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Review by Markus Stamm and Klaus Schroiff, published May 2011
The Tamron AF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 SP Di VC USD is the latest addition to the market segment of stabilized slow speed consumer grade tele-zoom lenses. It faces rather stiff competition from its direct competitor - the Nikon AF-S 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 VR - which has been immensely successful ever since it was introduced.
On paper the Tamron throws a new optical design with XLD glass ("Extra Low Dispersion"), VC ("Vibration Control", 4 f-stop effectivity) and the new USD ("Ultrasonic Silent Drive") into the fight. Price-wise it is on roughly the same level as the Nikon lens.
In this review we will have a look at how the lens performs on our FX test camera, the Nikon D3x.
The Tamron lens belongs to the SP ("Super Performance") series - Tamron's professional-grade product range. The build quality is not comparable to high-end Nikkor lenses but it's very good nonetheless. The lens body is made of quite high quality plastics based on a metal mount. The inner lens tube extends when zooming towards the long end but there's no wobbling even at 300mm.
The focus and zoom control rings operate smoothly. The front element does not rotate during focus operations so using a polarizer remains easily possible. A petal-shaped lens hood is part of the package.
The USD ("Ultrasonic Silent Drive") is a new development by Tamron and used in the AF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 SP Di VC USD for the very first time. It provides fast and near-silent AF operations. FTM, full-time manual focusing, is possible in single-shot AF mode. The AF accuracy of our test sample was good.
The Tamron lens offers a VC ("Vibration Control") which is comparable to Nikon's VR. When looking through the viewfinder with this lens attached, the image is a lot more stable than with a Nikon VR lens. However, this is not due to much better efficiency of the VC system, it simply works in a different manner. Nikon VR has two stages: as soon as the viewfinder is half pressed VR starts to work with reduced movements to stabilize the viewfinder image. When the shutter is released, the system enables full stabilization movement for the actual exposure.
VC in the other hand seems to be in "full throttle" mode all the time. This results in a rock solid viewfinder image. Sounds good at first, but can become somewhat annoying when trying to slightly adjust composition: VC quite often compensates the intended movements.
Tamron claims an efficiency of about 4 f-stops. Based on our field experience it seems closer to 3 f-stops though. According to Tamron the lens detects panning on-the-fly, but does not offer a tripod detection so you have to switch it off in such a situation.
The Tamron 70-300 VC is a G-type lens and thus does not offer an aperture ring.
|Optical construction||17 elements in 12 groups incl. 1 XLD and 1 LD element|
|Number of aperture blades||9 (rounded)|
|min. focus distance||1.5 m (max. magnification ratio 1:4)|
|Dimensions||82 mm x 143 mm|
|Filter size||62 mm (non-rotating)|
|Hood||petal shaped, bayonet mount, supplied|
|Other features||Lens provides distance (D) information. Ultra sonic drive. Vibration compensation (VC).|