f2 Cameracraft

f2 Freelance Photographer is one of the highest quality photo enthusiast magazines you'll find - worldwide. It now incorporates Cameracraft. Our subscription deal deal saves you substantially over the retail cover price and we'll send you your first copy free, starting your subscription with the next one. The cost will be held for three years and you can cancel at any time. Visit our web pages to learn more, or subscribe below..

Subscribe to f2 Cameracraft

Postal Region

Photoclubalpha Forum

Join our free Forum for a wealth of info, great company and some fantastic photo sharing threads! Registration on the Forum is separate from Registration on the website, but you are allowed to register using the same name and password.
  • Sony Alpha 100-900 • Re: Sony a77II discontinued December 6, 2016
    Which E mount APS-C or FF, or both, even though certain aspects of both are not compatibleStatistics: Posted by classiccameras — Tue Dec 06, 2016 4:36 pm
  • Sony Alpha 100-900 • Re: Sony a77II discontinued December 6, 2016
    2 systems; A mount and E mount.And with the A99II, they have integrated the best features (and electronics) from both into one camera.By re-using the A77 body for the A99II they have cut manufacturing costs as well.This makes them MORE competitive... and because the ranks of Sony users has increased due to the success of […]
  • Sony Alpha 100-900 • Re: Sony a77II discontinued December 6, 2016
    Good observations CHOLLY, superior IQ or not its their market share on a world stage, My A6000 delivers superb IQ ( if you can afford the right lens ) but the Jpeg colours are not to my liking even after tweaking the default settings, I much prefer my Olympus for Jpegs.When I lived in Canikon […]
  • Sony Alpha 100-900 • Re: Sony a77II discontinued December 5, 2016
    Having shot the D7100, D7200, 70D, 80D, and 7D mks I & II I can say that the image quality from the A77II is superior to ALL but the D7200 and then the all-around performance and flexibility of the A77II makes it the better camera.EXCEPT that is, in very low light with moving subjects.As for […]
  • Sony Alpha 100-900 • Re: Sony a77II discontinued December 5, 2016
    Who would choose one of these over a Nikon or Canon, especially at the quoted price, Sony are living in a dream world where they think they can out do the big 2,Statistics: Posted by classiccameras — Mon Dec 05, 2016 4:48 pm

B&H Product Finder

B&H Photo - Video - Pro Audio

DK’s Alamy collection

Stock photography by David Kilpatrick at Alamy

Past Article Calendar

June 2008
« May   Jul »

Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Tele-Macro LD Di

Our cover photo for the Spring 2008 issue of Photoworld was taken with a Tamron 70-300mm zoom costing less than £120 from most larger retailers or internet shops. The reputation of the lens meant we had to take a look at it, because the current choice in the Sony range is limited to one ‘kit’ 75-300mm costing £179, and the new 70-300mm G SSM lens costing £600.

Photoworld Spring 2008 cover

The Minolta 100-300mm f/4.5-5.6 APO (D) was one of the well-respected lenses not continued into the Sony line, possibly because it is thought to be a model designed for Minolta by Tokina just as the 100-400mm was. Sony part-owns Tamron, and Tokina is part of Hoya which now owns Pentax. Though all the lens makers source components and special types of glass from each other, the facilities which built the 100-300mm may not have been available when Sony took over.

The big question is why Sony did not opt for the 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Tamron Di lens instead of continuing the lower aperture 75-300mm. It would presumably have sold for about the same price in Sony guise.

The Tamron is a fairly unique design. It has a separate macro range, accessed by pushing a switch when you are between 180mm and 300mm zoom, and at minimum focus. You can not engage the macro range until you have these conditions met. Once you are in macro mode, the zoom is limited from 180-300mm, but the entire focus range is enabled from 0.95m to infinity with autofocus. It is a slow focusing lens and like other Tamrons with low gearing to drive the AF, appears to be very accurate on all the Dynax bodies.

This lens is of course suitable for film bodies, and unlike the new 70-300mm G SSM, it will work on models like the Dynax 9 unmodified, Dynax 800si, 7xi, 7000 and so on. Many owners have functioning film bodies of an older date and the move to SSM locks these out of AF functionality with all bodies prior to the 1999 Dynax 7.

This is a full aperture image detail – the bright reflected spots show how the aberrations surround or flare out from a sharp core image, which contains very fine detail – Alpha 350 original in-camera JPEG clip

The lens uses LD (Low Dispersion) elements, but it is not apochromatic and at full aperture displays some visible aberrations especially surrounding sharply focused light details. The image ‘core’ remains very crisp behind this veil of secondary imaging, and it only takes a little stopping down to tidy up the results. Our Bengal tiger cub (one of triplets born in the crocodile animal rescue park near Ingenio, Gran Canaria) was caught in movement, at full aperture, and despite the overlay of softness you can pick out eyelash-level detail on the 14.2 megapixel Alpha 350 image.

Here is the very next shot on the card – a 100 per cent clip of a zero sharpening, no NR, no processing ACR raw conversion from a shot taken fairly close to an alligator, f/9 and 130mm. The lack of colour fringes on the bright highlights is impressive.

Please remember what a 100 per cent clip from a non-sharpened 14 megapixel file actually is. Yes, I can make a 600 x 400 web image which looks sharper than this but making a 4952 x 3056 image at this sharpness with any USM – a five foot wide overall image at normal screen resolution – really tests any lens.

Zoom and apertures

You may have been reading the last article about kit zooms and note the graph showing that with cheaper lenses the aperture is likely to be cut early on in the zoom range. You might assume that £120-worth of Tamron would prove no different. You would be wrong, and this is one of the unique aspects of the lens.

The Tamron holds its maximum f/4 all the way from 70mm to 135mm, making it a full stop faster in this range than, for example, the 16-105mm SAL. It takes the same filter size and despite extending to 300mm, uses a single barrel tube and weighs only 435g. The aperture drops to f/4.5 between 135mm and 210mm. Even this is impressive; it’s as fast as the CZ 16-80mm at 80mm, all the way to 210mm.

Finally, at 210mm it does get cut to ƒ5 and it only becomes f/5.6 in the last 20mm of focal length, between 280mm and 300mm. The SAL 75-300mm becomes f/5 at 90mm andf/5.6 at just 125mm – the penalty for squeezing into a 55mm filter thread.

Even the SAL 70-300mm SSM G series lens is only f/4.5 from 70 to a mere 85mm, from then on it is f/5, and at 135mm it drops to f/5.6 all the way to 300mm. The Tamron is 2/3rds of a stop faster throughout most of its range on paper. In practice, we found that either f/5.6 on the Sony SSM is as fast as f/5 on the Tamron (due to coatings), or the Tamron is more optimistic in reporting its apertures!

Minimum focus

The Tamron 70-300mm manages a repro ratio of 1:2 – half life size on the sensor. That means a subject just 2″/50mm wide fills the entire frame (3″/75mm wide for full frame or film cameras). In Sony’s terminology, that is a 0.50X magnification at closest focus and 300mm setting. If you shoot macro on film right now, buying a digital body and this lens would give you the equivalent of your 1:1.5 mark on your macro lens.

No Sony or recent Minolta/KM zoom whether standard, tele or superzoom range offers better than 0.29X. It also stops down to a rather staggering f/45 at 300mm, not advised as sharpness suffers but potentially useful for macro work.

A comparison

We found the 70-300mm to be a fair match for our discontinued 100-300mm APO (D) overall. wider in aperture, and much better for small subjects. The 100-300mm’s repro ratio is just 0.25X, at 1.5m. It is f/4.5 as early as 120mm and f/5.6 from 150mm to 300mm.

Both lenses have solid metal mounts; both have eight contacts for full D specification; the 100-300mm doesn’t go down to 70mm, and it weighs 50g more.

The Tamron can be recommended as a bargain performer all round, ideal for anyone on a budget wanting a travel and general tele zoom with a very fast maximum aperture compared to other offerings.

– David Kilpatrick

2 comments to Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Tele-Macro LD Di

  • David, your comments on the tamron as well as the SAL 70-300G made me decide in favor of the tamron – I expect the SAL to be a better performer but weight and price I regard as too high for the expected purpose of coming along on missions to 3rd world countries. So I ordered the tamron for 135,- € and took it out for a first field test last weekend. The performance I would describe as excellent in comparison to the low price, and the bokeh as well as the macro possibilities are just amazing. See spring2life: barley and poppy flowers. I discovered some CA, especially on the long end, but could easily correct it with a gimp plugin on this shot of the Anger village church. Thank you for your review which really helped me with my decisions.

  • Sony Alpha lenses are very expensive.
    Tamron AF70-300mm F/4-5.6 Di LD Macro Lens,
    Quality product, extremely versatile lens, moderately priced.