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

reviewer#29649 date: Aug-6-2016
sharpness: 4
color: 5
build: 4
distortion: 5
flare control: 4
overall: 4.4
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 used to own this lens
compared to:Sony DT 55-300 F4.5-5.6 SAM
Minolta AF 70-210 F4
Minolta AF 70-210 F3.5-4.5
Canon EF 70-300 F4-5.6 IS II USM
Sony 70-300 F4.5-5.6 SSM II
Sony 70-400 F4-5.6 G SSM
Minolta AF 75-300 F4.5-5.6 BBC
Minolta AF 100-300 F4.5-5.6 APO/D
Minolta AF 100-400 F4.5-6.7 APO
Sigma 70-200 F2.8 EX DG APO
price paid:185 USD (used)
positive:Flat focus plane
Good lateral CA control
Very little distortion
Excellent contrast
Full-frame coverage
Internal focus
Always available DMF
Compatible with Kenko DGX teleconverters
Very large petal hood
62 mm filter size
negative:Chubby size and weight
Extending zoom
Slow, somewhat noisy AF
AF switch prone to unintentional bumps
Stiff, uneven zoom action
Zoom creep, no lock
Vague, rear focus control
No VC, no limiter, no buttons
Doesn't support fastest A-mount communication
Incorrect Lens ID
comment:After my disappointment with a $250 "new" display model from an authorized dealer, I purchased a second used copy from an individual seller for $150. This used copy is sharper than the previous new one. The normal list price for this lens is $450, but there is often a $100 rebate for it. Tamron offers a similar lens with vibration compensation (VC) for Canon EF and Nikon F mounts for the same price. After selling my A-mount copy I bought a used VC version with a Canon EF mount. This copy was also not very sharp. I replaced it with the newer Canon EF 70-300 IS II USM. "MADE IN CHINA"

If you find a good copy, this lens is pretty good optically. Its focus plane is even flatter on APS-C than the 1986 Minolta AF 75-300 "Big Beercan". It also has good lateral CA control giving it the best raw image quality in the APS-C corners. The center sharpness wide-open is very good compared to the other full-frame zooms, but can be softer than the 55-300. This is mostly noticeable at the long end especially when using teleconverters. At close-focus it is a bit wider in field-of-view than the 55-300 at the long end.

The A-mount version borrows the lens ID from the Sony 70-300G SSM meaning the A77 and newer Sony cameras will apply the lens compensations for that lens to JPEGs and embed that profile in the raw files. It also means all the special focus modes are enabled. This lens does not support the latest/fastest A-mount communication rate introduced with the A77 and DT 16-50mm F2.8 SSM kit zoom, which means this lens does not support the faster tracking that the newer DT 55-300 SAM and 70-300G SSM II support on the current bodies including the Sony A9.

The zoom mechanism feels similar but even a little bit worse the 70-300G II. Using the zoom on both of these makes me want to rate their builds as "3". The less expensive DT 55-300 and 75-300 D zooms zoom mechanisms feel nicer to operate.

The rear focus control is one of the better clutched mechanisms I've tried. It is nicely weighted and smooth with the stops noticeable by touch and ear. It is still vague and imprecise, and the always available DMF it offers is still practically useless. I often turn the focus ring by accident when trying to zoom. The 70-300G has a similar arrangement but with more separation between the control rings.

The last A-mount copy focused better than the previous one perhaps because the lens is sharper. The lack of support for the updated A-mount communication means it works fully with the Kenko DGX teleconverters. I am even able to get the AF to lock on occasionally with real world subjects using the 2X teleconverter at 600 mm. However, the Minolta AF 100-400 APO has better image quality past 300 mm. The USD also works on the Maxxum 70 though the older AF system struggles much more than the one in the A65. It also works much better than the SAM telephotos with the LA-EA1 on the A5000.

The actual focusing speed is fairly slow. In fact is the slowest focus racking x-300mm zooms I've tried. It has internal focus, but if you look in the front of the lens while focusing you can see it has to move a group of large elements near the front of the lens a large distance--further than the external front focusing zooms extend for focusing. The EF version doesn't focus any better on the MC-11 on my A7II than the A-mount version on the LA-EA3.

Like the Sony DT 18-135 SAM and SSM lenses, the AF switch on the lens is redundant and the lens responds to the AF switch on the camera body. Both switches have to be set to AF for the USD to function. I keep accidentally bumping the switch on the lens. I missed several shots because of AF getting turned off this way. I would definitely disable that switch if could. It lacks the partial range limiter and the focus hold button found on the 70-300G lenses.

The second copy of this lens redeems its optical performance. Initial field testing though produced some out-of-focus results. It doesn't seem to have the accuracy of the DT lenses, but that might be able to be corrected on other bodies. The size, weight, and operation are worse than the DT 55-300 mm. I found it very uncomfortable to use on the A65 or A58 for long sessions without additional support.

Test chart comparison

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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