Tamron's 28-300mm lens is designed as a versatile all-in-one zoom for full-frame sensor cameras, the type of lens you might choose to leave on your camera most of the time for things like travel photography.
It has a maximum aperture of f/3.5 to f/6.3, depending on which end of the zoom range you use it. The f/3.5 end of the range is available when the lens is zoomed out wide. Zoomed right in to 300mm, the maximum aperture becomes f/6.3.
So it's not the fastest lens out there. But the Nikon and Canon versions include vibration reduction (or vibration compensation, as Tamron calls it) that helps recover a stop or two in low-light shooting.
Tamron's lens aims to be an affordably priced competitor to Canon's and Nikon's own 28-300mm lenses. Thanks to the folks at B&H Photo, I've had the chance to shoot with this Tamron 28-300mm zoom lens alongside the Nikon's own 28-300mm lens and will be posting a side-by-side comparison review shortly.
Size, Weight, Handling, and Construction Quality
One of the selling points of this lens is its size. For such a long zoom range, it's a small and light lens. The version with the Nikon mount, which is the one I've been using, weighs in at 19 ounces (540 grams) and measures 3.8 inches long (9.6 cm) when full zoomed out and retracted, without the lens hood attached.
Zooming out extends a dual-section bayonet extension, so for transport you'll want to zoom out to 28mm and, ideally, engage the lock with the small switch on the lens.
The overall construction quality doesn't feel especially sturdy in the hand, especially when zoomed in and the bayonet is extended. Much of it is made of fairly light-weight plastic. The zoom and focus rings get the job done but don't particularly impress with their smoothness.
The defining feature of this lens is that it has a broad zoom range, from the 28mm wide-angle end to 300mm telephoto. That makes it very versatile for a wide range of shots.
Here are some practical examples of the zoom range, from 28mm to 300mm, on a full-frame camera (in this case, a Nikon D810).
[caption id="attachment_22061" align="aligncenter" width="678"] Photo taken with a TAMRON 28-300mm F3.5-6.3 Di VC PZD A010N lens at 28 mm and f/11 on a Nikon D810. Another example of the zoom range. This was taken while standing on the same spot as the following one.[/caption]
Photo taken with a TAMRON 28-300mm F3.5-6.3 Di VC PZD A010N lens at 300 mm and f/11 on a Nikon D810. This was taken from the same spot as the previous photo, this time zoomed in to 300mm.[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_22071" align="aligncenter" width="678"] Photo taken with a TAMRON 28-300mm F3.5-6.3 Di VC PZD A010N lens at 28 mm and f/3.5 on a Nikon D810. Zoomed right out.[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_22072" align="aligncenter" width="678"] Photo taken with a TAMRON 28-300mm F3.5-6.3 Di VC PZD A010N lens at 300 mm and f/6.3 on a Nikon D810. Standing on the same spot as the previous shot, this one is zoomed in.[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_22082" align="aligncenter" width="678"] Photo taken with a TAMRON 28-300mm F3.5-6.3 Di VC PZD A010N lens at 28 mm and f/11 on a Nikon D810. Again, an example of the zoom range. This and the following photo were taken from the same spot.[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_22083" align="aligncenter" width="678"] Photo taken with a TAMRON 28-300mm F3.5-6.3 Di VC PZD A010N lens at 300 mm and f/11 on a Nikon D810. Taken from the same spot as the previous photo. The center of the frame is reasonably sharp, but it gets quite soft as you move away from the center. There's also purple fringing that you can see in the lines of the buildings on either side.[/caption]
I've posted some more examples here.
Vibration compensation. The vibration reduction system, which Tamron calls "vibration compensation," works reasonably well. But compared to many other lenses I've used with VR, I've found the version in this lens to be relatively weak and not quite as effective.
There's a switch on the side of the lens to turn it either on or off. There aren't any other options or ways to customize it.
It does offer improvement over not having it turned on, though, and I've not run into any adverse affects from it. As with all mechanical vibration reduction systems, it does eat into battery life.
It's worth noting that the version of this lens with the Sony mount does not include the Vibration Compensation feature. It's only available on the versions with the Nikon and Canon mounts.
Autofocus. The autofocus system in this lens is of a type that Tamron calls Piezo Drive, or PZD. It promises faster and quieter autofocus. In practice, I've found it to quite good. While it doesn't have the same snappiness of a high-end sports or wildlife lens, for an all-purpose lens at a significantly lower price point, the autofocus motor works well.
Sharpness. I found it to be quite sharp zoomed out wide but noticeably less so when zoomed in, especially wide open. That's pretty much what I'd expect, especially for a lens at the entry end of the market. But I was a little surprised how close to the center of the frame the softness extends. A good illustration of this is this photo of the detail on the front of the Lincoln Memorial. (Click on it to open full-size version.)
That said, in terms of general use, the images are still quite sharp, especially if you reduce the aperture a few stops from wide open.
Barrel Distortion. There's quite a bit of barrel distortion when zoomed out wide. You can see some examples with the architectural lines of the buildings in several shots in the sample images. Here's an example:
Chromatic Aberration. I found there to be quite heavy chromatic aberration (also called purple fringing) with this lens. It's not just at the edges of the frame, where you'd expect it, but encroaches quite a way towards the center of the frame.
Lightroom does a good job of fixing it, so it's an easily fixable optical flaw. But it is nevertheless there.
Vignetting. There's about as much vignetting as you'd expect. It's more noticeable zoomed in and, as usual, is most noticeable within a few stops of wide open. Here's a vignette panel with the images taken against the same patch of clear blue sky.
Here's a small selection of photos I've taken with this lens. I've posted a much larger collection of photos taken with the Tamron 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di VC PZD separately.
You can click on the photos to open full-resolution versions if you'd like a closer look.
What's in the Box?
It comes with a plastic lens hood. I've found the hood to be oddly fragile. The first one I used cracked easily. The second one was broken in shipping. If you need a replacement, the model number is HA010. You can find them at B&H Photo for $15.95.
It doesn't come with a case or pouch.
Because of the way that the lock switch protrudes ever so slightly, I found that I often inadvertently locked it just taking the camera out of the bag. It's a tiny quibble, I know, but more than a few times I went to take a photo and zoom and found that the lens was locked.
I also found the lens hood to be unusually brittle. I actually went through two of them. They seemed to break far more easily than they should. Again, I recognize that this is a very minor complaint.
Model Number: A101
Weight: 19 ounces / 540 grams
Length: 3.8 inches / 9.6 cm (Nikon-mount version, fully retracted (zoomed out) without lens hood)
Zoom Focal Length: 28 to 300mm (on full-frame sensor camera)
Maximum Aperture: f/3.5 to f/6.3, depending on zoom amount
Lens Construction: 19 elements in 15 groups
Diaphragm Blades: 7, circular
Lens Hood?: Plastic lens hood included. Model HA010.
Filter Size: 67mm
Made in: China
More Tech Specs: You can find more tech specifications on Tamron's website.
Having such a broad zoom range and an affordable price point of $599, this is a good lens. It's small, light, and effective, and would be a good option as a go-anywhere versatile lens that could save you from lugging a lot of heavier gear around. While it doesn't necessarily sparkle in terms of performance when compared to higher-end gear, and it's not especially fast, it's also about one quarter of the price of some other 28-300mm lenses.
So if you're looking for an affordably priced, versatile lens to replace heavier lenses while traveling or generally out on the go, Tamron's 28-300mm is well worth a look.