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New lens - Tamron 18-270 3.5-6.3 DI II VC

Good glass

September 25th, 2010

Although the kit lens for the Canon 1000D (18-55 3.5-5.6 IS) does a pretty good job, it definitely has its limitations. After all, 55mm is not very long and you will finding yourself resorting to the good old foot zoom (aka running around). Since I was going on a trip to Egypt, I figured it was time to pick up something more powerful and flexible for my holiday memories. Since changing lenses can be a hassle, I decided to go for the Tamron 18-270 VC, which covers everything from wide angle to long tele in a single lens.

Using the lens

With a zoom range of 18-270mm (about 28-430mm on a crop body, like the Canon 1000D) this lens is extremely flexible. It should be wide enough to eliminate the need to carry around extra wide-angle lenses, and long enough to make tele lenses mostly redundant.

The Tamron weighs in at around 580 grams, which is almost three times as heavy as the kit lens. In my case, the extra weight is very noticeable - since the camera is about 500 grams, the total weight of camera and lens went up around 50% when using the Tamron instead of the kit lens.

The Tamron compared to the kit lens.
The Tamron compared to the kit lens.
Again, the Tamron next to the kit lens, but now with the included lens hood and extended to 270mm.
Again, the Tamron next to the kit lens, but now with the included lens hood and extended to 270mm.

The lens has a switch which locks it at 18mm. This is really needed, as walking around with the lens pointing down could make it extend by its own weight and possibly cause trouble. The opposite is also true - I found it difficult to zoom in while pointing the lens upwards. And when letting go of it (unless it is really extended all the way to 270mm), it falls back to 18mm by itself. So using this lens on a tripod, shooting upwards at 100mm or so is simply impossible. Maybe duct tape could hold it in place?

Below are two pictures showing the difference at 18 to 270mm.

The lens at 18mm (f/3.5).
The lens at 18mm (f/3.5).
Same as above, at 270mm (f/6.3).
Same as above, at 270mm (f/6.3).

Vibration correction

Tamron calls its optical image stabilizer "Vibration Correction", or VC for short. When pressing the shutter halfway, the system kicks in and you can immediately see in the optical viewfinder how the picture just sort of freezes as small vibrations are eliminated. The system works about as well as Canon's IS, which you can read about in an older post.

Vibration Correction turned on. Shutter speed: 0.4 seconds (270mm).
Vibration Correction turned on. Shutter speed: 0.4 seconds (270mm).
Same as above, but Vibration Correction turned off. Bluriness quite visible.
Same as above, but Vibration Correction turned off. Bluriness quite visible.

Sharpness

Subjectively, the Tamron is about as sharp as the kit lens - which means that most pictures come out a bit soft. The Tamron has worse focusing issues at times though, when the lens reports to have focused but the pictures come out all blurry. This is one of the biggest problems with this lens so far. Refocusing and taking another picture usually solves it though.

Chromatic aberration

The Tamron has it. Purple or green colors along edges are common, but also expected with this kind of lens. The picture below shows an example where the effects are particularly noticeable.

This 100% crop shows some heavy chromatic aberration (f/6.3, 270mm).
This 100% crop shows some heavy chromatic aberration (f/6.3, 270mm).

Sample pictures

Sunrise (f/6.3, 270mm).
Sunrise (f/6.3, 270mm).
Waking moon (f/6.3, 270mm)
Waking moon (f/6.3, 270mm)
Getting close to animals is much easier. (f/6.3, 270mm)
Getting close to animals is much easier. (f/6.3, 270mm)
For macro shots, the lens gets about as close as the kit lens, which is not very close.
For macro shots, the lens gets about as close as the kit lens, which is not very close.

For more sample pictures, check the image gallery from my trip to Egypt.

Conclusion

The image quality is on par with the kit lens, which should be fine for most people. While there is some softness and chromatic aberration, the lens makes up for it in flexibility. Sure, a quality 300mm prime would beat the Tamron at the long end, but the possibility to go from long tele to wide angle in just a second matters more to me.

Pros

  • Extreme zoom range (15x)
  • VC works well (and is more or less a requirement at 270mm)
  • The lens actually comes with a hood included
  • Focusing does not rotate the front of the lens (not important for me, but more so for people using filters)

Cons

  • Much heavier than the kit lens
  • Unable to focus at times
  • Macro is no improvement over the kit lens
  • Slight softness
  • Some chromatic aberration

If you are looking for a very flexible walkabout lens and can compromise some on image quality, look no further. But if you need good macro as well, or something light... you will have to keep looking.

August 22nd, 2013 12:03
Jan

hello Erik,

about the fact that the system "kicks in" and freezes the image. I just bought this same lense, and when focussing, the image in the viewfinder actually moves a fraction to the left down corner, and when releasing it again (without taking the shot) it moves back again. Do you notice the same effect happening?

thanks,
Jan

August 24th, 2013 00:27
Erik

Hi Jan,

not sure it's the same thing as you describe, but with the camera on a tripod and image stabilization turned on, after focusing - and that's when the IS kicks in - it starts drifting around quite a bit. It keeps on doing that until the IS is deactivated after a few seconds. The effect is very noticeable at the long end and using live view. The stabilizer tries to correct errors that don't exist and end up creating errors on its own. It's normal for this type of lens; IS only works for fairly quick shutter speeds anyway, and makes no sense on a tripod. But it still looks weird. ;)

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Erik Moberg  2019