Tamron AF 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 XR Di-II LD IF - Quality

Quality

Pictured below from left to right are the Tamron, Nikkor and Sigma 18-200mm lenses zoomed-out to their shortest positions. Each lens measures 73x84mm, 77x97mm and 70x78mm (diameter x length) respectively. The Sigma’s clearly the smallest of the group, with the Tamron measuring roughly in-between it and the larger Nikkor.

from left: Tamron, Nikkor and Sigma 18-200mm lenses zoomed out

When zoomed-in to their longest focal lengths, the Tamron, Nikkor and Sigma lenses extend by a further 66, 65 and 53mm respectively, each employing two barrel sections. As pictured below, the Sigma remains the smallest of the three and the Nikkor the largest, with the Tamron again coming up in-between. The Nikkor’s larger size is reflected in its 72mm filter thread, which is considerably greater than the 62mm threads of the Tamron and Sigma.

from left: Tamron, Nikkor and Sigma 18-200mm lenses zoomed in

Weighing 423g, the Tamron’s only 18g heavier than the Sigma, and both are noticeably lighter than the 560g of the Nikkor. The Nikkor’s additional weight is undoubtedly down to its superior build quality and slightly faster optical performance at the telephoto end. It sports a focal ratio of f3.5~5.6, compared to the f3.5~6.3 of the Tamron and Sigma models.

In terms of build quality, the Tamron and Sigma are roughly similar. They’re both lightweight budget lenses so unsurprisingly feel quite plasticky with less smooth mechanics than a premium product. Don’t get us wrong, they’re not poorly constructed, but are clearly below the build quality of more expensive lenses.

For example, you need only compare them with the Nikkor 18-200mm to immediately notice how this pricier model looks and feels to a much higher standard. It’s more solid with smoother mechanics delivering a greater impression of confidence in use. Of course the Nikkor costs twice as much, but if you’re after the best build quality, you’ll need to spend the extra.

We’re pleased to report all three employ internal focusing with non-rotating end sections – important for anyone who uses polarisers, although obviously the Nikkor’s wider thread will incur higher-priced filters. Thankfully, all three lenses were supplied with hoods.

In terms of focusing speed, the Nikkor’s premium SWM system was certainly quicker than the Tamron and Sigma, but not by a large degree. Where they really differed though was in focusing noise with both the Tamron and Sigma models being considerably louder than the Nikkor. The Tamron was worst of all in this respect, grinding quite conspicuously during manually focusing. Again if ultimate discretion is your thing, you’ll need to spend more on the Nikkor.

Tamron 18-200mm coverage, wide angle with Nikon D2X

All three lenses on test claim the same 18-200mm focal length, but it’s always worth putting this to the test. To compare actual coverage we shot the same scene with each lens within a few moments of each other; the camera was mounted on a tripod to ensure a consistent position. Here the lenses were set to their widest 18mm focal length.

At first glance the three lenses on test appear to deliver identical wide-angle coverage, but look closer and there’s subtle differences. The Tamron 18-200mm actually delivered a fractionally wider view at 18mm than the others, followed closely by the Nikkor, and finally the Sigma.

Tamron AF18-200mm F3.5-6.3 XR Di-II LD IF
Nikkor AF-S DX VR 18-200mm 3.5-5.6G IF-ED
Sigma 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 DC
Tamron 18-200mm at 18mm
Nikkor 18-200mm at 18mm
Sigma 18-200mm at 18mm
18-200mm at 18mm (27mm equivalent using Nikon D2X)   18-200mm at 18mm (27mm equivalent using Nikon D2X)   18-200mm at 18mm (27mm equivalent using Nikon D2X)

Tamron 18-200mm coverage, telephoto

with Nikon D2X

Next up came the telephoto-end of each lens. Again to compare actual coverage we shot the same scene with each lens within a few moments of each other; the camera was mounted on a tripod to ensure a consistent position. Here the lenses were set to their longest 200mm focal length.

Here all three lenses performed similarly, although upon close examination, the Nikkor’s field was fractionally tighter than the others. In practice though it’s fair to say all three lenses deliver essentially the same field of views.

Note: both the Tamron and Sigma lenses were fitted with zoom lock switches to prevent their barrels from extending beyond the 18mm focal length while in transit. That said neither barrels of the models on test could be described as loose, and it was possible to zoom-in to 200mm on both, point vertically upwards and not suffer from any creep back down. The Nikkor lens didn’t have a lock, but could be pointed up or down without suffering from discernable creep.

Tamron AF18-200mm F3.5-6.3 XR Di-II LD IF
Nikkor AF-S DX VR 18-200mm 3.5-5.6G IF-ED
Sigma 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 DC
Tamron 18-200mm at 200mm
Nikkor 18-200mm at 200mm
Sigma 18-200mm at 200mm
18-200mm at 200mm (300mm equivalent using Nikon D2X)   18-200mm at 200mm (300mm equivalent using Nikon D2X)   18-200mm at 200mm (300mm equivalent using Nikon D2X)

Tamron 18-200mm outdoor scene, tested with Nikon D2X

The crops clearly show the Nikkor lens taking the lead, especially at the edges, although interestingly the Sigma crop from the centre appears slightly sharper. The Tamron crops, especially from the edge of the frame are softer than those from the other models.
Tamron AF18-200mm F3.5-6.3 XR Di-II LD IF
Nikkor AF-S DX VR 18-200mm 3.5-5.6G IF-ED
Sigma 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 DC
Tamron 18-200mm outdoor crop 1
Nikkor 18-200mm outdoor crop 1
Sigma 18-200mm outdoor crop 1
1/80, f8, 100 ISO

1/80, f8, 100 ISO
1/80, f8, 100 ISO

Tamron 18-200mm outdoor crop 2
Nikkor 18-200mm outdoor crop 2
Sigma 18-200mm outdoor crop 2
1/80, f8, 100 ISO

1/80, f8, 100 ISO

1/80, f8, 100 ISO

Tamron 18-200mm outdoor crop 3
Sigma 18-200mm outdoor crop 3
1/80, f8, 100 ISO

1/80, f8, 100 ISO

1/80, f8, 100 ISO

Tamron 18-200mm resolution, tested with Nikon D2X

There are tonal differences between the crops, but the resolving power in the central area of the chart is much the same for each lens. They each score 2250 and 1900 lpph for horizontal and vertical resolution respectively.

It’s revealing to compare these against the Nikon D2X fitted with a 50mm f1.8. The prime lens unsurprisingly resolves more detail than the zooms here, boasting 2450 and 2300 lpph for horizontal and vertical resolution respectively.

Tamron AF18-200mm F3.5-6.3 XR Di-II LD IF using Nikon D2X
Nikkor AF-S DX VR 18-200mm 3.5-5.6G IF-ED using Nikon D2X
2250 lpph, 18-200mm at 200mm, f8, 100 ISO
2250 lpph, 18-200mm at 200mm, f8, 100 ISO
Sigma 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 DC using Nikon D2X
 
Nikkor AF 50mm f1.8 using Nikon D2X
2250 lpph, 18-200mm at 200mm, f8, 100 ISO
2450 lpph, 50mm, f8, 100 ISO
Tamron AF18-200mm F3.5-6.3 XR Di-II LD IF using Nikon D2X
Nikkor AF-S DX VR 18-200mm 3.5-5.6G IF-ED using Nikon D2X
1900 lpph, 18-200mm at 200mm, f8, 100 ISO
1900 lpph, 18-200mm at 200mm, f8, 100 ISO
Sigma 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 DC using Nikon D2X
 
Nikkor AF 50mm f1.8 using Nikon D2X
1900 lpph, 18-200mm at 200mm, f8, 100 ISO
2300 lpph, 50mm, f8, 100 ISO

Tamron 18-200mm corner sharpness, tested with Nikon D2X

At the 18mm wide angle end, the Tamron noticeably outperforms the Sigma in the far corners, although both are beaten by the Nikkor; note the Tamron and Sigma results improved considerably just a short distance in from the extremes. The story is similar at the 200mm telephoto end, with the Tamron beating the Sigma, but the Nikkor again comfortably out-performing both.
Tamron AF18-200mm F3.5-6.3 XR Di-II LD IF
Nikkor AF-S DX VR 18-200mm 3.5-5.6G IF-ED
Sigma 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 DC
Tamron 18-200mm at 18mm f3.5
Nikkor 18-200mm at 18mm f3.5
Sigma 18-200mm at 18mm f3.5
18-200mm at 18mm f3.5
18-200mm at 18mm f3.5
18-200mm at 18mm f3.5
Tamron 18-200mm at 18mm f8
Nikkor 18-200mm at 18mm f8
Sigma 18-200mm at 18mm f8
18-200mm at 18mm f8
18-200mm at 18mm f8
18-200mm at 18mm f8
Tamron 18-200mm at 18mm f16
Nikkor 18-200mm at 18mm f16
Sigma 18-200mm at 18mm f16
18-200mm at 18mm f16
18-200mm at 18mm f16
18-200mm at 18mm f16
         
Tamron AF18-200mm F3.5-6.3 XR Di-II LD IF
Nikkor AF-S DX VR 18-200mm 3.5-5.6G IF-ED
Sigma 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 DC
Tamron 18-200mm at 200mm f6.3
Nikkor 18-200mm at 200mm f5.6
Sigma 18-200mm at 200mm f6.3
18-200mm at 200mm f6.3
18-200mm at 200mm f5.6
18-200mm at 200mm f6.3
Tamron 18-200mm at 200mm f8
Nikkor 18-200mm at 200mm f8
Sigma 18-200mm at 200mm f8
18-200mm at 200mm f8
18-200mm at 200mm f8
18-200mm at 200mm f8
Tamron 18-200mm at 200mm f16
Nikkor 18-200mm at 200mm f16
Sigma 18-200mm at 200mm f16
18-200mm at 200mm f16
18-200mm at 200mm f16
18-200mm at 200mm f16

Tamron 18-200mm chromatic aberration and purple fringing, tested with Nikon D2X

Tamron AF18-200mm F3.5-6.3 XR Di-II LD IF
Nikkor AF-S DX VR 18-200mm 3.5-5.6G IF-ED
Sigma 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 DC
Tamron 18-200mm at 18mm f3.5
Nikkor 18-200mm at 18mm f3.5
Sigma 18-200mm at 18mm f3.5
18-200mm at 18mm f3.5
18-200mm at 18mm f3.5
18-200mm at 18mm f3.5
Tamron 18-200mm at 200mm f6.3
Nikkor 18-200mm at 200mm f5.6
Sigma 18-200mm at 200mm f6.3
18-200mm at 200mm f6.3
18-200mm at 200mm f5.6
18-200mm at 200mm f6.3


Tamron 18-200mm macro, tested with Nikon D2X

To measure macro performance we photographed a chart using settings which delivered the maximum possible reproduction. The dark lines are 10mm apart. Each lens was tested with the Nikon D2X at f8 in Aperture Priority mode.

Tamron, Nikon and Sigma quote closest focusing distances of 45, 50 and 45cm respectively, but by experimenting with different focal lengths and positions, we achieved the maximum reproductions at closer distances. As can be seen below, the Tamron and Sigma lenses were able to deliver greater overall reproduction than the Nikkor model.

Tamron AF18-200mm F3.5-6.3 XR Di-II LD IF
Nikkor AF-S DX VR 18-200mm 3.5-5.6G IF-ED
Sigma 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 DC
Tamron 18-200mm macro test
Nikkor 18-200mm macro test
Sigma 18-200mm macro test
18-200mm at 200mm f8
Max area of 78x52mm
  18-200mm at 170mm f8
Max area of 104x70mm
  18-200mm at 200mm f8
Max area of 78x52mm

Tamron 18-200mm geometry, wide angle, tested with Nikon D2X

Tamron AF18-200mm F3.5-6.3 XR Di-II LD IF
Nikkor AF-S DX VR 18-200mm 3.5-5.6G IF-ED
Sigma 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 DC
Tamron 18-200mm wide angle geometry test
Nikkor 18-200mm wide angle geometry test
Sigma 18-200mm wide angle geometry test
18-200mm at 18mm f8
Distortion: 5.38% barrel
  18-200mm at 18mm f8
Distortion: 5.26% barrel
  18-200mm at 18mm f8
Distortion: 4.46% barrel


Tamron 18-200mm geometry, telephoto, tested with Nikon D2X

To measure geometric distortion we photographed a test chart consisting of a grid pattern with perfectly straight lines. The lenses were tested at their longest focal length with an aperture of f8 using a Nikon D2X in Aperture Priority mode. The images were analysed with Imatest using 5th Order line calculation and the full areas presented here at a reduced resolution.

All three lenses exhibited roughly the same degree of pincushion distortion when zoomed-into 200mm, although in contrast to the wide-angle result, the Sigma scored worst here, with the Tamron taking a fractional lead.

Tamron AF18-200mm F3.5-6.3 XR Di-II LD IF
Nikkor AF-S DX VR 18-200mm 3.5-5.6G IF-ED
Sigma 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 DC
Tamron 18-200mm telephoto geometry test
Nikkor 18-200mm telephoto geometry test
Sigma 18-200mm telephoto geometry test
18-200mm at 200mm f8
Distortion: 1.19% pincushion
  18-200mm at 200mm f8
Distortion: 1.22% pincushion
  18-200mm at 200mm f8
Distortion: 1.76% pincushion

To measure geometric distortion we photographed a test chart consisting of a grid pattern with perfectly straight lines. The lenses were tested at their widest focal length with an aperture of f8 using a Nikon D2X in Aperture Priority mode. The images were analysed with Imatest using 5th Order line calculation and the full areas presented here at a reduced resolution.

All three lenses exhibited roughly the same degree of barrel distortion at their wide angle setting, although the Sigma model managed the best result here.

Tamron 18-200mm uniformity, wide angle, tested with Nikon D2X

Tamron AF18-200mm F3.5-6.3 XR Di-II LD IF
Nikkor AF-S DX VR 18-200mm 3.5-5.6G IF-ED
Sigma 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 DC
Tamron 18-200mm wide angle uniformity test
Nikkor 18-200mm wide angle uniformity test
Sigma 18-200mm wide angle uniformity test
18-200mm at 18mm f3.5
Mean corner fall-off: 52.6%
  18-200mm at 18mm f3.5
Mean corner fall-off: 62.2%
  18-200mm at 18mm f3.5
Mean corner fall-off: 53%


Tamron 18-200mm uniformity, telephoto, tested with Nikon D2X

To measure lens vignetting and light fall-off we photographed a white target with a highly diffused filter. The lenses were tested at their longest focal length with the aperture wide open using a Nikon D2X in Aperture Priority mode. The images were analysed with Imatest and the full areas presented here at a reduced resolution. Bigger percentages are better.

Zoomed-in to their longest 200mm focal lengths, all three lenses perform quite similarly, although the Tamron takes the lead in this test.

Tamron AF18-200mm F3.5-6.3 XR Di-II LD IF
Nikkor AF-S DX VR 18-200mm 3.5-5.6G IF-ED
Sigma 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 DC
Tamron 18-200mm telephoto uniformity test
Nikkor 18-200mm telephoto uniformity test
Sigma 18-200mm telephoto uniformity test
18-200mm at 200mm f6.3
Mean corner fall-off: 79.7%
  18-200mm at 200mm f5.6
Mean corner fall-off: 73.4%
  18-200mm at 200mm f6.3
Mean corner fall-off: 72.9%

To measure lens vignetting and light fall-off we photographed a white target with a highly diffused filter. The lenses were tested at their widest focal length with the aperture wide open using a Nikon D2X in Aperture Priority mode. The images were analysed with Imatest and the full areas presented here at a reduced resolution. Bigger percentages are better.

With light falling off to an average of 52.6% in the corners, the Tamron scores almost identically to the Sigma, although both are noticeably worse than the Nikkor model. Light fall-off in the corners would be much more apparent on these cheaper lenses at wide angle.

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