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PostPosted: Sun Sep 28, 2008 12:47 pm 
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As you know, I'm still not satisfied with my tele-lens/zoom set-up. While waiting for Nikon to refresh the aging AF 80-400/4.5-5.6 VR and perhaps update the phantastic but bulky and expensive AF-S 70-200/2.8 VR I couldn't resist to pick up the new Tamron 70-200/2.8 and give it a thorough workout.
This time I relied upon a brand new copy from a reputable online dealer just to eliminate the possibility of the former owner banging the gear arround resulting in decentering defects that are not the sole responsibility of the manufacturer.
So this time if you read about bad quality it will be a clear indicator of
(a) the quality control at Tamron
(b) the design quality.
Of the latter I've heard good things and seen a very good looking lab report at the German magazine ColorFoto (Oct 2008), albeit on a Canon 450D body which obviously added quite a bit of sharpening. But nonetheless the curves looked even better than Canon's own 70-200/2.8 L IS USM resulting in an overall score of 88 points (of 100 max) vs the Canon's 81 pts :shock:
Here are the individual scores at
70mm: Canon 82, Tamron 90
120mm: Canon 81, Tamron 87
200mm: Canon 79.4, Tamron 86.5
Quite impressive isn't it? Btw the Nikon AF-S VR 70-200/2.8 scored 88/78/69 yielding a total score of 78.5. But as I said: all tests on the Canon bodies profitted from the higher sharpening.

So my curiosity was peaked and I decided to give this lens a try, esp. as it can do macro at 1:3.1 which I found very useful on the Sigma 400/5.6 and 300/4.0 lenses.
-----------
As always this review is work in progress, so please be patient. But all questions are welcome, so bring them on. Also if you have remarks from your own copy of this lens. Just remember, this is the new/improved 2008 version.

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Last edited by Thomas on Mon Sep 29, 2008 5:46 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 28, 2008 1:08 pm 
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First let's sum up some technical data and see how it compares!

Size: 90x194mm w/o lens-shade :) I assume that the lens does not extend when zooming. The petal-shaoed lens-shade adds another 90mm and can be reverse-mounted on the lens for transportation. The Nikon 70-200/2.8 is 215mm long w/o lens-shade. The Sigma 70-200/2.8 is about 1cm shorter
Weight: 1215g (incl. lens-hood but w/o tripod-collar!) vs. 1470g of the Nikon 70-200mm VR = quite light :) but still above the 1kg barrier :?
Optics: 18 lenses in 13 groups = less than both the Canon (23/18) and Nikon (21/15) :)
Closest focus distance/max.magnification: 0.95m throughout the zoom range, gives a max. magnification of 1:3.1 :) I'll have a close eye at the "shrink-factor" of this zoom, but the min. distance seems to indicate there is not too much of it!
Filter-thread: 77mm = standard :)
IS/OS/VR/VC: NO = too bad :(
AF: built in normal focus motor, so works on D40/x/D60-bodies :) , for manual-focus override you have to pull back the focus-ring first :?
Covers full frame/FX or smaller = normal :)
Comes with a nice soft pouch but cannot be hung from your shoulder :?
Price: around 620€ new (incl. 19% VAT) = about same as the Sigma 70-200/2.8 :)
Front- and rear lens-cap: good and bad (see next post) :?
Distance information: is relayed to the camera, so the Nikon body can do all the advanced exposure-related stuff with this lens :D
Aperture ring: No, just like a Nikon G-lens :(
Lens-shade: included and revertable :)
Tripod-collar detachable without dismounting the lens from the body :) No idea on stability yet. Easy to turn camera to portrait-mode :D

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Last edited by Thomas on Tue Sep 30, 2008 4:58 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 28, 2008 8:33 pm 
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Versions:
As to lens-mounts: There are versions for Nikon, Canon, Sony and Pentax. And there is an older version of this lens which unfortunately carries the same designation. The older version has the zoom ring in front and the focus ring close to the camera body. With the new version the rings are swapped: Focus is now the foremost ring.

Alternatives:
There are 70-200/2.8 lenses from many manufacturer: Canon, Nikon (both with image stabilization IS/VR), Sony and Sigma but not Tokina or Pentax.
The original manufacturers' (Canon/Nikon/Sony) lenses are in the upper price bracket of 1600-1800 EUR. Even the Sony, although it has no stabilization (the Sony-bodies provide that). Plus there are the older/non-stabilized versions from Canon (the EF 70-200mm 2.8 L USM) and Nikon (the AF 80-200/2.8D ED) still in production which are offered for a better price: around 1000€/$ (Euro-prices incl. 19% VAT)

As the Sigma is priced on a par with the Tamron (and both don't have IS) they are really comparable. The Sigma looks quite good in this review from Klaus Schroiff at Photozone.

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 30, 2008 4:48 pm 
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Whoa, lens arrived today. Just some first impressions:
- Weight ready to shoot (w/o caps, tripod-collar but with lens-shade) is 1215g. The lens-shade alone has 77g :)
- The lens is really easy to hold once you've dismounted the tripod-collar. You can feel that it is lighter than many lenses of that size :)
- Only thing I'm uncomfortable with is the AF/MF switch by pulling/pushing the focus-ring. If you hold the lens there during mounting or while aiming you might inadvertently toggle the switch. But it is easily reverted back. Just watch out that the switch is set correctly if you're in the middle of a heated session :(
- Front-cap is "pincer-type" just like Nikon's. Bravo Tamron! :D
- Rear-cap is even worse than the Sigma type: it mounts only in one position and I cannot use it on my Nikkor lenses :( Why that is, I cannot imagine!
- Doesn't extend when zooming, doesn't rotate when focussing (but that was to be expected) :)
- Both rings run smooth but don't give you the feel of high build-quality.
- Overall the build-quality seems below Sigma EX lenses. At least judged from those three EX-lenses I know. But nothing wobbles (so far).
- The zoom has no creep :)
- The focus-motor is clearly not HSM/SWM/USM. It's louder and slower and sometimes it stutters when the focus is already close to optimal.
- I would have loved to have the zoom-ring in front and the focus ring towards the camera-body as I mostly use the zoom-ring and hold my tele-lenses at the foremost part (either the front-ring or even the sun-shade). So zooming requires some juggling with your left hand.
- And no: there is no aperture ring. Some of the information on Tamron's website suggested that the Nikon version might have a ring :(
- At 70mm with lens-shade on the built-in flash produces a shadow in the lower fifth of the image
and...
- The first impressions from the image quality (IQ) look promising (phew!)

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 30, 2008 7:54 pm 
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This is pretty "psycho": We have the "creep"-factor and the "shrink"-factor and if you have the right middle-long tele-lens you can to nice "head-shots" :twisted:

But back to reality: The Tamron 70-200 really focusses down to 95cm and covers a field of 72mm horizontally at 200mm with a sensor that is 23.6mm wide. This gives a max magnification of 1:3.1 as advertised.

Now on to the shrink-factor: You can calculate what focal length a bog-standard lens has that delivers a magnification of 1:3.1 at 95cm distance. Letting my trusty old Intel(R) Core(TM)2 CPU do all the work we ended up with an equivalent focal length of 175mm. So the Tamron shrinks 12% when you need the max magnification. In real life this means that you lose 13.5cm distance from your subject compared to a fixed focal 200mm to achieve the same magnification of 1:3.1. But a working distance of almost 70cm from the front lens is quite good for anxious critters :)

For your comparison: The fixed focal Sigma 150/2.8 macro shrinks 20% to around 120mm effective focal length and thus shoots 1:3.1 at 65cm distance sensor-to-subject, which yields only 47cm front-lens-to-subject distance.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 01, 2008 7:35 pm 
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Well, I captured some last daylight today and took the lens to the field just to get a feeling for it's capabilites: Sharpness, contrast, macro and focussing.
I've selected two images for you to dig into: You can access the full res photo by clicking on the image. The first was shot at 200mm f/2.8 at 6m distance, 1/500 sec handheld, ISO 200, -1EV, plus some curves in p&p. Picture control was was set to vivid.

Falling Leaves:
Image
You can also judge the bokeh here. I'm quite pleased.

The next one was shot at 190mm f/5.6 at 1m distance, 1/250 sec handheld, ISO 360, -1EV, plus some curves/d-lighting in p&p and picture control = vivid
Trunk:
Image
Don't expect too much dof at 1:3.1 magnification and f/5.6!

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 01, 2008 8:41 pm 
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Some remarks on focussing so far:
Looking through my shots I suspect some front focus. Have to verify this in good daylight.
Some hunting here and certainly not as fast as HSM/SWM.
It may also happen that the AF locks on something totally oof.
Sometimes I'm astonished that the AF-system refocusses although in my mind nothing has changed :?
So this will be a substantial part of the analysis: finding out how good and reliable the AF of this lens is. You can have all the resolution in one lens. If it doesn't focus properly everything is going to waste...

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Last edited by Thomas on Thu Oct 02, 2008 8:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 02, 2008 7:28 pm 
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Testing for front-/backfocus:
Yes it has front-focus. Tested today with the chart at 200mm and immediately saw front-focus. Adjusted in-camera to +20 (=max!) and still haven't corrected it perfectly. But I can give the lens at least this benefit of my Nikon D300 before shooting Siemens-stars and wondering about the so-so IQ of the lens fully open. The real-life effect is fully compensated for when stopping down to f/5.6 where the lens is very sharp. But alas, what good is a large, heavy and expensive f/2.8 lens for when it's not focussing perfectly :?
So here's one minus-point for the lens. But I'm not sure whether this is a typical QC (=quality control) issue or a design issue. I once had an answer from Sigma regarding the "repairability" of heavy front-focus on their (old) 300/4.0 lens. They said that this stems from a complex interaction between the camera and the lens and thus cannot be fixed :?
-----2 Minutes later-----
Oh oh! Just tested at 135mm, 100mm, and 70mm:
The +20 micro-AF adjustment at those focal lengths produces heavy back-focus. So we clearly have a case where the micro-focus quality of the lens depends on the focal length. This is too bad, as the micro-AF adjustment in camera cannot change with the focal length of a lens :(
So this will remain an unsolvable problem with the Tamron 70-200/2.8 and now I'm pretty sure that it's a design fault and not an individual glitch :cry: :cry: :cry:
I decided to do the tests at +10 micro-AF adjustment for all focal lengths as this seems to be the best compromise...

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 03, 2008 12:07 pm 
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Back from some test-shots with the Siemens-star. For 70mm and 100mm I can attest to very good IQ center and corner at f/2.8. at 135mm and 200mm the results are still a bit too mixed to come to a conclusion, but here are some preliminary observations:
- focus quality plays a big role
- the mix of front- and back-focus might still spoil some of the results even at AF-micro adjustment of +10
- contrast-based focussing in live view seems not to work properly with this lens :shock: :?: :?
- there might be field curvature at 200mm (or a misalignment in my setup) as I've produced shots at f/2.8 with very good corner but not-so-good center and vice versa.
So this will take some time to work out...

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 05, 2008 6:25 pm 
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Ok now, the weekend is over, I've driven 900 km in 6 hours on Saturday (can you calculate the average speed on the Deutsche Autobahn that I achieved :?: :shock: ) and you expect some results, don't you?

So here are the first Siemens-stars that pass my QC:
The first row is @ 200mm f/2.8 first/left=center next/right=corner. All 100% crops. You can click through the images and get to the full-res version.
Image Image

The sencond row is @ 200mm f/5.6 first/left=center next/right=corner.
Image Image

The third row is @ 100mm f/2.8 first/left=center, next/right=corner.
Image Image

As you can see: At 100mm (3rd row) everything is fine and dandy even fully open. But 200mm f/2.8 seems to show the limits of this lens: center is quite sharp but with low contrast and the corners show fringing and don't look really good. This situation improves quite nicely when stopping down to f/5.6 esp. if you look at the contrast. But the corner-sharpness still leaves room for improvement!

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Last edited by Thomas on Mon Oct 06, 2008 6:34 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 05, 2008 7:23 pm 
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Now here's the proof that the lens can be quite good at 200mm f/2.8 in the corners:

Image

Nice, isn't it. Yes, there are still signs of CA, but contrast is much better than in the comparable image in the last post top row on the right!

But I'm still at a loss as to what causes this effect: sometimes corners look good, sometimes not! So if any body has a theory or would like me to try a specific test set-up: Come on - let's hear it :!: :idea:

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 05, 2008 8:00 pm 
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The following series of shots was taken at 1.4m distance, all at f/2.8. The sequenceshows the lens at 70mm, 100mm, 130mm and finally 200mm. Every shot was made on AF handheld at 1/2000 sec.

Image Image

Image Image

You can see two things here:
- again 200mm is clearly the weakest IQ* :(
- there is no blooming of the white leaves into the black background :)

-------------
* please ignore any softening due to shallower dof in the 200mm shot. Just look at the central flower!

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 05, 2008 8:43 pm 
Hello Thomas,

I tested the Tamron on a D70, D700, S5pro and 400D on photokina. None of the samples showed a focal-length-dependend focusing inaccuracy. My guess is it's a problem of your sample. I have several sample photos if you would like to see them. What I noticed, however, is that the slightest missfocus will introduce some kind of glow (prob. spherical ab.) around highlights in the OOF areas, which look like your samples at 200mm. The effect is most visible in near field focusing! Similar to the problem of the Sigma, but far less extreme.

My own one is on it's way and will arrive an tuesday, I'll chek it as well.

BTW, the Sigma 70-200 I tested on my S5 in the contrary, was everything but convincing.

Friendly regards,
Christian


Last edited by Christian-NRW on Sun Oct 05, 2008 9:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 05, 2008 8:52 pm 
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Christian-NRW wrote:
Hello Thomas,

I tested the Tamron on a D70, D700, S5pro and 400D on photokina. None of the samples showed a focal-length-dependend focusing inaccuracy. My guess is it's a problem of your sample. I have several sample photos if you would like to see them. What I noticed, however, is that the slightest missfocus will introduce some kind of glow (prob. spherical ab.) around highlights in the OOF areas, which look like your samples at 200mm. Oh, and it only appears in near field focusing! Similar to the problem of the sigma, but far less extreme.

My own one is on it's way and will arrive an tuesday, I'll chek it as well.

BTW, the Sigma 70-200 I tested on my S5 in the contrary, was everything but convincing.

Friendly regards,
Christian


You got to go to photokina :!: :evil: :evil: I guess thats an advatage of living in germany :evil:

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 05, 2008 9:03 pm 
dryan2 wrote:
You got to go to photokina :!: :evil: :evil: I guess thats an advatage of living in germany :evil:


Indeeeeed! I'd love to have been there 8)


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