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Review by Markus Stamm, published April 2017
The market segment of fast stabilised tele zooms was long left to the original manufacturers and their high-priced offerings targeting professional photographers. 3rd party options usually lacked comparable specs (most notably optical stabilisation) and usually didn't offer the same level of optical performance, but at least were available at considerably lower prices.
Nowadays, though, at least Sigma and Tamron have become more confident to be able to compete in this segment, too. Tamron's first attempt to do so is called SP AF 70-200 mm f/2.8 Di VC USD, offers both optical stabilisation as well as a modern ultrasonic autofocus drive. All this combined with a price tag that's not cheap in absolute terms, but more likely to fit an amateur's budget, too.
This is a review of the first generation of the Tamron 70-200/2.8 VC, model A009. The current and updated G2 version (model A025) will also be reviewed, soon.
The build quality of the of the Tamron 70-200 VC is very good, but not on the same high level as for example the competing Nikkor lenses (which, as already mentioned, are targeted mainly at professionals and come with a considerably higher price tag). The lens barrel is made of high quality plastic based on a metal mount. In addition to the obligatory rubber sealing, Tamron claims a moisture resistant construction for the whole lens barrel.
A plastic petal shaped lens hood is part of the package, as well as a removable tripod collar.
The lens features a quite complex design with 23 elements. However, a look at the specs also reveals that it shows a considerable amount of focus breathing, an issue that is also found on the Nikon AF-S 70-200/2.8 VR II. At its closest focus distance of 1.3m, the Tamron offers a magnification of just 1:8, while some competing lenses (like Canon's current EF 70-200/2.8 IS USM II or most f/4 zooms in this class) are closer to 1:5 here. In practice this means, that the maximum focal length at close distances is considerably less than 200mm.
The lens offers optical stabilisation (called VC by Tamron's marketing, for 'vibration compensation'). Tamron claims an efficiency of up to 4 f-stops. As usual, one should take these claims with a grain of salt, to us it seemed more like three stops in the field, however your individual mileage in this regard may vary. Unlike on competing lenses, there is no mode switch for VC, it can just be switched on or off. There is no dedicated mode for panning, you'll have to rely on the lens to reliably detect panning movement.
There is also no focus limiter switch, however the lens' ultrasonic AF drive is very fast and as such a focus limiter is usually not missed in real-life shooting scenarios.
Thanks to an IF (internal focusing) design the front element does not rotate so using a polarizer is no problem. And, as practically all modern AF lenses for F-mount, the Tamron is a G-type lens, so doesn't offer an aperture ring.
|Optical construction||23 elements in 17 groups inc. 4 LD and 1 XLD elements|
|Number of aperture blades||9 (rounded)|
|min. focus distance||1.3 m (max. magnification ratio 1:8)|
|Dimensions||85.8 x 196.7 mm|
|Filter size||77 mm (non-rotating)|
|Hood||Bayonet mount, petal-shaped, supplied|
|Other features||Lens provides distance (D) information. Removable tripod collar. Optical stabilization (VC)|