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Author Topic: The Amazing Tamron SP 70-300MM F/4-5.6 Di VC USD  (Read 6262 times)
Ray
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« on: February 08, 2013, 09:54:10 PM »
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One of the problems of owning two camera systems such as Canon and Nikon is that neither system is always satisfying with regard to the performance of the lens and camera-body combination.

Nikon undoubtedly have the best wide-angle zoom (the 14-24/F2.Cool and the best sensors, as in the D800E. Canon used to have the edge with regard to a few very useful lenses such as the 24-105/F4 IS, the 70-200/F4 IS and the 100-400/F4.5-5.6 IS, but Nikon have now given us their own versions of similar lenses boasting VR, the 24-120/F4 VR and the 70-200/F4 VR. The old Nikkor 80-400 VR needs upgrading.

Since the longest Nikon lens I own is the the 120mm of the 24-120 zoom, I've been searching for a lens with Nikon mount that can replace my Canon 100-400 IS which I use with the Canon 15mp 50D body.

I wondered for a time whether the new Nikkor 70-200/F4 VR would be up to the job, using a 1.4x or 1.7x or 2x extender. However, my experience tells me that a 2x extender merely converts an excellent lens into a mediocre lens of double the focal length, or a good lens into a poor lens at double the focal length. If one also loses autofocus in the process, then forget it!

Being already convinced that a higher-resolution sensor will improve the sharpness and detail from any lens, except perhaps a really poor lens, I began considering other options. Are there any really good 70-300mm lenses available with a Nikon mount? Supposing I used a cheaper lens with a higher-resolving sensor such as the 24mp sensor in the Nikon D3200?

I began to wonder if this new Nikkor 70-200/F4, when coupled with the Nikkor AF-S TC-14E II 1.4x extender, for example, would produce sharper images than the Tamron 70-300/F4-5.6 VC USD when that lens is fully extended.

The Nikkor lens at 200mm with 1.4x extender becomes a mediocre 280mm lens. Surely that wouldn't necessarily be sharper than the Tamron at 300mm!

I then compared the cost and weight. The Nikkor plus 1.4x extender will weigh over a kilogram, whereas the Tamron is only 765gms. Not a significant difference, but a difference that would be noticeable.

However, the Nikkor lens with teleconverter costs approximately $1700, best price. The Tamron lens costs about $400, best price. That's a very significant difference.

So I bought myself a Tamron 70-300 VC with Nikon D3200 which I received a couple of days ago. Both lens and camera cost a total of $829, considerably less than the Nikkor lens alone.

So far, I'm very pleased with the results. The VC (vibration compensation) seems very effective, and the lens at 300mm and F8 seems sharper than my Canon 100-400 at 400mm and F8. The reason why I think it is sharper is because I'm getting very similar sharpness and detail using the Tamron at 300mm as I get with the Canon at 400mm, shooting the same scene from the same position.

I can't believe the difference between the 24mp of the D3200 and the 15mp of the 50D could entirely compensate for the difference in reach between 450mm and 640mm (in 35mm terms), unless one lens is sharper than the other.

I haven't bothered to resize the attached 100% crops because the greater pixel density of the D3200 sensor results in detail from 300mm lens being almost the same size as the same detail from the 400mm lens when both are viewed at 100% on screen.

My Canon 100-400 zoom with 50D attached weighs about 2.4kg. The Tamron zoom with D3200, about 1.3kg, a weight-saving of 1.1kg, not to mention the price difference.

I've also included a shot which simultaneously demonstrate the nice bokeh, the ability of the lens to focus on a small object in the scene, and the effectiveness of the VC of this Tamron lens, sort of like killing three birds with one stone. However, I admit that using just 1/50th sec at 300mm, hand-held, does not always produce acceptable results.  Grin

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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #1 on: February 08, 2013, 11:08:46 PM »
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To me, it looks like Canon holds detail slightly better.

But, the real question is, what's up with all those worms at 100%, especially visible in the Canon file. Detail slider pushed to 100%?
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Slobodan

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« Reply #2 on: February 09, 2013, 07:15:32 AM »
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I have a nikkor 70-300-f4,5- 5,6   and the latest f2,8 70-200

Now i must admit the 70-300 is a beautiful lens for its price 500 vs 1800  - but at 200-300mm the quality drops.
(also because of the cheap mechanics - at 300mm the lens bends down a little i think)
from 70- 200 there is little to complain and if you use d11 even the corners are very good. Autofocus is good

The 70- 200 is a bit sharper - has 1-2 stops more light -has a beautiful bokeh at 2,8 and i like the coating better. The autofocus is very fast. Solid build
Making a good thing into a better thing always costs a lot more.. on the other hand the bodies improve a lot and get cheaper every year...




« Last Edit: February 09, 2013, 07:17:52 AM by kers » Logged

Pieter Kers
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Ray
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« Reply #3 on: February 09, 2013, 09:10:11 AM »
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To me, it looks like Canon holds detail slightly better.

But, the real question is, what's up with all those worms at 100%, especially visible in the Canon file. Detail slider pushed to 100%?

Ah! I see you have a very discerning eye for detail, Slobodan. The worms are of course for the birds.  Grin

Seriously, what happened is, I sharpened the D3200 image first in ACR, till it looked about right (Amount 70, Radius 0.7, Detail 100, Clarity 100), then thought that in order to be fair and objective I should apply the same sharpening to the 50D image.

However, after adjusting contrast and color in Photoshop to get both images looking about the same in overall appearance, I noticed that the 50D image looked significantly grainier than the D3200 image at 100%, so instead of reconverting the 50D image and applying less sharpening, I took the easier route of applying a bit more sharpening to the D3200 image using Smart Sharpen so its graininess became closer to that of the 50D. As you noticed, the D3200 graininess, or worminess, is still not quite as bad as in the 50D shot, so I could have applied even more sharpening in Smart Sharpen.

I took some more shots today of the same view with better lighting which enabled me to use ISO 100, hand-held. I also took some more shots at ISO 400 using fast shutter speeds of 1,000th to 1,600th to see whether a shutter speed faster than 1/FL would provide any resolution advantage with the 24mp sensor which, in full-frame 35mm terms would be 54mp.

Initial processing of such images confirms my first impression that there is no detail or resolution advantage in the 50D/400mm shot that is of any practical significance. Whether or not one image looks more detailed than the other seems to depend entirely on the amount of sharpening applied.
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Ray
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« Reply #4 on: February 09, 2013, 09:28:44 AM »
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I have a nikkor 70-300-f4,5- 5,6   and the latest f2,8 70-200

Now i must admit the 70-300 is a beautiful lens for its price 500 vs 1800  - but at 200-300mm the quality drops.


The quality of the Tamron 70-300/F4-5.6 VC USD also drops between 200 & 300mm, just as the quality of my Canon 100-400 drops between 300mm & 400mm. The question for me is, does it drop as much as adding a teleconverter to an otherwise excellent lens. Also, heavy lenses are not ideal for me because I'm a peripatetic sort of photographer. I don't want to buy equipment which I'm discouraged from using in many circumstances because of the inconvenience of weight and bulk.

This new Tamron lens with the D3200 means I can discard my old 50D and Canon 100-400 zoom, and because the Tamron/D3200 combination is significantly lighter and easier to handle, and hold steady etc, I'll probably use it more frequently. At 70mm the lens appears to be on a par with the Nikkor 70-200/F4 at 70mm. They both have a maximum aperture of F4. The Nikkor is slightly sharper at F4, but the Tamron is slightly sharper at the other apertures of F5.6 to F11, at 70mm, according to Photozone's tests.
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Ray
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« Reply #5 on: February 10, 2013, 09:26:34 PM »
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For the benefit of the few discerning individuals who may be interested, I've attached some 200% crops of the same scene shot at a different time of day in better lighting when I was able to use ISO 100% instead of the ISO 400 of the previous examples.

I've applied slightly different sharpening to each image in an attempt to equalize the amount of visible grain, and to maximize the amount of detail. No noise reduction has been applied.

The image from the D3200/Tamron combination has been enlarged to 215% in order to match the size of the 50D image at 200%.

My impression remains that the Canon 100-400 at 400mm provides no image quality advantage over the Tamron at 300mm, provided one uses a camera with a 24mp sensor, such as the D3200.

If Canon were to offer its own version of a 24mp cropped-format camera, I would probably buy it with the expectation that the 100-400 would produce noticeably more detailed results than the Tamron.

I should also mention that the comparisons I've made so far are shot with focussing at infinity. I haven't compared images of close subjects. Lenses can have a different performance at different focussing distances.

However, another advantage of the Tamron lens is the more extensive DoF. You can see from the Centre Bottom Crop that the foreground in the 300mm shot is much sharper. This is not due to different focussing of the two shots, but due to the deeper DoF of a 300mm lens compared with a 400mm lens used at the same aperture. Such differences are more apparent in the foreground than the background.

If a deeper DoF is more  useful to you than a shallower DoF, then that's another plus for the Tamron. It's not only significantly less expensive and significantly lighter than the Canon 100-400, but has deeper DoF at the same aperture, when both lenses are fully extended. Wow! Phwoar! Crikey!

I've also included a comparison of a 200% crop, upper right of centre, where there is wire mesh material between the fence posts. Neither lens can capture the wire mesh but give a hint of its presence to equal degrees.
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stever
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« Reply #6 on: February 10, 2013, 10:34:09 PM »
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i tested the Tamron, the Canon equivalent, and the Canon 70-300 L vs the Canon 70-200 f4 +1.4iii and my selected 100-400 using Imatest.  the Canon 70-300L was a bit sharper than the 70-200 + extender and 100-400.  i found the Tamron much less than amazing - not terrible in the center but very low resolution away from center, particularly at longer focal lengths - generally not good wide open.  i bought the 70-200 and extender because it handles so much better than the 70-300L and is really sharp without the extender. 
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Ray
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« Reply #7 on: February 11, 2013, 12:17:55 AM »
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i tested the Tamron, the Canon equivalent, and the Canon 70-300 L vs the Canon 70-200 f4 +1.4iii and my selected 100-400 using Imatest.  the Canon 70-300L was a bit sharper than the 70-200 + extender and 100-400.  i found the Tamron much less than amazing - not terrible in the center but very low resolution away from center, particularly at longer focal lengths - generally not good wide open.  i bought the 70-200 and extender because it handles so much better than the 70-300L and is really sharp without the extender. 

Was that the new Tamron with vibration compensation, Stever? There is always the inevitable variation in optical quality due to less-than-perfect quality control during manufacture. Some folks claim that the Canon 400/F5.6 prime is an excellent lens and is sharper than the 100-400 zoom at 400mm. The copy that I bought several years ago, I found to be slightly worse than my exisiting 100-400 zoom, the same zoom I am now comparing with the Tamron. I returned the Canon prime for a full refund of course. I didn't bother trying out another copy because I wasn't entirely happy with the prime's lack of IS.

This copy of the Tamron 70-300 I have is certainly the equal of the Canon 100-400 at the upper edges and corners. At the lower edges and corners, in the foreground, both lenses focussed at infinity, the Tamron produces much better detail due to its better DoF of course.  Grin
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rickk
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« Reply #8 on: February 11, 2013, 09:13:05 AM »
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After seeing some favorable reviews, I took advantage of a rebate offer that made it seem like Tamron was giving the lens away. Much to my surprise, the lens tested well enough around home to take it on a foreign trip last fall. It proved to be more than adequate on a D800e, and several of the best images from the trip were taken with this lens. A Nikon 85mm f/1.8 lens was on the camera most of the time, but when additional reach was needed, on went the Tamron zoom. After returning home, I had the opportunity to compare 16x20ish prints made with the two lenses. In quick summary, those from the Tamron zoom looked almost as "good" as those from the Nikon 85. As mentioned by others here, avoid using the zoom at focal lengths approaching its maximum end.

Of course, I may have been lucky and received an above-average copy. I certainly have a better copy of Canon's 400/5.6 than Ray experienced -- that particular lens is the entire reason I have a Canon body dedicated primarily to that lens.

Regards,    Rick
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Ray
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« Reply #9 on: February 11, 2013, 03:47:50 PM »
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After returning home, I had the opportunity to compare 16x20ish prints made with the two lenses. In quick summary, those from the Tamron zoom looked almost as "good" as those from the Nikon 85. As mentioned by others here, avoid using the zoom at focal lengths approaching its maximum end.

Rick,

Would those comparisons be of shots taken at exactly the same focal length? Just as a slightly longer focal length with the lower quality zoom lens can result in an equally detailed image (or even more detailed image), a higher resolution sensor can have a similar effect.

I don't have any Nikkor primes to compare with my new Tamron. All I can do is compare the Tamron with my Nikkor 24-120/F4 between 70mm and 120mm, using either my D800E or D3200. I would expect the Tamron to be better at those focal lengths. This will be my next test.

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As mentioned by others here, avoid using the zoom at focal lengths approaching its maximum end.


Surely that only applies if you happen to be carrying at the time a better lens around the 300mm length. I doubt that the best 200mm prime that money can buy will produce as detailed an image as the Tamron at 300mm, from the same shooting position using the same camera.

Regards
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rickk
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« Reply #10 on: February 22, 2013, 02:23:09 PM »
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Hi Ray,    Sorry I wasn't paying enough attention to provide a response earlier.

Would those comparisons be of shots taken at exactly the same focal length?

No, they were not compared at 85mm on the Tamron zoom. My intended point was that the prints from the Tamron at a variety of focal lengths on a D800e could be displayed adjacent to prints using Nikon's 85mm f/1.8 without reactions of "Wow, some of these images look far better than others -- did you use a lousy lens for the poor ones?"  I like the results from the 85 enough to leave it on the camera whenever it might work for the subject matter at hand, and stitched images from this lens are particularly good.  Nevertheless, when a narrower field of view is needed, the Tamron zoom is certainly adequate. Considering its cost, the lens is even more impressive.

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Surely that only applies if you happen to be carrying at the time a better lens around the 300mm length. I doubt that the best 200mm prime that money can buy will produce as detailed an image as the Tamron at 300mm, from the same shooting position using the same camera.

Agreed. Carrying a 70-300 Tamron zoom along with a Nikon 300/2.8 is highly unlikely, for a variety of good reasons. And if you don't happen to have one of those ultra-lenses and really need the tight field of view provided at 300mm, you are probably better off with the zoom at max than cropping from an image shot at 200mm.  However, that sounds like a good topic for some tests. If someone would like to loan a Nikon 200mm f/2 to me (or Ray), we'll be glad to test it out in comparison to the "lowly" zoom.

Regards,  Rick


 


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rgs
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« Reply #11 on: February 22, 2013, 02:41:23 PM »
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I have one of these. I looked at what Canon offered in the same zoom range for the same money and it seemed like the Tamron was the best buy. I would rather have the Canon 70-300L but it's three times as much.

I'm very happy with it. I shoot it on a 50D so someone shooting it on a FF camera might have a different response, but T\the lens is very good up to 200+mm after which it gets a little soft. I say a little because it's still quite usable and probably better than something cropped from a shorter lens out to 300mm. The VC makes it very easy to hold still and seems very effective. It's also very quiet. AF is good mostly except it tends to hunt in low light at 300mm. My Canon lenses focus a little faster but not much. It's very usable. Over all I think it's the best buy in it's price range.
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