Tamron SP 70-200mm F/2.8 G2 Review

Tamron's upgraded 70-200mm zoom is an excellent value for Canon and Nikon systems
The latest “G2” upgrade to Tamron’s lens lineup — joining the SP 35mm, 45mm, 85mm and 90mm primes and the SP 150-600mm super-tele zoom — is the SP 70-200mm F/2.8 Di VC USD G2 (Model A025), available in Canon and Nikon mounts and compatible with both full-frame and APS-C sensor cameras. Like the other Tamron G2 lenses, the 70-200mm features a metal housing, improved ergonomics and a more premium “feel” compared to the previous-generation model.

Wildflowers with the Tamron SP 70-200
The Tamron SP 70-200mm F/2.8 Di VC USD G2 has a 9-blade diaphragm that produces a circular aperture which according to Tamron, "stays almost perfectly circular up to two stops down from maximum aperture," producing beautiful "bokeh" soft-focus effects with compositions that employ shallow depth of field. Exposure: 1/1600 sec., ƒ/2.8, ISO 160 @ 200mm.

The result is a lens that feels substantial and solid, but not overly heavy. Ergonomic upgrades include generously-sized focus and zoom rings, and oblong switches for Vibration Compensation, auto/manual focus and focus range limiter that are easy to use without taking your eye from the viewfinder.

Along with these improvements, performance characteristics have also been enhanced. The minimum focus distance (Tamron refers to this as minimum object distance) has been shortened from 50.7 inches in the previous model (A009) to 37.4 inches. The Vibration Compensation has also been upgraded, with the new lens offering up to 5 stops of correction versus the A009’s 4 stops.

Waterfall with the Tamron SP 70-200mm G2
These images illustrate the versatility of the 70-200mm zoom range on a full-frame (Nikon D750) camera. Above: 70mm. Below: 200mm.

In terms of optical construction, the new model is similar to its predecessor with 23 elements in 17 groups, though the new lens includes an additional LD (Low Dispersion) element — there are 5 in Model A025, up from 4 in Model A009 — to improve sharpness and reduce chromatic aberration.

An important consideration for outdoor photographers is the SP 70-200mm F/2.8 G2’s weather sealing. All seams and joints feature moisture-proof and dust-resistant seals to protect the lens and camera when shooting in inclement weather. There’s also a fluorine coating on the front lens element to help prevent fingerprints, repel water and make the element easier to clean when necessary.

Another nice feature is the Arca-Swiss compatible tripod mount collar that lets you slide into an Arca-Swiss mount without needing to attach an additional plate. Pro tip — this is an incredibly helpful feature when you're switching between this lens and a shorter wide-angle, for example, as you can leave your tripod's quick-release plate attached to your camera. If you prefer shooting handheld, the collar is removable.

Seagull with Tamron SP 70-200mm G2
Seagull at Point Dume taken with the SP 70-200mm F/2.8 Di VC USD G2 with Tamron's 1.4x teleconverter attached, providing an equivalent focal length of 280mm.

As a Tamron Di lens, it can be used with both full-frame and APS-C sensor DSLRs, and when attached to the latter, provides an equivalent range of approximately 105-300mm. The lens is also compatible with Tamron’s G2 1.4x and 2x teleconverters. We used the lens both with and without the 1.4x teleconverter attached. On a full-frame Nikon D750 with the 1.4x teleconverter, this gave us slightly more telephoto reach at 98-280mm. These teleconverters are also weather-sealed and maintain AF and Vibration Compensation functionality when used with this lens.

In our use, we were very impressed with the lens’s build quality and ergonomics, as well as the image quality produced by the lens. The USD (Ultrasonic Silent Drive) AF motor was fast and accurate paired with a Nikon D750 — especially evident as we followed a hummingbird in flight.

Hummingbird with Tamron SP 70-200mm G2
The Tamron's SP 70-200mm F/2.8 Di VC USD G2 autofocus performance was fast and precise, catching this hummingbird in flight. We wish we'd had the 1.4x teleconverter attached at the time, but one of the advantages of shooting with a high-resolution camera is the ability to crop when needed and still have a sizable image file. Above: The image as captured. Below: Cropped to emphasize the hummingbird.

With an estimated street price of $1,299, the Tamron SP 70-200mm F/2.8 Di VC USD G2 is an excellent value and considerably more affordable than similar first-party lenses with constant ƒ/2.8 maximum apertures and image stabilization — the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM retails for $1,899, and the Nikon equivalent, the AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR, has a list price of $2,799 — making it worth a look, even if you typically stick with your camera maker’s lens offerings. Contact: Tamron, tamron-usa.com.

Tamron SP 70-200mm F/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Specs

Maximum Aperture: ƒ/2.8
Minimum Aperture: ƒ/22
Minimum Focus Distance: 37.4 inches
Optical Construction:  23 elements in 17 groups
Aperture Blades: 9
Image Stabilization: Up to 5 stops correction
Filter Size: 77mm
Mounts: Canon, Nikon
Length: 7.6 inches (Canon); 7.5 inches (Nikon)
Weight: 52.9 ounces (Canon); 52.4 ounces (Nikon)

Wes is the editor of Outdoor Photographer.

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