feels really insecure
    Focusing Speed:
    Very slow this is not the lens for fast moving subjects but if you do want
    to shoot them you need to anticipate their trajectory and focus on the ground fist then press the shutter
    button half-way and wait for them to come . It also tends to hunt a lot in dim light i had a lot of problems
    here once when shooting at a military event the soldiers where in the shade and after half a hour of shooting it wouldn't
    focus on them anymore quite annoying since i had to keep shooting so i used manual focus and ended up
    missing some shots and after 2 weeks it broke down for good and wouldn't focus at all i got it repaired
    and i am still shooting with it.
    Chromatic aberrations:
    another big downside of the lens it has massive color fringing in harsh contrast situations especially
    noticeable in the winter time this can be a big deal breaker for most buyers but if you only shoot
    raw and know to get rid of the color fringing via imaging tools this shouldn't really be a problem for you
    it's noticeable at 300 at the rest of the focal lengths it's better controlled
    not really a problem cause the hood they supply is quite large thanks to the focal length :)
    not noticeable in real life situations
    nothing to report here
    being a telephoto lens and also having 9 aperture blades helps a lot and this lens produces pleasantly
    smooth bokeh but it doesn't handle that well highlights at the longer end of the zoom

    If you want this lens you should really consider the sigma too it's faster not so noisy and handles
    color fringing better (the Sigma APO one).

    you can find some sample shots of this lens here ---> http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=tamron%2070-300&w=29429803%40N06

    reviewed May 20th, 2009 (purchased for $200)
  • 8 out of 10 points and recommended by VanS3n (1 reviews)
    sharp image, macro, good quality
    slow AF, hunts in low lighting, soft at 300mm

    just got this lens recently...
    its the first lens I have invested on aside from the kit lens that came w/ my 400D

    so far I find the macro quite handy... you just need to be conscious on how to switch to macro mode and back..

    it delivers sharp images at 70mm to 100mm yet it is soft beyond 180mm..

    slow AF esp in low lighting, its better to switch to manual focusing .. quite the hassle if your covering indoor events

    so far, I guess you just simply can't have everything
    and I do find this lens a worthy investment in my part

    reviewed April 11th, 2009
  • 7 out of 10 points and recommended by musorianin (1 reviews)
    price, close focus capability
    rotating front element, IQ over 200mm, focus speed

    Was fortunate enough to pick this up as a package with Tamron 17-55 f/2.8, so effectively did not pay that much, but even for the average retail price I would say its decent value. I wasn't really expecting to use it that much, just thought it'd be a bit of a bonus with the 17-55 (which is excellent), but I do use it quite a bit and mostly happy with results. Sharpness and contrast seem to drop off at longer focal length (as most already note).

    I like the "macro" mode, if its a gimiick, its a useful one--although pity it can't kick in a bit earlier than 180mm. For me, I'm happy to use a tripod for close-up stuff, and unlike others, I have no trouble with the switch. I've had some decend results here with static subjects, and even the odd insect in flight (with lots of light).

    Pretty leisurely focus speed: you can attempt some action shots with it, but be prepared for (very) low hit rate. If you've got sufficient light, and its laterally moving, you're be better of in manual focus for this type of thing.

    For the price, hard to go that wrong.

    reviewed March 26th, 2009
  • 7 out of 10 points and recommended by phoxhill (2 reviews)
    top ratio : quality/price - Macro 1:2
    loss of sharpness at 300mm / very long extended / plastic built

    A very usefull lens, sharp between 70 and 260mm but don't forget stopping down while you increase your focal lengh (ex. 70mm sharp at f/5.6 / 135mm sharp at f/7.1 / 200mm sharp at f/11 etc...) to get the maximum out of it !
    The macro position is a very nice option to have with a magnification ratio of 1:2

    Of course now that Tamron has got its flagship lens (70-200mm f/2.8) it looks a bit cheap but it is 4 times cheaper too.

    I bought it with my Pentax K10D kit lens 18-55mm and after one year of practice I still love it.

    So...Finally :

    What I regret :
    - MF ring a bit loose, especially for shooting macro.
    - loss of sharpness at the long end of zoom.
    - No quickshift system (instant manual access)
    - its extention is a bit exagerated.

    What I like :
    - Sharp in most of its range.
    - Real macro capable.
    - Versatile.
    - Very affordable.
    - No light fall off in corners
    - CA's well handelled same for distorsion.

    reviewed February 20th, 2009 (purchased for $190)
  • 7 out of 10 points and recommended by tthomsen (4 reviews)
    Very good value for it's price, Light and compact, good for traveling
    Strong purple fringing at high contrast edges

    My copy has on the Sony DSLR-A300 a center resolution of 1500 to 1800 LPH and corner resolution is typically between 1300 to 1600 LPH, measured in the range of biggest aperture down to F8. One special observation is the good telephoto performance at 300mm and the widest aperture of f5.6: 1650 center, 1550 corner. The worst wide-aperture image quality is at 180mm and f4.5, where the LPH values fall to 1450 center and 1300 corner. Consequently, center resolution is acceptable for a 10MP camera, and corner resolution is just tolerable, with 180mm/f4.5 unsatisfactorily. Here are the focal length/aperture settings that I typically use for my copy:
    70mm: f4.0 - f16
    100mm: f5.5 - f16
    135mm: f5.6 - f16
    180mm: f8.0 (only)
    300mm: f5.6 (only)

    Chromatic aberration is noticeable at the longer focal lengths and in the corners, but is no issue at shorter focal lengths and in the center. The big problem of my copy is strong purple fringing at high contrast edges. Just one other reviewer noted this in this forum, so I assume that this could be a specific problem of my copy. I did not notice any distortion, vignetting or flare that is worth mentioning. Build-quality is acceptable for amateur-use. Focusing is slow at times but always accurate and I noticed occasional hunting at low-light.

    Overall the lens is usable through its entire focal length, when you keep a few large aperture values in mind that you might want to avoid because of noticeable corner blur. The purple fringing can be quite disturbing in high-contrast photos and it cost quite an effort to alleviate the effect in Photoshop. However, what makes this lens still very attractive is its low weight and relatively small dimensions, making it a good choice for travellers. Given the very low price of this lens, the image quality is actually quite acceptable.

    reviewed December 24th, 2008 (purchased for $160)
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by kjelle (3 reviews)
    Very good at f8, small and light
    purple fringing, soft at the long end

    I use this lens on a Pentax K10D

    After reading much reviews i found out that this lens can be veery sharp if you use it the right way and produces very good images.
    Mostly i use it at f8 and 70-150 where it is at its best.

    reviewed October 28th, 2008 (purchased for $210)
  • 8 out of 10 points and recommended by mik10d (1 reviews)
    1:2 macro, zoom range, light, good handling, delivers very sharp images, best value for money!!
    CA´s, but only in very contrasty situations, easy to remove in PS

    I use this lens on a pentax k10d
    It is my first lens beside the 18-55 kit lens.
    After reading much reviews i found out myself that this tamron lens is veery sharp and produces very nice crispy images. It is a little bit heavier as the lens kit, but nothing to worry about. The handling is nice, only when fully zoomed its kind of a third leg :)
    I recommend this lens as a 2nd lens to anyone who has just the kit lens. You will be astonished how unsharp the 18-55 kit lens really is, so go and get it, you wont regret it :)

    reviewed October 13th, 2008 (purchased for $120)
  • 8 out of 10 points and recommended by pancreas (4 reviews)
    Lightweight, versatile range, cheap, reasonably good construction
    Image quality deteriorates beyond 200mm when wide open, prone to flare

    I got this as a gift since the original owner discovered that it wouldn't autofocus on his D40x. There's some severe chromatic aberration of the purple kind and blurring near its longest focal length, especially at its max aperture. Focusing speed is about on par with other non-AF-S lenses. The macro function is just a gimmick IMO, you need lots of light and a tripod for it to be effective.

    I suspect better samples of this lens exist since not every online review I've read about it notes the issues with blurring and chromatic aberration.

    When the sun is anywhere in or near the shot I've noticed that flare is really bad also. That's kind of expected for anything below $200. It's still good enough for my casual use anyway.

    reviewed April 11th, 2008
  • 8 out of 10 points and recommended by joekashi (7 reviews)
    Cheap, good image quality up to 200 mm or so, not very bulky
    image quality falls off past 200 mm

    Very good image quality for an inexpensive lens, better than the Nikon and Canon equivalents. Well worth using. Build quality better than you have a right to expect at this price point and image quality is pretty decent.

    reviewed January 26th, 2008 (purchased for $128)
  • 7 out of 10 points and recommended by rbh8252 (3 reviews)
    the macro switch, soft at focal lengths > 200mm

    was actually looking for something in the 200mm range and decided that for under $200 I would give this lens a try (not much to loose if I didn't like it). As I just recently purchased this lens I haven done much serious work with it yet but I am quite satisfied with the test shots I've taken espically if I stay below 200mm. Even the test shots I took at 300mm (on a bright clear day) weren't all that bad.
    For it's macro feature, once you get it into it's macro mode it does take some nice shots (note: a tripod is a must for macro shots at these focal lengths). Then the challange is getting the lens out of macro mode, luckly I was home because I had to go find teh bloody book to figure out how to exit the macro mode.
    Bottom line, if you're looking for a lens with a working range of 70-200 with the ocasional foray above 200mm this lens is a good value.

    reviewed April 9th, 2007 (purchased for $179)
  • 8 out of 10 points and recommended by silberma (1 reviews)
    Good build, metallic mount
    a bit soft at high focal lenghts and wide apperture

    Do you recall the saying when everything else fails read the instruction book. If you do so you will find that you need to set the focusing ring to a 1.5 meters or more to take out of Macro. Furthermore, the zoom needs to be set to between 180 and 300 mm to turn the macro switch on. There is more valuable information if you bother to read the instruction sheet

    PS not a bad lens for the money. The Nikkor equivalent costs more and is no better

    reviewed December 18th, 2006 (purchased for $179)
  • 8 out of 10 points and recommended by sjcosh (2 reviews)
    light, great DOF
    a little slow, macro button sticks in macro mode

    I bought this lens as a starter all purpose zoom, i must say so far its not a bad lens, very light so its great to travel with, sometimes images can be not as sharp as i would like, better sharpness through the middle fstops.

    Big con is the macro switch, i have to take the lens of the camera to swith it back from macro to normal as it wont with it on the camera body.

    reviewed December 10th, 2006 (purchased for $180)