The Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8 Di III VXD is a downsized telephoto zoom lens for Sony E-mount cameras
Think 70-200mm f/2.8 zooms and you’re probably thinking big, heavy lenses that feel at odds with lightweight mirrorless camera bodies. By shortening the utmost focal distance slightly to 180mm and utilizing some clever design work, Tamron has managed to shoehorn nearly an equivalent telephoto range into a way smaller and lighter package, while retaining an equivalent fast and constant f/2.8 aperture rating. There’s no real compromise in image quality and all-round performance, making this lens a true winner at the worth .
Pros : –
- Remarkably compact and lightweight
- Advanced autofocus system
- Impressive image quality
Cons : –
- Inner barrel extends at longer zoom settings
- No optical stabilization
- The shortest focus distance is only available in MF mode
Fast 70-200mm f/2.8 zooms just like the Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8 Di III VXD are the go-to telephoto lenses for many professional and enthusiast photographers, and it goes up against Sony’s own FE 70-200mm f/2.8 G Master OSS, which is typical of the breed.
The Sony lens has premium-quality glass, refined handling, a hard and fast physical length and aperture rating throughout the zoom range, optical stabilization and comprehensive weather-seals. It’s also typical in being big and hefty, at 88x200mm and quite 1.5kg, complete with tripod mount ring.
Tamron’s new 70-180mm f/2.8 lens, against this , is that the results of a serious rethink on the planning ethos of this sort of lens. It’s much smaller, lighter and easier to measure with.
Mount: Sony FE
Image stabilization: Yes
Lens construction: 19 elements in 14 groups
Angle of view: 34-14 degrees
Diaphragm blades: 9
Minimum aperture: f/22
Minimum focusing distance: 0.27-0.85m
Maximum magnification ratio: 0.22-0.5x
Filter size: 67mm
A key feature of this lens is undoubtedly its compact form factor. It’s only about three-quarters the length of most 70-200mmm f/2.8 lenses, rather slimmer with a 67mm filter thread attachment, and only about half the load . As such, it tips the scales at just 810g, which makes the Tamron feel far better balanced on lightweight Sony mirrorless cameras, and much easier for prolonged periods of handheld shooting. Indeed, the lens doesn’t feature a tripod mounting ring, either as standard kit or as an optional extra.
The flip side is that, unlike the overwhelming majority of 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses (Canon’s new RF lens for EOS R-series cameras aside) the inner barrel extends as you breeze through the zoom range, therefore the overall physical length increases. Naturally, the zoom range itself may be a little more limited, so you lose out on the ultimate 20mm in telephoto focal distance . Even so, you almost certainly won’t notice much of a difference in most situations and, while the Tamron is full-frame compatible, it also delivers a boosted effective zoom range of 105-270mm on Sony’s APS-C format E-mount cameras.
A standout feature of the lens is its autofocus system, which is predicated on two VXD (Voice-coil eXtreme-torque Drive) actuators. Controlled by electronic pulses, it’s the fastest autofocus system that Tamron has ever designed, ideal for tracking action in sports and wildlife photography, to which the lens is ideally suited. That said, there have been some glitches with autofocus in early samples of the lens, which may now be fixed with a firmware upgrade.
The minimum focus distance at the long end of the zoom range is fairly typical, at 0.85m. At the short end, however, you’ll focus as close as 0.27m, bumping up the magnification ratio from 0.22x to 0.5x. the sole catch is that the shorter focus range is merely available in manual focus mode, not during autofocus.
BUILD AND HANDLING
Although a comparative lightweight, the Tamron feels robust and well-built, and features an honest range of weather-seals. LD (Low Dispersion) and XLD (eXtra Low Dispersion) elements within the optical path add up to 6 in total, and therefore the design also features three aspherical elements, with a mixture of glass-moulded and hybrid types. BBAR-G2 (Broad-Band Anti-Reflection Generation 2) Coating is applied to attenuate ghosting and flare, and therefore the lens also features a fluorine coating on its front element, to repel moisture and grease also on ease cleaning.
Given that the inner barrel extends at longer zoom settings, zoom creep may be a danger. In our tests, we didn’t experience any zoom creep whatsoever but, for safety’s sake, a zoom lock switch is fitted.
One handling benefit that’s notably absent is optical image stabilization, which may be a shame as Tamron’s proprietary VC (Vibration Compensation) systems are generally excellent . Even so, the lens is in a position to require advantage of in-body stabilization, featured in Sony’s recent full-frame mirrorless cameras, also because the latest A6500 and A6600 APS-C format E-mount bodies. Unlike Sony’s 70-200mm lens, the Tamron also lacks customisable focus-hold buttons.
Living up to Tamron’s claims, autofocus is super-fast and virtually silent operational . In real-world shooting, we found centre-sharpness to be excellent throughout the whole zoom range, even at the widest aperture of f/2.8. Corner-sharpness is additionally mostly very impressive, although it drops off a touch at the longest focal distance , especially when using apertures of f/4 or wider. Equally importantly for several photographers, high levels of sharpness combine with beautifully soft and smooth bokeh in defocused areas of scenes. Resistance to ghosting and flare is additionally excellent .
Considering the compact, slimline nature of the lens and its relatively small-diameter front elements, vignetting is sort of minimal. Colour fringing and distortions are fairly well-controlled, and automatic in-camera corrections for these aberrations are available. Overall, image quality and all-round performance are very impressive.
Resolution: Sharpness is excellent in the central region of the frame at almost all focal lengths, but somehow corner-sharpness drops off a bit at the long end of the zoom range.
Color fringing: There’s very little color fringing at short to medium focal lengths. That part can become a little noticeable at the long end of the zoom range but in-camera correction is available.
Distortion: There’s very minor barrel distortion at 70mm but pincushion can be noticeable at medium to long zoom settings if left uncorrected. But overall performance is good.
Given the tiny , lightweight build and increasing inner barrel, it’s perhaps a touch hard to require this Tamron lens seriously, compared with the likes of Sony’s mighty 70-200mm f/2.8 G Master zoom. It doesn’t look or feel such a ‘professional grade’ optic, but looks are often deceiving. Ultimately, the Tamron features a super-fast and virtually silent autofocus system and delivers excellent image quality altogether respects. The diaphragm is predicated on nine blades compared with the Sony lens’s 11, but the aperture is nevertheless very well-rounded and bokeh remains beautiful when stopping down a touch .
At around half the worth of the Sony lens, the Tamron is great value for money and an ideal choice for those preferring to travel light and shoot in comfort. It also qualifies as a superb ‘trinity’ lens, adding to Tamron’s superb 17-28mm f/2.8 Di III RXD and 28-75mm f/2.8 Di III RXD that we’ve rated equally highly within the past.