- Exceptionally compact and light weight for an f/2.8 telezoom
- Extremely fast and accurate autofocus in continuous AF
- Accurate and reasonably fast autofocus in single-shot AF on closer subjects
- Extremely sharp over most of the frame right from f/2.8, and very sharp to the edges stopped down.
- Generally pleasing bokeh
- Excellent color and contrast
- Minimal chromatic aberrations
- Moderate vignetting
- Low ghosting flare
- Close-focus macro mode allows for 1:2 magnification at 70mm
- Lens tends to front focus in specific circumstances on high-resolution bodies (long end of the zoom, AF-S, near infinity)
- High native distortion requires digital correction
- Less robust build quality than competing f/2.8 telephoto zooms
- Some loss of contrast with color shift when shooting into the sun
- Macro mode shooting is only sharp in the center of the frame
The Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8 is a unique lens in the photography landscape. Only Canon’s new RF 70-200mm f/2.8 manages to pack an f/2.8 aperture into anything approaching the Tamron’s level of compactness and low weight. The Canon manages to be just a touch shorter than the Tamron (almost entirely due to the 2mm registration difference between RF and FE mounts), but is still 260g heavier and 9mm larger in diameter. Of course that lens comes with a more robustly constructed exterior.
I think the design decisions made by Tamron in creating this lens strike a fantastic balance between range, aperture, portability and construction, and the end result is a lens that is easy to pack in the bag, is extremely versatile, and most importantly, is quite outstanding optically. That last part may be the most important distinction, as the Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8 manages to pack top-level optics into that compact light-weight body, and do so for a very reasonable price. Add in exceptionally fast autofocus and you’ve got a winner.
The Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8 retails for $1,199, which is a full $300 less expensive than Sony’s larger, heavier, slower and significantly worse optically 70-200mm f/4 G OSS. In no situation would I recommend Sony’s f/4 telezoom over this lens, and there are even few where I would recommend the $2,600 Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 GM. I think the only people who should opt for the G Master lens over this Tamron are those who regularly shoot in situations where the extra robustness of the G Master build is of prime concern, or if you simply must have first party glass.
The Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8 is a lens that I’ve been waiting for my entire photographic life: an extremely compact f/2.8 telezoom with premium optics and an affordable price. Tamron’s got a winner on their hands, and in my opinion this is the telephoto zoom lens that should be the first consideration for every Sony full-frame shooter.
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12 thoughts on “Review: Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8 Di III VXD”
I have recently purchased this lens and agree with your review. A very sharp lens and I love the size with the f2.8 aperture. I have also noticed the autofocus issues you mention when in single shot mode. I had the Sony 70-200 f4 G lens and find the Tamron superior in image quality and also focus accuracy. I am very happy with my purchase and now have the three Tamron 2.8 zooms.
I very much like the quality of your reviews and find them to be reliable.
I am very interested on this lens, and wonder if it can pair with Raynox 250 for some general macrophotography? Thanks
Hey Jordan, anything happened to you?
No, I’m good. Just been insanely busy with work and have had little time to write.
For several years I owned the Sony 4/70-200 G. Then I swapped for the Sony 100-400 GM. Both were fine instruments but impractical for travel and impossible for hiking and even walking about.
I now own the Tamron and use it often. After the pandemic it will be in my travel kit. F2.8 is a boon, often.
To facilitate adjusting CPL filters often I substitute a Sensei 67mm screw on collapsible rubber hood. I also use this on my Voigtlander 65mm Apo-Lanthar macro and my Zeiss Batis 40mm CF.
I am wondering about AF descriptions – Tamron 2.8/70-180 mm on Sony = extremely fast
and Canon RF 2.8/70-200 mm on Canon = very fast
I had used Tamron on Alpha 9 against Sony 2.8/70-200 mm GM – witch I rate only “fast” – but then I must rate the Tamron on Alpha 9 = slow! Especially in close focussing and find a subject when it searches from near to far.
And the Canon is feeling a lot faster then both.
Do you agree?
I can’t say I would ever describe the Tamron as focusing ‘slow’. Are you using single point AF or continuous, as I do notice that all Sony lenses focus slower in single point than in continuous, but the Tamron, especially in continuous mode, focuses essentially instantaneously for me on my A7R IV. If I’m shooting in dimmer light and going from very close up to very far, then yes, it slows down a fair bit, but that’s more to do with available light and the camera than the AF speed of the lens. In good light with strong contrast subjects, the Tamron is very fast, and for instances where you’re shooting at more moderate distances, it’s just essentially instant.
The Canon does better in speed on the very close to far focus test, but I think that’s more to do with my R6’s better AF in lower light than anything. In good light, it’s quick, but not quite as quick as the Tamron. Both are certainly fast enough to keep up with any tracking duties, though.
I have both lenses sitting on my desk right now and just tried all of these, and that’s what I see with them.
I do animal-photography most of the time – and have no millisecond to waste.
Often the light is not perfect – so yes my experiences come from low light, fast action, low contrast at continous-AF – and then Tamron is not fast –
Sony is faster and Canon is with RF 70-200 mm the fastest.
And for me it is easy to see that Sony A9 and A7RIV works best and faster with Sony lenses – Tamron is braked out.
So for normal still live, single AF, Tamron might be fast enough – but with the newest cameras from Sony, there is no real need for me to use single-AF or even one-shot.
Yes Tamron od 2.8/70-180 mm on May Sony = extremely fast!
Yes Tamron od 2.8/70-180 mm on May Sony very fast!
Another great review – very helpful and the accompanying images are wonderful. Thanks, Jordan!