This last summer Tamron loaned me a couple of lenses to field test. Having worked with these lenses for the last three months I am pleasantly pleased with their performance. Rather than attempt to “bench test” these lenses and give you a report based upon test patterns and lines of resolution this report is much more anecdotal. For a couple of great websites that go into very fine technical and performance reports on equipment and lenses go to www.slrgear.com or www.dpreview.com.
The lenses Tamron sent me were the 28-75mm f2.8 and the 70-200mm f2.8. One of the distinct advantages of these lenses are their size and weight. Smaller and lighter than my comparable Canon L lenses; 24-70mm f2.8 L and the 70-200mm f2.8 L non-IS. In particular the Tamron 28-75mm lens, is amazingly compact and light, making it a real advantage for travelling overseas or anywhere your luggage space is limited.
I must admit that I was skeptical about the image quality as compared to my top of the line Canon lenses so I made a few side by side comparisons. These comparisons were made under real world conditions and the results were judged in the real world needs of this fine art landscape photographer.
I could not discern any appreciable difference in image quality between the Tamron lenses and Canon lenses. The Tamron lenses seemed to have slightly better color saturation and shadow detail. The Canon lenses appeared to have slightly better highlight detail. Image resolving detail appeared to be about the same with all lenses.
The Tamron 70-200mm has a nice large focus ring for manually focusing. The focus ring has a smooth and long throw making it easier to focus than my Canon lens. In addition the Tamron lens focuses down to about 3 feet almost 2 feet closer than the Canon lens, add a 25mm extension tube and you have some serious capability for close-up photography.
The biggest disadvantage of the Tamron lenses is the speed of focus which is significantly slower than the Canon lenses. Another disadvantage for the Tamron lenses is the lack of Image Stabilization available on either of these lenses. Neither of these features is a significant drawback for me because I rarely if ever use auto-focus or Image Stabilization. At a cost of about ½ to 1/3rd of the Canon or Nikon lenses I would say the Tamron lenses are worth a serious look for any nature, travel and landscape photographer.