Loves the place
Registered: January 2005
Location: Silkstone Common, Yorkshire, UK
Review Date: Sat December 13, 2008
||Would you recommend the product? Yes |
Price you paid?: £450.00
| Rating: 9
Fairly compact all-in-one-lens, good stabilisation (VC), decent image quality at medium apertures.
Only f/6.3 at 270mm, VC makes it larger/heavier, not the sharpest lens in the world.
I bought this lens after nearly four years' experience with its smaller and cheaper brother - the 18-200, which doesn't have VC (Vibration Compensation). The 18-200 has proved immensely useful on many occasions, but as a hand-held travel lens with quite a small maximum aperture, I seldom used it at over 120mm or so because of camera shake (or rather 'me shake').
Many 'serious' photographers will tell you that a lens such as this is too much of a compromise and should be avoided. Well, I have used the 18-200 very seriously in situations where I would not have wanted to swap lenses, and at least two of the photos taken with it ended up at A4 size on the front covers of obscure magazines. So let's not rush to hasty judgements or pretend that a lens has to have a red ring around it to produce results of commercial quality. That's simply not true.
Back to the new 18-270...
My first impression on unpacking it was that it is significantly larger and heavier than the 18-200, although still quite compact considering its range and the built-in stabilisation. It has a 72mm diameter filter thread against 62mm for its smaller sibling.
The zoom ring is rather stiff. This has more to do with the gearing than build quality - the entire range is covered by about a fifth of a turn, and the lens extends a long way between 18 and 270 (see later). It would have been better with lower gearing, but it's not a deal-breaker. The other effect of the high gearing is that there's more chance of 'zoom creep' when the lens is pointing downwards. I haven't noticed this as a problem so far, and it's more of an issue if you're using a tripod than if you have hold of the thing. There is a lock switch to hold the zoom at 18mm when it's around your neck, though I've not found that necessary so far.
Focusing is quieter than on the 18-200, but it's not a USM ring motor so there's no full-time manual focusing when in AF mode. There is, however, a focusing scale on the barrel, which is something of a novelty these days. Focusing seems fairly fast, even in low light, although if it does fail to lock focus it hunts a lot.
The barrel is in three sections and telescopes a long way when zooming. The lens length is 105mm at 28mm and 190mm at 270mm - measured from the front of the camera body.
A petal-type lens hood is included (Canon, please note!), and it reverses for storage around the lens.
Overall the build quality seems good, though not really in the same league as Canon and Nikon's professional ranges. If you don't abuse it, it probably won't break.
I tended to use the 18-200 at f/8 or f/11 if possible - I don't expect miracles wide open - so I tried some outdoor shots in Penistone this morning. The results were not disappointing - reasonable sharpness, decent focus speed and no problems with exposure. Because I was in a hurry, it was cold and I wasn't paying attention, it wasn't until I looked at the shots on a PC that I realised that the shutter speed was slower than I'd normally use hand-held, but even so there was no sign of shake.
The weather then deteriorated so I resorted to some hand-held shots of a bookcase under fairly dim room lighting at ISO 1600, f/8 and speeds between 1/6 and 1/15 or thereabouts. The IQ seemed surprisingly good, although the images looked perhaps a touch soft at 18mm. Above about 60mm some shake started to show up despite the VC.
So I swapped the Tamron for a Canon 17-40L and tried again at f/8. At 17mm there was little to choose, but at longer focal lengths there was no comparison - the Tamron was better by a mile! The Canon 17-40 is a great lens, but its potentially better IQ could not compensate for the Tamron's stabilisation at these slow shutter speeds. I had another go with the 17-40 at f/4, and now it was marginally (but not hugely) better than the Tamron at 18mm, but at 40mm the difference was negligible. Again, at slow shutter speeds the Tamron's VC offsets the sharper optics of the 17-40L for hand-held shots.
Of course, in good light or on a tripod I would expect the 17-40 to win, although it would run out of steam at 40mm whilst the Tamron could (almost) replace the Canon 70-300 as well.
We're not talking here about studio photography, or even lenses that would be used by those who never leave home without a tripod. I deeply respect all such photographers, but I'm inherently lazy and I perhaps not 'serious' enough.
Like the 18-200 and 18-250, the Tamron 18-270 is aimed at people who want a travel or walkabout lens that can replace a bag-full of conventional optics, or who are taking photos in conditions where lens-swapping isn't a good idea. Unlike its siblings, the 18-270 offers 'Vibration Compensation' which makes a big difference to the practicability of a walkabout lens, especially at longer focal lengths or in low light.
Although these are first impressions, I've scored it 9/10 because, compared with Canon, Nikon and Sigma's 18-200 lenses, the Tamron 18-270 offers a combination of convenience and very decent quality whilst also exceeding the zoom range of the competition.
If someone said that I would have to put up with nothing more than a Canon 40D and Tamron 18-270 for the rest of my life, I would feel that this was the least of my problems. Get a holster case and there's no excuse for ever being without your camera and missing a pic.
P.S. I'll post some sample shots in the, er, Sample Shots forum, but I may try to take some under slightly better conditions over the weekend. Or not, given the weather forecast.
Please shout if you'd like any more info and haven't fallen asleep already.