Top positive review
143 people found this helpful
Extraordinary lens, especially for the price!!!
on December 28, 2014
Purchased on 12/23/2014, although not via Amazon. (A direct dealer was less than 15 minutes away, and they provided a $100 rebate from Tamron - something I didn't see offered on Amazon at the time.)
Got it home and shot some low-light images on a tripod with VC OFF at F/2.8, ISO 100 at 200mm (effective 300mm) on my D7100 (DX). Exactly the quality I expected - stunning for those conditions.
The next day, I shot some pre-sunrise shots - wonderful results. Noticed a bit of softness on some focused objects, but didn't have a lot of concern - they were distant and it was still rather low-light. Once the sun fully came up, I shot a number of shots at varying ranges, and varying F-stops. The images were GREAT, although I still noticed a tiny bit of softness where I didn't expect any at this point under these conditions.
My kids arrived for a "second Christmas" on Saturday, and it was sunny - so I took some shots of them walking their dogs after the trip. I've attached three samples for your review.
Still very pleased with the quality, I took the time to auto-focus fine-tune the lens on Sunday. It required a +2 at 200mm and at F 2.8 in order to get the front and back focus perfect. Now... +2 is no big deal. I've got good quality Nikon's that have required +1, -5, etc. And I've got one extraordinary Tokina that required a -11 adjustment, and another extraordinary Tokina that didn't require ANY changes. If you're not quite getting that "tack-sharp" image you expect from ANY lens of quality (like this one), get an AF Tuning chart and test your lenses. You'll be very happy you did. :)
Anyway, took some more sample shots after adjustments, and I was very pleased with the results, even in dim, cloudy conditions. I used the same distant subjects, and that "softness" I had mentioned was completely gone. :)
Great lens. I'll see how it holds up under use over time, and return here and provide an update if either the quality or reliability starts to falter.
However, given the feel and fit of the lens - it looks like a tough product.
UPDATE - 1/21/2015
After spending some time with this lens, I found that the autofocus was unpredictable, especially when shooting at F2.8 on the 200m end of things. I carefully documented the problem with a letter and a DVD containing 60 sample shots, and sent the lens in to Tamron for repair. Tamron has informed me that the lens is being shipped out to me today (They kept to their promised schedule), and that all repairs had been completed. According to the technician, there was a firmware update for the lens that corrected all autofocus inconsistencies.
I had read something similar regarding the 150-600mm lenses, but I had hoped that the same issue wouldn't be found on the newer 70-200. When I get the lens back, I'll put it through the same sample testing I did before repair, and then come back here and advise about the results.
I hope the firmware really fixes things - because when this lens was on-focus, it was amazingly clear, sharp, with beautiful contrast and bokeh and no detectable distortion. *fingers crossed, cause I really want this lens to work!*
UPDATE II - 1/23/2015
So, I got the lens back, and took some indoor shots in relatively low-light with VC on at F2.8 and focal length at 200mm, ISO 100 on my Nikon D7100. (Shutter speeds ranged from 1/15th to 1/60th, depending on target and lighting.) The results looked good, not bad! Of course, these shots were roughly anywhere from 15 to 25 feet away, and three dimensional objects at that range are difficult to detect focus problems on, so I reserved judgement.
The next day, I left late for work (I'm a bad boy, I know!) because I waited for some light and then took some of the same shots I'd taken for my sample images when I sent the lens out for repair. The sun was just barely up and it was cloudy, so conditions weren't the sunny and bright conditions I used in my tests, but I was still getting shutter speeds above 100. (Possibly due to snow cover adding light reflection.) I had VC turned on, just like in the tests.
The results were... less than stellar. In fact, when viewing the results at 100% on my monitor, I saw a lot of the same out-of-focus softness I saw before I sent the lens out. Having said that... the variations weren't as extreme - nothing was crisp, nothing was totally blurry, they all fell in-between. I was - to say the least - unhappy. However, since the inconsistency had been reduced, I thought that perhaps I needed to do some auto-focus tuning.
Last night, I set up my standard auto-focus fine-tuning test. To do this, I place an autofocus tuning chart on a slant, then set up the camera 30-40 feet away on a tripod with VC (Vibration Control or VR, as it's known on Nikkor lenses) to OFF. Then I set the lens to the widest aperture (F2.8 in this case), ISO 100, Mirror up mode, single-point AF, focal length of 200mm, and so forth. Once I have the single-point focus point dead center on the main focal point for the chart, I use a cable trigger to do autofocus and then take the shot.
For a FX 200mm lens on a DX camera, I shoot from about 40 feet away. (The target's not that large, it's an 8x11 chart)
On the average, I'll take 5 individual shots in a row so that any oddball variances in focus series can be tossed out. Then I transfer the images to my computer, where I view the RAW results and see where the focus is. (Back-focused, front-focused, or spot-on.) Once I've established what adjustments are needed, I set the camera accordingly and then repeat the entire process again.
And... this is where things got weird. I shot about 60 pictures (12 sequences of 5) over a period of about 90 minutes.
EVERY SINGLE SHOT WAS SPOT-ON AT THE FOCUS POINT. I mean, DEAD-ON. Tack-sharp. The pictures were CRISP (except at the extreme ends of the chart due to depth of field). Changing the AF fine-tuning settings had the expected result, and eventually, I set it back at zero and left it at that... since zero looked - well... perfect.
Ok. So... I went to sleep completely and totally confused. 60 pictures? Perfect focus? EACH TIME?? I expected to see some AF variance, especially over 60 shots, with tripod mounts, dismounts, and complete re-range focusing in between. (I used the manual focus to force the lens to refocus between series.)
The next day, I called Tamron technical support, and we had a nice conversation about... Tamron's Vibration Control.
It's NOT the same as Nkkors. In fact, it takes a wholly different approach, according to the tech. I was told that Nikkor VR is continually working UNTIL YOU FINISH THE FULL BUTTON PRESS. In other words, when the shutter invokes and the sensor starts grabbing the image, the lens stops compensating.
Tamron, on the other hand, NEVER stops compensating. (Again, according to the Tamron tech.)
What does this mean in terms of what I've been experiencing?
Well... you'll read lots of articles about how you shouldn't have VR/VC turned on unless you really need it and NEVER when you're on a tripod. (Nikkor recommends you leave it on all the time except when on a tripod!) But since the Tamron NEVER stops compensating - unlike the Nikkor - it's going to blur pictures at either good shutter speeds OR if you're particularly steady-handed. I'm good down to 1/30th pretty much each time, and - if I concentrate, breathe correctly and brace myself properly - even down to 1/15th, although that's much more of a hit-or-miss proposition.
So... if I'm correct, then I should keep VC/VR OFF at all times unless I'm either panning or in a low-light situation and there's no time to breathe and brace myself.
I'll be testing this theory this weekend, assuming I get some good light and reasonably fast shutter speeds. I'll take 10 shots WITH VC on, and 10 without, and then examine the results. Look for an update soon. :)
1/24/15 - Results
Ok... so today, I took shots even with snow and cloud cover cutting down on the light. It didn't seem to really make that much of a difference in shutter speed vs. a clear, sunny day (I saw speeds of 1/500 to 1/4000), so I believe this was a fair test. The only issue was that light snow was falling on-and-off and I think the focus may have sometimes been spoofed. Tomorrows supposed to be sunny, so I'll try again if it is. :)
It appears that my "theory" is correct. When shooting at shutter speeds above 1/250 sec, turning off VC clearly improves the "hit" rate for good, in-focus shots. At 1/250 sec, it's a wash - doesn't seem to really help or hurt. Below 1/250 sec, it's fine. I did some indoor shots (without flash) to see how good VC was in slow-shutter speed situations at 200mm. It was... pretty darned amazing. I got crystal-clear images shooting at 1/15 sec and at 1/8 sec. That's right - 1/8.
In spite of all my work, though, I still wasn't happy with a lot of my distant shots (200 feet or more) at F/2.8. So I decided to run a series of shots at different focal lengths at F/2.8 with high shutter speeds (1/400 and up). When shooting at 200mm (for me, effective 300mm on a DX), I saw substantial improvement in center-point sharpness when shooting at F/4 and F/5.6 over F/2.8. This is a little puzzling to me, so I'll likely call up Tamron Monday and ask them what they think.
And every shot I took at less than 200mm was fantastic, regardless of any other factors, VC included.
At the moment, I view this lens as an excellent lens, but one that has a learning curve. If I have any discoveries over the next few days, I'll post them here - otherwise, this is my final review.
I'm sending the lens back for repair - again. We had a nice, clear sunny day today, so I took my standard test shots - and this lens simply cannot focus well on objects over 100 feet away at F/2.8-F/7.1, with or without VC on. Worse, I put my kit Nikon 55-200 VR II ($200 on Amazon) and it focused PERFECTLY on the same subject, each time, and because of that, provided much better detail than the Tamron did. (Except for those really RARE shots on the Tamron where it actually hit the focus properly. Then the Tamron was absolutely stellar.)
At anything less than 100 feet, no matter what the shutter speed or lighting, the Tamron is an amazing lens. But for $1500, it should work at ALL focal lengths at ALL distances.
Needless to say, I'm upset - and if Tamron can't find and fix the problem this time, I'll be selling the lens and won't ever buy another Tamron after this. If I send this lens out tomorrow, I should see it back by the end of the week. Maybe.
The lens went out as planned. I then called Tamron service, and spoke with a very nice person about my problems... prior to calling, I had loaded up my sample images referenced in my previous post, and I directed her to them. She was - frankly - pretty upset over what she saw, and apologized for me having to send the lens back again. (She offered to pay for the shipping, but I'd already sent it out.)
She informed me that all lens returns were processed by her, and that she'd watch for mine and bring it personally to their senior tech, and work with him in making 100% sure my problems were resolved. In fact, she promised me that either the problem would be fixed or they'd send me a brand-new copy of the lens - and that either way, she'd test it personally OUTSIDE in a real-world test (like my samples) to ensure that all was well with this version.
I'll update the results whenever the lens returns. (Sadly, due to storms on Tuesday the lens didn't arrive at Tamron until today - so I expect to see it some time next week.)
The lens arrived on Thursday, 2/5, supposedly fully repaired. According to the customer service person I spoke with, they removed, cleaned, calibrated, tested everything, and saw the problem by taking it outside and using a camera of their own. (And they supposedly viewed the images I sent along, too.) Apparently after testing, they saw some kind of issue which caused them to send data back to (I suppose) Tamron in Japan, who I was told took the data and created a set of custom data tables to be loaded into the lens.
Had some inconclusive shots that night with the lens, but it was all low-light stuff and I didn't expect to determine anything. I had to wait until Saturday to do some real testing.
Focus was still terrible at the 200 mm length against a well-lit target at 2.8 and ISO 100. It was at least less inconsistent than before, but still badly focused. I had some opportunities to use the lens at closer distances - 50 feet or less - with excellent results (mostly), but I still saw some focus issues now even at those distances at 200mm. Very, very discouraging.
I called the store I bought the lens at (they're a licensed distributor, and get a weekly visit from their Tamron rep.) After telling them my story, they insisted I bring in the lens and they'd present the issue to their rep. They asked me to bring all my repair documentation - I did better than that, and brought EVERYTHING - copies of my purchase receipt, my registration acknowledgement, warranty acceptance, and - of course- the repair orders.
I then politely asked them if they had another 70-200 to test. (I brought my entire camera kit with me, not just the lens!)
The manager - who was MORE than obliging - pulled one from their case, unboxed and unwrapped it for me, and we mounted on my camera and stepped outside.
It was OUTSTANDING. Not a single out-of-focus shot. Shooting at 1/2500 WITH VC ON (which I couldn't do with the other lens) and the results were CRYSTAL.
I left the lens with them, and they're going to get the Tamron rep to authorize a replacement, either from the factory or from their stock. (Likely the lens I tested with.)
As to WHY I had to send this back twice with NO results... well, all I can say is that it's simply unacceptable, regardless of the reason. How they didn't see the issue when they had the lens is likewise unacceptable.
Moral of the story is... if you get a bad copy, send it back ONCE. If they don't fix it, INSIST on a replacement. Once I get word from the store and pick up my new copy and re-test it under the exact same circumstances, I'll post a final update here. (And some pictures of the old lens vs the new one.)
Oh, and by the way... I asked them to let me try the Tamron 150-600mm, not that I'll buy it unless this is all straightened out properly. IF - and I mean IF - I'm happy with the 70-200 after this... yes, I'm going to buy the 150-600. It was stupendous for the price of 1k. But that's ONLY if I have a good experience going forward from here.
First, I want to thank everyone who took the time to read this review and comment on it. It's great to know that the time I'm spending is worth something to others! :)
The lens went back to Tamron as scheduled, and they did their "thing" with it. (Updating firmware again, tables again, who-knows-what-else). Post "fixes", the tech (who the distributor spoke directly with on the phone) told him that he'd takien out the lens, put it on a D7100 and then took some shots. The tech also claimed that he put another copy on the same camera, took the same shots... and couldn't see a difference between the results.
As that manager said to me at this point (we were talking on the phone about all of this), it's possible Tamron fixed the lens... but it was also possible that they simply don't see the problem. He suggested that when the lens returned that I come over with my camera and we'd take some direct comparison shots, one lens right after the other. I agreed, and today - when the lens arrived - I went over and we did the test. The manager (Bret) said that no matter what the results of the tests were, I was free to either take my old lens or take the lens that he'd reserved (the one I tested with previously), no problem either way.
Now THAT'S customer service.
When I arrived at the store, Bret came out with both lens's. Both were covered by paper (which turned out to have their serial number on them), and he proposed we go outside, shoot at iso 100, F2.8, 200mm with VC on and autofocus on. He would hand me each lens in turn, I'd shoot some shots, then we'd do it all over again with the other lens. Bret also commented that he had no idea at this point which lens was which (in the sense of which one was my old lens versus the new lens). The idea was to perform a blind test.
I pointed out that one of the lens still had that plastic film over the range display, so I could tell that was the new lens. Bret replied that we should just go ahead and do the test anyway.
Brilliant man. Absolutely brilliant. You'll see why in a moment.
I started to take the shots with the first lens (which I believed to be my old lens) and stopped and told Bret that the VC on the lens was now markedly different than before - it no longer jumped like crazy at the half-press and then settled down - I said it was now behaving just like the other (store) lens I'd used. We went on the the tests (2 shots per target), and then swapped lens's.
The second lens (the one I thought was the "store" lens) performed much as the first, including VC being "not-jumpy" at the half-press. We then went inside and pulled the card (which Bret had supplied), and Bret loaded it up on his computer while I put my stuff away.
I went over the computer and we started to compare images. The first set of shots was of a dumpster about 200 feet from where we stood; I picked the shot I thought was sharpest, and Bret agreed with my choice.
The second set of shots was of a CVS building probably 250-300 feet away. I couldn't see any real difference in the shots, but Bret spotted some softness in one which - when he pointed it out - wasn't in the other shot.
The third set of shots was of a chimney cap on a roof about 400 feet or so away, with a clear, blue sky behind it and the sun hitting the front of it. This time, the difference between the shots was both immediate and unsubtle - in one shot we could see the rivets, and in the other one you could barely make out something was there.
Bret then took our scores (he was writing them down) and double-checked which shots we thought were sharper. Three out of three shots were ... the STORE lens, not my "repaired" lens. Further - and this is where the brilliance comes in - Bret had deliberately put the film on MY OLD LENS so that it would throw off ANY bias in case I figured out which shots were the first set, and which were the second set. Very much a "blind test", and absolutely well done. :)
The result? I walked out with the store lens, and - now that he has absolute proof and documentation - Bret will take up this issue with his Tamron rep.
FYI, I'll be re-taking my regular test shots again, but that will probably be on the weekend. (Although I might be able to squeeze in some stuff tomorrow morning, lighting dependent.) I'll post my FINAL analysis as soon as that's complete - but I can say without any reservation that I'm glad I bought my lens from a licensed distributor, AND I'm glad that the objective testing showed that my old copy of the lens simply wasn't as sharp as the new copy - despite being fully "updated". :)
I'm pretty sure I'm going to be much happier with the results this time, and if I can post images for you, I will. Either way, I'll provide that final update within the next few days. :)
I can also say that these guys at "The Photo Summit" in Summit, NJ have just gotten themselves a very loyal customer. They earned it - in spades. :)
Final Update, 2/27/20154
And presuming nothing happens to this new lens going forward, I do mean "final" update. Also - once again - thank you for the comments you've all been making regarding this review! It's really great to see that the work I've done has value to others. :)
So, this morning I got up and realized it was going to be a sunny day - which was WONDERFUL, because almost all my testing has been under the same conditions - early morning light post-dawn with the sun over the trees behind my house. (I've tried very hard to reproduce the same exact conditions each time for consistency's sake.)
I delayed my departure a bit in order to ... well... frankly speaking, to get this out of my mind once and for all. (Hopefully! :D )
Camera settings were as usual - iso 100, F/2.8, Aperture priority, Autofocus ON, vibration control ON (not my normal setting because my problem lens always performed WORSE when it was on and I had high shutter speeds). All shots were in RAW format at full size, and all were hand-held.
I went to the same spot I always shoot these tests from (second floor bedroom window), and started taking my shots - first five of the tree trunk, then five more of the shed, then finally five of the power and water post. Ranges were about 250-300 feet for the tree, around 350+ feet for the shed, and probably around 200-250 feet for the post. My observed shutter speeds were between 1/2000 and 1/2500 of a second, depending on the target. I also forced a re-focus for each shot taken by picking a closer object in-between shots and making the lens focus on that before returning to the actual target. In addition (I really wanted a true "acid test"), I waited for VC to stop compensating on each shot before re-focusing, forcing VC to re-engage "from scratch" each time.
To me... forcing auto focus and vibration control to engage each time emulated the real world situations we all encounter, if we're not shooting in a studio. You see a shot, lift your camera and take the shot. You don't always get a second chance, and so checking the lens's ability to engage, focus and stabilize quickly for that "sudden opportunity" is really critical.
Of the 15 shots for all 3 targets, I would say that 3 out of 15 showed a slight (and I DO MEAN SLIGHT) sharpness difference as compared to the other images. After examining the images at 100% (unprocessed raw reviews, by the way), I realized that what I was seeing was a very minor sharpness issue that was due to my excessive camera shake on some shots. To be clear - the few images that were less sharp were still completely usable, and I wouldn't have had a problem using them, even at 100% crop.
(Normally I don't have a lot of camera shake - I've frequently used a 150mm non-VC/VR hand-held lens at with shutter speeds at 1/60 a second with no problem, as long as I take the time to relax into a good shooting posture. Unfortunately, I was rushed this morning, and didn't really take the time to adjust my posture, legs and arms properly. I realized this during some of the sequences of shots, but decided to just move on due to my time constraints. Talk about an "acid test" for VC, though! )
And... the final conclusion is a very positive one!! My initial review and opinion on this lens stands as-is. Five stars - this is an extraordinary lens, especially for the price!
I should also add that the VC on this properly working lens is really quite extraordinary. When my camera shake is noticeable to me even when VC (or with Nikon, VR) is on, then I know I'm really screwing up and I'm lucky to get a decent shot. In my opinion - owning both Nikon and Tamron lenses with VR/VC (respectively)... Tamron's VC is actually more effective than Nikon's VR. (I know the professional reviews all point that out, but this is my personal experience. :) )
Everybody (including Nikon, Canon, etc.) makes lemons on occasion, especially when making tens (or hundreds!) of thousands of copies of something as complex as these lens's are. I had the misfortune to get one of those (rare) problem lens, and - thanks to the distributor - I got a replacement copy which is utterly amazing, and consistently performs exactly as I expected. :)
Final moral of the story... don't hesitate to buy one of these, but make sure you buy it from someone like Amazon (who will refund/replace the item, no questions asked), OR make sure you buy from a local distributor who stands behind their customers and their reputation. :)
Once again, thanks for your interest and patience as I finally complete this saga! For those interested in the final test pictures, they'll be up on mercerpics.smugmug.com some time over the weekend - scroll to the bottom of the album list and look for one titled "Tamron 70-200 Final Tests". :)
Even though I did a final update, I often find it helpful to see add-on comments some months after the review is complete. Since posting my above, I can say that this lens has performed utterly flawlessly in every regard. I recently acquired a Nikon D750, and this lens has utterly fantastic sharpness, contrast and bokeh on it! (You don't get the same bokeh on a DX camera for technical reasons unrelated to the lens, but the sharpness and contrast are fantastic on both. However, the bokeh on my D7100 is excellent - it's just that it's pro-quality on my D750.)
Two final words - buy one. :)