I have to admit, when I heard about the Tamron 18-270mm lens, I was both intrigued and a little skeptical. I love my primes and when I use a zoom lens, it’s a Nikon 24-70 2.8. While I love the idea of a lens that covers just about every focal range that you could possibly want, I didn’t expect much in terms of image quality from a $599 lens.
For the past three weeks, the 18-270 has been on my Nikon D300 and has come everywhere with me and my crew. Unfortunately, we haven’t had many exciting adventures or great photo opportunities. I live twenty-five miles north of Boston and it’s miserably cold and incredibly gray this time of year. Not at all ideal for outdoor photo sessions, which is what I most enjoy shooting and what I think this lens is best for, but me made the most of it. Here’s an overview of the lens and some images that I’ve taken with it (with the exception of the black and white’s, all images are SOOC).
The Tamron AF 18-270mm F/3.5-6.3 Di-II VC LD Asph. (IF) Macro Lens is a 15x superzoom lens designed for cropped sensor cameras. The focal length is the equivalent of 27-405mm in 35mm format. It has vibration compensation which allows the use of shutter speeds that are slower than what would otherwise be possible. It automatically detects camera movement and compensates for camera shake . The lens has a minimum focusing distance of 19” throughout the entire range and can be used as a pseudo-macro lens. All of these features, along with it’s compact size and weight (it weighs just over a pound) make it an attractive all-in-one or walk around lens.
What does a range of 18-270 look like?
I couldn’t wait to see what the range actually looked like. It’s long! Being able to zoom to 270mm made me feel like undercover Momarazzi. My kids had no idea I was taking their pictures, which is really kind of fun. Yes, she is eating a Twinkie. Don’t judge.
f3.5, 1/500 ISO 1250 f6.3, 1/60, ISO 1250
These next images were taken during a pretty big snowstorm. I kept hoping for a nice day to take the lens out and take some landscape shots but Mother Nature didn’t cooperate.
Can you even see the surfers in the first image?
Impressive, isn’t it?
Image Quality and Ease of Use
One of the reasons that I love my 24-70 2.8 so much is that it’s a fixed aperture lens. Fixed aperture lenses can maintain a set aperture (up to the maximum aperture of the lens) throughout the focal range. This means that when you zoom, your camera settings stay the same. With a variable aperture lens, as you zoom the aperture changes. The longer the lens gets the smaller the aperture becomes. This makes shooting in manual tricky and shooting in low light very difficult. While using this lens I shot in aperture priority mode and had to use flash for 90% of the indoor shots.
With adequate light, the lens focuses quickly and is quite sharp at all focal lengths. In low light, at 100mm and above, the lens hunts for focus, is slow and sharpness can be hit or miss. The closer to 270mm you get, the more noticeable the problem becomes.
f3.5, .4, ISO 200, flash used (21mm)
f3.5, 1/60, ISO 500, flash used (18mm)
Using the lens indoors with just natural light was challenging. It was necessary to bump the ISO way up and even with good SOOC exposure, most of my indoor shots lacked the clarity that I am used to.
f6.3, 1/100, ISO 2000, natural light (65mm)
f4.2, 1/200, ISO 1600, natural light (35mm)
f4, 1/320, ISO 1250 (32mm)
f4, 1/80, ISO 640 (50mm)
f6.3, 1/100, ISO 640 (38mm)
One of my favorite things about this lens is it’s minimum focusing distance. The 18-270 can focus at just 19” from the subject throughout it’s focal range. While this is similar to the minimum focusing distance of the 50mm and 24-70, the minimum focusing distance of the Nikon 70-200 2.8 is over four feet, making it almost impossible to use inside of my house.
This image was taken at 270 mm from inside of my car. The plant was on the side of the road and I was about 20” from it. While the composition is nothing special, the sharpness and shallow depth of field achieved by the lens are quite good.
Size & weight
Slow to focus in low light
While this isn’t a lens that I would use for client work, the image quality is quite good, the range is amazing and you can’t beat the price. As much as I love fixed aperture lenses, the flexibility that this lens offers and it’s performance with adequate light make it a nice choice for a walk around, all-purpose lens for outdoor sports, sightseeing, or day at an amusement park, fair or the beach.