The 70-200mm F2.8 Macro is a member of Tamron's top-line 'SP' series of lenses, and build quality feels pretty solid. The mount is metal and the barrel appears to be constructed of high quality metal and plastics, with perhaps a little more use of plastic than its competitors, which helps reduce the overall weight to the lightest in its class. However, examine a little closer and the construction is just a little less refined than its peers; the fit and finish isn't quite up to the highest level, particularly in the small details, so it's evident that some slight corners have been cut to reduce costs. Essentially, this is a no-frills, utilitarian design.
The lens is pretty typical in size for its class, and therefore potential upgraders should appreciate that it's significantly larger and heavier than consumer telezooms such as 70-300mm F4-5.6s. This therefore may well not be a lens you'll want to carry around all day when on a mountain-biking trip across the Andes, for example; it's also quite likely to attract the attention of over-keen security guards intent on protecting the world from the evident security threat posed by photographers with large lenses.
On the camera
This is a sizeable lens, and therefore handles best on larger enthusiast or professional cameras (here we see it mounted on Canon's EOS-1D Mark III and EOS 5D bodies). The balance of the lens is good if not quite perfect, with the zoom ring positioned just slightly too close to the body and behind the centre of gravity of the lens/body combination on all but the weightiest pro bodies. Also a distinct shift in grip is required to engage and operate the manual focus ring. Like all 70-200mm F2.8s, it's not an ideal match to the current crop of miniaturized entry-level dSLRs.
This lens features a built-in motor for autofocus on the Nikon and Canon mounts, while the Pentax and Sony variants will couple with the camera body's screw-drive system. The AF motor is unfortunately not of the ultrasonic type, but a simple DC micro motor, and is distinctly the weakest link in the package (on our Canon mount sample at least). Autofocusing on a static object is generally just fine in decent light, but in even moderately low light AF becomes decidedly slow, especially in comparison to the Canon 70-200mm F2.8 IS USM on the same body. Continuous AF performance for moving subjects is also disappointing; it's OK for relatively undemanding situations, such as distant subjects moving at a relatively constant speed, but the moment the subject starts moving randomly or at any great pace, the focus motor really struggles to keep up. This lens wouldn't therefore be my first choice for shooting sports and action work (or even simply children running around in the garden).
The motor is also noticeably louder than on competing lenses, so can be especially intrusive when the lens fails to lock focus first time, and starts hunting backwards and forwards through the distance range. This is a sure-fire way to disturb sensitive subjects, be they shy wildlife or guests at a wedding; and there's no focus range limiter switch to minimize hunting either. Finally autofocus consistency seems a bit hit-and-miss; we'll deal with this in more detail later in the review.
Lens body elements
Reported aperture vs focal length
This lens allows an aperture range from F2.8 to F32 at all focal lengths.