Stabilization, autofocus and video

The Tamron 70-210mm F4 Di VC USD comes equipped with Vibration Compensation (that's the VC in the name) and a quiet, ultrasonic drive motor (USD). We took the Tamron out to shoot some portraits and some flying motorcycles to get a feel for how those two systems perform.

Key takeaways:

  • The 'Vibration Compensation' image stabilizer is very effective
  • Autofocus is slower than first-party options, with some hunting on certain Canon camera bodies
  • For video, your camera's internal microphones may pick up AF and image stabilizer noises, but the stabilizer does a good job at keeping your footage steady

Stabilization

This image isn't tack sharp, but it's good for this focal length at this shutter speed. 1/15sec at 112mm equiv works out to around 3EV of stabilization, so not quite up to the 4EV claimed by Tamron - but your technique will impact this as well.

Canon EOS Rebel T7 | ISO 400 | 1/15 sec | F4 | 70mm (112mm equiv.)

Tamron's Vibration Compensation (VC) system has impressed us in recent years, from its re-launched SP range of prime lenses to the company's higher-end zooms. In the Tamron 70-210mm F4 the system performs quite well, offering a claimed 4 stops of image stabilization per CIPA standard. The above image isn't completely free of blur, and we're only asking 3EV of stabilization from the lens in this case, but the image is usable. More careful technique (and less caffeine) could easily have resulted in a sharper image.

(back to top)


Autofocus observations

Though it doesn't focus as fast as Canon's native offerings, the Tamron 70-210mm F4 was more than adequate for speedy dirtbikes.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II | ISO 100 | 1/800 sec | F4 | 210mm

If you're looking for a sports-shooting lens without breaking the bank, the Tamron 70-210mm F4 will fit the bill so long as you're aware of some of its operational foibles.

In our experience across multiple Canon DSLR camera bodies, the lens always snaps from far to near subjects without fuss; but going the opposite way, particularly if your new subject is slightly low-contrast, the lens sometimes hunts to the minimum focus distance before racking back out to the actual subject. Strangely, this was more common on higher-end bodies (5D IV, 1D X II) than lower-end ones (6D Mark II, 80D) using center-point AF.

Both the Canon and Nikon 70-200mm F4 options acquire focus noticeably more quickly

On the EOS-1D X Mark II and EOS 5DS R, we tested this behavior with the 'lens drive when AF impossible' option set to 'on.' With it set to 'off,' instead of driving the lens to the minimum focus distance, the camera just gives up. Having tested Canon's own lenses side-by-side in this situation, the behavior seems unique to the Tamron (though it isn't a problem when the lens is used in live view with Dual Pixel equipped DSLRs, and Canon's own recent mirrorless cameras).

In any case, this is why we'd like to see a focus limiter switch on the Tamron, if for no other reason than to limit the time hunting to the minimum focus distance before locking on the user's intended subject.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II | ISO 250 | 1/1000 sec | F4 | 182mm

Lastly, we've compared the speed of the Tamron's AF motor against the new Canon 70-200mm F4L IS II as well as Nikon's 70-200mm F4 and found that both first-party lenses drive their focus motors noticeably more quickly; but depending on your needs, you may not care. The Tamron kept up with speeding motorcycles just fine.

(back to top)


Video

The Tamron 70-210mm F4 comes with a ring-type ultrasonic motor. In everyday picture-taking, it's almost completely silent (you can hear it if you put your ear up to it); but if you're shooting video, here's what to be aware of.

If you're relying on internal microphones, they will probably pick up the sound of the autofocus motor moving in addition to the lens' vibration compensation system at work. It's less of a concern with a telezoom lens than with something you might use for handheld vlogging, but it's worth mentioning.

Panning is smooth so long as you've got some practice at it

The vibration control mechanism does a good job of keeping the image stable even at the telephoto end of the range, and those with good technique won't notice much (if any) 'jerkiness' from the VC system trying to compensate for movement. Similarly, panning is reasonably smooth so long as you've got some practice at it.

If you're a manual-focus shooter, the focus ring is mechanical (i.e., not 'focus by wire'), and in common with many modern lenses the ring will continue rotating even after you've hit the minimum focus distance or infinity stop.

(back to top)