Tamron recently sent me their new AF18-270MM F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD lens for testing and review. This lightweight 15x zoom lens is perfect for travel and street photography, and for nature photographers looking for a flexible, all-in-one solution and good value for their money. I used the lens quite extensively during a recent trip to Acadia National Park in Maine, and had a chance to test it on a variety of landscape and nature subjects. I’ll be testing the lens for the next few months as well, so more comprehensive reviews will appear at later dates, but for now I’ll give you my first impressions.
I should disclose up front that Tamron is compensating me for my time testing, reviewing, and writing about the lens. Despite the fact that I have a financial relationship with Tamron, I will at all times try to remain impartial and objective. I’ll let you know what I like about the lens, and what I don’t, and if there are any significant problems.
When I test a new piece of equipment, I ask myself whether its quality and design limit my artistic choices, or whether it gives me the flexibility to pursue my creative vision. Also, I try to remember that not everyone is using their equipment professionally—what I might deem as not adequate for my demanding uses may be perfectly fine for someone who is less hard-core about photography than I am. Furthermore, I try to keep in mind what a piece of equipment is intended for: I don’t really see the point of criticizing a hammer for not being able to drill holes.
As someone who is incredibly picky about my equipment, I have to admit I was rather surprised to find that I really enjoyed shooting with this lens. As it is built for cropped-sensor cameras, I was unable to use it on my Canon 5DII (well, I can use it on the camera, I just have to crop away the edges), so I borrowed a friend’s 7D. I suddenly felt liberated, as the setup was much lighter and much more flexible than my 5DII and the two heavy lenses I use to cover the same focal range (the lens has a 35mm equivalent range of 28mm to 419mm). Having a zoom lens that can go from wide-angle to long telephoto in a split second really got my creative juices flowing. Although I wish it could have gone a little wider on the wide end (I’m a wide-angle guy), I found myself zooming in on intimate details, such as reflections of autumn color in the water, much more than usual.
I’m inherently skeptical about “all-in-one” zooms, as image quality is often sacrificed in the name of flexibility. The Tamron 18-270mm, however, seems to have good image quality at all focal lengths. Although not quite as good as some of my pro lenses, I think it is fair to say that this little lens won’t let you down. I did notice some chromatic aberration, which is not uncommon with many lenses, is an easy post-processing fix, and therefore not a deal-breaker by any means. I’ll save more extensive image quality testing for later reviews of this lens.
In terms of build quality, the lens is lightweight and although made with plastic components, appears quite solid. It has a twist zoom mechanism that seems to have the proper amount of tension to avoid “zoom creep” when pointed down on a subject. If you point the camera up, however, keep a steady hand on the zoom ring as at certain focal lengths the weight of the front elements will push the lens down into the unzoomed position. I will have a chance to test the lens photographing wildlife in late November, so I’ll see if this becomes a major issue or not. I haven’t had a chance to test the lens’ autofocus or vibration control yet (when shooting landscapes, I prefer to manually focus and turn off the vibration control).
Coming in at $629 at B&H Photo for either the Canon mount or the Nikon mount, it is a bit more expensive than many “prosumer” lenses. Considering the focal length range, and the fact that the lens has good image quality, vibration compensation, and ultrasonic autofocus drive, I think you still get a pretty good bang for your buck. That said, it is a bit more of an investment than many casual shooters might be used to.
Overall, my initial reactions to this lens are very favorable. I think it would make a great lens for many casual and even serious amateur nature shooters, especially those who travel a lot. I’ll be continuing to test the lens in the coming months, so stay tuned.
Some pertinent specs:
Minimum Aperture: f/22 ~ f/40 (18mm-270mm)
Minimum Focus Distance: 19.3in.(0.49m) (entire zoom range)
Macro Magnification Ratio: 1:3.8
Filter Diameter: ø62
Weight: 450g (15.9oz)
Mounts: Canon, Nikon, Sony