Conclusion - Pros
- Remarkable 15x focal length range
- Impressive image quality in the normal to short telephoto range
- Excellent resistance to flare
- Effective vibration correction system, at least 3 stops benefit
- Reasonably compact despite the long telephoto range
Conclusion - Cons
- Slow and occasionally indecisive autofocus
- Geometric distortion across much of the zoom range
- Significant chromatic aberration at wideangle and telephoto (especially 270mm)
- Macro performance rather compromised (very soft at F6.3, focus shifts on stopping down)
- Uneven zoom action, zoom creep when not locked
- Slightly sub-par build quality
First things first; the AF 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC LD Aspherical (IF) MACRO undoubtedly represents an impressive feat of optical engineering, and Tamron has to be applauded for producing a superzoom that has significantly longer telephoto reach than its direct competitors without further compromising image quality. That's not to say the lens is in any way perfect, indeed it has much the same optical problems as the other superzooms we've tested. At wideangle it shows chromatic aberration and barrel distortion (our test sample also exhibited one distinctly soft corner at wider apertures). In the middle of the zoom range the lens is unexpectedly sharp and shows essentially no chromatic aberration, but suffers from rather high levels of pincushion distortion. And towards the telephoto end, the lens is somewhat soft and shows relatively high levels of chromatic aberration, especially at 270mm (although distortion is low). But overall Tamron has managed to tread a commendably fine line in balancing the various aberrations without letting any of them become too extreme.
The 'Vibration Control' optical image stabilisation system is absolutely essential on this lens, with its extreme telephoto range and slow maximum aperture. Reassuringly it works very well, and belies Tamron's relative lack of experience in this area. It may not have tested quite as well as Canon's 18-200mm IS, but the difference isn't great and is unlikely to result in many more missed shots in actual use. The lens is also impressively compact; despite the extra telephoto range, it's little different in size and weight to competing 18-200mm lenses. On paper at least, this therefore makes the 18-270mm VC a compelling choice for users looking to buy an all-in-one lens; after all if you're going to buy a superzoom, why not go the whole hog and buy the one with the longest reach?
However life's rarely that straightforward, and the 18-270mm demonstrates why the lens that tests sharpest in the lab may not always be the best choice for everyone. Its Achilles' Heel lies in the autofocus, which (not for the first time) is simply much slower than its rivals from Canon or Nikon. To be fair it's perfectly adequate for casual users shooting everyday static (or relatively slow-moving) subjects, but the moment life speeds up the lens is left behind struggling. This means that the Tamron is not the best choice for any subject that requires continuous autofocus such as sports, despite its added reach making it superficially attractive for such applications (the slow maximum aperture at the long end won't help either). Aside from that it has few vices, perhaps the most notable being its propensity to suffer from zoom creep (more of an irritation than a show-stopper).
These minor niggles aside, we were overall quite impressed by the Tamron 18-270mm. Where it's good, it's actually very good indeed, and even where it's weak it's not too far behind the competition. And that remarkable zoom range is a draw in itself; this is a lens which will have you shooting the same subject from the same position at both 18mm and 270mm, just to see how it looks. If you often find yourself shooting things which move then this may not be the ideal choice, but if you're willing to put up with its somewhat sluggish focusing it's a remarkably rewarding lens for the money.
Rating (out of 10)
|Ergonomics & handling||8.0|
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Tamron 18-270mm F3.5-6.3 VC Review samples