Tamron SP AF 70-300mm 4-5.6 Di USD A-mount lens review by andyken

reviewer#10276 date: Jun-8-2012
sharpness: 5
color: 5
build: 5
distortion: 5
flare control: 5
overall: 5
tested on:
  • film camera:Film camera
  • APS-C: 6MP6 MP; 10MP10 MP; 12MP12 MP; 14MP14 MP; 16MP16 MP; 20MP20 MP; 24MP24 MP
  • full frame: 12MP12 MP; 24MP24 MP; 36MP36 MP; 42MP42 MP; 61MP61 MP
ownership:I own this lens
compared to:Minolta 100-300 f3.5-5.6 APO
Minolta 75-300 f3.5-5.6 N
Minolta 70-210 f4 (beercan)
Minolta 100-200 f4.5
Sony 55-200 f4-5.6
price paid:£250 (used)
positive:Superb IQ and very sharp at every aperture and every focal length.
Feels well built, impressive hood.
Excellent value.
negative:A bit bulky compared to most other lenses I own.
comment:Interestingly I had exactly the opposite experience to Icemantx in the review two below mine. I already owned a Minolta 100-300 APO and while I found the image quality to be very good, I was keen to find something even better without spending an arm and a leg. The Tamron SP 70-300 USD is exactly that lens. Compared directly to the 100-300 APO, the Minolta has a size and weight advantage, but in every other aspect the Tamron out-performs it. I can only think that Icemantx's lens was either faulty or back-focusing on his camera, as my lens is simply astonishingly sharp throughout its range, giving noticeably better IQ than every other lens in my 'compared to' list above.

I recently did a group test of several telephoto lenses, taking numerous identical shots at different apertures and focal lengths and then doing A-B comparisons on screen at 100%, looking at centres and corners. As the Tamron was the most expensive lens in my collection, I expected it to come top and it didn't disappoint, although other lenses sometimes came close, it was never beaten to top spot at any setting by any other lens.

In my opinion this is a true gem of a lens and as long as it is set up optimally on your camera will produce phenomenally sharp images, which are almost a revelation compared to less expensive glass, almost like someone who is slightly short-sighted wearing glasses for the first time. Having said that, in retrospect I don't want to give the wrong impression as all the lenses in my 'compared to' list are good and the differences, although definitely there, are subtle. If you're not into pixel-peeping and will never print bigger than A4, you're very unlikely to notice any real difference and the Minolta 75-300 N (for example) has virtually the same range and very good image quality for around 1/4 of the cost. You pay a lot unfortunately for excellence.

Build quality seems very good, colours are excellent, CA is negligible, I've never detected any distortion and flare is very well controlled (the excellent lens hood helps).

I'll still keep my 100-300 APO for times when I want to travel light, but in every other situation I will be using my Tamron, it is simply a better lens.

rating summary

lens image
  • total reviews: 54
  • sharpness: 4.49
  • color: 4.37
  • build: 4.35
  • distortion: 4.65
  • flare control: 4.54
  • overall: 4.48
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