OP – The Blog

October 7th, 2011

New Tamron Lens

Posted By Rob Sheppard

I have a fun little project now that goes beyond its surface to something about how we look at lens choices. Tamron has asked me to work with their newest 18-270mm lens. Officially, it is the Tamron 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD — don’t you love all of the letters? It is almost like a Russian war hero with all of his medals! The Di is for digital, VC for vibration control and PZD is their quick and quiet autofocus motor system.

Tamron has supplied the lens and contracted with me to work with it for a while. I really like that idea. One of the problems we always had at the magazines (Outdoor Photographer, etc.) was that we had lenses for a limited time and our time was limited as well.

I have not used one of these extended range zooms for quite a while, so I thought it was a great opportunity to see what it could do. When it arrived, I was, truthfully, blown away by the size and weight. This lens is 3.8 inches long and weighs a hair under a pound. That is amazing! I really mean that. It really wasn’t all that long ago that zoom lenses got started and they were heavy, bulky and not very good. Now zoom lenses are compact and quite good.

I have been thinking a lot about a lens for my cameras that I could use when I really wanted to travel light, and this looks like it will be perfect for that. In addition, it focuses down to 19-inches, which is also remarkable because it wasn’t that long ago that zoom lenses never focused all that close. Okay, it is not a true macro and won’t replace my 180mm macro, but it is great to have that capability in an “all-in-one” zoom when I am traveling light. To have a range from 18-270mm in a 3.8-inch lens at about a pound in weight really does give an amazingly capable package when you carry just a lens and a camera.

I took it with me to the Santa Monica Mountains yesterday. We just had a lot of rain and the morning was very clear with great first light. The Santa Monica Mountains offer world-class landscape photography that you have probably never heard of. It is a well-kept secret place hidden right next to Los Angeles!

I only took that lens. No other. This is based on something I learned long ago. Whenever I get a new lens, I will take it out and shoot with just that lens so that I can learn what it can and cannot do. I want to learn how to work with the lens. I am not interested in a false approach to photography that looks to find some ultimate “best” lens and forces the photographer to constantly compare. That is bogus for me because it keeps you from focusing on what is really important, your photography.

I frankly don’t care about picky details on how a lens does on a lens test because lenses today are very good. I only care how well it performs for me shooting my subjects in my way. And you learn that best by living with the lens for at least a short time.

On my first trip with the lens, I really liked using it. It is quick and easy to use and focus. I liked having the big range of 18-270mm and the close focusing capability. I do like wider-angle focal lengths, too, but 18-270mm is a big range. I am not sure a wider focal is even possible with today’s technologies and certainly never in such a compact lens.

The VC vibration control does help. Generally, I shoot a lot from a tripod. However, I had put my tripod away getting ready to move to a new location when I turned and saw some interesting light on a hill that had been behind me. I grabbed the camera with lens, turned on the VC, and shot immediately. To be honest, I probably never would have taken that picture before because of not wanting to get the tripod out again. The VC is freeing, there is no question about that.

I think this lens will really come in handy for video, too. A big difference between shooting still photos and video is that with stills, we shoot for the single shots. With video, we shoot for multiple shots that we will put together in a video. Being able to quickly change focal length to get that variety can be really helpful. A note about variable aperture zooms such as this one (f/3.5-6.3) — they cannot be used for zooming while recording video because they do change aperture during that zoom. Variable aperture zooms allow these lenses to be much smaller and much less expensive than the equivalent constant aperture zooms.

I am pleased to be working with such a compact lens. I really like to travel light at times. I may add a wider-angle lens to my bag, but this little lens will let me do things that I could not do with my whole lens kit. I will let you know of further adventures with this lens.

 

Please leave a comment

  1. Rob Sheppard Says:

    It seems a few people have decided to make this controversial, when it was never meant to be anything except a personal response to a lens I received from Tamron with a small assignment from them to use it and report on it. Plus some pretty pictures shot with the lens. If you don’t like the idea of that, fine, “turn the channel” and move on. If you have followed me for any length of time, you would know I am direct and straightforward and will tell you how I feel. And yes, I do love photography and fun gear like this, so I will get enthusiastic about things I like. There is nothing in this short report that is not true for me. If that helps, great, if not, there are other blogs to read.

  2. Rob Sheppard Says:

    : )

  3. Jill Says:

    If you weren’t embarrassed by your behavior, you would not have deleted the thread.

  4. Bill J Says:

    The questions you were asked but didn’t want to answer seemed pretty reasonable to me.

  5. Barbara Stetson Says:

    Was there anything about the lens you didn’t like? Your article did come across as not trying to tell a balanced story.

  6. Hank Pennick Says:

    Deleting questions you did not like doesn’t seem too “direct and straightforward.”. You don’t have to respond but it does leave us wondering.

  7. Wallace Says:

    Like the pics but agree that better disclosure that Tamron is paying you should have been done and questions shouldn’t be removed if you want people to perticipate

  8. Rob Sheppard Says:

    Jeez. I did not like the tone of the original two people. I feel very strongly that today’s world has taken a very uncivil approach that is epitomized by Congress that is not appropriate for a simple blog. I don’t want to be part of what Deborah Tannen calls the Argument Culture.

    The nature photography industry today is built very much on freelancers getting support from manufacturers such as Nikon, Canon, Olympus and Sony and some software companies. As Jack Dykinga has said so well, “if you want to get rich as a nature photographer, become a stock broker.” I just have a simple one-time relationship with Tamron. Most photographers never think to disclose their sponsorships. I did. I said that Tamron contracted with me to work with the lens.

    Why is it that a negative report is the only thing that is “balanced”? Would I like a faster f-stop lens at this size? Sure, but the lens was not designed for that or it would be much bigger. I have never liked reviewers who complain about something in any product that the product was not designed for. Would I like it to be as sharp as a macro lens up close? Sure, but it is not designed for that and in today’s state of technology, not possible. It would be great if it were longer or wider in focal length, but again, it is not designed for that. All of these things would be like having a Volkswagon beetle and complaining it was not an SUV. I don’t see the point.

    This is a good little lens as good as any within its price range and specs that I have tried, including Canon and Nikon. That is my opinion and someone else may find something different. If being enthusiastic about a compact lens that fits a gap in my gear is a problem, then I am guilty of being enthusiastic. That is who I am.

  9. steve Says:

    I admire honest opinions about gear these days. I own a nikon but my lens are not always nikkor. I like the fact you took the lense on a real test drive which didnt include charts and algorhyms. I for one dont shoot charts but real world things. No lense is perfect but to have a good light gap lens is the perfect part. Thanks for your review it got me to look at the lense.

  10. janet Says:

    Yeah Steve, when Tamron pays reviewers to do reviews, that’s a really good indicator that you’re getting an honest opinion. Or not.

  11. James Hamilton Says:

    In most professions one will occasionally encounter situations that could potentially represent a conflict of interest. As a retired physician I have experienced these myself as have most of my fellow doctors. These have been in the forms of group lecture-dinners and trinkets offered by pharmaceutical companies to introduce and promote new medications. Personally I found many of these to be informative but often boring. Never was I tempted to prescribe a drug or change a patient to another drug based on these encounters alone. Much medical research, articles and lectures based on that research are funded by those companies and that fact is incuded in the publications and disclaimers. Sometimes the results are not what the drug companies would like to have seen but facts are facts. We need to discern which authors and lecturers are trustworthy – whether they be physicians or photographers – in evaluating their presentations. I believe Rob to be an honest person who would give us his best estimation of a product’s value. His thoughts should be taken into consideration along with information obtained from other trusted sources before investing in this lens.

  12. Warren Biss Says:

    I like his review, and feel it was accurate. I purchased a Tamron 18-270 for my wife two years ago. I travel with a bag that contains 53 pounds of equipment, she travel with her 18-270 and a 11-16. There are many times I am envious of her, being so light, and she gets some great shots that I miss. I can tell the quality between her shot and mine, but few others do. I can do better in low light, but that is about 15% of the time. It has been a good lens, but on a recent trip to Glacier NP, Banff, Jasper, and Victoria BC, it had a problem with the zoom capability. It kept locking up on a zoom in phase. She is now packaging it to send to Tamron’s service department. This is when we will find out how good this lens is. How will they handle their 6 year warrantee?

  13. james t. Says:

    Warren, so glad you like your broken, visibly inferior lens. Sounds like a real winner. But how odd that the guy paid by Tamron “review” their lens didn’t mention any such problems. I’m sure you all can figure out what’s going on here.

  14. hernan Enriquez Says:

    I feel totally sorry for a guy that travels with 53 pounds of equipment! When on vacation most pros and “experts” nowtravel light with G12s, S95s. and other superb high end cameras.

  15. Emily Ganders Says:

    I feel totally sorry for anyone who buys this lens based on a paid advertisement masquerading as a professional review. Warren wouldn’t be lugging 53 pounds around if he left the broken stuff at home, so I feel less sorry for him.

  16. Andy Kliss Says:

    Hi Robert-

    I met and talked to you at the Nik Summit last year and find you to be an honest, forthright and eloquent gent. I’m sorry to see how this thread degraded into a flamefest. You did nothing dishonest and gave your professional opinion on this lens, albeit, for being able to keep it for a longer period of eval time than normally given by companies, one photo excursion seems rather abrupt. A longer use period in different situations would have been preferred, IMHO, which would have possibly revealed any potential quirks, idiosyncrasies, product glitches or concerns.

    Keep the faith brother, and May God Bless.

  17. Steve Says:

    Hi Robert – I have been skeptical about a lens with such covers such a span and have been looking for more feedback on this one. Did you find any issues with sharpness? Did you find a range in which you thought it was strong….or weak?

    Thanks.

  18. JDB Says:

    +1 Robert (chiming in late here). The internet for sure facilitates the “argument culture”, which unfortunately comes part in parcel with the freedom of expression. I’m also dismayed when a person offers honest offhand comments on a blog, and readers respond with criticism to the ‘article’, when we all know that blogs are not articles and are usually just snippets of facts and observations – a snapshot in time. Ease off folks…

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