Tamron AF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 SP Di VC USD (EOS) - Full Format Review / Test Report
Lens Reviews - Canon EOS (Full Format)

Review by Klaus Schroiff, published February 2011

Special thanks to Alfredo Tollon for providing this lens for testing!


Tele lenses were difficult fishing grounds for third-party manufacturers - Canon basically owns the place and the only way to penetrate the market was via low pricing. Tamron just introduced the Tamron AF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 SP Di VC USD to change the game at least in the market of slow speed consumer grade tele-zoom lenses. It faces rather stiff competition from its direct competitor - the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 USM IS - which has been immensely successful ever since it was introduced. On paper the Tamron throws a new optical design with XLD glass ("Extra Low Dispersion"), VC ("Vibration Control", 4 f-stop effectivity) and the new USD ("Ultrasonic Silent Drive") into the fight. Price-wise it is on the same level as the Canon lens.

The Tamron lens belongs to the SP ("Super Performance") series - Tamron's professional-grade product range. The build quality is not comparable to e.g. Canon's EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 USM L IS but it's very good nonetheless. The lens body is made of quite high quality plastics based on a metal mount. The inner lens tube extends when zooming towards the long end but there's no wobbling even at 300mm. The focus and zoom control rings operate smoothly. The front element does not rotate during focus operations so using a polarizer remains easily possible. A flower-shaped lens hood is part of the package.

The USD ("Ultrasonic Silent Drive") is a new development by Tamron and used in the AF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 SP Di VC USD for the very first time. It provides fast and near-silent AF operations. FTM, full-time manual focusing, is possible in one-shot AF mode. LiveView-(contrast)-AF is slightly slower than average but that's usually no use-case for such a lens. The AF accuracy of our test sample was good. The Tamron lens offers a VC ("Vibration Control") which is comparable to Canon's IS. It has a claimed efficiency of about 4 f-stops. Based on our field experience it seems closer to 2.5 f-stops though. Canon lenses distinguish between standard IS mode and panning whereas the Tamron detects the situation on-the-fly so you don't have to care. The VC does not offer a tripod detection so you've to switch it off in such a situation.

Let's compare the Tamron lens to its primary competitors now:

AF 70-300mm f/4-5.6
EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6
EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6
design: 17 elements in 12 groups, 1x XLD & 1xLD element 15 elements in 10 groups, 1x UD element 19 elements in 14 groups, 2x UD elements, floating system
size: 82x151mm 77x143mm 89x143mm
weight: 765g 630g 1050g
image stabilizer efficiency: 4 f-stops, 1 mode (auto-detect) 3 f-stops, 2 modes 4 f-stops, 2 modes
aperture blades: 9 8 8 (circular)
min. focus: 1.5m 1.5m 1.2m
filter size: 62mm 58mm 67mm
AF motor USD with FTM and non-rotating front element micro-USM, no FTM, rotating front element ring-type USM with FTM and non-rotating front element
sealing no no yes
approx price tag: 450 EUR/US$ 450 EUR/US$ 1500 EUR/US$

Disclosure: When you click on links to various merchants on this site and make a purchase, this can result in this site earning a commission. Affiliate programs and affiliations include, but are not limited to, the eBay Partner Network and Google Adsense.