Earlier this year, the highly anticipated Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8 telephoto lens finally hit the shelves. Made for full-frame Sony E-mount cameras, this lens is very compact and affordable, coming in at more than half the price of the Sony G-Master version. What are the pros and cons of getting this lens? Read on to find out!
Photographers often refer to the “holy trinity” of zoom lenses that cover a wide range of focal lengths. Traditionally, the holy trinity consists of a wide-angle lens (16-35mm), a midrange lens (24-70mm), and a telephoto lens (70-200mm). Tamron has been working on their own version of the holy trinity that includes the 17-28mm f/2.8, 28-75mm f/2.8, and now the 70-180mm f/2.8.
All three of these Tamron lenses complement each other in that they are very affordable, compact in size, and even use the same filter thread size of 67mm. The low cost is probably the most attractive feature. You can have the Tamron holy trinity of f/2.8 lenses for just under US$3,000. In comparison, buying all three Sony G-Master lenses would cost a whopping US$7,000.
The formal name of this lens is the Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8 Di III VXD. Tamron claims this is the “world’s lightest and most compact package,” and it’s hard to disagree when comparing this lens to similar focal lengths. The lens is 5.9 inches (149mm) long and weighs 1.8lbs (816 grams). The Tamron 70-180mm also has moisture resistance and weather sealing.
This is an autofocus lens with two rubber barrels – one controls focus and the other zooms. The front part of the lens extends when zoomed in. There is just one minimal locking switch on the lens to keep it from extending when not in use. No other physical buttons or switches are on the lens. The minimum focusing distance is 33.5 inches, however, you can focus down to 10.6 inches when using manual focus at 70mm.
One last thing to mention about this and every Tamron lens is the 6-year warranty for USA residents. The warranty period is much longer than Sony’s and just about any lens manufacturer out there.
The Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8 is very easy to use, especially if you’ve ever shot with a 70-200mm f/2.8. In practice, it’s almost not fair to compare these two lenses. The Tamron is considerably smaller and lighter than any 70-200mm f2/.8 on the market. It weighs 1.46 lbs lighter than the Sony G-Master, and it easily fits inside of medium-sized bags that a traditional 70-200mm lens would never fit into. Thus, it’s no longer a second thought on whether this lens should be packed on a hiking trip, or whipped out to shoot a quick photo.
To keep the lens small, 20mm was shaved from the long end which might be a problem if you really need to be shooting at 200mm. However, Sony full-frame shooters have the option of shooting in APS-C mode to get a zooming effect (roughly 270mm with the 1.5 crop factor). When shooting with a high-resolution camera such as the Sony a7rIV and its 61 megapixels, you also have more megapixels, so cropping is a viable option.
The autofocus performance on this lens is phenomenal. You have access to all of the autofocus features in your Sony E-mount camera including face and eye detect for humans and animals.
Autofocus was snappy and accurate when shooting a still or moving subject. This lens feels just like using a native Sony lens in a much lighter and cheaper body.
Like the rest of the lenses in the Tamron holy trinity, the 70-180mm is missing image stability built into the lens. Tamron claims it isn’t needed because many Sony full-frame cameras come with in-body image stabilization (IBIS, or SteadyShot).
While this might seem like a downside, Tamron might be onto something. In practice, the 70-180mm shot incredibly stable handheld video, even at 180mm. Stills photography was also very sharp and spot-on in every scenario. Along those lines, let’s talk about image quality.
When reviewing images, the Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8 leaves little to be desired. Photos are tack sharp and crisp with excellent color. Thanks to the lens coating, there is also very little ghosting and flare, even in the most backlit conditions.
This is a rather short review, because there honestly isn’t a lot to say about this lens other than it is impressive on every level. If you want an ultra-compact f/2.8 telephoto zoom at a very affordable price, this is the one for you.
However, you’ll want to act fast since this lens has been back-ordered ever since it was announced, and for good reason.