For this review, none of the following images have been doctored or edited in anyway. They were all shot as RAW on my Nikon D500, exported as High Quality JPEG.
For the last few years, third party lenses have been gaining traction and recognition, to say the least. Both Sigma and Tamron have been producing some quality lenses at some great price points. On average, the new lenses they produce are offered at about half of the cost Canon and Nikon are offering them. They are just as good and in some cases, are a bit better. I won't make you wait until the end of this review to figure out whether I think it's better than Canon or Nikon - it is. This won't be a long or overly technical review. It is mainly my thoughts after using it as my main lens for a paid weekend gig.
I was thoroughly impressed upon picking up the lens from my local shop, George's Camera. I have used and at one point, owned, the older Tamron 70 - 200mm lens and while I liked it, the build was too plastic-like for me. I had to be careful how I treated it. If you know me, that's not how I work. I am tough on lenses, as I'm working with fast-paced vehicles or animals. In this case, the lens felt really solid. We have weather sealing, just like the earlier version, but after a weekend in the dirt, I was able to dust off the lens and it looked brand new.
A big negative I hate about this lens are the button placements. I shoot with my camera on a strap, running around all day. The buttons stick out and are easy to flip on or off when it hits my leg. The AF moves to MF every time I hang my camera by my side. When I pick the camera up to snap a few shots, it takes me several seconds and several missed shots to remember to flip the switch back. I got used to the problem by the end of the weekend and made adjustments to work around it. A simple solution would have been to gaff tape it so the button wouldn't move, however, I left my tape at home. Getting rid of the problem altogether by lowering the buttons would be ideal, but taping it up is just as effective as a solution for now.
When using a lens like a 70- 200mm, you expect it to be sharp. It's a lens you expect to be able to use like a workhorse for events because the image sharpness is so impressive. Tamron sure didn't disappoint. The sharpness is focused in the center, but I have a few shots where the subject is off center and it is still impressively sharp. Zooming into 100% shows an impressive amount of detail when there isn't something like a cloud of dirt or dust in the way. I shot most of my weekend wide open at 2.8 on my D500. For a few shots where I needed a bit more in focus, I did stop down to F4, which is still crazy sharp. I'd be very happy to keep the lens wide open for most of my shooting. Overall, super happy with the sharpness of the lens.
The images below are from a real-world style of shooting. I followed the trucks as they came around the turn, but moved to a few other trucks in the middle of the sequence, without lifting off the shutter. The autofocus kept up easily, making my hit rate very high for the overall weekend. As you can see, the lens is in focus and sharp. I can't recall a single moment throughout the entire weekend where the lens failed me. It didn't give me a hard time once, with the exception of not shooting when the button was flipped to MF while hanging by my side.
After a long three good days of shooting, I have to say I'm happy with it for sure. I'm not completely sold on adding it to my bag just yet, as those buttons really drive me up the wall. In my style of shooting, it has a big impact. Though overall, the sharpness and autofocus are great and right up there with the new Nikon lens I also rented for a weekend a few months past and loved it yet the price is a bit high on that model. The 70 - 200mm is not a lens I use much in my everyday shooting. It's great for event coverage and conferences and such, however, it isn't ideal for a wildlife trip. I'll have to rent it again for a trip and see how it does. All in all, if I was in the market for a 70 - 200mm lens, this one would definitely be at the top of my list.