Optical performance

The Tamron 70-210mm F4 Di VC USD offers up really solid performance in a well-built (if not super-premium) package and offers users great optical quality across a wide range of scenarios without breaking the bank. Let's look more closely at what it can do.

Unless otherwise noted, all of the following image samples are JPEGs converted from Raw using Adobe Camera Raw according to standard DPR processing parameters - no corrections enabled for distortion, vignetting or CA, sharpening set to 25 with a radius of 1.0 pixels and the 'camera standard' color profile.

Key takeaways:


Resolution at far distances

At all but very close distances at maximum zoom, the Tamron 70-210mm F4 displays excellent sharpness on the 50MP Canon EOS 5DS R.

ISO 160 | 1/160 sec | F8 | 70mm

The Tamron 70-210mm F4 is quite sharp; based on our testing on the Canon EOS 5DS R, the images stand up well to a 50MP sensor especially when stopped down to F5.6 or F8. Wide open, it's sharp enough to show you moiré from the strands in a portrait subject's shirt, so that seems pretty solid.

On the other hand, when compared with Canon's latest 70-200mm F4L IS II, the Tamron starts to look a little weaker.

On the wide and telephoto ends, central sharpness is considerably better on the Canon wide open. In the center at 135mm, the lenses are more similar. The Tamron does get better when it's stopped down, but still doesn't reach Canon sharpness levels on the 70mm and 200mm ends. The Canon looks weak at the far left side of the frame, but this may simply be due to variation with what we otherwise view as an excellent copy of this lens.

We also pitted the Tamron against a good copy of Nikon's AF-S 70-200mm F4G ED VR on a D850 and found their performance to be broadly comparable. This is impressive considering the Tamron retails for $600 less.

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Resolution at close distances

While this image looks good overall, printing big or zooming in will show off some halo-ing around the in-focus regions of the frame.

Canon EOS 5DS R | ISO 250 | 1/2000 sec | F4 | 210mm

Tamron also touts this lens' close-focus capabilities, and the 70-210mm does indeed focus quite close regardless of your zoom setting (though to be fair, it's only slightly closer than its competitors). But we've found that close-focus at maximum zoom introduces some haloing onto the edges of just-out-of-focus portions of our images (click through to see the full-size version of the image above) that can be reduced by stopping down, but doesn't completely go away. Close-focus at the minimum zoom setting doesn't exhibit this issue quite so noticeably.

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Longitudinal chromatic aberration

Looking at the edges of the subject's shirt just in front of and behind the focus plane shows longitudinal CA to be well-controlled.

Canon EOS 5DS R | ISO 320 | 1/200 sec | F4 | 113mm

Longitudinal chromatic aberration shows up as green and purple fringing in areas behind and in-front of the focal plane, and can be a real pain to remove. It's not something we'd typically be all that concerned about with F4 zooms, and Tamron has put in the work to correct for longitudinal CA on the 70-210mm F4. We were able to occasionally notice it in more extremely defocused sections of our images, but it isn't a deal-breaker in our view.

It's certainly not uncommon for longitudinal CA to be prevalent on modern lenses, particularly fast primes like the Nikon 35mm F1.4 G (check out the subject's hands and the out-of-focus highlights near the bottom of the frame), so it's nice to see that the Tamron doesn't have much of a problem here.

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Lateral chromatic aberration

While there is some fringing on high contrast edges at the extreme left of the frame, it isn't all that extreme.

Canon EOS 5DS R | ISO 100 | 1/8000 sec | F4 | 70mm

Lateral chromatic aberration appears to be well-controlled on the Tamron 70-210mm F4, with only slight traces of it visible on the extreme edges of the frame - see particularly the lower left corner of the above image. That said, a simple click of the 'Remove Chromatic Aberration' button in Adobe Camera Raw takes care of this easily.

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Bokeh

F4 | 210mm F4 | 70mm

Bokeh on the Tamron 70-210mm F4 is pleasing all around. It's quite smooth, though with some occasional 'soap bubble' effect, or hard edges around out-of-focus highlights. We've honestly not yet found a situation in which we were at all displeased with the background (or foreground) rendering of the lens. Importantly, we found that bokeh was more than acceptably smooth regardless of where you set the zoom, which is something other lenses can struggle with. There's some 'cats-eye' effect near the edges of the frame, but whether or not you find it offensive is a matter of personal taste.

For those considering the Tamron 70-210mm F4 for portraiture, the zoom range and F4 maximum aperture are capable of plenty of subject separation even at moderate distances.

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Flare

Despite the included lens hood, you can induce some flare with the Tamron 70-210mm F4.

Canon EOS Rebel T7 | ISO 100 | 1/250 sec | F4 | 135mm (216mm equiv.)

Shoot into the sun or with any bright light source in your frame on the Tamron 70-210mm F4 and there may be some loss of contrast. If you're a fan of the look, you'll appreciate it, but if you're not, some careful Raw processing should be able to bring at least some contrast back. You may see some interesting patterns in your flare, and this may have a meaningfully negative impact on your photos.

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Sunstars

They're not the best sunstars we've seen, but they're far from the worst.

Canon EOS 5DS R | ISO 800 | 1/200 sec | F16 | 190mm

These days, you may hear the phrase 'rounded aperture blades' being thrown pretty often by lens manufacturers. This basically means that as you stop down the lens and close the aperture, out-of-focus highlights are more likely to remain circular in shape. Without rounded aperture blades, they can start to look like polygons, as with this older Nikkor 50mm F1.4 D.

With the Tamron 70-210mm F4, we've already seen that the bokeh is smooth and thanks to its rounded aperture blades, remains so as you stop down. But rounded aperture blades can also have an impact on sunstars, which are generally more dramatic with blades that aren't rounded.

In practice, though, the Tamron's sunstars are pretty good. They aren't as defined or dramatic as the best we've seen (which is to be expected for a telephoto lens versus a wide-angle), but they'll work in a pinch.

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Vignetting

Vignetting is noticeable wide-open, but whether this matters to you is up to personal taste.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II | ISO 100 | 1/2000 sec | F4 | 70mm

Vignetting is noticeable at F4 across the entire focal range, though it clears up almost completely by F8. The latest version of Adobe Camera Raw has a profile that corrects it with one click if you find it intrusive, but neither Canon nor Nikon will have profiles built into their cameras for it, which are available for their own-party lenses.

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Distortion

70mm 100mm 135mm 210mm

There is some distortion present in images from the Tamron 70-210mm F4 but it appears to be relatively well-controlled (and is also easily correctable in software). What starts out as barrel distortion at 70mm transforms into some pincushion distortion by 210mm, but this wasn't something we found to be a problem during our time with the lens.

Realistically, unless you're shooting brick walls, distortion is pretty hard to spot in most day to day shooting situations.

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