On Trial – Tam­ron SP 70-200mm f2.8 Di VC USD G2 Zoom

Tam­ron SP 70-200mm f2.8 Di VC USD G2 Zoom

ProPhoto - - CONTENTS - Re­port by Paul Bur­rows

The 70-200mm f2.8 zoom is a sta­ple of the pro­fes­sional lens in­ven­tory and Tam­ron’s new G2 model has been re­designed both in­side and out to re­set the bar in terms of per­for­mance-ver­sus-price.

Nikon has raised the bar with its lat­est f2.8 speed 70-200mm pro-level zoom, but Tam­ron’s new G2 model re­veals it clearly rel­ishes a chal­lenge.

Along with The 24-70mm f2.8, the 70-200mm f2.8 is a sta­ple of any work­ing pho­tog­ra­pher’s kit. To­gether they span a fo­cal range that takes in a wide va­ri­ety of ap­pli­ca­tions and the con­stant aper­ture of f2.8 pro­vides plenty of flex­i­bil­ity when it comes to low light sit­u­a­tions or re­duc­ing depth-of-field.

Not sur­pris­ingly then, the D-SLR mak­ers pride them­selves on their 70-200mm f2.8 zooms and there have been reg­u­lar up­grades to in­cor­po­rate new fea­tures – such as op­ti­cal im­age sta­bil­i­sa­tion – and im­proved op­ti­cal de­signs util­is­ing the lat­est ma­te­ri­als and man­u­fac­tur­ing tech­niques. Nikon, for ex­am­ple, has only just re­cently in­tro­duced its third- gen­er­a­tion model boast­ing numer­ous per­for­mance en­hance­ments and a more com­pact, lighter weight de­sign. The ‘in­de­pen­dents’ too have recog­nised the im­por­tance of hav­ing a high­per­for­mance 70-200mm f2.8 in the range – of­ten with a price ad­van­tage over the cam­era brands – and Tam­ron has just upped the ante with its all-new ‘Gen­er­a­tion 2’ – G2, for short – model. The pre­vi­ous ver­sion, by the way, has been around since 2012 and a bit has hap­pened in lens de­sign and tech­nol­ogy since then.

The ‘of­fi­cial’ model name is the Tam­ron SP 70-200mm f2.8 Di VC USD G2 – so it’s per­haps not sur­pris­ing there’s a sim­pler Model A025 des­ig­na­tion for those that need it.

To The Let­ter

As with most ac­ces­sory lenses, it’s all those ini­tials in the model name which tell the story. Of course, Tam­ron has been us­ing the ‘SP’ pre­fix on its high­erend lenses from decades (it stands for ‘Su­per Per­for­mance’, by the way) and the G2 model has an all-new op­ti­cal de­sign, in­cor­po­rat­ing a host of cur­rent tech­nolo­gies to de­liver a range of im­prove­ments to imag­ing per­for­mance.

The op­ti­cal con­struc­tion com­prises 23 el­e­ments in 17 groups with five of these el­e­ments be­ing low dis­per­sion (LD) types and one be­ing an XLD type… which sig­ni­fies ‘eX­tra Low Dis­per­sion’ char­ac­ter­is­tics. These spe­cial el­e­ments work to min­imise chro­matic aber­ra­tions – or colour fring­ing – by lim­it­ing the amount of dis­per­sion be­tween the dif­fer­ent coloured wave­lengths of light as they are re­fracted. Chro­matic aber­ra­tions can be par­tic­u­larly prob­lem­atic with fast tele­photo lenses and Tam­ron’s de­sign is in­tended to be ef­fec­tive across the lens’s fo­cal range which is al­ways a chal­lenge.

Tam­ron’s lat­est’s ‘eBAND’ an­tire­flec­tion coat­ing is ap­plied to el­e­ment sur­faces – the name is short for ‘Ex­tended Band­width And An­gu­larDepen­dency’ – and its spe­cial nanos­truc­ture layer has an ex­tremely low re­frac­tive in­dex to fur­ther as­sist with the min­imis­ing of ghost­ing and flare. The zoom’s fo­cus­ing group is in­ter­nal – so the front el­e­ment doesn’t ro­tate – and changes made to the de­signs of both the fo­cus­ing and zoom­ing cams re­duce the min­i­mum fo­cus­ing dis­tance by quite a bit to 95 cen­time­tres which, at 200mm, gives a max­i­mum mag­ni­fi­ca­tion ra­tio of 1:6.1. For the record, the pre­vi­ous model only fo­cused down to 1.3 me­tres.

Aut­o­fo­cus­ing is via Tam­ron’s lat­est ver­sion of its ‘Ul­tra­sonic Silent Drive’ – that’s the USD ini­tials in the model name – which is con­trolled via two pro­ces­sors and a new al­go­rithm to op­ti­mise speed with­out com­pro­mis­ing ac­cu­racy. It’s a ring-type drive which pro­vides a full-time man­ual over­ride for fine-tun­ing. For even faster AF op­er­a­tions, there’s a lim­iter switch which can be set to lock out the clos­est dis­tances from three me­tres to the min­i­mum ob­ject dis­tance. In­ci­den­tally,

this range can be changed us­ing the op­tional ‘Tap-In Con­sole’ which is a USB dock en­abling var­i­ous ad­just­ments and firmware up­grades.

Steady Up

Also new-and-im­proved is the op­ti­cal im­age sta­biliser. Tam­ron uses the name ‘Vi­bra­tion Com­pen­sa­tion’ (VC for short) and it now de­liv­ers up to five stops of correction for cam­era shake which is cur­rently the high­est pro­vided on any pro-level f2.8 speed 70-200mm zoom.

There are three im­age sta­biliser modes for gen­eral shooting, for pan­ning (with the lens de­tect­ing the ac­tual ori­en­ta­tion) and for en­gag­ing only dur­ing an ex­po­sure rather than also when view find­ing.

The A025’s op­ti­cal de­sign has been op­ti­mised for use with Tam­ron’s new tele­con­vert­ers – the 1.4x Model TC-X14 and the 2.0x Model TC-X20 – which in­crease the fo­cal range to 100-280mm (with a max­i­mum aper­ture of f4.0) and 140-400mm (f5.6) re­spec­tively. Full aut­o­fo­cus­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties are re­tained.

While pri­mar­ily de­signed for use with full-35mm for­mat sen­sors (Tam­ron uses the des­ig­na­tion ‘Di’), this lens can be used on ‘APS-C’ for­mat D-SLRs when the ef­fec­tive fo­cal length be­comes 105300mm (at 1.5x) or 112-320 (at 1.6x).

The G2 70-200mm f2.8 is cur­rently avail­able in the Canon EF and Nikon F mounts, the lat­ter be­ing the G-Type con­fig­u­ra­tion so aper­ture se­lec­tion is con­trolled from the cam­era body. This is now stan­dard across Nikon’s D-SLR line-up, but will pre­clude the Tam­ron’s use on many older dig­i­tal bod­ies from around mid-2007 or ear­lier (and all 35mm film bod­ies).

How­ever, us­ing the G-Type mount has en­abled Tam­ron to adopt an elec­tro­mag­net­i­cally-con­trolled di­aphragm in its Nikon model and this al­lows for more ac­cu­rate aper­ture set­ting – es­pe­cially frame-to-frame with con­tin­u­ous shooting. In­ci­den­tally, the aper­ture range in both ver­sions is from f2.8 to f22 and the di­aphragm it­self em­ploys nine blades to give smoother out-of-fo­cus ef­fects.

In The Hand

In terms of its phys­i­cal con­struc­tion the new Tam­ron 70-200mm f2.8 zoom em­ploys metal bar­rel tubes with full seal­ing against the in­tru­sion of dust or mois­ture. Tam­ron says it’s us­ing a new sealant ma­te­rial which is ap­plied in all the joints to pro­vide more ef­fec­tive pro­tec­tion against the el­e­ments. A very sub­stan­tial gas­ket pro­tects the lens mount. Ad­di­tion­ally, a flu­o­rine coat­ing is used on the ex­posed sur­face of the front el­e­ment to help re­pel both wa­ter and grease, and al­low for eas­ier wip­ing down. Should you pre­fer to fit a pro­tec­tive fil­ter, the screwthread di­am­e­ter fit­ting is 77 mil­lime­tres. A bay­o­net-fit petal-type lens hood is also sup­plied.

As is stan­dard in this class, a ro­tat­able tri­pod mount­ing col­lar is pro­vided and it’s made from mag­ne­sium al­loy to help save weight. More in­ter­est­ing though, is that the quick­re­lease plate is an Arca-Swiss type, thereby pro­vid­ing com­pat­i­bil­ity with a wide se­lec­tion of pro-grade tri­pod

heads. The new lens’s styling has been mod­ernised so, for ex­am­ple, the tri­pod mount’s col­lar is flush-fit­ting as is the man­ual fo­cus­ing col­lar and a matte black fin­ish give the whole lens a very clean and con­tem­po­rary look.

In the hand it feels very strongly built and all the bar­rel-mounted switches (for the AF lim­iter, VC on/ off, sta­biliser modes and AF/MF) have a crisp, pos­i­tive ac­tion. The fo­cus­ing col­lar is elec­tro­mag­net­i­cally con­trolled (rather than be­ing me­chan­i­cal) so it’s smooth in its op­er­a­tion, but has that slightly dis­con­nected feel which is a char­ac­ter­is­tic of these con­trols and, of course, there are no stops. The zoom­ing col­lar, on the other hand, feels nicely meaty and cov­ers the full fo­cal range in slightly less than a 90-de­grees twist.


Tam­ron’s claims re­gard­ing the im­proved imag­ing per­for­mance of its G2 70-200mm f2.8 are no idle boast. The cen­tre-to-cor­ner sharp­ness is ex­cep­tional across the fo­cal range up to f11 and even at the widest aper­ture of f2.8. Dif­frac­tion comes into play at f16 and f22 so cor­ner sharp­ness suf­fers a lit­tle, but it’s still pretty good and the cen­tre sharp­ness re­mains very good.

In terms of its sharp­ness, the new lens is eas­ily su­pe­rior to the pre­vi­ous model and on a par with Nikon’s rather more pricier third-gen AF-S 70-200mm f2.8 which, coin­ci­den­tally, we’d re­cently been test­ing for sis­ter pub­li­ca­tion

Cam­era. The Tam­ron lens even ex­hibits Nikon-es­que con­trast char­ac­ter­is­tics which re­sult in nicely punchy im­ages with beau­ti­fully crisp def­i­ni­tion.

There’s min­i­mal vi­gnetting (bright­ness fall-off) when shooting wideopen too, and the correction for lat­eral chro­matic aber­ra­tions is very ef­fec­tive across the fo­cal range, in­clud­ing when shooting at the wider aper­tures. It’s non-ex­is­tent in the cen­tre of the frame, and only oc­curs near the cor­ners along very high con­trast edges, but it’s only very mi­nor, sug­gest­ing that all those low-dis­per­sion el­e­ments are do­ing their job very well.

Dis­tor­tion is also well con­trolled with slight bar­rel-type bend­ing at 70mm which be­comes slight pin­cush­ion-type bend­ing at 100mm, but stays ab­so­lutely neg­li­gi­ble up to 200mm so it re­ally isn’t no­tice­able at all, which is im­pres­sive. Flare is very ef­fec­tively sup­pressed and, even in strongly back-lit sit­u­a­tions, the con­trast and colour are still very good.

We tested a Nikon mount ver­sion of the Tam­ron G2 70-200mm and used it on a va­ri­ety of Nikon D-SLRs, both ful­l35mm and ‘APS-C’ mod­els. Aut­o­fo­cus­ing op­er­a­tion was flaw­less on them all and cer­tainly on a par with the speeds we’d ex­pe­ri­enced with Nikon’s own lens, in­clud­ing when track­ing high-speed sub­jects. The new VC op­ti­cal im­age sta­bil­i­sa­tion does in­deed de­liver up to five stops of correction so we were able to ob­tain pin-sharp re­sults when shooting hand-held at 200mm with a shut­ter speed of just 1/6 sec­ond. In lower light sit­u­a­tions this means be­ing able to keep us­ing a lower ISO set­ting rather than dialling up the sen­si­tiv­ity and thereby in­creas­ing the ef­fects of noise re­duc­tion pro­cess­ing.

The Ver­dict

Tam­ron’s pro­file in Aus­tralia has suf­fered a lit­tle re­cently as the re­sult of the demise of two dis­trib­u­tors in quick suc­ces­sion, but it’s now in the ca­pa­ble hands of Blonde Ro­bot, and new prod­ucts like the SP 70-200mm f2.8 G2 zoom will cer­tainly also help re-at­tract at­ten­tion.

The com­pre­hen­sive G2 up­grade has cov­ered all as­pects of the new lens’s de­sign, han­dling, ca­pa­bil­i­ties and per­for­mance; mak­ing it a se­ri­ous com­peti­tor to the mod­els from cam­era brands and in­de­pen­dent ri­val Sigma. Along with Nikon’s lat­est model, it ben­e­fits greatly from util­is­ing the lat­est op­ti­cal tech­nolo­gies and man­u­fac­tur­ing pro­cesses. In com­par­i­son, a cou­ple of com­peti­tors are start­ing to get a bit long in the tooth.

The Tam­ron lens is beau­ti­fully made and han­dles very com­fort­ably with both the big­ger pro-level D-SLRs and on more com­pact bod­ies. And while this may be purely cos­metic, it looks smart too. But the big deal is the per­for­mance or, more specif­i­cally, the per­for­mance-for-thep­rice. Given how close it is to the lat­est Nikon lens in terms of both sharp­ness and the high lev­els of correction for aber­ra­tions, the price dif­fer­ence here is a sig­nif­i­cant con­sid­er­a­tion.

With the SP 70-200mm f2.8 G2, Tam­ron is right­fully back on the pro­fes­sional’s radar.

Tam­ron says it’s us­ing a new sealant ma­te­rial which is ap­plied in all the joints to pro­vide more ef­fec­tive pro­tec­tion against the el­e­ments.

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