My First Shoot with the Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8


Tuesday afternoon I was walking by Kevin Agren’s office (he’s our Director of Sales), and he asks if I ever got a chance to try the Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom he had gotten us as a loaner. I told him I had actually tried it out on a shoot I did back in December for an upcoming book (one of the images from that shoot is shown above), and that I really liked it, (even more so after I looked up the price—-around $725, whereas most of the f/2.8 glass I had been using for the past few years was more in the $1,800 to $2,300 range, which any way you look at it, is a lot for a lens).

The shot you see above was taken with that Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8, and during the shoot I switched back and forth between it and my usual Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 and just looking at the images in Lightroom, at a 1:1 view, neither Brad nor I could see a visible difference between the two (I haven’t printed any out at large size yet, and that’s where the rubber may meet the road, but at least on screen, even zoomed in tight, I was very impressed with the image quality and overall sharpness).

Of course, Kevin was thrilled to hear how much I liked it (especially since they’re an advertiser, and Kevin knows, if I didn’t like it, I’d have to say so—really loudly), but beyond that, I know I lot of shooters would love to have some nice fast glass like this, but can’t really justify spending $2,300 or more for Nikon and Canon brand glass. This lens might just be the ticket to getting some fast glass, and then putting the $1,700 or so you save toward a new camera body or some other fast glass.

Lighting Specs From the Shoot
By the way; here are the lighting specs on the shot above. The main light isn’t natural light. There wasn’t enough light coming into the house (a combination of a cloudy day, and a large overhang over the front porch), so we put a single Elinchrom Quadra battery-powered strobe with a large softbox just outside the window, out on the porch, aiming in toward the subject. I tried to match the light from the strobe with the ambient light in the room for a natural look. I was in the house, sitting on the floor aiming upward, and I triggered the  strobe using an Elinchrom Skyport wireless transmitter (I could control the power of the strobe from my camera position using the Skyport, which kept me from having to jump up and go outside every two minutes).


First Impressions
Overall, I liked it. The lens feels surprisingly well built (especially for the money. Sometimes lenses in this price range can tend to have a ‘cheezy-plasticy’ feel, but this one didn’t at all), yet it also feels fairly lightweight, which I love.

I had read earlier reviews that said they felt it focused a little show, or had a noisy auto focus motor, but I didn’t really notice either during my shoot (that doesn’t mean they’re not true—I just didn’t notice it in my use). The image quality seems very good, and images taken with it are very nice and crisp—-no complaints there whatsoever.

It does have a Macro feature, but I didn’t get a chance to try it, and since I have a dedicated Macro lens, it’s unlikely that I would use the Macro feature anyway—I would get this lens because it’s fast and the price is just so right. So there you have it—my first impressions of the Tamron 70-200 f/2.8 (a version is available for most popular camera brands). Here’s a link to it on B&H Photo or Adorama. It’s around $730 or so.

If any of you out there have the Tamron 70-200 f/2.8—let me know what your experience with it has been. I’d really love to hear from you.

  1. Hi Scott,

    It’s great to see that companies like Tamron have upped their game and making fast glass alot more accessible.

    To be honest I’m a bit of a stickler for going with the Nikon’s fast glass but it’s reviews like this that could start to sway me and I guess many others.

    Definitely a move in the right direction,

  2. Scott, where was the photo ( Shown at the top of the website with your other portfolio pics ) of the long road with trees totally overgrowing it and making sort of a road tunnel, taken? Would love to know for my next road trip, thanks.

    And I got my Canon 70-200 2.8 used in mint condition on eBay for $755 :)

    1. Hi Jon-Mark:
      That was taken in Savannah, Georgia at a workshop I did with landscape photographer Bill Fortney. It’s the opening drive into the Wormsloe State Historic Site.

      Have a great shoot! :)


    1. Hi Richard:
      Whatever Kevin gets in to play with, I’ll definitely check out, but as far as I know, he doesn’t have anything on the way (maybe I should stop by his office again, eh?). :)


  3. I have owned this lens for a year now, and love it, for the money it really can’t be beaten. I also haven’t found any huge issues with the focus. The only thing i really need for it is a bigger tripod. Also since i just upgraded to a 7D from a 50D, this is an amazing lens for video.

  4. Fabulous image, I agree that this lens seems to deliver well. I am also digging the processing and would REALLY like to see a tutorial from you on how you achieved the tonality. The vignette is apparent and powerful, but the overall tone of this image has a “color burn” look to it which is quite pleasant.

    1. Hi Michael:
      I did three things to this photo in post:
      (1) I increased the Fill Light amount in camera raw, because I wanted to see more detail in her outfit
      (2) I added the vigette
      (3) But I think what you’re looking for is what I did in Nik Color Efex Pro 3.0. I used their Brilliance/Warm preset at 70% (the default setting is 50%), then I masked away her skin, so it affected everything but her skin. The photo was already pretty warm, but I wanted the colors to pop a little more, and that plug-in did the trick.

      Hope that helps. :)


      1. I think the Nik Suite along with General Fractals is a sweet pair. Thats my workflow along with the occasional Topaz and Photomatix. I always begin with noise reduction (if needed) and the last thing (after PS, filters and resizing) is sharpen.

      2. It helps a great deal, Scott…Nik CEP is my go-to plug in although I haven’t experimented with Brill/Warmth very much. I’ll def give it a closer look. (Darken/Lighten center in CEP is da bomb, BTW…no warmth slider, tho).

        Appreciate the reply, I’ll shake yer hand and thank you in person next week at PSW — first one, can’t wait!


  5. Hi Scott,
    I bought this lens in sept. 2008 (the so called AF-S version was out and I had to get that one because my girlfriend had a D40). The guys at my local camera store got me 3 lenses to test. I finally picked one that seemed sharp enough for my taste.
    Four days later I took a trip to Venice with a D200 + Tamron 28-75/2.8 (“AF-S”) + Tamron 70-200/2.8 (“AF-S”). Because I mainly shot during the day the lenses performed good. I noticed that the tele was focusing rather slow (I`m a fast aperture prime lens shooter) for my taste. But hey … I paid 700$ for it, so who was I to complain.
    When I got home I had some studio assignments and it was then that I realized how slow to focus this lens really was. (modeling lights would have helped but you don`t get those on SB800s :D ) So I had to mount a SB-800 as a commander just to get the use of the red AF-light on it.
    Four months later I sold the lens (along with 28-75/2.8). Couldn`t get used to them. (but … that`s just me, I love primes). It`s bang for the buck if you`re an amateur shooter, but in my opinion the extra 1k $ for a Nikon 70-200 will go a long way. I recently tried the new one and I might give zooms another try. It`s that good!


  6. I recently upgraded from the Tamron to the Canon and can really tell a big difference in my shot quality. For me (I shoot mostly sports), the autofocus is MUCH faster and more reliable. I don’t really using the IS because I’m almost always in high speed mode with this lens.

    I do recommend the Tamron to people who want to shoot better shots of their kids because it is affordable and does a fine job. But if you are really serious, you have to get the better glass.

    1. I would agree, I have tried to shoot motorsports with this and it’s autofocus is a bit lacking for that, but I did learn a bit about manual focus that day… not too easy while tracking.

  7. This would be a great time to ask Nikon what the additional $1000 to $1500 actually gets you (besides VR – the Nikon 80-200 2.8 non-VR was $1600 years ago). The usual response to this is heavy duty, more indestructible – is there real evidence for this? I’ll bet 3 Tamron lenses, for the same price, last longer than one Nikon. I suspect that the pricing of the latest and greatest camera (D3X $7500) and lenses is what the manufacturer thinks the market will bear, not what it costs to make the item with reasonable profit. I’m afraid we who read your wonderful blog and and are dedicated “Nikonians” and “Canonians” perpetuate this pricing by swallowing it hook, line and sinker….food for thought. Keep up the great work!

  8. Hi Scott,

    So glad to see you do a post on a third party lens. I own this lens along with the tamron 28-75 2.8 For the price, you really can’t go wrong with these lenses. I’m a people photog so the slow focus doesn’t really bother me too much, but I bet I would def notice some issues if I decided to shoot a sporting event with it.

    I got my hands on a Nikon 105 F2 Defocus Control yesterday and I absolutely LOVE it! It’s crazy sharp at F2 and the defocus control feature is really cool. I’ve never heard you guys mention this lens on any of your shows before…probably because it’s been around since the mid 90s i think, but it can go head to head with the best of them.

    Just like to say thanks for all the training, inspiration, and entertainment you’ve provided to me over the last year or so. I can’t begin to tell you how much I’ve learned from you and the NAPP gang.

    Best wishes,

  9. I did try the Tamron 70-200mm last year before I made a decision to spend a lot of money on Nikon’s 70-200mm glass. In my tests, the image quality was fine except at the extremes. I did notice quite a bit of vignetting at 70mm or at 200mm (full disclosure, I’m a full-frame shooter using a Nikon D700). I also notice both the slow autofocus and a bit of noise, though nothing excessive.

    I was about the pull the trigger on the Tamron, as the price was very attractive. Then I came across the Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 and that was a game changer. It had both the quality and features I was looking for for only $200 more. Since I already have glass to cover the 70mm range, it wasn’t a concern to go 80-200mm. The autofocus was dead on and quiet. Virtually no vignetting on full-frame and excellent quality lens. The only thing missing was VR and that was easily overcome by tweaking shutter speeds. I was not about to pay an extra $1200 for that feature.

    So bottom line, the Tamron 70-200mm is a great lens for shooters on a budget or a DX shooter. But for just $200 more, I got the Nikon quality glass I wanted with little compromise. I’ve shot bands, weddings and wildlife with the Nikon lens and am VERY satisfied with it.

  10. I have had the Tamron 70-200 for about a year now and have been happy with it’s sharpness and performance to this point. Although, I had a shoot this week shooting available light during a board meeting. This was the first time I really noticed the struggle with low light focusing. I am shooting this lens on a D300s and it just wouldn’t lock in consistently. This caused me to miss some shots. All in all though, great lens for the money.

  11. I had the Tamron 70-200 2,8 and for the money it was a great lens. On a tripod or monopod it was just about as good optically as the Nikon. I can say this because I sold mine when I bought the Nikon 70-200 2.8. In low light my lens struggled to lock focus. In the studio it was an issue even with the modeling lamps unless it was a high key shot. I shot a high school hockey championship with it in St. Louis and it did a great job. For the money it’s a very good choice. But, IMO you get what you pay for here and the Nikon is my go to lens. Now the Tamron 28-75 2.8 is another story…It Kicks butt!

    Thanks for all you do Scott.


    1. Bought this lens several years ago..dropped it on a grassy area and broke the focus ring..costly repair..its plastic so don’t drop it. I have dropped the Nikon 70-300 in similiar way and it did not even have a scratch. Have to say I love the tammy..its very sharp even at 2.8. it for low light events. It has no focus problems on D7100 or D90. It snaps focus easily so not sure where all this hokus focus comes from..maybe SIgma lovers. I had the sigma 70-200 2.8 and no where near as nice..colors were washed out ..and 2.8 blurry. whats the point . I buy a 2.8 to use it. Just bought a 17-50 vc so hoping for similiar results. I also own a 200-500 that does struggle at times for focus but I use it mostly on a tripod for slow moving creatures so no big deal. That is also giving me excellent resuts.

  12. Scott,

    Just curious… if this lens does not have VR, which I don’t think it does, why use it over the Nikon 80-200 (aside from the 200 dollar price difference, I think). Thanks!


  13. Note: If there is anyone out there with the original cs Photoshop (not cs2,cs3 or cs4) you may want to go ahead and upgrade your software to cs4. if you have cs2 you are fine. Adobe’s policy is the “3 back policy” and when a new cs comes out they will only upgrade 3 products back. If and when a new, say maybe, cs5 comes out the first cs will not be upgradable (only cs2, cs3 or cs4).

  14. I bought the Tamon 70-200 2.8 last year and have been happy with it. I have not used it in a studio shoot yet though. I did use it to shoot a minor league baseball game at night under the lights, during a light rain and did not seem to have any problems with focus. Since I was prefocusing, anticipating shots I wasn’t affected by slower focusing, though. However, I would really like to have the VR that the Nikon has but just couldn’t afford to purchase the Nikon at this time.

    I have also been told that the Nikon lenses are better weather sealed than the Tamron lenses.

  15. So glad to see a positive review on this lens, I have it and love it! used it in MANY low light and tough focus situations and does as well as I would hope, i do admit it can be a bit “unsure” with it’s focus, but the quick pull manual override makes that a non-issue in those times. Of course there are advantages to a Nikon pro grade VRII monster piece of glass, that’s not the point. The point is that for less than 1/2 the price your optical quality is comparable. If you want to SEE my experience, it’s here:

    Again, Scott, so happy to see this, hope it’s a trend.

    1. Hey T-Bone, I have the Sigma 70-200 and have been very happy with it so far. If you are on a budget this is a great lens. I shoot mosty sports with it. Autofocus can be a little slow in low light but nothing too drastic.
      I highly recommend it.

    2. Just heard that Sigma is about to release a OS version of the 70-200 mm lens. That should be interesting to get your hands on and see if it matches the Nikon lens. Let´s hope the price get´s right.

  16. I was giving this lens some serious thought until I remembered that I have the D5000. Like the D40 and the D60, the D5000 does not have the ability to auto-focus anything other than a Nikon “AF-S” lens. So even though the price is sweet, it wouldn’t work for me.

    Just food for thought for those out there that have mid-lower level DSLRs.

    1. UPDATE: Some of Tamron’s lenses WILL auto-focus with mid-lower lever DSLRs (including the 70-200mm). This from their website….

      “Tamron lenses built for use on Nikon cameras, with the exception of those listed below, feature a Built-In Motor for autofocus compatibility with Nikon’s D40, D40X, D60, D3000 and D5000 Digital SLR cameras. These Tamron lenses in Nikon mount can be identified by the model number, which includes the Roman numeral two after the “N” (e.g., B003NII-700). If you have any question about the compatibility of a Tamron lens with one of the above listed cameras, please do not hesitate to call Tamron to verify that the lens you own or are intending to purchase is one with the Built-In Motor for Nikon.”

  17. I rented the Canon version of this lens last year for an engagement shoot. I figured it would be a good test to determine if I needed to save up for the L glass. I was really impressed with the image quality, however the lens would occassionally hunt for focus. I could see where this would be the wrong choice for a sports shooter or maybe even a wedding shooter. For a serious hobbiest though, fast glass at that price point is hard to beat.

  18. Gotta check the lens. I shoot with the 70-300 and it’s fine, and the VR is good too. I was wondering about getting around the need for VR, but since high ISO is so manageable these days with noise reduction software, this lens is definitely worth checking into.

  19. But what aperture did you shoot at? That’s what separates the expensive lenses from the less expensive ones (and focus speed in low light in this case). For studio work, you’re usually at f/8 and even a kit lens will do fine…I’ve used my Sigma 17-70 when working in tighter studios as well and there’s plenty of detail in post at f/8…

  20. Scott, I’ve been using this lens with a Canon 40D to shoot sports for over one year now and I love it. I shoot ice hockey usually in poor lighting with this and it handles everything I need. Check my pictures, they’re all done with this lens. Cost was definitely a factor for me and this lens has been worth every penny for me.

  21. Hi Scott –

    I use both the Tamron 28-75 2.8 and the 70-200 2.8, and I admit I enjoy both of them very much. When I bought them, I figured all of the money I was saving by going with these lenses, I could buy a D700. I haven’t been disappointed!

    The focusing is a little bit slow, but in a studio I don’t think it matters. If you are shooting sports, you might have a different opinion.

    Like they always say when comparing the Tamron, Sigma and Nikon/Canon, there is Price, Focusing Speed, and Sharpness – but you can only pick 2!!!

  22. Thank you Scott for lending some credibility to non “brand” glass. I have the Tamron, and have shot the Nikon. I own the Tamron 70-200 and I love it. It focuses closer than the Nikon, and as a wedding shooter it lets me ditch the “dedicated macro” for a lighter bag. It also is a touch lighter itslef, and that’s a plus. It is slower focusing, that’s for sure, but with some practice it’s typically not an issue.
    I also have the 28-75 and for the price of the Nikon 24-70 I am able to cover from 28-200 with fast glass. I might upgrade someday, if I hire a second shooter full time, but photography is so much more than the gear. Not nearly enough people realize that. What good is the Nikon 70-200 if it sits in your bag except for the 2 hours once a month you put it on to impress someone at a camera club?

    But that’s just my 2bits.


  23. Hi Scott,

    Nothing to do with today’s post, but I just check your gear list and you don’t mention the Black Rapid R-Strap that you reviewed last year. Do you still have it? and use it?

    I’m thinking of buying one.

    1. I bought a Black Rapid 4 strap a year ago and I LOVE IT!!!!!!!! It has SOLVED my wrist-pain problem that I was getting from holding my DSLR, it is the single best accessory I have bought – now I can shoot all day without strain, whereas before I’d be in pain after an hour or so…

      1. I sent away for the upgraded R strap with the pocket in the strap for whatever you can fit in there. Guess they were out of stock because they sent me two “regular, original” R straps for the price of one. It’s a lot better than having the camera bounce off your chest. One camera on the monopod, and the other on a R strap. Nothing better. The “up strap” might be great also.

  24. Scott, Great shot man! Lighting is very flattering to the subject. I know what you mean about being able to control your strobes directly from your camera, what a time saver! Have you ever seen the Cyber Commander by Paul C. Buff? Just bought one recently and there is no way I would ever want to go back to the old school way. Have a great weekend!

  25. You know what’s gonna happen next?

    Tamron will run out of stocks all over the world of this glass because of this review, Scott. And they’ll be glad you mention something we unfortunate people are scrapping to use when we can’t swallow the price tag of those wonderfully built Canon and Nikon fast lenses in this trying times.

    Now, how about something from Sigma?

  26. Sold it when the new Nikkor VRII came out. Got what I paid for — much, MUCH better autofocus performance. Tamron was embarrassingly slow even under modeling lights in studio. I looked like an idiot making my model wait for focus lock. Now, I look like a much faster-focusing idiot.


  27. I bought the Nikon 2.8 and spent last weekend shooting about 18,000 photos of 600 gymnasts and glad I spent the extra money. I had a gear strip out of the 17-50 2.8 Tamron I bought, but they have a six year warranty, which is nice. The other photog I was shooting with was using the Tamron 2.8 on a Canon 7D and was getting good results, but said the autofocus noisier and the focus was a bit slower.

    In between sessions, a father of one of the gymnast asked if I could put his Tamron 70-200 2.8 on my body. It quit autofocusing for him recently and said he bought it a year ago. It didn’t focus on my body either. I’m guessing the motor is burned out or electronics are shot. And while I would love to buy a newer body, my advice to people is to invest in the glass. The D200 was $1700 originally in 2005, but so was the first VR 70-200 Nikon in 2003. Now, the D200 can be had for a few hundred bucks while the lens has kept its value.

  28. I couldn’t afford the nikon version, so it was a tough choice between the sigma and tamron 2.8/70-200.
    Apparantly, the sigma suffered from focus problems, so I got the tamron. Yes, the AF can be noisy, and it isn’t as lightning fast as USM drive lenses, but it’s perfectly usable and the lens delivers very crisp, sharp and contrasty images. The macro capability is nice for someone without a dedicated lens, and it feels well built.
    All in all, it’s my favourite lens. I’d recommend it to anybody who can’t afford a nikon lens, and I’d *LOVE* tamron should they ever decide to release a version of it with their VC and new ultrasonic drive, which was recently introduced with a 70-300 tamron lens.

  29. Hi Scott,

    I don’t have the Tamron, but I saw some folks asking about the Sigma glass, and I have and use two of the Sigmas for my Nikon bodies. I use the 24-70mm f/2.8 HSM (newest version) and the 70-200mm f/2.8 EX II HSM and have had nothing but great results. Great contrast, rich colors, fast autofocus, very sharp, and great durability are all things I have found to be true with both of my Sigmas.

    -The lack of any type of vibration reduction on the 70-200mm really doesn’t create a problem for me because of the high ISO capabilities of today’s camera bodies. Since I shoot mostly portraits and usually have great lighting conditions, I don’t shoot handheld in extremely low light. (Sigma has announced an updated version to thier 70-200mm f/2.8 that includes a vibration reduction system.)
    -The exterior coating on both lenses is not as durable as Nikon’s, but the extra cost doesn’t make it worth it to me.

    Overall I have been extremely happy with my Sigma glass and I would not hesitate to buy more glass from them, and I’m already planning on adding another Sigma lens to by bag.

    I hope that helps out some folks who are looking at Sigma or Tamron glass over Nikon or Canon in the interest of cost.

    All the best,


  30. Hi Scott – First I have to say thanks because I’ve been a huge fan of the blog and Photoshop User TV. Question regarding this post – the darker areas in the image look choppy compared to all your other images- is there some weird compression going on that caused this? I ask because I’m interested in the lens and want to know if you see this in your raw and processed images before they were posted.

    I’m encouraged that you liked this lens because it’s pricing is VERY attractive.
    Happy Spring and thanks again for all you do.

  31. I have the Tamron lens and I’m pleased with it. I shot a theatre show with it and it managed fine. Essentially for me it’s great value for money.

  32. Scott,

    Looks like a fine piece of glass. My experience with other Tamron zoom lenses is that they take a lot to focus on AF, especially under low light conditions. I will be interested to know if this lens improves on that area. And at that price this is a great candidate for my next lens!

  33. Sorry if my question is stupid. I’m considering getting this lens since I can’t afford getting the Nikon one. I was just wondering if any of the Nikkon Teleconverters can work on this or not. If so, which ones, if not, then is there any alternative third-party TC that can work with this Tamron lens on Nikon bodies? Thanks!!

  34. This review generated lots of input; here’s my .02. I just picked up an excellent used 70-200 2.8 Nikkor VRI. I’ve not shot the Tamron, although I think Tamron’s good reputation is well deserved. However, even though the used Nikkor cost nearly twice as much as the Tamron, it’s worth it. Autofocus is fast and accurate, even in really dim light (1/15 @ f/2.8, ISO 1600). And VR _works_. Hand-holding at 1/15 & 200mm standing upright, no monopod, I consistently get 4 out of 5 sharp. Turn VR off and it’s _maybe_ one out of a dozen.

    If you’re a budget shooter, mainly in light bright enough to keep the shutter speed up, and the Tamron’s slower AF is adequate, I’m sure it’s a good value – Tamron seems to provide good to very good build quality. But even without considering the Nikkor’s ruggedness, the ability to shoot wide open in low light and deliver consistently good results makes it a money lens. It’ll pay for itself in the first weekend of club shooting.

    Sigma just announced a newer version of their 70-200 f/2.8 with Optical Stabilization. If they’re not an advertiser, they should be! I look forward to seeing how the Sigma stacks up, particularly if street price is in the $900 range.

  35. I’m one of those who just can’t afford the more expensive glass, so when desiring a faster lens, I got the Tamron 28-75mm 2.8 lens and have been very happy with it. When it comes time to look at a fast zoom, I’ll consider the Tamron, esp. considering Scott’s comments here.

  36. Howdy, i read your blog often and i own an analogous one and i used to be simply wondering if you get a lot of spam comments? If thus how do you stop it, any plugin or anything you’ll be able to advise? I get thus much lately it’s driving me mad so any help is very abundant appreciated.

  37. Hey Scott,
    Really nice review. The first helpful one that I have found about this price of glass. My question is, being a young photo enthusiast on a budget I am stuck between to lenses. Either the Canon 70-200L f/4 non-is and this lense. They are in around the same price range. I understand that the Tamron offers an extra stop to 2.8 but the Canon has nice, fast, and quiet focusing. Any input would be much appreciated
    Thank you!

  38. I recently bought this lens and use it on a Nikon D3100. It is simply wonderful – period. The marco is great, and this is the only lens in this range that offers this ability. Shooting at F2.8 at 300mm (on a Dx body) really isolates the main character – and gives it lots of punch. I can’t wait to try it on the D7100 which is coming soon.

  39. I have a Tamron 70-200, the same lens, using it on my D300 and have had no problems with it. The money I saved on this lens i used on another lens. I’m not a pro and do not play the numbers game when it comes to lenses. Only cars!

Leave a Reply
Previous Post

Nancy Staggs Wins 2010 Dean Collins Educators Scholarship

Next Post

Come to the Expo Floor For Free!