It should come as no surprise that Tamron launched their 70-180mm f2.8 lens as a competitor to Sony’s native 70-200mm f2.8 G Master. This is an interesting move on Tamron’s part: Sony owns 12.06% stakes in the third party lens manufacturer. Fundamental differences in focal range and lens design contribute to the Tamron offering’s lower price point. Let’s compare the two telephoto zooms and see whether the Tamron’s cost savings can outweigh the added functionally of the Sony G Master.
By the Numbers
The Tamron 70-180mm f2.8 looks like a toy when placed next to the Sony 70-200mm f2.8 G Master. The size difference is most noticeable when the respective lens hoods are attached.
Removing the lens hoods and the difference becomes less pronounced. The Tamron is still unmistakably smaller in size. Let’s compare the figures:
|Lens||Tamron 70-180mm f2.8||Sony 70-200mm f2.8 G Master|
|Focal Length||70-180 mm||70-200 mm|
|Length||149 mm (5.9″)||200 mm (7.84″)|
|Diameter||81 mm (3.19″)||88 mm (3.46″)|
|Weight||810 g (28.6 oz)||1480 g (52.21 oz) (without tripod collar)|
|Filter Thread||Φ 67 mm||Φ 77 mm|
|Angle of View (35mm Equivalent)||34°21′-13°42′||34°-12° 30′|
|Optical Construction||19 elements in 14 groups||23 elements in 18 groups|
|Minimum Focusing Distance||AF: 0.85 m (2.79 ft)|
MF: 0.27 m (.89 ft)
|0.96 m (3.15 ft)|
|Maximum Magnification Ratio||AF: 1:4.6|
MF 1:2 (Wide) / 1:”4.6 (Tele)
Some key differences separate the Tamron 70-180mm f2.8 and the Sony 70-200mm f2.8 G Master. Chief among these include:
- The difference in focal ranges: The Sony 70-200mm f2.8 G Master covers an additional 20 mm on the long end.
- The noticeable size difference: The Tamron 70-180mm f2.8 is 25.5% shorter than the Sony 70-200mm f2.8 G Master. The Tamron also has a roughly 8% smaller diameter. This translates to less room inside your camera bag.
- The significant weight difference: The Tamron 70-180mm f2.8 weighs roughly 45% less than the Sony 70-200mm f2.8 G Master with the tripod collar removed. With the collar installed, the weight difference becomes even more noticeable. You’re going to wish you hadn’t skipped those bicep curls.
- The Tamron 70-180mm f2.8 also eschews image stabilization while the Sony 70-200mm f2.8 G Master has it built-in. This is a sought after feature by many photographers, especially those photographing fast-moving subjects or in low light scenarios.
- Unlike the Sony 70-200mm f2.8 G Master, there are no manual controls besides the zoom ring and manual focus ring on the Tamron 70-180mm f2.8. Toggling between Autofocus and Manual Focus with the Tamron will have to be done via your camera’s menu. You also won’t be able to set the focusing distance range manually with the Tamron.
These factors contribute greatly towards Tamron’s more diminutive footprint and affordable price point. There are some additional takeaways though. Macro photographers will appreciate the closer minimum focusing distance and higher maximum magnification ratio (particularly when manually focusing) that the Tamron affords. The 9-bladed circular aperture on the Tamron 70-180mm f2.8 produces adequate defocus blurring. True bokeh addicts will still prefer the creamier out of focus rendering from the Sony thanks to its 11-bladed circular aperture design.
Some photographers spend more time clicking their keyboards than their camera shutters, busy arguing about charts and figures. At The Phoblographer, we prefer to compare real-world results. Below are a series of sample images from identical scenes photographed using the Tamron 70-180mm f2.8 and the Sony 70-200mm f2.8 G Master. These images were shot on the Sony A7R IV using identical settings and minimally processed using Capture One Pro 20. As a matter of ethics, none of these sample images have been retouched so that you can judge the quality of the images produced by these two lenses for yourself.
We’ve also chosen not to label the images individually, but you can find out which is which later in this article. You can also cheat and look at the file names, but nobody likes a cheater. We’re totally judging you.
In general, we noticed that images shot using the Tamron 70-180mm f2.8 appeared slightly brighter than those produced by the Sony 70-200mm f2.8 G Master at identical settings. Obviously, changes in overhead cloud conditions will produces some outliers. Bokeh from the Tamron is pleasing enough. Put them side by side against identical scenes capture using the Sony though, and the differences are immediately noticeable. As previously mentioned, the Sony’s 11-bladed circular aperture design creates smoother and more pleasing bokeh. Upon closer inspection, the bokeh produced by the Tamron exhibits haloing as well as onion rings. We’d be remiss not to point this out, but most people won’t really notice or be bothered by this unless they’re pixel peeping.
Some Post-Processing Required
Pincushion distortion is something to keep an eye out for when shooting with the Tamron. Check out the following excerpt from our Tamron 70-180mm f2.8 review:
Pincushion distortion becomes very apparent as you’re zooming the Tamron towards the long end. Objects appear undistorted up to around 100mm. As you’re zooming from 100mm to 180mm, you’ll really start to notice the pincushioning effect. Take a look at the following examples:from our Tamron 70-180mm f2.8 review
Here’s another example of the Tamron 70-180mm f2.8’s pincushion distortion. Thankfully, it can be corrected in Capture One 20 with minimal effort.
As of press time, lens profiles for the Tamron 70-180mm f2.8 are not yet available for Capture One 20. While this pincushioning effect is easy enough to mitigate, it’s still additional work that’s required during post processing. Lens profiles would help correct this automatically as images are being imported.
Were you able to differentiate which of the images in the comparison gallery were shot using the Tamron 70-180mm f2.8 and which were shot using the Sony 70-200mm f2.8 G Master? If you couldn’t tell the difference, save yourself the $1,400 and go for the Tamron 70-180mm f2.8. The first image of each scene was shot using the Sony while the second image from each scene was shot using the Tamron. Working professionals frequently shooting in low light/low contrast settings may want to opt for the Sony 70-200mm f2.8 G Master though. The image stabilization and more consistent autofocusing performance of the Sony in less optimal scenarios are worth the splurge. Just be sure to eat your Wheaties and do those bicep curls so you can lift the extra weight.