When us photographers are starting down the journey of collecting interchangeable lenses, we don’t always buy into the latest and greatest straightaway. We usually buy into cost-effective lenses, discover the pros and cons, what we like shooting, then progress from there. A lens that covers a bit of everything, with good quality results is the usual start point. So, in steps the Tamron AF 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6.
This lens can fit on both full-frame and APS-C sensor bodies, including those from Canon, Nikon, Pentax, and Sony and comes with a focal range of 105-450mm equivalent, while on the Canon this works out to be 112-480mm. There’s also a macro mode built-in for good measure.
As Tamron AF 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6 covers a wide range of focal lengths, there’s a lot of glass inside to correct anomalies. 13 elements in nine groups, with a nine-blade diaphragm and variable aperture which ranges from f/4-f/5.6 to f/32. The macro mode has a reproduction ratio of 1:2 which is available in the 180-300mm range, with a 0.5x magnification and a closest focus distance of 1.5m.
When it comes to the autofocus system, the lens has a standard electric motor, which may not be the latest and greatest version, but still quite adequate for this level of lens. As for external features, the lens barrel is made from solid plastic, which may not feel as robust as higher-end lenses, but still adequate for general use.
There’s a ridged zoom and focus ring that turn relatively smoothly, as well as a switch on the lens barrel for macro mode. There’s also a distance scale and macro magnification scale printed on the lens, which will be very useful in certain situations.
Lastly, there is a 62mm filter thread which extends and rotates when zooming, with the total package coming in at a lightweight 435g. The lens doesn’t benefit from any image stabilization, but this isn’t a pre-requisite feature here, as it would immediately bump up the cost.
The Tamron AF 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6 in Use
Initially, having such a wide range of focal lengths is great fun for quickly zooming into far off objects. However, the lens starts to suffer from a soft center and edges when at the telephoto end of the spectrum.
There is a touch of edge softness in the 70-200mm range, but clarity does start to diminish from then on upwards. The results are still usable at the telephoto end for general use, but they won’t exactly be images you will be putting in your portfolio.
Stopping down the aperture helps a little with sharpness, but this also means slower shutter speeds. Not having image stabilization means you always have to be mindful of your lowest shutter speed, which means this lens is best used in reasonable light conditions for the best results.
The Tamron AF 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6 can venture into low light, but you going to have to bump up the ISO levels considerably or opt for breaking out a strobe or flashgun to reduce noise levels.
As the lens has a standard electric motor, it can tend to hunt for focus, especially when the light levels fall or with fast-moving subjects. With these types of anomalies, you start to produce your own workarounds, but it negates the usefulness of being able to capture the action at a moment’s notice. You have to be more mindful of the shot and know which settings will work the best in advance.
The lens can suffer from chromatic aberration at the widest aperture, especially in high contrast areas. This is most prominent at the widest and telephoto ends. The same goes for vignetting, with the optimal range being in the center of the focal lengths. Barrel distortion is also quite noticeable but can be easily corrected with a good lens profile.
When the lens is flicked into macro mode and mounted on a tripod, the anomalies become more evident. As the macro mode works between 180-300mm, it’s best to keep the lens at its widest for the sharpest results. With a magnification ratio of 1:2, subjects are not life-size on the sensor, but still give a reasonably detailed rendering of a subject.
One benefit that can’t be overlooked is that this lens is very lightweight for its focal lengths. This makes it an easy to carry around, all-day lens and as long as you keep it within its working zone, it’s not a bad little performer for the price.
How Does It Compare?
Even though we are eyeing up entry-level zooms in this category, it’s still a good idea to focus on well-known brands. In this respect the AF-P DX NIKKOR 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3G ED, has similar principles to the Tamron, providing a bit of everything in one lens at a very cost-effective price.
The Nikon has the same focal range as the Tamron, with a slightly wider maximum aperture range of f/4.5 to f/6.3. The Nikon also has a slightly better autofocus system with a pulse stepping motor, which is much quicker at snapping into focus. Optical quality is on a par and considering the price point, there’s not much to complain about with what you get for the price.
|Tamron AF 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6||AF-P DX NIKKOR 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3G ED|
|Optics||13 elements/ 9 groups||14 elements/ 10 groups|
With this level of lens it’s all too easy to make direct comparisons with higher-end lenses. This is more the case if you’re already accustomed to higher quality optics and a more robust package.
However, this type of camera lens is aimed at the entry-level photographer who may be buying their first telephoto zoom and want it to do a bit of everything. If you have already experienced top-end zooms, then you’re probably already saving up for one of those, without stepping through the ranks.
Like all things in life, a jack of all trades is never going to the best in every area. But, the consideration here is what you are getting for the money. For just a touch over $100, this is one of the cheapest telephoto lenses and for this fact alone, it does a lot for the money.
However, it does have optical anomalies and sharpness tails off at the telephoto end. The build is also very entry-level, but in total, the Tamron AF 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6 is good value for money and is not a very expensive way to try out a healthy range of focal lengths.