The Tamron 70-210mm f/4 Di VC USD goes up against own-brand Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS II USM and Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f/4G ED VR zooms, which are much pricier to buy. As such, it’s a typically lightweight alternative to a ‘trinity’ f/2.8 telephoto zoom, giving a useful range of telephoto focal lengths with a still reasonably fast aperture rating that remains constant throughout the zoom range.
Mount: Canon EF, Nikon F FX
Full frame: Yes
Image stabilization: Yes
Lens construction: 20 elements in 14 groups
Angle of view: 23-7.5 degrees
Diaphragm blades: 9
Minimum aperture: f/32
Minimum focusing distance: 0.95m
Maximum magnification ratio: 0.32x
Filter size: 67mm
Weight: 860g (C) 850g (N)
The design looks relatively basic, with no autofocus range limiter switch, nor switchable stabilization modes. There are basically only two switches on the lens barrel, for VC on/off and AF/MF. Even so, there’s more to this lens than immediately meets the eye.
Autofocus is courtesy of a ring-type ultrasonic system that’s both very quick and whisper-quiet. Tamron’s proprietary ‘Vibration Compensation’ system for optical image stabilization is typically adept, giving a 4-stop reduction in camera-shake, at least for static shooting.
Despite the no-frills appearance, build quality is good, with a robust feel, refined handling and the inclusion of weather-seals. The lens is compatible with Tamron’s latest tele-converters and TAP-in Console, for fine-tuning, customization and the application of firmware updates. A tripod mounting collar is also available as an optional extra.
Driven by dual microprocessors, the autofocus and stabilization systems are very effective, the former being quick and accurate, the latter living up to its 4-stop billing. However, stabilization during panning proved less effective in our tests. Centre-sharpness is very good at mid-zoom settings but drops off more than with pricier recent own-brand Canon and Nikon 70-200mm f/4 lenses at the long and short ends. Corner-sharpness is also a bit less impressive.
We run a range of lab tests under controlled conditions, using the Imatest Master testing suite. Photos of test charts are taken across the range of apertures and zooms (where available), then analyzed for sharpness, distortion and chromatic aberrations.
We use Imatest SFR (spatial frequency response) charts and analysis software to plot lens resolution at the center of the image frame, corners and mid-point distances, across the range of aperture settings and, with zoom lenses, at four different focal lengths. The tests also measure distortion and color fringing (chromatic aberration).
Good rather than great, the Tamron lags behind the Canon and Nikon f/4 lenses for sharpness.
There’s not much to worry about in terms of fringing but it’s slightly worse than average.
Barrel and pincushion distortion at the short and long end are fairly minimal.
As a relatively low-budget alternative to the latest own-brand Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS II USM or Nikon 70-200mm f/4 stabilized telephoto zooms, the Tamron will certainly save you a sizeable chunk of cash. All-round performance and image quality are good, and the lens is well-built with multiple weather-seals. However, for handling finesse, exotic features and sharpness, it’s something of a poor relation to its own-brand siblings.
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