Value and Versatility - with Limitations

Started May 21, 2014 | User reviews thread
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ProfessorLarry New Member • Posts: 6
Value and Versatility - with Limitations
7

I bought this lens to upgrade from a venerable Nikkor 18-200 F/3.5-5.6G ED VR II. I kept waiting for test results and samples to appear but finally decided to just take the plunge based on published specs alone. After two days of test shooting and use (including reference shots of macro-algae specimens for my coastal scientist wife) I can say this is a very good and versatile lens with definite limitations. The accompanying sample photos were taken with a Nikon D7100 and are presented with no PP.

Build quality of this lens is very good, with weather sealing that is important in my work. The zoom ring is a little stiff but fairly even. There is no zoom creep when carrying the camera face down even without the zoom lock on (much better than the old Nikkor, which always slid open and had no lock). The focus ring turns easily and smoothly and can be used to manually focus even with AF on. AF is quiet, quick, and reasonably crisp. (AF was used in all the accompanying samples.)

The first two samples are hand-held from the same position at 16mm and 300mm showing the extreme range of the zoom (18.8:1). The VC (image stabilization) is very effective in hand-held telephoto and macro shots. Some corner fall-off can be seen in the telephoto shot.

16mm

300mm

The third shot shows the excellent close-up capability (focusing down to 15" at full telephoto); bokeh is good.

300mm, closest focus

The weakness of this lens is endemic to the class of extended zooms: optical distortion. As the following shots show, at the longest focal length, there is definite pin-cushion distortion, which is still evident down to 50mm. At the wide angle end we find pronounced barrel distortion (with what looks like elements of complex "mustache" distortion).

300mm

16mm

50mm

Overall, this lens has a lot going for it. For the photographer who wants to travel light and keep only one lens on the camera most or all the time, this may be the best solution out there--and at a reasonable price. It is a tad lighter and a bit skinnier than the Nikon alternative. It is not overly soft throughout its zoom range. The loss of an extra half stop at the telephoto end will not be a problem under most circumstances considering how easy it is to crank up the ISO these days with only a little extra noise.

The most serious gotcha is the optical distortion that comes with the compromises super-zooms inevitably make. For general photography, the distortion will not be too much of a drawback (you would not even notice it in scenes like the first shots above). It is probably an acceptable price in exchange for the simplicity and versatility of one lens that goes from very wide angle to long telephoto. On the other hand, a photographer who shoots architectural photos or street scenes will probably find the bowed buildings and bulging facades unacceptable. Neither is this lens a low-light champ nor will it be the choice for serious portrait work. All of these more specialized niches are much better served by appropriate prime lenses or more limited-range zooms with wider apertures.

The rating of this lens really depends on the application. For the intended audience, I would rate it 4.5 stars with the one caveat--if the distortion is acceptable to the user.

 ProfessorLarry's gear list:ProfessorLarry's gear list
Nikon D5100 Tamron SP AF 60mm F2 Di II LD IF Macro Tamron 16-300mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD Macro
Tamron 16-300mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD Macro
Lens • Canon EF-S, Nikon F (DX), Sony/Minolta Alpha • B016
Announced: Feb 6, 2014
ProfessorLarry's score
4.5
Average community score
4.1
Nikon D7100 Tamron 16-300mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD Macro
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