70-210mm F4 Di VC USD

70-210mm F4 Di VC USD

Tamron 70-210mm F4 Di VC USD Review

By

Photographs & Review by Theano Nikitas

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The Good. The Tamron 70-210mm F/4 Di VC USD (Model A034) is relatively compact and lightweight so it won't weigh you down. Thanks to its internal zoom, the physical length of the lens remains constant throughout the focal range, as does its f/4 aperture. VC (vibration compensation) is very effective, up to four stops. AF is relatively fast and accurate and there is little evidence of chromatic aberration along high contrast edges. At 70-210mm, the lens offers a versatile--and popular--focal range. 
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The lens has manual focus override and delivers sharp images all for $799--less expensive than its f/4 competitors.

The Bad. A tripod collar will cost you extra and autofocus may search in low contrast conditions. There's minor vignetting and the lens is available only for Canon and Nikon (no Sony option). 

The Bottom Line. This is a versatile lens that performs well for the price.

Pick This Up If... you want a zoom that will take you from landscapes and nature shots to portraits in a single lens.

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INTRO

A 70-200mm zoom is one of the main components of any pro photographer's kit. Tamron goes a few millimeters further with its new 70-210mm f/4 Di VC USD lens and, at the same time, delivers a piece of glass that's relatively compact and lightweight. At f/4, you lose one stop versus f/2.8 lenses but faster lenses are larger, heavier and, let's face it, a whole lot more expensive. 

There's a good reason this focal range is so popular -- it's great for nature, landscapes, weddings, portraiture and sports. It's also a go-to focal range for many runway photographers. 

With the Tamron 70-210 f/4, you'll get a constant aperture throughout the focal range, effective image stabilization up to 4 stops and an internal zoom for only $799 -- even more affordable than its 70-200mm f/4 competitors. The lens is available now in both Canon and Nikon mounts.

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GEAR USED

I took the Tamron 70-210mm f/4 for a test run using the full-frame Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, with a few focal length comparison shots on the APS-C Canon EOS Rebel T7i. Nikon users will be happy to note that the Nikon version of the lens, like the Canon-mount lenses, is equipped with an electromagnetic diaphragm for more accurate aperture control on compatible cameras.
 
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KEY FEATURES

  • Constant f/4.0 aperture
  • Manual/AF focusing with manual focus override
  • Dual MPU (Micro-Processing Unit) system
  • Vibration Compensation up to 4 stops
  • 37.4-inch minimum focusing distance
  • 20 elements in 14 groups 
  • Fluorine-coated front element 
  • Moisture resistant construction
  • USD (Ultrasonic Silent Drive)
  • Lens hood, lens cap included
  • Compatible with Tamron Tap-in Console
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(click on any image in this review to see and/or download the FULL SIZE .jpg file!)

BUILD QUALITY

The build quality of the lens is good, especially given its light weight. It's relatively well-balanced on the hefty Canon 1DX Mark II and even the comparatively small Canon T7. The Canon version of the lens weighs 30.3 ounces (the Nikon weighs 30 ounces) and has a maximum diameter of 3 inches. The lens is 6.9 inches long (6.8 for the Nikon model), just a hair longer than the comparable Canon-branded 70-200mm f/4 lens. Add about 2 ¾ inches to the length with the included tulip-shaped lens hood. A quick twist of the lens hood easily locked it in place. If you know me and my bad track record with lens hoods, hearing that little "click" when I attached the hood left me feeling confident that it would stay attached to the lens. 

With eight weather seals, the lens is well protected from moisture and other elements like sand. Although I didn't take it out in a recent heavy thunderstorm, the lens held up well in a quick outing during light rain and near a windy beach. 

The lens feature a fluorine coating that helps prevent dirt from accumulating and makes it easy to get rid of smudges. I always carry a Lens Pen brush and a micro-fiber cloth, but rarely had to use them on this lens.

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ERGONOMICS

As expected, the lens is equipped with both zoom and focus rings. The rubber texture surface of each ring provides a non-slip grip. However, both rings are the same size and, unlike my Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 lens, the zoom ring is at the far end of the lens rather than closer to the camera. This reversed position from what I'm used to tripped me up on more than one occasion and I intuitively reached for the focus ring instead of the zoom ring. I also found that, because of the length of the lens, the reach to the zoom ring was a little too far for me to reach comfortably and maintain a good grip on the lens. But that's just me; others may be perfectly comfortable with the setup.

The focus ring turned smoothly and was looser than the focus ring. The latter seemed to be a little tighter and less consistent when zooming the lens. Not a big deal but it was noticeable.

In addition to the constant f/4 aperture, the Tamron 70-210mm lens features an internal zoom. That means that the lens' physical length is also constant, which makes it even more convenient to carry and use. And, it also means there's no chance of lens creep when the lens is pointed down. 

As expected, the VC (vibration compensation) and AF/MF switches are within easy reach on the lens barrel. The Tamron 70-210mm f/4 also features manual focus override so you don't have to switch to MF to tweak focus.

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SPEED & FOCUS

Overall, autofocus speed is relatively quick throughout the focal range as long as you're in good light with a decent amount of contrast. Where AF faltered most was tracking moving subjects, such as birds and (relatively slow moving) F-15 fighter jets, especially against a solid blue or grey sky. Granted, given the maximum focal length (210mm) that I was shooting at and the lack of contrast in the sky, this was a challenging scenario, albeit one that I've had better success with other camera/lens combinations. Every once in a while, I managed to lock focus on a seagull in flight but had much better luck when the gulls were resting on mooring poles in a marina or munching a snack on the bow of a docked boat. Although I didn't have a chance to photograph sports, I imagine that the lens would perform well when shooting a baseball or football game, for example.

With static subjects, autofocus performed pretty well even under relatively low light and indoors, with only the occasional hunting for focus.

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BOKEH

While f/2.8 and faster lenses are known for their shallow depth of field and bokeh, the Tamron 70-210mm shot at f/4 produced smooth, soft backgrounds. The backgrounds were a little flat to my eye, but easily separated the sharply focused subject from the rest of the scene.

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IMAGE QUALITY

Most of my test images were nicely focused and produced good (albeit not exceptional) details. Wood textures, the strands of a line on the bow of a boat, fishing nets, and traps produced were sharp with good separation of details. 

There was little to no chromatic aberration along high contrast edges. Even dark lettering on white signs was clear of any haloing or fringing. The lens produced smooth transitions throughout images and colors were accurately rendered.

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Vignetting was evident in some wide angle shots, with dark edges in the upper corners, mostly at 70mm and surrounding solid areas of sky. Upon close inspection, you may find some soft edges but for normal viewing and printing, I didn't find it to be an issue. Using the lens hood, I found little to no evidence of flaring or ghosting.

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PROS & CONS

Pros
  • Good build quality
  • Good value for the dollar
  • Image stabilized up to 4 stops
  • Constant f/4 aperture
  • Lens does not extend when zoomed/internal zoom
  • Good overall sharpness
  • Manual focus override
  • Good control over CA
  • TAP-in Console compatible 
  • 1.4x and 2.0x teleconverters available
Cons
  • Minor vignetting
  • Occasional focus hunting
  • Tripod collar extra
  • Available for Nikon and Canon only
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BOTTOM LINE

The Tamron 70-210mm F/4 Di VC USD (Model A034) provides good value for the price, especially if you want to add this popular focal range to your lens collection. The f/4 minimum aperture shouldn't be an issue unless you want (or need) an f/2.8 for low light shots or extremely shallow depth of field.

I've tested the Tamron SP 24-70mm F/2.8 Di VC USD G2 and the 100-400mm f/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD and found that the autofocus on both models seemed a little faster than on the 70-210mm. But the latter's AF is good, as is its image quality. And the 70-210mm's image stabilization works quite well. 

It's too short and not quite fast enough for bird-in-flight photography but you can check out Tamron's 1.4x and 2.0x teleconverters if you want a longer focal length. Or go with an APS-C camera like the Canon EOS 80D to get a little more telephoto. All in all, though, this lens will make a solid addition to your kit.

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