Design and handling

The Tamron 70-210mm F4 feels light on a Canon 5D-series body, and is thinner, shorter and lighter than Tamron's 70-200mm F2.8.

The Tamron 70-210mm F4 Di VC USD has a formal, tidy look about it with a matte finish, simple, thin lettering and a bold but sensibly sized 'TAMRON' logo. How you find its handling is determined by a couple of different factors - not least the camera you're planning to use it with. Let's take a closer look.

Key takeaways:

  • Zoom ring is placed at the end of the lens (at the opposite end to the camera)
  • Zoom turns in 'Nikon' direction (clockwise to zoom in as you look down the barrel)
  • Use of polycarbonates on the exterior keeps weight down, but lens has a more plasticky feel than some competitors that also use polycarbonates
  • Weather-sealing and fluorine coating are nice to have

In-depth

One of the Tamron's biggest differentiators versus Canon and Nikon F4 options concerns the position of the focus and zoom rings. Whereas the first-party options have the zoom ring close to the body, Tamron has taken the opposite approach with the zoom ring all the way out at the end. Whether or not this bothers you will come down somewhat to personal preference, but it's also important to consider that most zooms continue to use the opposite arrangement, and switching back and forth may take some getting used to.

It's not just the position of the focus and zoom rings to consider, but the direction they turn

Additionally, it can feel a little awkward having your hand all the way out at the end of the lens on larger, full-size camera bodies. The lens is so light compared to a 5D or 1D-series camera that I often found myself cradling the lens nearer to the mount, with the focus ring rather than zoom ring under my fingers.

The Tamron 70-210mm F4 is a little front-heavy on smaller camera bodies, though the front-mounted zoom ring makes this setup more comfortable since you'll want your hand further out on the lens for support.

On the other hand, the arrangement makes some sense on smaller, lighter camera bodies; the center of gravity is pushed out, and so supporting the lens near the end of the barrel results in less strain on the hand gripping the camera.

So even if you don't necessarily mind having the zoom and focus ring positions swapped, what about the directions they turn for zooming and focusing?

Though the Canon 70-200mm F4L II and Tamron 70-210mm F4 are similar in size, their handling philosophies are quite different.

As you hold the camera normally and look down the barrel, the Tamron zooms in by turning the ring clockwise. This is the same as all Nikon zoom lenses, and the opposite of Canon zoom lenses. Nikon shooters will feel right at home, but for Canon users that have a lot of muscle memory built up, this could potentially cause confusion.

A focus limiter would be a welcome addition

In terms of overall build quality, the Tamron feels reasonably solid, but its smooth exterior feels a little more plasticky than the textured polycarbonate used on competing models. The distance scale is a nice touch, and you get a bayonet-mount hood included in the box. Though we can't disassemble nor torture test the lens to investigate the internal weather seals, the rear mount does have a visible gasket to protect against dust and moisture incursion.

Controls on the Tamron 70-210mm F4 are more limited than options from Canon and Nikon.

Controls are more limited than those found on the Canon and Nikon alternatives. You get only AF/MF and VC (vibration compensation) switches, whereas the other lenses also include focus limiters and multiple modes for their stabilization systems. A focus limiter would actually be a welcome addition, but we'll delve more into why that is when we get to the autofocus section.