Here’s all you need to know about the new Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 DI VC G2 lens: It is an excellent lens for a very attractive price.
Seriously, I have never used a Tamron lens this good in my entire career. I’ve owned three Tamrons over the years and have always been disappointed with something about them. My previous Tamron lenses suffered from low image quality, build quality, feel, function, flare, chromatic aberration, color fidelity, or a mix of each. This new 70-200mm G2 lens from Tamron is truly excellent, and that’s coming from a long-time Nikon die-hard.
There’s been quite a bit of buzz about this lens in the photo media, so I felt I had to try it out myself. I purchased my own copy from Adorama.com and have been using it for the last two weeks at school track meets and in my hometown of Gig Harbor, Washington.
The Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 G2 is available in Nikon and Canon mounts. For this review, I tested a Nikon mount version and used it predominately on my Nikon D500. It is a full-frame lens and works seamlessly with full-frame and cropped-frame cameras. My Nikon version is fully compatible with cameras like the D5, D750, D810, D7500, D7200, D610, D5600 and so on.
One of the biggest things going for this lens is its relatively low price. At $1,299 it is less than half the cost of the $2,800 Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR. For this price differential, you can buy the Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 and the new Nikon 200-500mm lens ($1,400) while still having enough money left over for $100 of Starbuck’s lattes. That’s at least a week of coffee for us Washingtonians!
On my Nikon D500, the autofocus performance of the Tamron is truly superb. It is snappy and accurate and among the best-performing autofocus lenses I own. The silent wave motor is truly silent and effortlessly tracks moving subjects, no matter how fast they are moving.
I took the lens to two track meets and shot over 3,500 photos of athletes in motion. Of those images, I estimate only about 150 to 200 shots to be unusable. Half of the unusable shots were my fault for mistakenly twisting the focus ring rather than the zoom ring while shooting.
This AF “hit” performance is a big improvement over all previous Tamron lenses I’ve used and matches up with any of my pro Nikon f/2.8 lenses. Really, I was very impressed.
I just finished writing my new book; Nikon Autofocus System 2nd Edition and I wish I had this lens during the writing process. I definitely would have given Tamron a shout out in my lens section of the book as a high performing 3rd party lens.
The VC (vibration compensation) mechanism on this lens is excellent. I’ve found that mode 3 works the best for my hand-held sports and action work, as it is designed to be the most aggressive.
There are three vibration compensation modes:
Mode 1 – This is a basic mode that tries to strike a balance between finder-image stability and vibration compensation performance. This mode isn’t as aggressive as Mode 3, but is a good all-around VC mode for when you want to “see” the VC effect through the viewfinder.
Mode 2 – Panning mode. Use when panning left or right with moving subjects.
Mode 3 – Prioritizes vibration compensation performance, compensating only at the moment the shutter is released. This is the most aggressive setting and Tamron claims it compensates up to 5 stops. I haven’t fully tested it to see if their claims are true, but I have found this mode to be “best” during my testing. When I have more time, I’ll try to hand-hold some 200mm shots at 1/15 second or 1/8 second shutter speeds to see if it is truly possible.
The lens focuses down to 3.1 feet (0.95 meter), so at 200mm, it has a 1:6 reproduction ratio. This is definitely sufficient, but doesn’t focus as close as the Nikon (1:4.8) or Canon (1:5) models. If I were using this lens to do macro work, then I’ll add an extension tube to improve its close-focusing capability.
Handling is very good and the lens feels solid. The zoom ring is at the front of the lens, so depending on what previous lens you were using, you’ll have to get used to holding the lens at the front of the barrel.
My first two days using the lens was a bit frustrating because I would rotate the focus ring by habit, thinking I was rotating the zoom ring. Not a big deal, but some of you Nikon and Canon shooters will have to spend time learning new muscle memory.
A very nice touch is the tripod foot on the lens collar. It is designed with the Arca Swiss plate architecture built in. That means if you are using a RRS or Kirk or Arca Swiss quick release system, you won’t need to purchase an additional plate.
The lens collar is solid and stable. It is designed so you can quickly and easily remove it from the lens barrel for more comfortable hand-holding.
I regularly and inadvertently toggle the lens barrel switches on/off while taking the lens in and out of my camera bag. There are four lens barrel switches:
– VC (image stabilization) mode: 1 – 2 – 3.
– VC on/off
– Focus distance limit: Full or infinity to 3m
Over the last two weeks, I’ve had all four switches turn on or off as I brought the camera out of the bag to take shots. Sometimes it is the AF/MF switch, which turns off autofocus. Just yesterday I accidently turned off the focus distance limit switch. I was shooting a close up of a crab on the beach and couldn’t figure out why the lens wouldn’t focus closer than about 10 feet. I pulled the camera away from my eye, and quickly diagnosed the problem … SWITCH!!!
The switches on Nikon lenses are much lower-profile and therefore don’t get inadvertently moved while using the lens in the real world.
The lens caps work “fine”, but they are a bit clunky. The front cap works better than the rear. My problem with the rear cap is that it doesn’t mount/dismount as easily or quickly as the Nikon OEM caps.
The Tamron rear lens cap works with my Nikon lenses, but it doesn’t easily snap into place like I’m used to with the Nikon cap. The solution is easy though; I’ve decided to use only Nikon lens caps! I have enough of them, so I’ll be using the Nikon caps from now on.
Overall, I give this lens two big thumbs up. I have decided to keep the Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 G2 in my camera bag as my primary pro 70-200 lens. I’ll work around the minor issues I detailed above because the cost of the lens is so much lower than the cost of the Nikon. Auto focus performance is among the best I’ve seen and the resulting images are top notch.
Tamron has come a long way and if this lens is any indication of their commitment to excellence, I’d say Nikon and Canon better keep upping their game!