Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 review: A top-notch telephoto zoom

Independent lens brands were once deemed inferior to marque optics, but over the last decade or so, the gap in optical quality is such that this argument is no longer valid. Now, when choosing new lenses to add to your outfit, the likes of Tamron, Sigma and Zeiss offer optics that deserve equal consideration against marque brands, and boast image quality that is near-indiscernible to marque optics. This lens from Tamron is no exception to that rule. 

Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 DI VC USD G2 review: What you need to know

Photographers upgrading their lenses usually start with a fast standard zoom or a fast telephoto zoom. When it comes to the latter option, the most popular choice is the 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom, with every major brand offering at least one lens of this type.

This focal length is incredibly versatile and is popular with portrait, fashion and wedding photographers, but is widely used by wildlife and architectural photographers too.

Tamron has offered fast telephoto zooms for decades and this latest version upgrades the first generation zoom that first appeared around five years ago. That lens was very successful and the extensive improvements and enhancements on this latest version mean we expect this one will be too.

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Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 DI VC USD G2 review: Design and layout

Lenses of this type are naturally large and heavy and while that’s also the case with the Tamron, its design balances nicely on mid-range and pro-spec DSLRs. It’s very well made, feels robust and thanks to its dust-and weather-proofing, is suitable for use in less than ideal weather conditions.

A five-year warranty should provide further reassurance of its reliability. Its chiefly black barrel looks classy and expensive and the design is well thought out, with a large zoom ring at the front end and a well-sized focus ring just behind. A focus window provides a distance scale in metres and feet.

Four clearly-labelled buttons control focusing and stabilisation. The first two handle Vibration Compensation (which promises a five-stop benefit): one switches VC on and off, the other sets it to one of three options: VC1 is for normal use, VC2 for panning, while VC3 prioritises the stabilisation of the captured images over the viewfinder.

Next to these are the AF/Manual focus switch and the focus limiter, allowing you to have AF covering the whole focusing range or from 3m to infinity, to help reduce hunting times. Behind these controls is the tripod collar, on a ring that allows its position to be easily changed.

Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 DI VC USD G2 review: Features

The optical array has seen a major overhaul, with 23 elements in 17 groups, including five Low Dispersion (LD) and one extra-low-dispersion (XLD) elements to minimise chromatic aberrations and maximise sharpness.

Also, eBAND (Extended Bandwidth and Angular-Dependency) Coating offers anti-reflection properties to minimise ghosting and flare, improve light transmission and reduce internal reflections. An Ultrasonic Silent Drive (USD) ring-type motor provides fast, responsive and quiet autofocus.

Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 DI VC USD G2 review: Performance

We found all these above upgrades produced image quality on a par with lenses that are far more expensive. Sharpness throughout the focal length range is high even at wider apertures, with f/8-11 providing the sharpest results.

(Above: 70mm vs 200mm zoom)

Even at smaller apertures diffraction isn’t too big a problem, while used at f/2.8-4, bokeh is particularly pleasing. The Vibration Compensation system works incredibly well, with handheld images at around four stops maintaining sharpness.

There is little to differentiate the Tamron from Canon and Nikon equivalents, save one important factor – the price. With the Tamron costing around £500 less than the Canon equivalent and around £1,000 less than the Nikon. Unless you want the ultimate in performance, we think this lens represents excellent value for money and is worthy of serious consideration.

Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 DI VC USD G2 review: Verdict

If you’re looking for a top-notch telephoto zoom, this latest incarnation from Tamron offers premium performance at a far more affordable price than marque lenses. It’s definitely one for the shortlist.

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