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Tamron’s 70-200mm lens — is it ready for major league sports?

Our friends at B&H Photo sent me Tamron’s SP70-200mm F/2.8 G2 (Model A025) telephoto lens to see how it performs at a major league sporting event. I kept my Nikon 70-200mm on hand, just in case. At the end of the first quarter, my trusty Nikon lens stayed in my bag!

What I liked about it

Focus speed

The autofocus is fast. I mean really fast. I had no problem keeping up with the fastest sport on two feet, major league lacrosse. Tamron uses an Ultrasonic Silent Drive (USD) ring-type motor, along with two high-performance microcomputers to ensure excellent focusing speed and accuracy. A must-have for sports photography, especially in low light.

Lacrosse MLL

Image stabilization

According to Tamron, their VC image stabilization performance is equivalent to five stops — based on the CIPA standards — and the lens offers a choice of three VC modes, including one exclusively for panning. What does this mean in real world shooting? I was able to shoot at a slower shutter speed for night time games which allowed my ISO to stay around 3200 instead of the normal 5000. My images appear much sharper when I crop in tight.

Vibration reduction mode (VC)

You can choose between three VC modes: VC Mode 1, VC Mode 2, and VC Mode 3. Mode 1 “strikes a balance” between viewfinder and lens stabilization; Mode 2 is exclusively for panning; and, finally, Mode 3 offers the best stabilization by prioritizing the captured image and ignoring viewfinder stabilization.

I kept mine in VC Mode 3, thinking two is better than one so three must be better than two. After talking to my friend, fellow photographer, and  B&H Photo specialist Abe Curland, he suggested I should have tried VC Mode 2 to compare which mode I liked best before I returned the lens. Still, I feel I captured some great action shots at a slower shutter speed than I normally use.

Tamron Lens Action shot

Price

What I like best about the lens is the price. The Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 lens costs $1,299. That’s less than half the cost of Nikon’s AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR lens, which sells for $2,796.95. The image quality of the Nikon lens is slightly better, but not $1,500 better in my opinion. As for longevity, I’ve abused my Nikon lens for over 12 years before the ocean’s salt water finally put it to rest. As for the Tamron, I would have to see if it can withstand my aggressive shooting.

What I didn’t like

This is strictly a Nikon user gripe. I’m used to having my zoom ring closer to the camera. Tamron has opted to have the focus ring closer and the zoom ring at the end of the lens. I found myself accidentally turning the autofocus off during the event, causing me to lose several shots. After shooting with the lens for the majority of the season, I finally got used to the position of the rings but prefer the Nikon layout.

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