Among pros, image-stabilized 70–200mm f/2.8 full-frame zooms have become must-own glass. They’re in Canon ($2,499, street), Nikon ($2,397), Sigma ($1,399), and now Tamron’s catalogs ($1,499), and we see them at weddings, sporting events, in portrait studios, and in backpacks. Tamron’s version includes four elements of low-dispersion and one of extra low-dispersion glass. Another boast: Its Vibration Control has been redesigned for better performance.
Not for the faint of wrist, this 3.32 pounder is actually several ounces lighter and about a quarter-inch shorter than the competition. Its nonrotating front ring is nice for lens-mounted filters; the 130-degree manual focus turn is just about perfect (although at a little over a half inch, the MF ring is small); the build is robust, with rubber cowling at the lens mount. There’s no depth-of-field scale, though. (The comparable Sigma has two.)
In the field, we were bowled over by the near-silent USD focusing motor. On our Canon EOS 5D Mark III, AF was rapid, silent, and sure. On our optical test bench, the lens produced Excellent-range SQF numbers for sharpness and contrast at 70mm and 135mm. Like most zooms in this category, though, it dipped to Very Good at 200mm. (Only the Nikon held onto top sharpness at 200mm.)
In our DxO Analyzer 4.1 tests, distortion control proved best in its class: it produced only Slight distortion at 70mm and 200mm (0.11% barrel and 0.18% pincushion, respectively) and Imperceptible (0.09%) pincushioning at 135mm.
The new image stabilizer seems truly improved. In our tests, three users averaged about 3.5 stops of additional handheld sharpness. Tempted by the nonstabilized version? It is a half-pound lighter, costs half as much, offers much more subject magnification, and takes sharper images at 200mm. But you’d miss out on a whole lot of handheld shooting. For us, money aside, it’s a no-brainer.
70–200mm (68.68–196.11mm tested), f/2.8 (f/2.70 tested), 23 elements in 17 groups. Focus ring turns 130 degrees. Zoom ring turns 70 degrees. Focal length marked at 70-, 100-, 135-, and 200mm.
Diagonal view angle: 34–12 degrees.
Weight: 3.32 lbs. Filter size: 77mm.
Mounts: Canon AF, Nikon AF, Sony AF.
Included: Lenshood, tripod collar.
Street price: $1,499.
Distortion: At 70mm, 0.11% (Slight) barrel. At 135mm, 0.09% (Imperceptible) pincushion. At 200mm, 0.18% (Slight) pincushion.
Light falloff: Gone by f/4 at three tested focal lengths.
Close-focus distance: 45.83 inches.
Maximum magnification ratio: At 70mm, 1:13.50. At 135mm, 1:8.36. At 200mm, 1:6.75.
Image Stabilization: Average of 3.5 stops for three unique users.