Tamron 18-200mm for E-mount


Introduction

First, a disclaimer. I am an amateur photographer and you cannot expect a typical review from me – this article just serves as an informal review for all of you who love NEX cameras and are considering buying this lens. It makes me nervous trying to write this!

This lens is the first native E-mount lens with autofocus not produced by Sony, who manufacture the NEX line. Before its announcement, Sony already has its own SEL18200 superzoom; the newer Tamron variant – 18-200mm Di VC III (whatever it means) has several characteristics which distinguishes itself from the former, including:

  1. Black color! This “professional” look will satisfy the NEX-7 users to go with their camera bodies
  2. Lightweight at 460g (vs 528g on the SEL18200)
  3. Compact size with 62mm filter (vs 67mm on the SEL18200)
  4. Comparable optical quality from most reviews

Personally I think the compact size and the lighter weight is a winner for me. I bought a NEX camera for its compactness and ability to shoot with a low profile. Even when the Tamron superzoom is attached on my NEX-3, it is not too bulky and I have carried it around as my primary lens during my whole-day hiking trips. I do not find it much of a burden.

Early adopters have noticed a few quirks including:

  1. Failure to use “panorama” mode (I disagree)
  2. No in-camera lens correction in ?older models (this I cannot confirm)
  3. Sony superzoom is better for video (faster and smoother focusing – again I cannot confirm)
  4. Tamron is less sharp at the telephoto end (just search sonyalphalab for a comparison-review)

Size and build quality

You can see the Tamron superzoom is considerably larger than the 18-55mm kit lens, as expected from a universal zoom lens. All I want to show in the images below is one very important thing. The Tamron 18-200 lens fits extremely well with the original flash that comes with your NEX cameras. The Sony SEL18200 on the other hand, requires you to buy another flash specifically for this purpose (because the bigger Sony lens will obstruct the operation of the default flash). This further saves you money if you buy the Tamron!


 

Build quality is superb. There is no wobbling and the metallic finish looks professional.  The zoom ring is tighter than the kit zoom lens but it is sturdy enough. There is a lock switch to lock the lens at the wide end (for travelling). The focusing ring is very smooth and I find it useful for minor adjustments using DMF.

Sharpness and color

Center sharpness is usually very good and when using larger apertures on the NEX-3 the corner performance is acceptable. I find it sharper than the kit zoom lens under repeated testing. Center sharpness is great on these flower shots:
  

For edge sharpness, when stopped down I find the lens sharp enough for every day use. Below are two examples, one is a long exposure shot at a small aperture (f13) and the other is taken on a cloudy day at around f4.


Sharpness and color are satisfactory with this lens, but not as stellar as the manual focus Contax G lens that I own. When used for landscape and portrait (which I have no samples to show you :-) shots, the Tamron delivers good to great performance. For example, the left pic below portrays the broken root of the tree very well, I like the rendering a lot. There is also a sense of depth on the lower right picture.

 

Vibration Control

Sony calls this OSS, Tamron calls it VC; all it means is just anti-hand shake function on the lens. This is an image taken hand-held on a cloudy day, the focal length set at 200mm and I limited the ISO to 400; the lens does a great job dealing with the vibration control.

Chromatic aberration

I feel that I am not experienced enough to comment on this, but I do find a moderate amount of fringing in my images in the corners particularly when there is not enough light and there is a high contrast. Just zoom in to the images below to look over the tree tops to see the fringing!

 

Bokeh

Bokeh is on the harsh side but not acceptable. When zoomed to 200mm at f6.3 it already offers a good subject separation from the background. Of course, it is not a prime lens, I know, but you also benefit from saving the hassle of changing from one wide-angle prime to a portrait/macro/telephoto lens on a hiking trip! Let’s look at some indoor and outdoor tests below:

 

Panorama mode

Updated on 5 June 2012:

Please visit the collection of panorama images taken with this lens (there are 10 of them) during my trip in Japan to see the cherry blossoms. Follow the link here.

Previously, there had been reports that the Panorama mode does not work at all on this lens. It was suspected that, due to a communication problem between the lens and the camera, the shutter speed could not be shortened in panorama mode and hence the image becomes blurry and unusable. Tamron admitted this problem and offered to fix the lens if you send it back to them. However, I bought my copy in late February 2012, and I can assure you that my copy has no problems with panorama mode at all; I just use it in the same way as I use the kit lens without any problem. Here are the panoramic shots to prove it. Actually, the first picture below is one of my recent favorites!


Sunstar

For those of you who are interested, this is what it looks like when the lens is pointed directly into the sun!

Conclusions

 

On the whole, I am very satisfied with this lens. It is a gift from White Bear. We chose a silver version to fit the color scheme of my silver NEX-3. To me, it is the ideal travel lens that covers a wide range of focal lengths with great edge to edge sharpness across the field. The lens is compact and light too. There are not many things I can criticize, but the lens is amazing for what it does – a universal super zoom (11x). Below are my favorite two pictures taken with this lens:


A small PS: To be updated soon with more contents

Please click here for the photos taken with this lens.

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