Tamron AF70-300mm lens review

This Tamron takes zooming capability beyond your everyday kit lens

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Tamron AF70-300mm f4-5.6 Di VC USD
  • Expert Rating

    4.00 / 5


  • Well built and powerful lens
  • Great zoom performance.


  • Can feel a bit heavy
  • Lens can’t be used if hood is inverted

Bottom Line

The Tamron AF70-300mm f4-5.6 Di VC USD is a good addition for any growing camera setup. It can facilitate clear and bright looking shots at full zoom, and it's also useful for portraits.

Would you buy this?

A basic DSLR kit lens will typically provide you with a range of 18mm to 55mm. This is an optimum range that allows you to take both near and wide angle shots, which makes it enough for most beginners and intermediate photographers.

The limitations of this range become apparent when you want to take photos of objects at a distance. Instead of capturing close-up detail when zoomed in, you will typically end up with wide angle and landscape shots.

The Tamron AF70-300mm f4-5.6 Di VC USD lens is designed to compensate for this shortcoming, letting you zoom past the threshold of a stock kit lens. Certain tele-zoom lenses max out at 200mm, though lenses such as the Tamron one push the threshold to 300mm.

Large yet rugged

The SP 70-300mm comes with the features users have come to expect from Tamron lenes. Focus is handled by the Ultrasonic Silent Drive motor and stabilisation is carried out by the Vibration Compensation function.

Black polycarbonate is used for the body, which imbues the lens with a durable and high quality feel. The gold band characteristic of Tamron lenses is located between the zoom and focus rings.

A generously sized hood is provided, though it is so large that it covers the zoom and focus rings when worn inverted. Smaller Tamron lenses are usable with inverted hoods, though the SP 70-300mm hood is so large you will either have to wear it properly or take it off before use.

The lens’ extensive zoom range means it is big, as it has to accommodate all of its glass housed inside. It measures 142.7mm in length, which makes it twice the size of most basic kit lenses.

The lens weighs 765g, which can add up to close to a kilo once it is paired with a camera body. We found the SP 70-300mm was not too heavy to carry around and take shots with, though you may want to invest in a monopod if you plan to use it for extended periods.

Testing conditions

The SP 70-300mm was tested against a first-party Nikon lens, the Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR. These are not competing lenses, as the Tamron is a secondary lens while the Nikon one is an all-in-one solution.

The Nikon lens was used for this test to compare the quality of shots of the Tamron at the same focal range. While the Nikon lens can zoom out as far back as 18mm, the range was kept to 200 and 300mm for comparison with the Tamron lens.

The lenses were mounted on a lower, mid-range DSLR camera, the Nikon D5200, for testing purposes. Photos were captured using the default factory settings and best quality JPEG settings. Photo resolution was set at 4496x3000 with a resulting file size of approximately 7MB. The resolution and size of the images was reduced for publishing. Photos were taken at the two furthest zoom lengths. The appeal of telephoto zoom lenses lies in the close-up capability, so that became the focus during testing.

Photo comparisons

The first set of photos was taken during cloudy daytime lighting conditions. The ISO and shutter speed settings on the camera were unchanged between the two lenses, and the f-stop was at f/5.6 for both lenses.

Taken at 200mm (Nikon left and Tamron right). It's 5km from our shooting location to Sydney Tower.
Taken at 200mm (Nikon left and Tamron right). It's 5km from our shooting location to Sydney Tower.

Taken at 300mm (Nikon left and Tamron right).
Taken at 300mm (Nikon left and Tamron right).

As can be seen in the photos, the photos with the Tamron lens were slightly brighter than the photos taken with the Nikon lens. The Tamron glass allowed more light in, resulting in the camera sensor capturing a slightly clearer image.

The second batch of photos was captured indoors during reduced lighting conditions. The distance from the seating area to the stage where the band was performing was approximately 150 metres.

Taken at 300mm with the Tamron.
Taken at 300mm with the Tamron.

Taken at 300mm with the Tamron.
Taken at 300mm with the Tamron.

Considering the distance, the SP 70-300mm did a good job of capturing the performers on stage. The vibration reduction and quick performance of the shutter helped keep the motion blur to a minimum, even without being mounted on a tripod.

Final thoughts

The lens was only tested with scenery and concert settings, but the long zoom range makes it useful for many situations where a kit lens is not enough. Animals located at a distance are a good target for this lens.

It is a hard to find any faults with the SP 70-300mm. It is a well built lens and it performed well when we tested it, particularly against a first-party lens from a manufacturer such as Nikon.

The SP 70-300mm comes recommended if you already have an existing kit lens and you are looking to take photos at greater distance. The all-in-one design of the Nikon demonstrates how convenient it is to have a single powerful lens instead of two separate ones, so consider which approach works better for you before committing.

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