Tamron 70-180mm F/2.8 Di III VXD Review
The 70-180mm F/2.8 Di III VXD is Tamron's third lens for Sony's range of full-frame mirrorless cameras, joining the popular 28-75mm and 17-28mm to form the so-called "Holy Trinity" of f/2.8 zoom lenses.
The new Tamron 70-180mm telephoto zoom features a constant aperture of f/2.8 throughout the range, an impressive minimum focus distance of 0.85m throughout the zoom range, an all-new VXD (Voice-coil eXtreme-torque Drive) linear focus motor for quiet and fast AF operation, and a moisture-sealed construction.
The optical formula is comprised of 19 elements in 14 groups, including six low dispersion elements (both XLD (eXtra Low Dispersion) and LD (Low Dispersion) designs) and three aspherical elements, and it has an iris diaphragm with nine rounded aperture blades for better bokeh effects.
The Tamron 70-180mm F/2.8 Di III VXD lens is priced at £1349.99 / $1199 in the UK and USA respectively. Note that this lens is not compatible with teleconverters.
Ease of Use
Given the fast and constant f/2.8 maximum aperture and the 180mm maximum reach, the Tamron 70-180mm F/2.8 Di III VXD is a surprisingly light and compact lens, measuring almost 15cms in length and weighing in at only 810g.
You can also use it on quite effectively on a smaller APS-C body like the Sony A6000 series of cameras, where the equivalent focal length will change to 105-270mm.
Build quality is fine, but not quite as good as past Tamron "SP" branded lenses that we've reviewed. The Tamron 70-180mm F/2.8 Di III VXD feels solid enough in your hand, despite its polycarbonate construction.
The zoom ring is very wide and has a ridged, rubberised grip band. There is also a useful focus lock switch as found on many other Tamron zooms, but curiously not the 17-28mm and 28-75mm lenses.
Note that the zoom ring is rather unusually in front of the focus ring, which initially proved to be somewhat counter-intuitive.
The lens extends by about an extra 3cm when fully zoomed out to 180mm. The focusing ring is much narrower than the zoom ring, making it more difficult to locate in a rush.
The Tamron 70-180mm F/2.8 Di III VXD features not one but two all new high-speed VXD (Voice-coil eXtreme-torque Drive) linear focus motors that allows virtually silent auto-focusing, making it well-suited to video use.
Importantly, full-time manual focus override is also possible and the lens is also fully compatible with the "Direct Manual Focus (DMF)" system feature of Sony cameras that enables the user to instantly switch between autofocus and manual focus.
Focusing is fully internal but zooming is not, with the length of the lens changing as you zoom from 70 to 180mm. In use, we found the new focusing system to be very quiet and satisfyingly fast with the lens mounted on a Sony A7 III camera, although not quite as snappy as the best Sony standard zooms such as the FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM lens.
This is especially true when using AF-C mode,which provides the fastest AF speed and is near silent in operation, even when moving from close to minimum focus through to infinity.
The Tamron 70-180mm F/2.8 Di III VXD isn't fully weather-proof but it does benefit from a moisture-resistant construction which helps to prevent moisture from penetrating the lens, although we'd hesitate to use it in the rain for a prolonged period. The front element has a hydrophobic Fluorine Coating that is highly resistant to fingerprints and debris.
The lens is supplied with plastic lens caps and a plastic flower-shaped lens hood - there's no lens bag included. The filter size is 67mm.
At the 70mm focal length the angle of view is 34°21'.
At the 180mm focal length the angle of view is 13°42'.
Chromatic aberrations, typically seen as purple or blue fringes along contrasty edges, are pretty well controlled with this lens - the example below shows the worst-case scenario.
With the Tamron 70-180mm F/2.8 Di III VXD lens wide open at f/2.8, you can see some obvious light fall-off in the corners at both ends of the zoom range. Stopping down helps, although to completely get rid of this phenomenon, you will need to use an f-stop of f/8 or smaller.
The Tamron 70-180mm F/2.8 Di III VXD produces quite nice sunstars when stopped-down to f/16 and f/22, as shown below.
The lens is quite susceptible to flare when shooting directly into the sun, though, something that is mitigated somewhat by fitting the supplied lens hood.
The Tamron 70-180mm F/2.8 Di III VXD is actually a pretty good macro lens, at least in manual focus mode.
The close-focus point is an impressive 0.85m /33.5 in from the film/sensor plane throughout the entire zoom range when using auto-focus, with a maximum reproduction ratio of 1:4.6.
Switch to manual focus and set the lens to 70mm, though, and you can suddenly focus as close as just 0.27m /10.6 in, with an impressive 1:2 reproduction ratio - not bad for a 70-180mm zoom! The only proviso is that it's difficult to focus on subjects at the edges of the frame - it's more a mode for focusing on what's in the center and blurring out the edges.
The following example illustrate how close you can get to the subject at 70mm in manual focus mode.
Bokeh is a word used for the out-of-focus areas of a photograph, and is usually described in qualitative terms, such as smooth / creamy / harsh etc.
Tamron have employed an iris diaphragm with nine rounded blades for a pleasing rendering of the out-of-focus highlights.
Based on what we have seen, we can say that they have largely succeeded. Below you'll find some examples, but you are also encouraged to check out our Sample Images.
In order to show you how sharp this lens is, we are providing 100% crops on the following pages.