Alongside the 24-70mm, the 70-200mm is a classic zoom lens—a staple in most every photographer’s kit. Whenever a major lens maker rolls out an updated version of these lenses, it’s kind of a big deal.
So we were naturally excited to see Tamron refresh its 70-200mm f/2.8 lens with the updated SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2. We tested a Canon mount version of the new 70-200mm with N.J. photographer and director David Patiño.
For the new full-frame 70-200mm (model A025), Tamron went back to the drawing board, revamping the earlier design to improve autofocusing speed and precision and improve image stabilization (or Vibration Compensation, as Tamron calls it). Like other models in the SP lineup, the 70-200mm has been built to resolve the plentiful pixels packed into modern image sensors.
The lens’s VC is now able to deliver up to 5 stops of image stabilization, per CIPA standards. It’s available in three modes: Mode 1 balances between the stability of the image in the viewfinder with the stability of the final image. Mode 2 is dedicated to stabilizing your image during panning. Mode 3 prioritizes the stability of the final image and won’t stabilize the viewfinder image.
Another nice upgrade is the minimum focusing distance. It’s now 37.4 inches, down from its predecessor’s 50.7-inches. You’ll enjoy a maximum magnification of 1:6.1
The SP 70-200mm now features Tamron’s eBAND Coating to reduce flare and ghosting and fluorine coating on the front of the lens to make it easier to clean.
The nine-blade aperture stops down f/22. Autofocusing is driven by an Ultrasonic Silent Drive motor. You’ll have the option to manually tweak focus even when the lens is set to AF thanks to its full-time manual focus override function.
The SP70-200mm is compatible with the company’s optional TAP-in Console to customize VC, update firmware and make other lens adjustments. It’s also compatible with a pair of new teleconverters: a 1.4x (TC-X14) and a 2.0x (TC-X20) to extend its reach still further.
As with most recent Tamron lenses, the Nikon mount has been upgraded with an electromagnetic diaphragm for better exposure control during continuous shooting (a standard feature on the company’s Canon-mount lenses).
The 70-200mm maintains the improved industrial design of all of Tamron’s refreshed SP lenses. It’s weather and dust resistant, yet not overly bulky. At 52.9 ounces (Canon mount) it’s essentially the same weight as Canon’s EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens. The Nikon mount version weighs in at just 2 ounces lighter than Nikon’s own AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8 ED VR II.
The focus and zoom rings turn smoothly and there’s a series of three convenient buttons to switch from manual to autofocusing, turn VC on or off as well as to set your desired VC mode. Focusing range is visible through a small window at the top of the lens (we wish it was a tad larger) and there’s a removable tripod collar.
Image Quality & Performance
Patiño shot the SP 70-200mm for several headshots on both the Canon 5DS tethered through Lightroom and the Sony a7R II with a Metabones adapter tethered into Capture One.
The lens did an excellent job resolving the details of both of these high-resolution cameras, though Patiño found the Sony files to be a bit sharper when viewed at 100 percent in Lightroom.
Patiño tells us he didn’t spot much in the way of chromatic aberration, but vignetting was surprisingly strong starting at f/6 and got stronger as he opened up the lens. The Lightroom profile was able to eliminate it. On the plus side, he tells us the VC was excellent. “I would have no problem hand-holding this lens” under a variety of conditions, he says.
The lens focused quickly and accurately on both camera bodies, Patiño says.
If you’re a full-frame shooter looking to update your 70-200mm workhorse, Tamron’s SP 70-200mm G2 makes a compelling bid for your dollar. For one thing, it’s considerably less expensive than the equivalent offerings from both Canon and Nikon. For Nikon shooters especially, this lens is an attractive alternative to the AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8 ED VR II. It focuses closer, offers better image stabilization and costs you about $800 less. You’ll have to battle back some vignetting but you’ll enjoy excellent image quality and a versatile lens that handles well indoors and out.