Tamron 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD Lens
A compact, lightweight all-in-one 15x zoom lens for cameras with APS-C sized sensors.Announced early in December 2010, Tamron’s 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD lens introduces a new PZD (Piezo Drive) ultrasonic motor that delivers faster and quieter autofocusing. Claimed as the world’s most compact, lightweight lens with a 15x zoom ratio it is designed for DSLR cameras with APS-C sized sensors and is initially available in Canon and Nikon mounts, with a Sony mount without VC stabilisation to follow in May. . . [more]
Announced early in December 2010, Tamron’s 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD lens introduces a new PZD (Piezo Drive) ultrasonic motor that delivers faster and quieter autofocusing. Claimed as the world’s most compact, lightweight lens with a 15x zoom ratio it is designed for DSLR cameras with APS-C sized sensors and is initially available in Canon and Nikon mounts, with a Sony mount without VC stabilisation to follow in May.
The 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD lens. (Source: Tamron.)
On Nikon and Sony DSLRs this lens provides a focal length range equivalent to 27-405mm in 35mm format, while on the Canon EOS 40D body we used for our tests, the equivalent range is 28.8-432mm. As you adjust the zoom range, the maximum and minimum apertures close down as shown in the table below.
Lens focal length
The optical design is relatively straightforward with 16 elements in 13 groups. Two low dispersion (LD) glass elements are included, along with two glass-moulded aspherical lenses, as shown in the diagram below.
The above diagram shows the position of the various elements in the lens. (Source: Tamron.)
The piezoelectric internal autofocus motor, indicated by the PZD (Piezo Drive) tag, is largely responsible for the compact size of this lens. This AF drive features a standing wave ultrasonic motor, which utilizes high-frequency voltage to extend and turn the piezoelectric (piezoceramic) element, thereby moving the entire element in a standing wave movement.
The metal tip of the moving lens element touches the rotor, and moves in an elliptic motion from the swivelling motion of the moving element, and the friction from this motion turns the rotor. Standing wave ultrasonic motors have the distinct advantage of being smaller than their travelling wave counterparts, and therefore allow a more compact SLR lens size.
Without lens cap, the lens extends approximately 90 mm from the camera body in the 18mm position, with a pair of inner barrels extending by just over 75mm when the lens is zoomed to 270mm. Attaching the lens hood adds a further 40 mm to the overall length.
Build quality is above average and the stainless steel mounting plate fitted snugly onto the Canon EOS 40D body we used for our tests. Inside the mount are contacts for linking with the camera’s electronics. (Note: The Sony mount won’t include the VC image stabilisation mechanism because Sony’s DSLRs have built-in image stabilisation.)
The focusing ring is a 15 mm wide band, located just behind the front of the lens. It carries a 9 mm wide broadly-ridged rubber grip ring and rotates through roughly one eighth of a turn during manual focusing. Manual focusing is disabled when the lens is set to AF mode.
The front of the lens, being part of the innermost barrel, doesn’t rotate during either focusing or zooming, enabling angle-critical attachments to be used with this lens. Behind the focusing ring is the characteristic gold band with the Tamron branding and lens details.
Immediately behind this band lies a 35 mm wide zoom ring with a 26 mm wide deeply ridged rubber coating. Stamped on the trailing edge of the zoom ring are seven focal length settings: 18, 35, 50, 70, 100, 200 and 270mm. Roughly a quarter of a turn spans the entire zoom range.
A zoom lock can be found to the right of the 18mm mark on the zoom ring, while on the opposite side of the outer barrel and behind the zoom ring are two sliders. The top one has two positions: AF and MF. The lower one switches the VC stabilisation on and off.
Being designed for cameras with APS-C sized sensors, the 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD lens was a comfortable fit on the EOS 40D body and would be equally at home on the lighter entry-level models from Canon, Nikon and Sony. Overall handling characteristics were excellent, although the 49 cm minimum focusing distance and f/6.3 maximum aperture at 270mm limited its use for close-up photography.
The PZD autofocusing motor was both fast and very quiet and the lens appeared capable of fast autofocusing in quite low light levels where there was enough contrast to locate edges. Hunting was negligible in all the situations we were able to test.
The VC stabilisation system appeared to be very effective providing a stable viewfinder image that made it easy to frame shots accurately both when panning and in poorly-lit situations. It also operated almost silently, an advantage when photographing subjects that can be ‘spooked’ by sudden sounds.
Imatest testing showed the review lens to be a good performer and, although it didn’t quite meet expectations for the camera’s sensor resolution with JPEG files, the centre resolution was slightly above expectations for raw files. Our tests showed noticeable edge softening throughout all focal lengths at all aperture settings, but particularly with the widest aperture settings. The graph below plots the Imatest results.
Lateral chromatic aberration was mainly low, ranging into the moderate level with wider apertures, particularly at the shortest and longest focal lengths. Best performance in this area was with the 50mm focal length. The graph below shows the results of our tests.
Slight barrel distortion could be seen with the 18mm focal length but this had been largely resolved by 35mm. Pincushion distortion began to be apparent at 100mm and increased slightly thereafter. Neither distortion was severe enough to affect general photography. Vignetting was also relatively slight throughout the zoom range and only noticeable with the widest aperture settings.
Bokeh was much as you’d expect from an APS-C format, extended range zoom lens. The relatively small maximum apertures, particularly at longer focal lengths, made it difficult to blur-out background details and strong contrasts in backgrounds produced some choppiness in out-of-focus areas. Where brightness differences were gentler, bokeh could be attractively soft.
Backlit subjects were generally handled well, although the review lens wasn’t totally flare-free, particular at shorter focal lengths. However, contrast was maintained to an acceptable level in most of our test shots and tended to be on the high side, rather than reduced through veiling flare.
Buy this lens if:
– You want a general-purpose zoom lens that covers most types of subjects.
– You’d like a lens that requires no readjustment when you fit polarisers and graduated filters.
– You’re happy to shoot and process raw files to optimise imaging performance.
Don’t buy this lens if:
– You need close focusing and macro capabilities.
– You want a lens for a camera with a 36 x 24 mm sensor.
– You need a lens with excellent flatness of field for architectural photography and copying.
(based on files from the Canon EOS 40D)
CR2.RAW files converted into 16-bit TIFF files with Adobe Camera Raw
Vignetting at 18mm f/3.5. ISO 200, 1/4000 second exposure.
Vignetting at 270mm f/6.3. ISO 200, 1/1600 second exposure.
18mm focal length; ISO 200,1/400 second at f/9.
270mm focal length; ISO 200,1/1000 second at f/9.
Strong backlighting at 18mm; ISO 200, 1/500 second at f/16.
Strong backlighting at 270mm; ISO 200, 1/800 second at f/16.
Moderate backlighting; 39mm focal length; ISO 200, 1/50 second at f/7.1.
Coloured fringing at 270mm; ISO 200, 1/320 second at f/16.
Crop from 100% enlargement of the above image showing coloured fringign and edge softening.
Bokeh at 270mm with low-contrast background; ISO 800, 1/30 second at f/6.3.This image also demonstrates the effectiveness of the VC stabilisation system.
Close-up at 270mm showing choppy bokeh; ISO 400, 1/250 second at f/6.3.
Close-up of an easily-spooked subject at 270mm; ISO 200, 1/200 second at f/8.
Close-up; 142mm focal length, ISO 400, 1/80 second at f/5.6.
270mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/200 second at f/7.1.
39mm focal length, ISO 400, 1/15 second at f/16.
270mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/200 second at f/8.
Picture angle: 75 degrees 33 minutes to 5 degrees 55 minutes
Minimum aperture: f/22 to f/40
Lens construction: 16 elements in 13 groups
Lens mounts: Canon and Nikon (Sony to follow)
Diaphragm Blades: 7
Focus drive: Standing wave ultrasonic motor PZD (Piezo Drive)
Stabilisation: Low-friction VC (Vibration Compensation) mechanism with three driving coils
Minimum focus: 0.49 metres throughout the zoom range
Maximum magnification: 1:3.8 (at f = 270mm: MFD 0.49m)
Filter size: 62 mm
Dimensions (Diameter x L): 74.4 x 96.4 mm
Weight: 450 grams
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