Tamron 100-400mm f4.5-6.3 Di VC USD
The Finalists: EBC Fujinon XF 8-16mm f2.8 R LM WR, AF-S Nikkor 180-400mm f4.0E TC1.4 FL ED VR, Tamron 100-400mm f4.5-6.3 Di VC USD, Tamron 70-210mm f4.0 Di VC USD,
once in a while a product comes along that just seems to get everything absolutely spot-on. From the moment it’s taken out of the box, it delivers on expectations, often even exceeds them. So it was with Tamron’s 100-400mm tele zoom which wowed us from the off.
Well, of course, at first it was all about creating impressions… a very versatile focal range – especially for sports and wildlife – in a nicely manageable and well-built package. The weather-proofed barrel construction is great for shooting in the great outdoors as is the fluorine coating on the exposed surface of the front element which makes it easier to clean. The optical image stabiliser – which has its own dedicated high-speed microprocessor to enhance response times – gives up to four stops of correction for camera shake which, no pun intended, is handy for handheld photography (even more so, as Tamron charges extra for an optional tripod-mounting collar). The optical construction employs 17 elements in 11 groups with three of these elements made from optical glass with low-dispersion characteristics to help minimise both axial and transverse chromatic aberrations. Tamron’s ‘eBAND’ multi-coating is used to reduce reflections and so help control both ghosting and flare. The autofocusing also gets its own processor which again is designed to enhance the response speed and more precisely control the focusing drive in terms of starting and stopping.
It all looks very good in theory, but where the Tamron 100-400mm really delivers is in the practice. Yes, you really can comfortably use it hand-held, even in low light, and the optical performance is what we’d expect from one of the company’s much pricier ‘SP’ lenses. The uniformity of centre-to-corner sharpness is consistently good across both the zooming and aperture ranges with the crispness of the definition in the corners peaking between f8.0 and f16. It’s really exceptional at 400mm, which is great because this focal length is probably a big reason for buying this lens, rather than spending a fortune on a more specialised prime telephoto. With the Tamron, you also get the shorter focal lengths thrown in for ‘free’, along with much better close-up focusing capabilities, giving a very useful maximum reproduction ratio of 1:3.6 (that’s just a shade smaller than one-third life size by the way).
Whichever way you look at it, Tamron’s 100-400mm is a winner, but more than anything else, it represents unbeatable value for money… pity, then, then that only the owners of Canon and Nikon D-SLRs can currently enjoy its many attractions. But it’s still a winner.