Can the Tamron 70-180mm f2.8 Di III VXD shape up and get past a few hurdles?
We’re sure everyone is asking why the Tamron 70-180mm f2.8 Di III VXD isn’t going for the extra 20mm to reach 200. The company has expressed many times that it was prioritizing weight, size, and cost. When you look at it from that standpoint, they’re totally right. At its current position, the Tamron 70-180mm f2.8 Di III VXD is a viable option over Sony’s 70-200mm f2.8 and f4 options. The enthusiast and the professional alike could both reach for this lens. But, if we’ve seen anything in the past few years, it’s a couple of significant trends that have been demanded by many photographers across the board. The first is better optics: Tamron’s are excellent, but not always what they claim according to our tests. The other is a big one: the image stabilization.
No Image Stabilization
One can make a compelling argument that the Sony a7 and a9 bodies have image stabilization built in, and therefore the lens doesn’t need it. But we’ve seen over and over again in our tests that Sony’s image stabilization is not mind-blowing. While it’s okay, it isn’t always the most effective option for telephoto lenses. Image stabilization in-camera works best for wide-angle lenses, but the effectiveness degrades as you create longer focal lengths. So to compensate, you need to put image stabilization in the lens. The latest generation of photographers often needs this as they’re not practicing the best methods to keep as steady as possible. I barely see photographers these days holding their breath or completely releasing it.
The other lenses in the Tamron trio also lack image stabilization, which is more forgivable because they’re wider focal lengths. But the 70-180mm f2.8 Di III VXD is the telephoto option of the trio, and image stabilization is pretty necessary for portrait photography, event photography, photojournalism, etc. More importantly, what if you’re using one of Sony’s APS-C bodies?! You need the extra image stabilization for sure when that 180mm becomes a 270mm lens!
But Could It Have Some of the Best Weather Sealing?
It’s no secret that Tamron’s lenses are incredibly weather sealed. We’ve put them through total torture tests before. The company’s latest set of prime lenses survived being out in the cold NYC rain for hours. They continued to work well, and we didn’t run into any problems at all. Because of this, we’ve always given praise to Tamron for the weather sealing they do for the prices they fetch. Per dollar, Tamron’s weather sealing is top-notch and delivers like a lens that outprices it. For even more insight into this, below is a video of a torture test we did with the Tamron 17-28mm f2.8 Di III RXD.
Now here’s the big problem with the Tamron 70-180mm f2.8 Di III VXD: it’s going to have a more extended surface area for zooming in and out than the other lenses. Granted, it’s not much, but it’s a concern for sure in the long run. When you’re zooming in and out, there will be more wear and tear placed on the gaskets by default. Luckily, lots of Tamron’s lenses have a six-year warranty.
Here’s a diagram of the weather seals on the Tamron 70-180mm f2.8 Di III VXD. It’s sealed very well against the elements, as we see. There’s a whole lot of sealing at the mount, which is excellent. And if water or debris gets into the zooming surface area, then it has to go through a few gaskets to really affect it–or at least that’s how it seems. We’re not sure.
And There’s the Integration with Sony’s Eye Detection
Lots of folks don’t know this, but we’ve been told that Sony owns a piece of Tamron. So to that end, it’s in Sony’s best interest to assist Tamron when it comes to certain things. In this case, it’s the autofocus. During our tests, we’ve all seen that Sony’s autofocus performance is better with Tamron lenses than those of Sigma, Rokinon, etc. This is one of the biggest things a Tamron lens has going for it when combined with their image quality and the pricing. The performance will always be fast, but it may not be Sony G Master fast. Photographers who want a telephoto zoom lens at a lower price point may consider the Tamron 70-180mm f2.8 Di III VXD then.
The Price, Size, and Weight at the Cost of 20mm
The Tamron 70-180mm f2.8 Di III VXD is 5.9 inches and 28.6oz. That weight roughly translates to 1.7 lbs. We decided to compare this to other lenses out there: the Sony 70-200mm f2.8 G Master is 3.26 lb, and the Sony 70-200mm f4 G is 1.85 lb. The Tamron 70-180mm f2.8 Di III VXD will cost $1,199. That’s more affordable than the Sony 70-200mm f4, and lighter than both versions. You’re missing a key 20mm, though, which means that you sometimes will need to step forward a bit when shooting. So, if that’s not a concern for you, then rock on! As it is, the truth is that most portrait photographers don’t have studio space to accommodate to 200mm.
The Profiles: What Tamron Is Saying and What We See
The last thing we’d like to touch on is Tamron’s mention of the lens profiles already being baked into the lens. While Tamron is saying this, we’ve seen otherwise in our previous reviews and tests. We especially saw this with their prime lens trio. Importing the images into Capture One 20 showed us that there was a lot of work to be done when it came to distortion and more. And we’re not even sure that Adobe Upright can still save it. Overall though, we’re mostly jazzed about the Tamron 70-180mm f2.8 Di III VXD, but not sure it’s what a photographer would necessarily want or need. This is going to take reviewing, of course, so stay tuned for a full review.