Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8 Di III VXD - Review / Test Report
Lens Reviews - Sony Alpha (Full Format)

Review by Klaus Schroiff, published February 2021


The Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8 Di III VXD is a member of Tamron's own "holy trinity" of fast f/2.8 zoom lenses with the other ones being the recently reviewed 17-28mm f/2.8 and the 28-75mm f/2.8. These 3 lenses share a very similar philosophy - they are smaller, much more light-weight, and also more affordable than comparable lenses from other manufacturers. This is especially true for the 70-180mm f/2.8 which has a rather radical design comparable to the Canon RF 70-200mm f/2.8 USM L IS with the Tamron lens going even further in some respects. At a price of around 1200 USD/EUR, it is also far more affordable than Sony's own FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS.

Almost all 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses feature a non-extending zoom mechanism. Tamron, just like Canon RF, departed from this characteristic so the length of the lens increases the more you zoom out. Combined with the slightly shortened focal length and the use of an XR element, it enabled Tamron to drastically reduce the size (81x149mm) at its 70mm setting. Additionally, Tamron used their very light-weight body materials resulting in a weight of merely 810g. For comparison - the Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS weights almost twice as much. Tamron also omitted the tripod mount altogether - probably knowing that these lenses are rarely used on tripods anyway. On top of that, you won't even find an AF/MF switch. There is, however, a transport lock switch to avoid zoom creeping although we didn't notice that this is a problem in our sample. As far as build quality goes, we rate it on a high consumer-grade level. It's tightly assembled and the controls operate smoothly. You don't really get the impression that you could take it into a war zone though (if that's your thing anyway). That being said, it's a moisture-resistant construction and it'll be tough enough for amateur needs anyway. A petal-shaped lens hood is part of the package.

The lens uses Tamron's VXD (Voice-coil eXtreme-torque Drive) for quiet autofocusing. On our rather oldish A7R II, we noticed that the AF is fast at f/2.8 but slows down beyond due to additional micro-adjustments (more on this later). Manual focusing is, as usual, by-wire, and it's a very precise mechanism. In AF mode, it can focus down to 0.85mm or 1:4.6 magnification which is very impressive already. Curiously, you can focus down even further in manual focus mode with a maximum magnification of 1:2 at 70mm - that's macro territory. A floating system should also counter the decrease in image quality at shorter focus distances. The Tamron lens does NOT feature a built-in image stabilizer thus you'd have to rely on the IBIS (camera IS). While this is usually good enough, in-lens IS tends to be a bit better at longer focal lengths.

Optical construction19 elements in 14 groups inc. 1x molded aspherical, 1xXLD, 4xLD, 2x hybrid elements, floating system
Number of aperture blades9 (rounded)
min. focus distance0.85m (max magnification 1:4.6, up to 1:2 using MF at 70mm)
Filter size67mm
Hoodpetal-shaped, bayonet mount, supplied
Other featuresmoisture-resistant, transport lock

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