Tamron 70-300 VC USD (Nikon Mount)

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Tamron 70-300 VC USD (Nikon Mount)

Postby grahamnp » Thu Nov 18, 2010 11:04 am

Sorry for the lack of updates. Lousy weather and work means I haven't been taken many photos at all.

Got it not too long ago, haven't taken too many shots yet. Just the initial impressions for now and then the actual performance over the next week or so.


I tend to judge the size of a lens by looking at the length : diameter ratio. I thought this one would be about the same size as the 70-300 VR but it is quite a bit larger. It is marginally longer but it is a very wide lens even all the way to the base. This is no issue and I find it to be a quite a comfortable size to hold but it was a surprise nonetheless.

The lens takes 62mm filters and has a massive hood which is 2/3rds the length of the lens itself. Thankfully the hood is quite slim and folds neatly over the rest of the lens body and is ribbed internally to reduce reflections. The hood locks on with a nice click which I really like. My Sigma 10-20 can be easily twisted on incorrectly at an angle which I tend to do by mistake quite often, it's not possible with this one.

The zoom ring is furthest from the camera body and the direction of rotation when zooming is consistent with other Nikkor lenses. A ~70 degree turn takes you from 70 to 300mm and focal lengths are evenly spaced across the 70 degrees, I am referring to the actual focal length and not the markers. The focus ring is quite narrow with what seems to me like quite a long throw. This lens has a window for the focus distances in feet and metres but nothing else.

There are two switches on the side for the ultrasonic motor (USD) and anti-shake (VC). There is no active mode switch like on some Nikons.

The lens mount is metal and surprisingly shiny, looks a bit tacky to be honest but who stares at the back of their lens anyway. The rear element moves in by about 7cm as you zoom in and the inside of the rear of the lens is ribbed just like the hood to reduce stray light I guess. The lens has 9 rounded aperture blades.

Build quality

Most impressions on the net rate this lens as quite a bit better than the other Tamron SP lenses and equal or marginally inferior in build to the 70-300 VR. It does feel better than the few SP lenses that I've handled but I've never used the 70-300 VR in practice so no comments there.

It does feel quite solidly build to me, just as well put together as my AF-S 60 macro (Nikon) but the choice of plastics don't feel as good. It is a bit more plasticky than the Nikon and nowhere near as good as my EX Sigma but for the price, is more than sufficient to me. The zoom ring is stiff and heavy but turns fairly smoothly and the focus ring is smooth and well damped, it's too bad I will probably never use it. The switches are a bit easy to move, they might get knocked into the wrong position when in use or when put in or taken out of my bag. The only noticeably weak spot in the lens' exterior is the focus distance window which has some flex to it.


This is the first VC/OS/VR lens that I actually own and can scrutinize so naturally, everything is impressive. This will be a beginner's take on VC as much as a review of the lens but I will try to keep it informative. :wink:

The VC takes between half and a whole second to activate and then stays on for about 2 seconds after you release the shutter. When activated the whole image in the viewfinder jumps (relatively) violently and then everything is fairly steady with with that slight floating sensation. Making minor adjustments to the composition when the VC is active is quite awkward because the system tries to fight any changes even when the adjustments are obviously large and deliberate. Tamron's implementation is suppposed to automatically detect panning so I'm not sure how that is going to work out, I'll have to spend more time with it.

Something I've already found to be quite annoying is using VC with the built in flash. The VC disengages and then engages again when the flash is recycling and the delay is not exactly in sync with the flash recycle time so adjusting my shooting style for the delay is difficult.

The VC system is audible but not loud. You hear a soft grinding noise as it goes on and off with a very soft whirring in between. I've read complaints about the noise of Tamron's system, it is not an issue with my copy and I find it hard to believe that anybody could take issue with it at this noise level.

Day 4 update: The VC stays on when using an external flashgun, no issues there.

It seems very effective so far. I have gotten stable shots at 1/10s at 300mm already but the "hit ratio" is very low. I can confirm that Tamron's 4 stop claim is true but a realistic real life result would be 3-4 in practice. I will be updating this section as I find out more.

AF performance

AF is quite fast. Never used the 70-300 VR but it is faster than my AF-S 60 and my 18-135. Those aren't exactly speed demons so I'm sorry that this comparison isn't of much use. It is speedy in good light but slows down quite a bit when it gets dark as you would expect of a f/4-5.6 zoom. I'll try put more thoughts in as I clock more hours with the lens. Overall impression are good so far, I hope Tamron updates more lenses with USD soon.

If you're curious, this video compares the focus speed to the Tamron 70-200 and the Canon 200 f/1.8 USM.

Day 4 update: There's not much else to say. AF has no difficulty keeping up when panning with cars. AF seems more reliable than some of my other lenses in that it will focus eventually in low light even after some of my other lenses like my 18-135 just do the infinity and back cycle and then give up.

Exposure Issues

Some people seem to have exposure issues with theirs. Mine exposes quite consistently and is in line with my AF-S 60 and 18-135 but maybe just make sure that Tamron has this issue fully sorted before you get one.

Chromatic Aberration

....is minimal. CA is mostly not an issue nowadays because it's easily corrected but this one has less than my other lenses. Mind you, I am using it on a DX body so I get to avoid the worst bits.
Last edited by grahamnp on Mon Jan 10, 2011 8:37 am, edited 2 times in total.

Postby Trevor Harris » Thu Nov 18, 2010 12:15 pm

Thanks for the informative review, it was a great read. I've been considering this lens as well. Honestly, the variable aperture is throwing me off... Whats your take on this versus a constant large aperture (apart form the obvious).

Also, (are we allowed to link to ebay?) I've stumbled across this guy. Is this just the previous version of the lens you've reviewed?

http://cgi.ebay.ca/Tamron-70-300mm-Di-L ... 53e44a51de
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Trevor Harris
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Location: St. John's, NL, Canada

Postby grahamnp » Thu Nov 18, 2010 1:46 pm

I've never owned a constant aperture zoom but my opinion would be that if you can justify the cost, go for it. The shutter speed required to avoid shake at 300m is quite demanding so an f/4 or f/2.8 at 300 would help greatly. I don't use focal lengths >100mm often, this is the last of the "usual" lenses that I have so for me, spending 2-3x the amount on a constant aperture lens does not make sense.

If you don't shoot action, anti shake should be more than enough outdoors. It's with stuff like concerts or sports or even worse, indoor sports that the bigger aperture comes in handy. What do you plan to use the lens for?

The only key difference that would be "apart from the obvious" would be the autofocus performance. Constant aperture zooms are still bright when zoomed in whereas going from 70 to 300 on this one cuts the light down by half and it is noticeable on this and any other lens.

That is the older 70-300 that Tamron makes. Tamron is keeping both lenses in their line-up so this is not a direct replacement. Also, many key aspects of the lens has been changed, I'm pretty sure that the the optics of the lens are completely different. I don't think this review would be of much use to you if you are planning on getting that one.

Postby Trevor Harris » Thu Nov 18, 2010 2:12 pm

Thanks for your reply. To answer your question, I'm primarily an outdoor photographer.
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Postby grahamnp » Sat Nov 20, 2010 8:44 am

Updated the AF and VC section and added a bit to address the exposure issues and CA performance.

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