Tamron 70-210mm f/4 Di VC USD Lens Review

"Which affordable, good quality telephoto lens should I get?" If that or similar is your question, the Tamron 70-210mm f/4 Di VC USD Lens may be your answer. This small, light, sleek-appearing lens has big-price features including a fixed max aperture over the entire focal length range, Ultrasonic Drive AF, weather sealing and nice build quality. But, this lens with an extremely useful focal length range has a price tag significantly lower than the Canon, Nikon and Sony alternatives.

Read on to learn if this lens makes sense for a part of your kit!

Tamron 70-210mm f/4 Di VC USD Lens on Tripod

Focal Length Range

While most lens manufacturers are making 70-200mm lenses, Tamron opted to add 10mm to the long end, giving this lens a slight edge in direct feature comparisons (bragging rights). Does the extra 10mm make a difference? Yes, and all other attributes being equal, more range is better. But, while 10mm is a huge difference at ultra-wide angle focal lengths, the difference at 200mm is not nearly as substantial. For comparison, the Tamron 70-210 frames a 47.25" (1200mm) wide test target from 23.7' (7.22m) at 210mm while the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM Lens frames the same target from 22.9' (6.99m) at 200mm. So, the difference between 200mm and 210mm is rather slight and I don't see it being a differentiator.

The 70-200mm focal length range has been an extremely popular one and the 70-210mm range is extremely useful. Most will find such a lens to be a most-used member of the lens kit. I have long-owned a pair of 70-200mm lenses and both of these zoom lenses are, individually, among my most-used, despite the fact that I also own other lenses covering significant portions of this focal length range. That this specific focal length range is so incredibly useful is the reason that I so often choose these lenses for whatever my need is.

What is a 70-210mm lens useful for? The list of uses for a short-mid-telephoto focal length range is the same as for all 70-200mm lenses and it is very long. I'll share some of my favorites.

At the top of my favorite uses for a 70-210mm lens list is portrait photography and if you are taking pictures of people, one of these lenses has your name on it. Containing a superset of the classic 85-135mm portrait focal length range, 70-200mm lenses are ideal for capturing pleasing perspectives of people. This lens invites subject framing ranging from full body portraits at 70mm to tight headshots at 200mm, and these mid-telephoto focal lengths naturally push the focus distances far enough away to avoid perspective distortion, including large-appearing noses. But, not so far that communication with the subject becomes difficult.

"Portrait photography" is a broad term that covers a wide variety of potential still and video use at a wide variety of potential venues including both indoors (home, church, school, etc.) and outdoors (yard, beach, park, parade, playground, etc.). Portrait subjects can range from infants to seniors, from individuals to large groups (if enough working distance is available). Engagements, weddings, parties, events, theater, stage performances (including concerts and recitals), speakers, families, small groups, senior adults, graduating seniors, fashion, documentary, lifestyle ... all are great uses for the 70-200mm focal lengths. There is often adequate space in even a small studio for portraiture using this focal length range and it is not hard to use this range exclusively for portrait shoots.

That portrait photography is one of the best revenue-producing photography genres helps justify the acquisition cost of this lens (you cannot buy stock photos of most people) and you likely noticed the paid applications in the just-shared list of portrait uses.

People are also frequently photographed participating in sporting activities and other action scenarios using this focal length range. While the 200mm focal length may be modestly too wide for large field sports photography, it works very well for closer action such as that found at track and field meets and on the basketball court (though an f/4 aperture may not be adequate for indoor action).

By virtue of the longer focal lengths, the background of 70-210mm images can be strongly-blurred and that attribute is especially great for portraits captured where the background cannot be fully controlled, including at sporting events and performances captured from a seat in the audience.

While portrait photography generally refers to images of people being captured, some of us also refer to certain types of wildlife photos as portraits. These images typically include the animal at least nearly filling the frame and for that task, this focal length range often falls short of the need.

Tamron 70-210mm f/4 Di VC USD Lens Chipmunk Sample Picture

Unless the wildlife subject is very large and/or very close, the longest native focal length in this lens (I'll discuss the teleconverter options later in the review) will usually be found far too short for this task. If capturing environmental wildlife portraits or captive (zoo) wildlife, this focal length range may be perfect. This is a great focal length range for photographing pets, including dogs and cats. Or, for a pair of masked baby garden raiders (raccoons, of course).

Tamron 70-210mm f/4 Di VC USD Lens Raccoon Sample Picture

When landscape photography is mentioned, many immediately think of wide angle lenses. But, telephoto focal lengths are an extremely important part of a landscape kit. The telephoto focal lengths can create excellent landscape images, especially when there is a distant subject desired to be emphasized, such as a mountain.

Tamron 70-210mm f/4 Di VC USD Lens Landscape Sample Picture

Another great use of telephoto lenses for landscape photography is to focus on closer details, allowing a strong background blur to isolate those within the image. This focal length range is especially great for capturing clouds and sunsets. It is so easy to take great telephoto landscape images that it feels (slightly) like cheating.

Tamron 70-210mm f/4 Di VC USD Lens Rhododendron Sample Picture

Cityscapes are essentially landscape images with cities in them and this focal length range is often a great choice for more-distant city views. Street photography, often done in cities, is another great use for the 70-210mm range.

A 70-200mm f/4 lens has been my most-ever-used studio lens, working especially well for product images and many other general studio applications and this lens' short minimum focus distance is a great asset for that use. Most of the product images on this site were captured within the 70-200mm range and this range is also ideal for larger products including vehicles where the narrow angles of view invite subject distances that provide pleasing perspectives.

Here is an example of what this focal length range looks like:

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM Lens Focal Length Range Example

Mount a 70-210mm lens on an APS-C-format camera and the angle of view becomes like that of a 112-336mm lens on a full frame camera. While the narrower angle of view does not greatly change the uses list for this lens, these angles of view make widely-framed portraits less ideal and most will prefer the narrower angle of view range for sports and wildlife pursuits.

Tamron 70-210mm f/4 Di VC USD Lens Front View

Max Aperture

The "f/4" in the product name tells us that this lens has a medium-wide maximum aperture opening. That there is no range is this number is an especially positive feature, meaning that this lens has the same max aperture available over the entire focal length range. While f/4 is not a greatly-impressive opening at 70mm, f/4 is looking much better in comparisons with many other lenses at 200/210mm.

For a 70-200/210mm lens, the relevant wider comparable max aperture is f/2.8, a 2x larger opening. The f/2.8 options will stop action and be handholdable in 2x lower light levels, both highly relevant advantages especially for the portrait and sports discussions above. The f/2.8 lenses can also create a stronger background blur. If those aspects are important to you, one of the 70-200 f/2.8 lens models is likely what you need.

If unsure about the background blur difference, you might find this 70-200mm focal length and aperture comparison helpful.

If f/2.8 is not needed, this lens' f/4 max aperture has some strong advantages of its own. One is the significantly reduced size and weight and another is the significantly reduced price tag. Especially when I'm photographing landscapes and products, an f/8 max aperture lens would often be adequate and I much prefer size and weight of the f/4 option over the f/2.8 lens for these purposes.

Tamron 70-210mm f/4 Di VC USD Lens Side View

Image Stabilization

At this point in the lens development timeline, there are few telephoto lenses being introduced without image stabilization. There is good reason for that and this lens of course get's this strongly-desired feature, referred to as Vibration Compensation (VC) by Tamron.

What is vibration compensation good for? Correcting for camera movement, thus creating a sharper image. When you need to leave the tripod behind, VC is there for you, helping to ensure sharp images even in low light scenarios and potentially allowing a higher number of images to be captured in a shorter amount of time vs. the alternative, setting up a tripod for each image.

Powered by a dedicated MPU (Micro-Processing Unit), the VC system in this lens is rated for 4-stops of correction using the CIPA standard based on Canon EOS 5D Mark III and Nikon D810 cameras being used.

At 70mm, I had a high percentage of sharp handheld (no elbows-against-body aiding in steadiness) results down to 1/40 and with mixed results at 1/30. The sharpness rate trailed off through 1/6 second with an occasional sharp image captured at even significantly longer shutter speeds. I would want to capture a lot of images if I needed to count on an extreme shutter speed length.

Interesting is that I was able to achieve similar results at 210mm, though the sharpness rate dropped more abruptly beyond 1/25 second.

When I began the testing, I was feeling especially steady and was wondering if I was going to skew the results, making the lens appear especially good. I don't think that happened, but I'm satisfied with the results I obtained at the long end with the 70mm results leaving me a bit wanting.

These results were captured in ideal studio conditions. Photographing outside, perhaps in the wind or on unstable footing? Expect to need faster exposures than those I reported. But, also expect a similar amount of assistance from VC as it is still similarly and significantly compensating for shake.

While VC is great for reducing camera shake in images, it is also very helpful for framing subjects while taking photo. Having the viewfinder view stabilized aids in timing the shutter release with the just-right composition.

In this system, the image in viewfinder remains very stable when VC starts and overall, it is rather quiet. A quick series of faint clicks is audible on startup and again at shutdown with a quiet hum heard while active. A bit of quiet squeakiness is heard if the lens is moved while VC is activated. Drifting of the subject framing while VC is active is very well-controlled, even when tripod mounted.

No mode options are provided for this VC implementation.

Handheld video recording is nicely assisted by VC. VC also provides a still subject to the camera's AF system, permitting it to do its job better.

With the optional accessory Tamron TAP-in Console (more about this later), you can customize the configuration of VC for this lens. Choose between "Standard" (balanced), "Viewfinder image-stabilization priority" (stabilization of viewfinder image prioritized) or "Capturing image-stabilization" (stabilization of captured photograph prioritized).

Tamron 70-210mm f/4 Di VC USD Lens Top View

Image Quality

Always paramount for a lens evaluation is a deep look into the image quality it can produce. How sharp is the Tamron 70-210mm f/4 Di VC USD Lens? That question is always at the top of the list.

Image quality is typically best in the center of the frame, where refraction is bending light the least. At each focal length, lenses typically perform their worst with the aperture opened to its widest. Merging the best and the worst in the center of the frame at f/4, this lens turns in good sharpness except at 210mm where the results are a bit soft.

The corners track surprisingly close to the centers in this regard with f/4 performance that rates rather highly in comparison to other lenses. Note that the 100mm corners are a touch weaker than the other focal length corners with this copy of the lens. Stopping down 1 stop to f/5.6 results in a nice bump in contrast and this lens is really sharp deep into the periphery of the image circle at this aperture.

In addition to our standard lab tests, I like to share some real world examples. The images below are 100% resolution crops captured in RAW format using an ultra-high resolution Canon EOS 5Ds R. The images were processed in DPP using the Standard Picture Style with sharpness set to "1". Note that even modestly-high sharpness settings are destructive to image details and hide the true characteristics of a lens.

Tamron 70-210mm f/4 Di VC USD Lens Sharpness Comparison Example

70mm: f/4.0 | f/5.6 | f/8.0
120mm: f/4.0 | f/5.6 | f/8.0
210mm: f/4.0 | f/5.6 | f/8.0   f/4.0 | f/5.6 | f/8.0

These results look very nice.

Notable is that this lens has a bit of focus shift at narrower apertures. The subject remains in focus, but the background comes into focus much more strongly than the foreground as the aperture narrows.

Below is a look at the extreme top corner of the frame performance. These 5Ds R-captured images were processed identically to the ones above.

Tamron 70-210mm f/4 Di VC USD Lens Corner Sharpness Comparison Example

70mm: f/4.0 | f/5.6 | f/8.0
120mm: f/4.0 | f/5.6 | f/8.0
210mm: f/4.0 | f/5.6 | f/8.0

All of these focal lengths are a bit soft in the corners at f/4, but remove vignetting from the picture and they are not bad. Stop down a stop or two for really nice corner sharpness.

Camera lenses used at their widest apertures with imaging sensors that take advantage of the entire image circle will show peripheral shading and the corner samples above show this. The amount of shading is the differentiator between lenses. Worst case results for this lens are at 70mm and 210mm (f/4) with about 1.5 stops of shading present in the corners. The mid focal lengths show about 1 to 1.2 stops of corner shading at f/4. Stop down to f/5.6 and only a seldom-noticed approximately .5-stops of shading remains. Want practically no vignetting whatsoever? Few lenses show less shading than this one does at f/8 and narrower apertures.

The effect of different colors of the spectrum being magnified differently is referred to as lateral (or transverse) CA (Chromatic Aberration). Lateral CA shows as color fringing along lines of strong contrast running tangential (meridional, right angles to radii) with the mid and especially the periphery of the image circle showing the greatest amount as this is where the greatest difference in the magnification of wavelengths exists.

While lateral CA is usually easily corrected with software by radially shifting the colors to coincide, it is of course better to not have it in the first place. Any color misalignment present can easily be seen in the site's image quality tool, but let's also look at a set of worst-case examples, 100% crops from the extreme top left corner of ultra-high resolution 5Ds R frames.

Tamron 70-210mm f/4 Di VC USD Lens Lateral Chromatic Aberration Example

There should be only black and white colors in these images with the additional colors showing lateral CA. The color fringing is noticeable at 70mm, but not terribly-strong for a zoom lens at its widest focal length and the mid focal lengths are looking great in this regard. By 210mm, the colors have reversed sides and a modest amount of lateral CA is again present. Overall, these results are not bad and not unusual.

A relatively common lens aberration is axial (longitudinal, bokeh) CA, which causes non-coinciding focal planes of the various wavelengths of light, or more simply, different colors of light are focused to different depths. Spherical aberration along with spherochromatism, or a change in the amount of spherical aberration with respect to color (looks quite similar to axial chromatic aberration but is hazier) are other common lens aberrations to look for. Axial CA remains at least somewhat persistent when stopping down with the color misalignment effect increasing with defocusing while the spherical aberration color halo shows little size change as the lens is defocused and stopping down one to two stops generally removes this aberration.

In the real world, lens defects do not exist in isolation with spherical aberration and spherochromatism generally found, at least to some degree, along with axial CA. These combine to create a less sharp, hazy-appearing image quality at the widest apertures. Following are 100% resolution f/4 crops from a 5Ds R.

Tamron 70-210mm f/4 Di VC USD Lens Spherical and Axial Aberration Example

In the 70mm example, the fringing colors are noticeably different in the foreground vs. the background, indicating aberrations present. The sample at 115mm continues to show similar color separation while the 210mm result appears improved.

When a bright light source is within or just outside of the frame, light can reflect off of the surfaces of the elements within the lens, leading to flare, an image artifact. The shape, intensity, and position of the flare in an image is variable and depends on the position and nature of the light source (or sources) as well as on the selected aperture and shape of the aperture blades. This lens shows a relatively low amount of flare artifacts, but somewhat stronger veiling flare.

Coma is generally recognized by sharp contrast towards the center of an image and long, soft contrast transition toward the image periphery. Coma becomes quite visible mid-frame and in the corners of images captured at wide apertures and significantly resolves when the lens is stopped down. Astigmatism is another lens image quality attribute that is apparent in the corners While an f/4 lens is not going to be the first-choice astro lens for those without a tracking mount, the pin-point stars in the night sky are a subject that makes all of these aberrations, along with some others, easily recognizable to me.

Tamron 70-210mm f/4 Di VC USD Lens Coma Example

In these top-right 100% crop 5Ds R sample images, we see relatively mild defects.

Geometric distortion is an issue with a large majority of lenses, especially at the focal length extents of a zoom lens. At 70mm, this lens has only slight barrel distortion. By 100mm, the distortion reverses to a slight pincushion profile that gradually increases to only mild at 210mm.

Most modern lenses have lens correction profiles available for the popular image processing software applications and distortion can be easily removed using these, but distortion correction is destructive at the pixel level and this technique is seldom as good as using a distortion-free lens and focal length combination in the first place.

The quality of blur seen in the out of focus portions of an image is referred to as bokeh and photographers are frequently interested in the quality of the bokeh a lens produces. It seems that most modern lenses produce a good quality bokeh and the amount of blur, increased by wide apertures and especially by longer focal lengths, is often much more easily recognizable. Having telephoto focal lengths means this lens can turn in a very strong background blur as you can see in some of the samples shared in this review.

Taking a closer look at bokeh:

Tamron 70-210mm f/4 Di VC USD Lens Bokeh Example

The 210mm f/11 sample is a 100% crop that shows the specular highlight rendering, which is slightly mottled, yet nice. I only shared the 210mm example as the other tested focal length results appeared similar.

At f/4, mild cats eye bokeh, a form of mechanical vignetting, can be seen in the corners (this is a full-size, reduced image). The last three focal length samples show full images downsized with focus adjusted to create a moderately-blurred background at f/11.

This lens' 9 aperture blade count is slightly recognizable in the first sample above, though the highlights remain quite rounded in shape. Lenses with 9-blade apertures will produce 18-point starburst effects from point light sources when used at narrow apertures. This lens makes each of those points a bit doubled.

Tamron 70-210mm f/4 Di VC USD Lens Starburst Effect Example

Overall, the Tamron 70-210mm f/4 Di VC USD Lens turns in very good image quality. I would like to see images be slightly sharper at f/4 at 210mm, especially because this will be one of the most-used focal lengths for this lens. But, especially for the price (I'll discuss this later in the review), most are going to be happy with the results from this lens.

Tamron 70-210mm f/4 Di VC USD Lens Top Angle View

Focusing

The 70-210mm f/4 VC Lens receives Tamron's premium AF system, featuring a dedicated MPU (Micro-Processing Unit) (in addition to the VC's MPU) and a USD (Ultrasonic Silent Drive) ring-type motor. This AF system is mostly very quiet with just a light shifting of lens elements typically being heard, though a mildly audible clack of lens elements being quickly shifted is audible sometimes. AF adjustments happen very fast, though a series of quick secondary adjustments frequently disqualify the "very" part of that description. Focus hunting has shown up on occasion, and, when using a most-peripheral AF point, a failure to focus condition is sometimes seen.

Of utmost importance for a lens (unless manual focusing suffices) is AF accuracy. Miss focus and little else matters. The subject will be blurry and that image will nearly always land in your trash can/recycle bin. Thus, AF testing is a primary part of a lens review and I used to cringe when testing third party lenses. Camera manufacturers do not share their AF algorithms and other manufacturers are left to reverse engineer the system. That manufacturer's lens is only as good as their reverse engineering success. In the past, I frequently spent weeks evaluating a lens only to have the AF results reveal a flaw large enough to make people no longer interested in it, but improvements have been made.

So, "Does the Tamron 70-210mm f/4 Di VC USD Lens focus accurately?" is the question. I typically find third party lenses consistently focusing most accurately with the center AF point and when using only the center AF point, this lens performs reasonably well. The in-focus hit rate is decent. Using one of the mid-peripheral (a cross-type) AF points reduces the accuracy consistency with a majority of the results still being accurately focused, though a significant percentage were out of focus in some scenarios.

One in-the-field issue regarding the peripheral AF points is that this lens changes magnification very noticeably with focus distance change. Unless the subject is large or nearly in focus, the change in magnification can move the peripheral AF point to a new subject. The next pair of examples illustrate this.

Tamron 70-210mm f/4 Di VC USD Lens Focus Magnification Example

Most lenses we test show this trait, but few show it stronger than this one. This trait could be the cause of failure-to-focus conditions at times.

AI Servo (subject in motion) performance requires a camera and lens to work exceedingly well together, precisely predicting the focus distance at the moment the shutter is released. The AI Servo test results from this lens were mixed with a majority of images being correctly focused.

Overall, my experience with the AF performance from the Tamron 70-210mm f/4 VC Lens is not as good as that from this lens' larger sibling, the Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 VC G2 Lens and that leaves me a bit disappointed. Still, this lens captured a large number of images that I liked.

This lens focuses internally and FTM (Full Time Manual) focusing is supported. Unlike Tamron's f/2.8 model, a focus limiter switch is not provided.

Focus distance settings are displayed (in both ft and m) inside a small window and available at a glance. Typical for a lens in this class is that DOF marks are omitted.

While non-cinema lenses are generally not parfocal and that attribute can be individual lens-specific, the review lens appears to retain good focus through 70mm if focused at 210mm. Focus at 70mm and the image will be slightly blurred at 210mm unless refocusing occurs.

The manual focus ring is very smooth, with a very slight amount of play and with ideal dampening. The 182° of focus ring rotation is ideal for precision work at 70mm with adjustments still happening nicely at 210mm even at close focusing distances. The subject framing always remains nicely centered for a good overall manual focusing experience. The focus ring being positioned to the rear of the zoom ring is not my preferred design.

The Tamron 70-210mm f/4 Di VC USD Lens leads its class with a 37.4" (950mm) minimum focus distance producing a remarkable 0.32x maximum magnification specification. Being able to focus this closely is a huge benefit when photographing flowers, products and a big list of other small items.

ModelMFDMM
Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS II USM Lens39.4"(1000mm)0.27x
Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM Lens47.2"(1200mm)0.21x
Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM Lens47.2"(1200mm)0.21x
Nikon 70-200mm f/4G AF-S VR Lens39.4"(1000mm)0.27x
Sony FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS Lens39.4"(1000mm)0.13x
Tamron 70-210mm f/4 Di VC USD Lens37.4"(950mm)0.32x
Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens37.4"(950mm)0.16x
Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Lens51.2"(1300mm)0.13x
Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 Di Macro Lens37.4"(950mm)0.32x

At 210mm and minimum focus distance, a subject about 4.8" (122mm) wide fills the horizontal width of a full frame viewfinder. The rhododendron flowers in the image below, captured at minimum focus distance, measure about 2.25" (57mm).

Tamron 70-210mm f/4 Di VC USD Lens Maximum Magnification Examples

Extension tubes, hollow tubes (with electronic connections), shift a lens farther from the camera and allow it to focus closer, though at the expense of long distance focusing. Magnification from wide angle through standard/normal focal length lenses is generally significantly increased with the use of extension tubes, but telephoto focal lengths see more-modest improvement. Still, the difference can be enough to justify this accessory and extension tubes can sometimes save the day.

The Tamron 70-210mm f/4 Di VC USD Lens is compatible with Tamron's 1.4x Teleconverter (TC-X14) and 2.0x Teleconverter (TC-X20). Retaining the lens' native focus distance range, these options offer far greater magnification impact than extension tubes.

Tamron 70-210mm f/4 Di VC USD Lens with Teleconverter

The 1.4x teleconverter creates a 98-294mm VC lens with the max aperture reduced to f/5.6.

When the base image quality of a lens is magnified, defects are also magnified and wide open aperture image sharpness at 294mm (the long end is where teleconverters are most needed) takes a modest hit in the center of the frame at f/5.6 and a much more significant hit in the periphery. Stopping down to f/8 bring a very positive improvement and f/8 image quality is quite usable, especially if lateral CA – a trait made more apparent by this teleconverter – is corrected. The 1.4x adds some barrel distortion, partially offsetting this lens' native pincushion distortion at 200mm.

Adding a teleconverter can negatively impact AF performance. In good light, with a subject having strong contrast, this lens with the 1.4x focuses rather quickly with the 5Ds R's center AF point. Remove some contrast from the subject, reduce the light levels and/or use the peripheral AF points and the experience isn't nearly as good with hunting and failure-to-focus becoming more common.

Having the option to double the focal lengths in a range is always very appealing. In this case, the 70-210mm range becomes 140-420mm with minimum focus distance remaining the same (0.64x max magnification) and VC continuing to perform its function. Far less impressive is the resulting f/8 max aperture and equally unimpressive is the sharpness of this combination that starts out diffraction limited at the wide open aperture on most current and recent camera models. Many cameras require an f/5.6 max aperture for conventional phase detection AF to work and the best require f/8, though live view works at f/8 for most, if not all, cameras.

Magnifying the image quality by a factor of 2 results in a noticeable hit on image sharpness and the f/8 results at 420mm are rather ugly. Expect a significant improvement at f/11, but the results are still somewhat soft. Use the site's image quality tool to see the differences referred to here.

Lateral CA remains increased over the bare lens at 400mm, but it does not seem much increased over the 1.4x/294mm combination. By adding a modest amount of barrel distortion, the 2x teleconverter addition creates a slight barrel distortion profile even at 400mm.

AF performance of the 2x combination on the EOS 5Ds R test camera was poor. In good light with good contrast, AF functioned at a reduced-but-usable speed. Mostly, the experience with this combination was very frustrating with lots of focus hunting and failure-to-focus.

My advice is to plan to use the 1.4x only when needed and if you need good performance at 420mm, select a different lens. The Tamron 100-400mm f/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD Lens is a relevant option (and a very good lens).

Build Quality & Features

Though released in Tamron's era of G2 lenses, the Tamron 70-210mm f/4 VC Lens is not one of them. Still, Tamron's first 70-about-200mm f/4 lens shares some of the 70-200 f/2.8 G2's design traits as seen in the comparison image below.

Tamron 70-210mm f/4 VC Lens Compared to 70-200 f/2.8 VC Lens

The f/4 lens does not feature the metal barrel exterior and some of the semi-gloss finish of the G2, but the matte black finish is otherwise the same and the f/4 lens appears a similarly-modern design. The overall build quality of the f/4 lens does not seem lacking.

Tamron 70-210mm f/4 Di VC USD Lens Product Images

MFD |    MFD |    w/ Hood:  MFD |    MFD |    Rotated        Compare »

This lens is highly characterized by its long, thin, smooth, fixed-size design that feels great in the hand. The only significant protrusion from the barrel is the switch bank and even that is very low profile. From a touch perspective, the rear of the zoom ring can be felt protruding from the zoom ring just slightly, providing a cue for locating it.

Tamron again chose to position the focus ring behind the zoom ring for this lens. That design creates an awkward user experience as the balance point is behind the position where the zoom ring can be reached with finger tips. That means the right hand must help support the back-heavy camera setup when the zoom ring is being adjusted. Also, when the left hand is positioned so that the finger tips can adjust the zoom ring, the focus ring is involved in the grip, inviting inadvertent focus distance changes.

When shooting from a tripod or monopod, the zoom ring location is not an issue. The zoom ring location is only a minor issue if focal length adjustments are not needed or not needed in haste.

The zoom ring is substantially-sized, is very smooth and provides ideal resistance. With 74° of rotation, I can (just) zoom from one extent to the other using my fingers without removing my hand from the lens.

The zoom and focus rings rotate in the Nikon-standard direction, opposite of the Canon standard and Canon shooters will need to acclimate to this directional change as it is not natural to go the other direction.

As mentioned, the switches are on a shallow switch bank and they are ideally-designed for use. They protrude enough to access and they firmly click into position.

Tamron 70-210mm f/4 Di VC USD Lens Weather Sealing

This is a moisture-resistant lens with gasketing illustrated above and the rear mount gasket shown below. Weather sealing is a very useful feature, one that can save a costly repair or even the total demise of a lens, but this feature is not to be confused with waterproofing.

Tamron 70-210mm f/4 Di VC USD Lens Mount

The front element is fluorine-coated to avoid dirt and moisture adherence and to make cleaning very easy.

One of the big advantages of f/4 lenses in this approximate telephoto zoom range is their modest weight and size, especially their narrow diameter. The Tamron is the heaviest in its class (perhaps due to the extra 10mm on the long end?), but the differences between all of the models is very slight. The big differences are at the bottom of the following table where the Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses are included in the comparison.

Halving the aperture opening results in half as much lens. Well, just a bit more than half as much, but that doesn't sound as balanced.

ModelWeightDimensions w/o HoodFilterYear 
Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS II USM Lens28.2 oz(800g)3.1 x 6.9"(80.0 x 176.0mm)72mm2018
Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM Lens26.8 oz(760g)3.0 x 6.8"(76.0 x 172.0mm)67mm2006
Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM Lens24.9 oz(705g)3.0 x 6.8"(76.0 x 172.0mm)67mm1999
Nikon 70-200mm f/4G AF-S VR Lens30 oz(850g)3.1 x 7"(78.0 x 178.5mm)67mm2012
Sony FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS Lens29.7 oz(840g)3.1 x 6.9"(80.0 x 175.0mm)72mm2014
Tamron 70-210mm f/4 Di VC USD Lens30.3 oz(859g)3.0 x 6.9"(76.0 x 175.3mm)67mm2018
Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens52.9 oz(1500g)3.5 x 7.6"(87.9 x 193.0mm)77mm2017
Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Lens51.9 oz(1470g)3.4 x 7.4"(85.8 x 188.3mm)77mm2012
Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 Di Macro Lens46.6 oz(1320g)3.5 x 7.6"(90.0 x 194.0mm)77mm2008

For many more comparisons, review the complete Tamron 70-210mm f/4 Di VC USD Lens Specifications using the site's Lens Spec tool.

As with the other lenses in its class, the Tamron 70-210mm f/4 lens is one that most can use all day without it becoming burdensome. Here is a visual comparison of many of these lenses:

Tamron 70-210mm f/4 Di VC USD Lens Compared to Similar Lenses

Positioned above from left to right are the following lenses:

Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM Lens
Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM Lens
Tamron 70-210mm f/4 Di VC USD Lens
Nikon 70-200mm f/4G AF-S VR Lens

The same lenses are shown below with their hoods in place.

Tamron 70-210mm f/4 Di VC USD Lens Compared to Similar Lenses with Hoods

Use the site's product image comparison tool to visually compare the Tamron 70-210mm f/4 Di VC USD Lens to other lenses.

A lens of this size and weight creates a front-heavy situation for a tripod-mounted camera. Tripod rings provide a balanced attachment point, with less strain helping to avoid tripod head sag after the camera is locked down and they also permit easy rotation of the camera. While all 70-200 f/2.8 lenses currently ship with a tripod ring included, being lighter in weight, many f/4 variants, including this one, do not. Omitting the ring also keeps the cost down.

Optional and very recommended for the Tamron 70-210mm f/4 VC Lens is the Tamron A034TM Tripod Collar Mount. This magnesium alloy, hinge-attaching tripod ring features a Delrin inner coating that rotates reasonably smoothly on the lens. Though quite strong, the rounded shape of the collar blends nicely into the lens design for a comfortable grip.

A great feature of this tripod ring is the integrated Arca-Swiss-compatible quick release plate, permitting easy integration into a kit featuring this standard. No longer must an accessory plate be acquired for this purpose and the lack of a plate keeps the lens especially compact and light. As the standard threaded insert is also provided, there seems to be no downside to this feature and my only question is "Why don't all tripod rings have this?"

I installed this lens' tripod ring immediately after capturing the product images and didn't take it off the entire time I used it. While this part has a noticeable cost and adds 4.88 oz (138.1g) of (measured) weight, I think this accessory is worth the costs. That said, of you don't intend to use this lens on a monopod or tripod, there is little reason to buy the tripod ring.

Telephoto lenses in this class typically have a 67mm or 72mm filter size and this lens gets the smaller of the two. This is a relatively small and affordable size that is also rather common.

Tamron, as usual, includes the lens hood in the box. This is a relatively long, semi-flexible, ribbed-interior, plastic hood with narrow dimensions that keeps the overall dimensions compact even when reversed. This hood adds significant protection from flare-inducing bright lights, dust, rain and from impact.

Tamron opted to let you select your own case for this lens – one is not included in the box. Lowepro's Lens Cases are great options for lens-only storage.

Tamron 70-210mm f/4 Di VC USD Lens Cap

Tamron TAP-in Console

The Tamron 70-210mm f/4 Di VC USD Lens is compatible with the Tamron TAP-in Console. The TAP-in Console is basically a USB dock in the form of a robust lens mount cap with electrical contacts and a USB port that enables the lens to be connected to a computer.

Once the lens is attached to the dock and the dock attached to the computer, the TAP-in Utility software app communicates with the lens and then checks for any available firmware updates. If an update is available, a dialog box is presented, providing the option to update the lens. There have been a number of Tamron lens firmware updates released recently, addressing compatibility and other issues. Having the TAP-in Console makes those updates very fast and easy, especially compared to the alternative of shipping a lens to a service center.

Tamron TAP-in Console

Within the TAP-in Utility app, most will find the first tab, Focus Adjustment, to be the most important. Autofocus adjustments can be made at 4 focal lengths with 3 focus distance adjustments available at each focal length for a total of 12 adjustments available (I made up the adjustment numbers in the example shown above). This lens does not have a focus limit switch and the options on the focus Limiter tab are disabled. The last tab, Miscellaneous, provides control over full time manual focus override and the VC mode.

Tamron 70-210mm f/4 Di VC USD Lens Top View with Hood

Price and Value

Tamron lenses live high on the price-for-performance chart and this lens is another example of that. While I do not regard this lens as the highest-performing option in this approximate telephoto zoom range, it is considerably more affordable than those other options.

The Tamron 70-210mm f/4 Di VC USD Lens is available in Canon (reviewed) and Nikon mounts. My standard disclaimer: There are potential issues with third party lenses. Since Tamron reverse engineers (vs. licenses) manufacturer electronics and algorithms, there is always the potential that a DSLR body might not support a (likely older) third party lens. Usually a lens can be made compatible by the manufacturer via a firmware update, but this cannot be guaranteed. Compatibility with the TAP-in Console is risk reducing as Tamron can make console-compatible lens firmware updates available for download. Tamron USA provides an impressive 6-year limited warranty for this lens (check the warranty duration for your locales).

The reviewed Tamron 70-210mm f/4 Di VC USD Lens was online-retail acquired.

Tamron 70-210mm f/4 Di VC USD Lens Front View on Camera

Alternatives to the Tamron 70-210mm f/4 Di VC USD Lens

This is a 70-210mm lens and I have no direct-zoom-range-matching current model lens to compare it with. Many manufactures produce 70-200mm lenses and as discussed earlier in the review, the extra 10mm is a benefit, but not much of one. With that point addressed, I'll make some comparisons.

When considering the purchase of the Tamron 70-210mm f/4 lens, a good alternative for consideration is this lens' larger sibling, the Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens. The f/2.8 has a 2x wider aperture opening, allowing for faster shutter speeds and/or lower ISO settings along with a stronger background blur capability. Especially at f/4, the Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 G2 is the sharper lens.

Stopped down to the widest matching aperture (f/4), the f/2.8 lens has less vignetting, though the difference does not seem as great as it could be. By f/5.6, the two lenses are about equivalent and at f/8, it really doesn't matter. The f/2.8 lens shows stronger flare effects and has less lateral CA at 200mm.

In the Tamron 70-210mm f/4 VC Lens vs. Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 VC G2 Lens comparison, we see the f/2.8 lens weighing a big 22.7 oz (641g) heavier and its .47" (11.9mm) wider diameter seems equally larger. The G2 has a 5-stop-rated VC system (vs. 4). The current standard filter size for 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom lenses is 77mm, considerably large than the f/4 lens' 67mm thread size. The f/4 lens' maximum magnification is exactly 2x that of the f/2.8 G2 (0.32x vs. 0.16x). The price difference is similar to the weight difference – substantial. Offsetting some of the price difference is that the f/2.8 lens includes a tripod ring and case in the box.

Canon-based kits (or those adapted to use Canon lenses) have multiple 70-200mm f/4 lens options. While it is due on the streets any day as of review time, the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS II USM Lens is not yet available. This lens promises to be a solid upgrade to its predecessor and should be the ultimate choice for Canon-based kits. The predecessor, the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM Lens, is itself is a great lens and I'll create this comparison using the version I lens.

At f/4, the Canon is noticeably sharper than the Tamron, especially at 200mm. The Canon has slightly more geometric distortion and the Tamron has slightly more vignetting at f/4, though neither of these differences are likely to sway a decision.

Looking at the Tamron 70-210mm f/4 VC Lens compared to the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS Lens from a specifications perspective, a lot of similarities become apparent. The Canon is slightly smaller and lighter, though it has a larger lens hood. The Tamron's maximum magnification spec represents a nice advantage, 0.32x vs. 0.21x (though Canon's version II closes that gap to 0.27x). The Canon has the rear-positioned zoom ring advantage, one I consider significant, and I prefer the Canon lens' AF performance. The Tamron has a longer focus ring rotation (182° vs. 135°). I'll let you determine which color you like best, but they are different in this regard. I much prefer the Tamron's price.

If you don't need image stabilization (often a valuable feature), the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM Lens is an attractive option, especially with a price that is noticeably lower than the Tamron's. The Canon appears slightly sharper than the Tamron at f/4, though the differences are not as strong as with Canon's IS version. At f/5.6, the two lenses are mostly equal in this regard. The Canon shows much stronger flare effects, though the Tamron has more veiling flare. The Canon has slightly more lateral CA at 70mm.

Looking at the Tamron 70-210mm f/4 VC Lens compared to Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L Lens again shows great similarities. The Canon is slightly smaller and, without an IS unit, lighter. Again, the Canon has a larger lens hood. The Tamron's maximum magnification spec represents a nice advantage, 0.32x vs. 0.21x and the Tamron has an extra aperture blade (9 vs. 8). The Canon has the rear-positioned zoom ring advantage and I prefer the Canon lens' AF performance. The Tamron has a longer focus ring rotation (182° vs. 130°). Again, you can determine which color you like best.

Nikon fans have the Nikon 70-200mm f/4G AF-S VR Lens to consider. Although we have not yet tested the Nikon on an ultra-high resolution camera, the Tamron image quality appears equal to the Nikon. The Nikon has very slightly less vignetting and very slightly more distortion. The Nikon has slightly more lateral CA at 70mm and slightly less at 200mm.

The Tamron 70-210mm f/4 VC Lens vs. Nikon 70-200mm f/4G AF-S VR Lens comparison shows these two lenses being practically the same. The Tamron has modestly more focus ring rotation (182° vs. 153°) and a modestly higher maximum magnification (0.32x vs. 0.27x). The Nikon has a 5-stop-rated image stabilization system vs. Tamron's 4-stop implementation. The Tamron is considerably less expensive.

In the Sony camp, the Sony FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS Lens will be high on the telephoto zoom lens short list. In the Tamron vs. Sony comparison, the two lenses are very similar at 70mm, but the Sony takes the advantage over the balance of the focal length range at f/4. At f/5.6, the lenses turn in similar image quality. The Sony has more vignetting, less distortion and more lateral CA at 70mm.

Again, comparing the Tamron 70-210mm f/4 VC Lens and Sony FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS Lens shows two very similar lenses. The Sony uses 72mm filters vs. 67mm and has a focus distance limit switch vs. none. The Tamron has a much higher maximum magnification (0.32x vs. 0.13x). The tripod ring and a lens pouch are included in the Sony box. Sony lenses are not renowned for low prices and this one is approaching 2x that of the Tamron.

Tamron 70-210mm f/4 Di VC USD Lens Angle View with Hood

Summary

Chances are, you probably need at least one 70-200/210mm lens in your kit. The uses for these lenses are seemingly endless and the look of images captured in this focal length range, often with a pleasing perspective and strong background blur, tend to be very nice. The bigger question is "Which 70-200mm (or 210mm) lens should I get?" and if the budget is limited, the Tamron 70-210mm f/4 Di VC USD Lens makes a strong case for your vote.

In addition to the cheap price, this lens has a lot going for it. The exterior design is very sharp in appearance – you certainly will not be embarrassed to have this one mounted. Moisture-resistance increases the outdoor use appeal. Tamron's USD implementation works very nicely, though I would like to have had a modestly better experience with the AF accuracy. Vibration Compensation adds to the versatility of an already great focal length range and moderately-wide aperture. That the image quality competes well is of course important. The light weight and small size invite this lens to go everywhere with you and a lens you have with you gets better images than every lens not with you.

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