If there’s one kind of lens that tends to get a bad press, it’s the all-in-one ‘superzoom’. Conventional wisdom states that zooms with a 3x range can be optically excellent, and 4x can still be very good, but extend that to 10x or more and the compromises become too great. Because of this, many enthusiast photographers feel they should shun superzooms on principle and instead use two zooms to cover the same focal-length range.
While there’s certainly an element of truth to this, it overlooks one fundamental advantage – that you can cover a huge range of subjects without having to change lenses between shots. If you’re out on your own, taking your time, this is no big deal. But if you’re travelling with family or friends, and you don’t want to hold them up constantly, it might well matter. Likewise, if you’re using your camera in dusty or humid conditions, or simply want to travel light, being able to cover everything from wideangle to telephoto without having to change lenses can be a genuine advantage. Superzooms are therefore often considered ideal lenses for travel photography.
Another argument against this type of lens has previously been price: until now it’s always been significantly cheaper to add a budget telezoom to your kit. But at just £169, the Tamron 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC is the cheapest lens of its type by some margin. Its closest competitor, the Sigma 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 DC Macro OS HSM, costs £250, while Canon and Nikon’s own 18-200mm lenses will set you back around £360 and £550 respectively. But at such a low price, can the Tamron 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 possibly be any good?
Tamron 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC – Features
The most important feature of this lens is its broad zoom range, which is equivalent to 28-300mm in 35mm full-frame terms so it covers a hugely useful wideangle to telephoto span. It’s also capable of focusing as close as 50cm, which gives a maximum magnification of 0.25x at the telephoto position. This means a subject of 9.4×6.2cm will fill the frame, making the lens handy for close-ups, although Sigma’s equivalent focuses even closer.
The optical formula of 16 elements in 14 groups includes one hybrid aspherical element and one low-dispersion glass element to reduce aberrations such as distortion and chromatic aberration. Other superzooms tend to use more special elements, and this undoubtedly helps explain the Tamron’s low cost.
Optical image stabilisation is built in and is more or less essential on a lens this long, with such a modest maximum aperture. An internal focusing mechanism means the 62mm filter thread doesn’t rotate, simplifying the use of polarising filters. The supplied petal-shaped hood fits via a bayonet mount and can be reversed neatly when the lens isn’t in use.