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

reviewer#11551 date: Dec-21-2013
sharpness: 4
color: 3
build: 4
distortion: 4
flare control: 4
overall: 3.8
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:TAMRON 55-200 di II
SIGMA 120-400 APO DG OS HSM
TAMRON 70-300 Di LD Macro
MINOLTA 28-105
price paid:539.00
positive:>Great build quality
>Excellent manual focus ability
>Sharpness increases above f/7.1 and better still above f/9
>Excellent silent motor drive
>Very good control of flare and CA
negative:>Recurring focus-lock problems regardless of light or subject or camera body.
>Occasional over-exposure issues only rectified by spot metering(!)
>Removal of VC yet no price decrease on SONY version(!)
>Oddly, struggles to deliver stabilised images even as high as 1/180 sec.
>Struggles to gather light on overcast/darkened days.
>New parts fitted under warranty did not solve issues.
>High price to pay for average or sub-standard results.
comment:I was quite excited when I first received this lens nearly two years ago. After getting rid of the disappointing Sigma 120-400 (which was poor and hazy at tele end), I put aside my TAMRON 55-200 to get used to this new lens. For static photography on my old a33 it seemed at first fine, delivering fairly sharp photos at bigger apertures and better sharpness around f/9, with decent but slightly muted colors (however I could see less sharpness than my old 55-200 TAMRON). However, the lens proved to be near hopeless for anything moving, regardless of light or shutter speed and also with continuous af and even higher ISO. At an airshow most of my photos were out of focus despite at least 1/500 shutter and great light. Only a few shots were usable. The same happens when it is used to birds in flight, nearly all shots are fuzzy and out of focus-a problem I have never had with the 55-200. I have been shooting action for years which is why I went for SONY's SLT models, and thought this lens considering the price would be up easily to the job. The lens also occasionally stuttered rapidly, refusing to lock onto even static subjects, this was cured by rotating the manual focus ring quickly left and right, or constantly re-priming the shutter...failing that, the camera would have to powered off then on again. Thinking this was a problem between the compatibility of the lens and the a33, I upgraded to the superb a57, and the lens seemed to perform slightly better, however, upon attending a car rally in the bright summer, once again many shots were out of focus giving me the impression the absence of the VC unit was the cause and SONY's built-in SSS was struggling to keep up somehow. Upon turning SSS off, the problem did not go away. The problems have continued to this day and I have struggled greatly with this lens, it's weaknesses outpacing it's strengths of which is sharpness at smaller apertures, smooth (but not fast) focus and good movie ability. Compared to my TAMRON 55-200 di II which was £89 new, there is simply no match. The 55-200 outguns the 70-300 in nearly all areas including sharpness, light-gathering, focus speed and especially focus accuracy on which the 70-300 is just awful, often over shooting, then coming back, then overshooting again. I have never had this problem with any other lenses I have ever owned, even on 35mm cameras on which I am sure I can achieve greater results. As a last resort I recently sent the lens away to Tamron and it came back after nearly 7 weeks (!) with new focus motor, thrust barrel, new circuitry etc and it is still exactly the same. I am strongly considering scrapping it and going for a SONY 70-300 G or even a cheap Sig 70-300 as a stop-gap. The use of this lens is like a roller coaster, one minute giving you a high with good results mainly on static subjects, the next woefully letting you down even in perfect conditions with perfect settings. I would be very reluctant to purchase another TAMRON lens such as this.

UPDATE 24/12/13 I got outside for a walk in sunny weather for a couple of hours with this lens. It now has a more major exposure problem especially over 135mm, blasting images with lots of light on anything above f6.3. Changing ISO, shutter speed, light source, re-attaching lens etc made no difference. Dropping to f5.6 and locking the exposure according to the blue sky resolved this mostly. Also the focus started to become very slow and was clearly indicated so in the lens' focus window. The resulting shots of a static tree at 1/160 sec were all out of focus. I switched to the TAMRON 55-200 and everything was fine, so I know my cameras metering is ok. I have searched the internet and cannot find any other issues like this, so I guess I am the only person in the world to have a faulty 70-300 sp that is bad on two bodies!

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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