Lens review

Tamron SP AF 70-200 mm f/2.8 Di LD (IF) MACRO

29 July 2009
Arkadiusz Olech

3. Build quality

As a rule, most of the 70-200 mm f/2.8 class instruments (without the image stabilization) have the same dimensions and weight. It can be clearly seen in the following chart – all the Tamron’s competitors weight roughly the same, about 1.3 kg, and this is where the Tamron stands out: it is easily the lightest lens of all, weighing only 1150 grams.

Tamron SP AF 70-200 mm f/2.8 Di LD (IF) MACRO - Build quality

Unfortunately, only too often a small weight can indicate worse workmanship quality and the Tamrons have had some problems with it. How does the 70-200 mm f/2.8 model fare? I’m afraid I have to say that the news is not good.

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Looking from the bayonet mount side everything seems to be well. The mount itself is made of metal and the same is true for the first part of the barrel, where we attach a tolerably solid tripod mount ring (included). Then we see a zoom ring and it’s the first minor slip-up; the ring moves smoothly and precisely enough but when we push a little bit harder it goes out of shape significantly, creaking a bit in the process. Perhaps it is due to the fact, that the other part of the barrel, right above it, with a distance scale window, is made of plastic.

Tamron SP AF 70-200 mm f/2.8 Di LD (IF) MACRO - Build quality

The biggest mistake, though, is the manual focus ring. It is really huge which might suggest comfortable work. Well, you couldn’t be further from the truth. Its significant inertia makes precise focusing really hard. It takes a lot of pain and trouble to change the focus even only slightly. In most cases we move at intervals too big for the depth of field given by, for instance, the 200 mm and f/2.8 combination. It’s not all. I don’t know who has advised Tamron, Tokina or Sigma to produce lenses, where the AF/MF switch is made by pushing and pulling the whole focus ring but it was a very bad piece of advice. Firstly, in the case of the tested Tamron, you are unable to tune in the focus when working in the AF mode. The ring just moves idly without any result. Secondly, the change from AF to MF mode, consisting of moving the whole ring toward the mount is often jammed. The clutch simply sticks at an intermediate position and all you can do is to try again – it usually works the second time. Next problem occurs when we set, for example the focus in the AF mode and we want to correct it by switching to manual – forget it. When you move the whole ring, the AF work is ruined because, by switching to MF the focus can move quite significantly through the distance scale…

Let’s return to the advantages, though. As it befits an ambitious 70-200 mm f/2.8 instrument, the Tamron ends with a 77 mm filter thread that does not rotate on autofocusing and all changes take place inside so the external dimensions remain the same.

Tamron consists of 18 elements and 13 groups and three elements are made of a low dispersion glass LD. Inside we also have a circular aperture diaphragm with nine blades, which can be closed down to f/32.

Tamron SP AF 70-200 mm f/2.8 Di LD (IF) MACRO - Build quality

The buyer gets both caps, a tripod mount ring, a case and a lens hood in the set.

Tamron SP AF 70-200 mm f/2.8 Di LD (IF) MACRO - Build quality

At the end it’s worth adding a word or two about the problems that arise then we try to connect the Tamron with different converters. The Canon converter owners can put it back on the shelf because its protrusive front element won’t fit in the Tamron for sure.

We were fortunate enough to have a Sigma converter in our office and we managed to connect it with the Tamron. Such a set, though, failed to transmit the right aperture and focal length data to the body and it was still treated as a 70-200 mm f/2.8 lens and not a 98 –280 mm f/4.0 lens.