First Impressions: Tamron 70-200 2.9 VC G2

I recently purchased Tamron's newest entry into the telephoto market, an upgrade for their oft-praised 70-200 2.8 VC USD. The new 70-200 2.8 VC G2 features a sleek, matte black design with 5 stops of Vibration Compensation (VC) across 3 modes along with a newly-introduced focus limiter, and clocks in at a $1300 price tag. I'll start by saying that I do NOT like the placement of the switches in relation to the zoom ring, with the zoom ring being just before the hood and the switches where my palm rests, and the result is my palm constantly changes the position of the switches. That's not something I like at all.

So far, I've only *really* used it twice. I *tested* it at the Doyle concert a couple nights after it came in, but there wasn't enough light to really judge anything other than sharpness when the lens did focus, which was slow at the time - possibly due to the poor lighting - but the images, even at a high ISO (8000) were sharp, so that was a plus. A couple days later I shot high school baseball in broad daylight, so I was able to shoot at a low ISO and really get a feel for what the new Tamron 70-200 2.8 VC G2 can do.

The lens produced very sharp images, though I did experience issues with both front AND back focus. There were a few instances where, shooting through the chain-link fence, the lens would focus ON the fence rather than my subject on the other side of it. When the lens did focus correctly, I was very impressed with the results, even with some pretty heavy cropping in order to make the images tight enough for newspaper specs. The biggest issue I could find during my outing was the focus problem. Here are two sample images, the first is heavily cropped and the second, while cropped, is not cropped nearly as much. Click on the images to view them at full size.

The above images were captured WITHOUT any adjustments using the TAP-in console. As you can see, the lens is extremely sharp even when cropped significantly, and the bokeh is beautiful, in my opinion. The biggest issue so far remains front and back focus, for which Tamron sells their TAP-in console, similar to Sigma's USB dock, which allows you to microadjust compatible lenses at different focus distances. Sigma's dock allows for more detailed customization to compensate for focus issues, allowing for manual adjustments at each focusing distance from close focus to infinity across all focal lengths. Tamron's TAP-in console only allows for adjustments at close focus, a midpoint and infinity across the entire focal range of the lens.

After shooting baseball, I mounted the 70-200 2.8 VC G2 to the TAP-in console and began to adjust my focus to attempt to correct the issues I was experiencing - which occurred mostly at the 135mm and 200mm focal lengths. Here's a screenshot of the adjustments I made to my lens. It should be noted that these adjustments are specific to my copy of the Tamron 70-200 2.8 VC G2 when mounted to my specific camera body. Your needs may differ greatly from mine. Unfortunately, the software for the TAP-in utility does not allow for full screen viewing, but you can still click on the thumbnail to enlarge the photo.

So those are the adjustments I felt were necessary based on my real-world testing in addition to focus testing. I won't go into detail on how to test for front or back focus - there are great articles available online - but the short version is that you line up a row of 5 batteries (I use AA) and shoot with your lens at a 90* angle to the batteries, with your focus point set to focus on the center battery. You repeat across the focal range of the lens, at each distance from close focus to as close to infinity as you can get. I did NOT adjust for infinity because I will almost never use a telephoto lens at infinity focus, and infinity on a lens of this length is very difficult to calibrate.

Following my adjustments, I shot very briefly with the lens at the Sabaton concert, from an elevated platform side stage after the third song, just to test the lens in a real world environment, and was VERY impressed by my results. Here's a sample image:

By now it should be obvious that this lens is unbelievably sharp for its price tag, and in my opinion gives the Nikon $2800 Nikon 70-200 2.8 ED a run for its money. The colors and contrast are rendered beautifully straight out of the camera, although the above images were color corrected in post production to account for changes made by my editing process.

It's definitely worth mentioning that the lens locked focus quickly - I use back-button focus to lock on and recompose - and tracked my subject very well, with no sign of front or back focus issues following my adjustments using the TAP-in utility.

The next night I shot another concert, and this time used the 70-200 2.8 VC G2 in the photo pit, again very briefly, to see how it handled closer focusing distances following adjustments. I was impressed overall, it focused quickly enough for me to lock on and recompose, although I will say that I shot another concert on Monday in poor lighting and it did take a while to focus from the balcony a good distance from the stage. Here's one from the photo pit on Saturday night at the Testament show:

I think that focused nicely in the pit, much closer to the action, at the 70mm end wide open at f/2.8, and it locked on quickly enough. I feel like if I had a little more light, the lens would have locked focus instantly. All of my lenses struggle to focus in low light from time to time, so I wouldn't go so far as to say this is an issue with this lens specifically and more of an issue with he amount of light, over which I obviously have no control.

That brings me to the last sample photo I want to post, shot two nights after the one above, in a venue with very bad lighting. Again, the lens was a little slow to focus and from time to time would not focus at all, to the point where I had to wait for a change in lighting so I could focus and recompose my image. That's an issue, but for the amount of time I'd actually use this lens in extreme low-light situations, I think I can live with it. Here's the last sample I'll include, this time from Delain in very low light. The image itself it noisy from the high ISO, but you can see the detail is there and it's sharp once it focused.

So that's been the extent of my shooting so far with this lens. The Sabaton photo (third from the bottom) is easily my favorite and clearly the sharpest, which I think best showcases just how sharp this lens is when I don't need to crop a ton of detail out due to publishing restrictions imposed by the newspaper I freelance for. If it were up to me I'd never crop, but those baseball photos had to be cropped per my editor's instructions, and there's some detail loss as a result, but the images overall are still sharp and have enough detail to look great in a newspaper.

I haven't been able to get an actual model in front of this lens yet, but I'm hoping to do so soon. Either way, I'll be shooting some editorial with it on Saturday, indoors, in a high school gym where the lighting is probably pretty poor, in addition to shooting with the new Tamron 70-200 2.8 VC G2 as much as possible over the next week or so. I'll update this if I'm able to get a model in front of the lens, but for now and so far, I'm impressed with what Tamron's done here.

That's all I've got for now. Deuces.