Lights and Tones Blog

REVIEW: Tamron SP 70-300mm F4-5.6 VC USD On Sony A7II

So far my longest lens for landscape was the Zeiss Sonnar 55mm F1.8 in my bag. Recently I often found myself in situations where I wanted just an intimate crop in the frame and 55mm proved to be not long enough on the Sony A7II. For full frame E-mount there is no budget tele-zoom option. Either you buy one of the FE 70-200mm versions or the FE 70-300mm. I consider the 100-400mm GM too heavy for myself. All these lenses cost a fortune and I don't want to spend that much. Fortunately adapting Canon lenses to Sony bodies is relatively easy and there are lot of different auto focus adapters available. I picked the Canon version of the highly regarded Tamron SP 70-300mm F4-5.6 VC USD lens used from eBay and a Viltrox EF-NEX IV auto focus adapter. It didn't break the bank with only 250GBP. I chose this adapter as it has a 1/4" female thread screw for mounting onto the tripod. For me it's essential because shooting landscapes often involves low light conditions and stopped down aperture. It also has a micro USB connector for firmware updates which is useful. The latest firmware is the v1.6 (May 2018) so I started with updating the adapter. Update is straightforward although there is one thing to mention. You don't know the firmware version installed as it's nowhere shown. When you connect the adapter it's shown as a removable device but contents can never be seen. You simply have to download the firmware file and copy it to the device. Here you can find a video how to do it. The lens (without hood) and the adapter together weighs 845g on the scale which is not light but not too heavy either. Surprisingly it balances really well on the Sony A7II body. According the Viltrox's website the Tamron SP 70-300mm F4-5.6 VC USD lens is not supported by the firmware and you can experience this during operation. The Viltrox IV has a switch for deciding between PDAF or CDAF auto focus. You have to set the switch accordingly before switching on the camera. With this lens you should stick to PDAF as I found CDAF totally unreliable. It's is relatively slow with maximum aperture of only F4-F5.6 and also not supported by the adapter. When I tried to focus in CDAF mode, at least in 50% of the cases it was absolutely out of focus when the green rectangle came on. PDAF mode works alright. Not a speed demon but it can cope with static subjects in AF-S mode and after some practise also with slow moving ones in AF-C. For continuous mode it helps a lot if you switch off face/eye detection. I noticed that it pretends to find faces in the frame and pulls the focus away from the real subject. You can use these auto focus areas: Wide, Center, Flexible Spot (L, M, S - within the PDAF area). I mainly bought the lens for shooting landscapes but it also good for other purposes. First I tried on our family day-out in Whipsnade Zoo. Almost all of the photos where I used PDAF were perfectly focused. Only some were missed but those were rather my faults. Of course the animals don't move that fast in a zoo than in the wild. I wouldn't recommend this setup for bird-in-flight or other fast moving targets. I used here the in-body sensor stabilisation of the camera. All the photos are full-size SOOC JPG's, style set to Portrait.

Please click on the photo to open it full size in my Flickr gallery.

As another test I took the lens with me to the coast last Friday. I wanted to shoot some intimate landscape crops and abstracts with it. Although the light conditions were not the best the lens performed well. With the latest Viltrox firmware (v1.6) the lens doesn't hunt. It rather takes small steps until it reaches the focus. I used AF-S mode and this time with the built in vibration compensation of the lens. It worked alright allowing me simply 1-3 stops advantage. All the photos are full-size SOOC JPG's, style set to Portrait.

Please click on the photo to open it full size in my Flickr gallery. 

I can say that the Tamron SP 70-300mm F4-5.6 VC USD lens serves the 24MP Sony sensor very well. For the best results you have to stop it down to F8-F11 especially at the longer end. Below 200mm it's very sharp even wide open. If you need snappier focus you might try the A-mount version of this lens with the Sony LA-EA3 adapter. Be aware that A-mount version doesn't have the in-lens stabilisation (VC) so you have to rely on the sensor stabilisation of the body which probably not that effective at the longer end. But this is a trade-off some might accept. Both the A- and the E-mount versions are very cheap when bought as used, sharp enough for the 24MP sensor, not too heavy so I would definitely recommend it as a budget tele-zoom option for the A7 and A7s series. The high resolution A7R series is much more demanding regarding image quality. I'm not sure how good this lens would perform on those bodies.