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Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 | Lens Review

By Justin Heyes on June 1st 2017

The slightly tighter than ‘normal’ focal length of a 50mm and the ability to zoom past the popular portrait lengths of 85mm, 105mm, and 135mm makes the 70-200mm makes a venerable option for not just portrait and sports photographers, but an essential lens in any photographer’s kit.

Intro

Back before the Contemporary/Art moment, there used to be a stigma when buying third-party lenses for your camera. Either you paid the high entry cost of first party lenses from Canon or Nikon or you settled with something that is ‘good enough’. Coming in at almost half the cost of Nikon NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR lens, Tamron’s SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2, is like settling for Don Cheadle when you couldn’t afford Terrence Howard – paying less for something better.

[REWIND: LYN SLATER – THE ACCIDENTAL ICON]

Build

Dropping the ’80’s gold ring status symbol, Tamron’s “Human Touch” design was introduced by the SP 35mm f/1.8 DI VC USD and the SP 45mm f/1.8 DI VC USD. The design is characterized by smooth, graceful lines, larger and easier-to-use switches, and bolder font. The SP 70-200mm f/2.8 G2 follows suit with an almost uniform chassis save for the focus/zoom rings and the switches that control vibration control and auto-focus; Tamron went as far as recessing the tripod collar to keep within the ascetic (as it did for the 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DI VC USD G2).

Weighing in at 52.4 oz, the Nikon-mount SP 70-200mm f/2.8 G2 is nothing to scoff at. It’s slightly heavier than the NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL, with the Canon-mount version coming in at half an ounce more. You will definitely feel the weight after a 10-hour wedding (specifically if you are used to shooting a bag-full of primes).

Although similar to Sigma’s contemporary design, Tamron’s attention to detail makes Sigma’s similar offerings look more utilitarian in comparison, often getting in the way of its own design. When wielding the G2 with my Hold Fast Moneymaker during the hustle of a wedding or an event, too often were the switches for manual focus and vibration reduction easily hit, unintentionally switching the settings to to something undesired.

The construction is rounded out with moisture-proof and dust-resistant seals, and the case material of the SP 70-200mm G2 is a bit oleophilic, leaving the surface slick with fingerprints, though nothing that would interfere with handling. Getting a good grasp on the lens can be achieved either by the focus/zoom rings or Arca-Swiss compatible tripod collar.

[RELATED: TAMRON 35MM F/1.8 DI VC REVIEW: BEAST MODE ON A BUDGET]

Image courtesy of Moonloop Photography

Performance

The performance of a lens is retaliative to the body that it was tested on, so for example, a D5 will perform much better than a D3400. With that being said, I tested the lens performance on the venerable D750 along with the D7200 to cover the spectrum most photographers would be using this with.

ISO 400, 1/200s, 70mm f/2.8

Tamron very enthusiastically claims the new the VC system is capable of 5-stops, but they may have been a bit modest in reality.  Typically, without VC, the absolute minimum I would shoot any lens at would be 1/focal length, so at 200mm I would not go below 1/200 of a second. In my experience handholding SP 70-200mm G2, however, I was able to get sharp images at ¼ of a second at 200mm during a few dimly-lit receptions. The new VC is smoother and even more effective than the previous generation, and the switch on the side allows three selections based upon various situations.

ISO 200, 1/200s, 70mm f/2.8

The SP 70-200mm f/2.8 G2 was not a true zoom, in that it is not purely parfocal, but subjects did not go far out of focus during a full extend of the zoom range. It does suffer from some focus breathing (especially at the far end of the zoom range), but in real-world scenarios, it is not noticeable nor detrimental.

Flare is well controlled thanks to the eBAND (Extended Bandwidth & Angular-Dependency) and BBAR (Broad-Band Anti-Reflection) coatings, delivering high-contrast, sharp, and clear images. Issues only arise when shooting directly into a large light source, like the Sun; and even then they are minimal.

Image courtesy of Moonloop Photography

Tamron said in their announcement that they made improvements to the previous generation, and it shows. Thanks to the incorporated Ultrasonic Silent Drive motor, Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 allows for near-silent auto-focusing, with instant manual override, and fully internal focusing.

One should expect tack sharp imagery and speedy autofocus at this price point, and that’s what you get. In use, I found the focusing to lock on while ninja-quiet, not interfering with even the quietest of ceremonies.

By Justin Heyes for Delorenzo Photography – ISO 400, 1/1250s, 200mm f/2.8

By Justin Heyes for Delorenzo Photography – ISO 400, 1/1250s, 180mm f/2.8

When using focus points on the edge of the frame on the D750, the performance can be a bit lacking compared to center AF points, but this only seemed to affect still subjects as the tracking was spot on when it came to the subject tracking depth movements.

Image Quality

When talking about this lens I would describe it as a fine stiletto – that is sharp and shallow. The SP 70-200mm f/2.8 G2 may not have the same dampening on the zoom ring as its more expensive competition, but the Tamron’s is no compromise on image quality when compared with the first party offerings.

It has impressive sharpness even at its widest aperture, finding its peak sharpness around the 135mm focal length. Shooting portraits at around f/4 I found myself turning down sharpness in Capture One to match what I was accustom to with the Nikon 85mm f/1.8 G.

Image courtesy of Moonloop Photography

Even the most art-full lenses display a bit of a chromatic aberration, casting a purple streak on the edges when placing a subject in front of a highlighted background. Fortunately enough, however, CA is perfectly tame at the center of the image field, at all focal lengths. If you are one who pixel peeps, lateral CA can be evident at the extreme edges, but this is easily corrected by software.

Value

The Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 is available for $1,299, making it one of the better deals for a 70-200mm. Considering the build and image quality, the Tamron SP 70-200mm G2 is up against several lenses in its same class, including:

Keeping in mind that Sigma hasn’t updated their design since 2010, it should be considered an option just for the price point. As for the previous model, the SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD, it may be about 30% cheaper, but it lacks the new styling, 1-stop of VC, improved coatings and the ability to fine tune using Tamron’s TAP-in console.

CONCLUSION

It seems that while Sigma has been systematically avoiding certain segments in the market since it has rebranded (namely the mid-telephoto), putting out prime after prime or focusing their attention on their sports line, Tamron trod when the proverbial angels dared not to.

While optically they are fantastic, the Sigma Art lenses, in particular, tend to shift over time and need recalibration; often from Sigma themselves, and while Tamron did follow Sigma’s game plan and put out a line of primes and a sports lens, their quality, however, has not weaned.

There is a valid reason why the photographic community is in a whirlwind about Tamron’s offering. The SP 70-200mm G2 is significantly less expensive than the CaNikon alternatives without compromising on performance, build or image quality; it is a (loud) statement from Tamron, effectively saying they are here to play ball.

Granted, there are still reasons to choose the first party options, but optical performance and AF speed are not reasons anymore. Tamron’s SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 lens is on the same level playing field as lenses costing up to twice as much, but the word is still out on how reliable it will be long term.

Check out more samples below.

By Justin Heyes for Delorenzo Photography – ISO 400, 1/800s, 200mm f/2.8

Image courtesy of Moonloop Photography

ISO 1600, 1/100s, 135mm f/2.8

ISO 400, 1/200s, 135mm f/4

ISO 640, 1/1225s, 170mm f/4

ISO 400, 1/200s, 70mm f/2.8

ISO 200, 1/125s, 125mm f/4


CREDITS: All photographs are copyrighted their respective owners and have been used with permission for SLR Lounge. Do not copy, modify or re-post this article or images without express permission from SLR Lounge and the artists.

About

Justin Heyes wants to live in a world where we have near misses and absolute hits; great love and small disasters. Starting his career as a gaffer, he has done work for QVC and The Rachel Ray Show, but quickly fell in love with photography. When he’s not building arcade machines, you can find him at local flea markets or attending car shows.

Explore his photographic endeavors here.

Website: Justin Heyes
Instagram: @jheyesphoto

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Patrick Oconnor

    It may be due to web compression but none of the sample photos look very compelling to me. I’m looking at either the G2, new, or a used Nikon VR II and their output appears to be similar, I’ve been leery due to inconsistent results and mixed reviews, perhaps due to inconsistent lens quality.

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  2. Tim Evans

    The only gripe I have about this lens is the AF switch. As you noted, it easily gets knocked out of position. About 25% of the time I bring it up to my eye, I discover the switch has moved from AF to MF.

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    • Justin Heyes

      A trick that another photographer told me is to rotate the tripod foot in front of the switches. It really helps

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  3. William Emmett

    No one has spoken about the warranty.  Tamron has a 6 year warranty on all of their lenses.  Now, Tamron has a docking system to upgrade the firmware, and make adjustment to the VC, and focus system.  I’d like to see a comparison between the Canon ver II lens and the SP G2 version.  The comparison should be done on the higher end full frame camera such as the 5D Mark IV or better.

    B

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  4. Adrian Ong

    Kishore Sawh, the Nikon FL Lens is really great in focus even in low light! I think that’s the real test when it’s low light (as what I have been told) I rented it 2x, used it for 3 weddings and I can tell you that Boy! This lens made my confidence grow 2x more as I didn’t miss any shot during the ceremony grand entrance and reception grand entrance which I would say is quite an important feat for me, since I had the old Sigma 70-200 Non-OS. I am now wondering if Samy’s rents out the Tamron 70-200 G2 for me to try it out!

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  5. Adrian Ong

    I am in the market of a 70-200 Nikon Mount and trying to weigh my option between this Tamron or the Nikon FL. The price point is really what’s making me go back and forth but this review might be the deal maker for me! Thanks for the wonderful article. 

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    • Kishore Sawh

      Throughout testing this Justin would frequently tell me about how much he really liked this lens, and just how good it was. It’s becoming so much harder to sell anyone on the CaNikon options with Tamron and Sigma doing what they are doing. I always have a soft spot for the 70-200 from Canon (I don’t even shoot Canon), though the latest Nikon version is supposed to be quite good also.

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  6. Channing Benjamin

    I love it.  Just took my new Tamron sp 70-200 g2 to the San Diego Sea World for a test run and was blown away at the image quality, the speed and simplicity! Five Stars! 

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  7. Kishore Sawh

    In my experience, Canon’s 70-200 has been about the best one I’ve used, though not having used Nikon’s latest offering for any discernible amount of time, so this piques my interest now.

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