In a star turn by Tamron, the lens manufacturer has pulled a real ace out of its sleeve with the 18-270mm lens, an "all in one" unit that will appeal to consumers and hobbyists. It's ideal for those situations (like travelling and general photography) when you can't necessarily anticipate your shooting conditions. Covering an extreme range from 18mm through to a telephoto 270mm, it is also the world's first 15x lens with image stabilisation inbuilt.
Weighing 550 grams and looking the part, there's no doubt that the Tamron means business. For such a huge zoom range, the lens does appear more compact than it actually is thanks to the black exterior, gold accents and textured, rubberised grip that surrounds the zoom and focus rings.
For a third-party lens, the Tamron looks much more attractive than some of the company's previous offerings. It definitely looks at home when attached to a dSLR body — we tested it on a Canon mount. The filter size is a comparatively large 72mm and fortunately doesn't rotate when removing or attaching filters. The lock switch, however, which stops the lens from extending when you are carrying it around, was a bit too cumbersome and difficult to slide into place, subduing any spontaneity of the moment.
Competing with Nikon and Canon on their own turf is certainly difficult, considering the offerings from both manufacturers across the 18-200mm range are relatively strong. That said, Tamron has obviously identified a gap in the market for a lens that is slightly longer.
Certainly it's on par with the big name offerings, price wise — AU$969 in fact. The Tamron is compatible with APS-C sized sensors (no full frames here) and at this stage only offered in a Canon or Nikon mount.
One of the key selling points of this lens is Tamron's image stabilisation system (known as VC — vibration compensation, in the lens title). It uses a tri-axial system which compensates for vibration electromagnetically using three steel balls. The system also stabilises images as seen through the viewfinder.
Of all the features touted about this lens, we were most pleased with the quiet, responsive and fast autofocus. Most of the time, the lens focused in under a second, though it did sometimes take a couple of attempts to obtain sharpness in lower light situations. For the most part, an incredibly impressive effort.
The Tamron's zoom range is huge. This is the same picture, taken at wide (18mm) and telephoto (270mm). Click to enlarge.
(Credit: CNET Australia)
Lens creep, the phenomenon where the lens will extend of its own accord, is an issue for most wide to telephoto lenses. It's particularly pronounced on the Tamron, as it is a relatively heavy lens, though we did have the same problem with Canon's recently released 18-200mm lens when we tested it in conjunction with the EOS 50D.
In low light situations, the image stabilisation coped well, providing clear images even with wide apertures and slower shutter speeds at up to 1/20s.
Quality was relatively consistent across the focal lengths — we found that there was marginally more crispness around the 35-100mm mark than at either of the two extremes, though nothing that a casual user would notice unless they needed to produce large prints from the image at full magnification. Barrel distortion at the wider end was only slightly noticeable, but not pronounced enough to present any sort of problem.
Chromatic aberration (or purple fringing) was visible at both extremes, though we failed to find a shooting situation where the problem was prominent enough to affect image quality.
While this lens won't necessarily appeal to professionals or serious amateurs because of its smaller apertures and superzoom tag, it's an ideal purchase for someone who is just getting started with a dSLR and who is looking for the flexibility of a wide-angle to telephoto zoom. It doesn't deliver the crispest images at full magnification in less than ideal shooting situations, but for most general uses this is a fantastic lens to consider amongst the big name brands.