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Tamron 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di VC PZD lens – Photo Review

Tamron 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di VC PZD lens - Photo Review

In summary

Extended-range zoom lenses are designed for convenience-driven photographers who want a single, general-purpose lens that covers a wide range of subject types without requiring them to change lenses. They also suit photographers whose budget is limited. Typical users include travellers and family-orientated snapshooters.

The weather-resistant structure of the lens (see below) makes it suitable for anyone who wants to shoot in dusty or damp situations, including keen bushwalkers. But with convenience comes compromise. You can’t expect the same resolution performance across the image frame as you could get with a shorter zoom or prime lens.

If you can live with the inevitable edge and corner softening and reduced resolution at wide apertures for some focal lengths, the relatively compact size and light weight could make it an attractive walk-around lens for Canon, Nikon and Sony DSLR users with ‘full frame’ cameras. Users of cropped-sensor cameras will find it less attractive as the focal length coverage of 45-480mm (for Canon) or 42-450mm (for Nikon and Sony) could be better addressed with a pair of shorter zooms.

Full review

Announced at the CP+ show in Japan in February, the Tamron 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di VC PZD (Model A010E) lens initially went on sale late in June. Replacing the previous model (A20), the new lens is smaller and lighter, thanks to a new mechanical design with a multi-stack-cam layout that takes up less space and a piezo-electric AF drive that is faster, quieter and more accurate.

The Tamron 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di VC PZD, shown without end caps and lens hood. (Source: Tamron.)

The optical design of this lens has also been improved. The lens features 19 elements in 15 groups and includes four elements made from LD (Low Dispersion) glass, three Moulded-Glass Aspherical elements, one Hybrid Aspherical element, one XR (Extra Refractive Index) glass element and one element of UXR (Ultra-Extra Refractive Index) glass, which has greater refractive index than XR.

The optical diagram for the 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di VC PZD lens showing the positions of the exotic elements. (Source: Tamron.)

These specialised glass elements help to reduce the size and weight of the lens. They also provide better correction for chromatic aberration particularly at longer focal lengths. The application of BBAR (Broad-Band Anti-Reflection) coatings suppress internal reflections, minimising ghosting and flare.

The lens is supplied with front and end caps plus a ‘flower-shaped’ lens hood that reverses over the lens barrel for easy storage. The front of the lens is threaded to accept 67 mm diameter filters.

Who’s it for? Extended-range zoom lenses are designed for convenience-driven photographers who want a single, general-purpose lens that covers a wide range of subject types without requiring them to change lenses. They also suit photographers whose budget is limited. Typical users include travellers and family-orientated snapshooters.

The weather-resistant structure of the lens (see below) makes it suitable for anyone who wants to shoot in dusty or damp situations, including keen bushwalkers. But with convenience comes compromise. You can’t expect the same resolution performance across the image frame as you could get with a shorter zoom or prime lens.

If you can live with the inevitable edge and corner softening and reduced resolution at wide apertures for some focal lengths, the relatively compact size and light weight could make it an attractive walk-around lens for Canon, Nikon and Sony DSLR users with ‘full frame’ cameras. Users of cropped-sensor cameras will find it less attractive as the focal length coverage of 45-480mm (for Canon) or 42-450mm (for Nikon and Sony) could be better addressed with a pair of shorter zooms.

Build and Ergonomics Build quality is generally good and similar to the cheaper Tamron 16-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD Macro lens for DSLRs with APS-C sized sensors, which we reviewed recently. Like that lens, the 28-300mm Di lens has a thin rubber gasket around the lens mount, providing moisture-resistant construction.

Both lenses are similar in size and weight, but the optical design of the 28-300mm Di lens is more complex than the 16-300mm Di II. Going on overall build quality, it’s difficult to see this difference accounting for the $300 difference in the prices of these lenses.

Like the 16-300mm Di II, the 28-300mm Di lens contains a high percentage of ‘Engineering’ quality polycarbonate plastic in its construction. Tamron has developed special methods for incorporating these materials in critical mechanical components, where they can maintain dimensional stability under tough conditions.

The matte finish on the outer barrel has become standard in recently-released lenses. Without the lens cap, the lens extends just over 100 mm from the camera body in the 28mm position, with a pair of inner barrels extending by roughly 80 mm when the lens is zoomed to 300mm. Attaching the lens hood bring the overall length to 215 mm at this focal length.

The zoom ring is about 12 mm behind the front of the lens when it’s in the 28mm position. It’s approximately 30 mm wide with the leading 24 mm section clad with a deeply-ridged rubber grip band.

Stamped on the trailing edge of the zoom ring are seven focal length settings: 28, 35, 50, 70, 100, 200 and 300mm. Roughly a quarter of a turn spans the entire zoom range.

A zoom lock is set into the outer barrel in the same section as the focal length settings a little to the right of the 28mm mark. We found no instances of zoom creep while using the lens but the lock could be handy for preventing the lens from extending accidentally when it’s removed from a camera bag.

A distance scale is set into the outer barrel just behind the zoom ring. It’s covered by transparent window and calibrated in metres and feet, ranging from the closest focusing distance of 49 cm to infinity.

The focusing ring lies behind the distance scale, separated from it by a narrow cosmetic band of ‘tungsten silver’ that carries the name of the manufacturer and the lens. The focusing ring is 10 mm wide and fully clad with a ridged rubber grip band. It can be turned through 360 degrees.

Focusing is fully internal and the front of the lens doesn’t rotate during focusing or zooming, enabling users to fit angle-critical filters like polarisers and graduates. Both rings turn smoothly and are well damped, which makes fine adjustments easy. Manual focusing is disabled when the lens is set to AF mode.

Behind the focusing ring the lens angles gently inward towards the mounting plate. Around the left hand side of this section are two slider switches, the upper one with AF and MF positions and the lower one for switching the VC stabilisation on and off.

The lens hood was easy to attach and remove and appeared to work well, preserving image contrast and colour vibrancy in shots taken with extreme backlighting. The pinch-clipped lens cap wasn’t quite such a good fit and proved easy to dislodge when the hood was inverted over the lens barrel.

The lens was a comfortable fit on the two cameras we used for our tests: the ‘full frame’ EOS 5D Mark II and the crop-sensor EOS 7D. Since it is designed primarily for ‘full frame’ cameras, we didn’t use it on a lighter, entry-level body.

Performance Out of interest we ran Imatest tests with both the EOS 5D Mark II and EOS 7D cameras, producing results that were much as we had anticipated. In terms of centre resolution, Imatest showed the review lens to be an adequate performer, although the results of our tests were never anything like as good as those we obtained with the 16-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD Macro lens.

Differences in edge resolution were quite significant, with the 7D yielding higher figures than the 5D Mark II. This is to be expected since the camera with the smaller sensor records data only from the centre of the frame, effectively ‘cropping’ off the edges and corners of the frame. The graphs below show the results from our Imatest tests for both cameras.

EOS 5D Mark II.

EOS 7D. (Note: we were unable to test the lens at a longer focal length due to a lack of space in our testing set-up.)

Subjective assessments of test shots confirmed these findings; edge softening was common at all focal lengths for both camera bodies but particularly at wider apertures and greater with the ‘full frame’ camera. The centre of image frames from the EOS 5D Mark II also lacked the definition the 16-300mm lens provided at the 35mm and 50mm focal lengths. (Sample crops are provided below to illustrate this point.)

Lateral chromatic aberration was similar with both cameras (which is also to be expected), although marginally lower with the EOS 5D Mark II. Coloured fringing was only visible near the edges of tests shots when they were enlarged substantially; otherwise edge and corner softening could have obscured any slight fringing that may have been present.

With both cameras, our Imatest results ranged between the upper levels of the ‘negligible’ band to the lower third of the ‘low’ band. In the graphs of our test results below, the red line separates the negligible and low bands, while the green line marks the edge of the moderate band.

EOS 5D Mark II.

EOS 7D.

Barrel distortion could be seen with the 28mm focal length with the EOS 5D Mark II. This had changed to slight pincushioning by 50mm but we noticed no significant increase in pincushion distortion across the remaining focal lengths.

Vignetting was obvious at the widest aperture settings throughout the zoom range with the EOS 5D Mark II but largely resolved by stopping the lens down two f-stops. Most modern cameras provide in-camera corrections for distortion and vignetting so neither aberration represents a significant issue.

Backlit subjects were generally handled well and contrast was maintained to an acceptable level in most of our test shots. The only instances of veiling flare we found were at the longest focal lengths, where it was relatively slight.

Autofocusing was as quiet and accurate as we expected from the piezo-electric AF drive and also reasonably fast (though not exceptionally so). It was also capable of tracking moving subjects, although not very fast movement.

Manual focusing was generally easy for both direct manual control using the focusing ring and manual over-ride for AF. We found little or no interference in soundtracks from either the focusing or zooming movements when recording movie clips.

With a minimum focusing distance of close to 50 cm, this lens can only be useful for close-ups at longer focal lengths. Bokeh was much as you’d expect from an extended range zoom lens, as shown in the sample images below.

The relatively small maximum apertures, particularly at longer focal lengths, made it difficult to blur-out background details and strong contrasts in backgrounds produced some choppiness and outlining in out-of-focus areas. When background contrast was low, bokeh could be smoothly rendered.

SPECS

Picture angle: 75 °23′”“8 °15′ (for full-frame format); 52 °58′”“5 °20′ (for APS-C format) Minimum aperture: f/22″“f/40 (28mm”“300mm) Lens construction: 19 elements in 15 groups (including one hybrid aspherical, 3 moulded-glass aspherical, 4 LD, one XR and one UXR lens elements) Lens mounts: Canon, Nikon and Sony Diaphragm Blades: 7 (circular aperture) Focus drive: PZD (Piezo Drive) Stabilisation: VC (Vibration Compensation), except Sony mount Minimum focus: 49 cm Maximum magnification: 1:3.5 (at f=300mm, MOD=0.49m) Filter size: 67 mm Dimensions (Diameter x L): 74.4 x 96 mm Weight: 540 grams Supplied accessories: Flower-shaped Lens Hood, front and end caps

TESTS

IMATEST GRAPHS (based on JPEG files from the Canon EOS 5D Mark II)

(based on JPEG files from the Canon EOS 7D)

SAMPLES

The images below were captured as raw files with the Canon EOS 5D Mark II.

Vignetting at 28mm f/3.5.

Vignetting at 50mm f/3.5.

Vignetting at 100mm f/3.5.

Vignetting at 300mm f/6.3.

Rectilinear distortion at 28mm.

Rectilinear distortion at 50mm.

Rectilinear distortion at 100mm.

Rectilinear distortion at 300mm.

28mm focal length; ISO 200,1/640 second at f/9.

300mm focal length; ISO 200,1/500 second at f/9.

28mm focal length; ISO 200,1/640 second at f/9.

Crop from the centre of the above image at 100% magnification.

Crop from the left hand edge of the above image at 100% magnification.

Crop from the right hand edge of the above image at 100% magnification.

300mm focal length; ISO 200,1/320 second at f/7.1.

Crop from the centre of the above image at 100% magnification.

Crop from the left hand edge of the above image at 100% magnification.

Crop from the corner of the above image at 100% magnification.

83mm focal length; ISO 200,1/320 second at f/10.

Crop from the above image at 100% magnification showing no apparent coloured fringing but noticeable softening.

Very choppy bokeh resulting from large contrast differences in the background; 116mm focal length; ISO 200,1/160 second at f/5.6.

Smooth bokeh in a close-up shot taken with the 300mm focal length; ISO 200,1/100 second at f/6.3.

Very strong backlighting with minimal flare, despite the presence of a bright light source within the frame; 35mm focal length; ISO 200,1/250 second at f/10.

Veiling flare at the 300mm focal length with the bright light source just outside the image frame; ISO 200,1/1000 second at f/11.

200mm focal length; ISO 200,1/250 second at f/6.3.

89mm focal length; ISO 200,1/80 second at f/7.1.

300mm focal length; ISO 200,1/125 second at f/9.

154mm focal length; ISO 200,1/200 second at f/8.

288mm focal length; ISO 200,1/400 second at f/7.1.

30mm focal length; ISO 400,1/400 second at f/11.

Rating

RRP: AU$1149; US$999

  • Build: 9.0
  • Handling: 8.8
  • Image quality: 8.2
  • Versatility: 8.8

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