Friday, November 19, 2010

Tamron SP 70-300mm f4-5.6 Di VC USD Lens

click photo to enlarge
When I bought my Canon "full-frame" sensor camera I also got the 24-105mm f4 L and the 17-40mm f4 L lenses. I tend to shoot mainly in the wide and "normal" ranges and these cover most of what I want to do. However, I do like to venture into the reaches of longer telephoto now and again, and had been used to going up to 300mm (35mm equivalent) with my Olympus system. Consequently I looked around for an EF mount lens that would allow me to do that. The lower price Canon offerings didn't especially appeal, and a higher price 70-300mm wasn't available (though one has just appeared at around £1500)! However, I did like the images produced by the competitively priced Tamron SP 70-300mm f4-5.6 Di VC USD Lens. This mouthful of a telephoto had picked up a 2010 "best zoom lens" award from EISA. That organisation had been impressed by its sharpness across the whole of its range, its compact size, very quiet auto-focus and effective image stabilisation (or "vibration compensation" as Tamron calls it.) But, there was a problem for me - it was only available in Nikon mount in the UK, though supplies in Canon EF were on their way. So I decided to wait and buy one when they appeared in the shops.

I'm glad I did because this lens impresses me very much. And I don't mean "relative to its price": it impresses me in absolute terms. I haven't done any formal tests, I've simply looked carefully at the images I've produced using the lens in the light of my thirty odd years experience of long lens usage. What I see pretty much agrees with the MTF charts and other such technical paraphernalia that others have used to assess it. Many 70-300mm lenses manage to be acceptably sharp at the lower end, but soften up from about 200mm onwards. This one is very good at all lengths, even 300mm. Distortion is minimal, as is vignetting, and chromatic abberation hasn't been a problem (though someone has noticed a bit at 300mm/5.6). The stabilization is remarkable and very noticeable when you half depress the shutter button - it really does "lock on" to your subject and your shake almost disappears. If I have any criticisms it is that the lens is relatively heavy, and its lens hood is a little too long to make storage in a smallish bag possible without reversing it.

I've taken quite a few shots with it, and though I haven't produced many that I consider good enough to post here, those that I have rejected weren't discounted on the grounds of blurring caused by my shaking hands. Today's photograph was taken at 4.40pm on 6th November when the sun was very low and early evening was drawing in. It shows the crowds crossing the Millennium Bridge over the River Thames between Tate Modern and St Paul's Cathedral. I took three shots from this position with the focus at different points. Here it is on the people in the mid-distance.

For those who are interested in such things you can assume that any future photograph that I present where the focal length exceeds 105mm is taken using the verbosely named Tamron SP 70-300mm f4-5.6 Di VC USD lens.

Update 24.11.2010
A small niggle - the ease with which the AF/MF and the VC (Vibration Control) On/Off switches can be inadvertently moved if the lens is kept in a tightly packed bag.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 300mm
F No: f5.6
Shutter Speed: 1/250
ISO: 1600
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On