New Tamron AF 28-200mm Super Macro f/3.8-5.6LD AL (IF)
Although Tamron makes some exceptional professional lenses, one of its moderately priced products--various models of the 28-200mm zoom--has amassed sales of over one million lenses and won "Best Buy" awards worldwide. This is understandable, considering the impressive mechanical and optical construction of this multi-purpose zoom. Building on the technology of the previous "Super" designated model, Tamron has raised the bar even higher with the new AF 28-200mm Super II Macro f/3.8-5.6LD AL (IF).
Destined to maintain its best seller status, the new model offers two primary advantages: much closer focusing ability and a new zoom lock mechanism. These will be appreciated by the outdoor, nature, and travel photographer especially, although this compact, all-purpose zoom has many other applications, too.
Like the previous model, the Super II Macro is incredibly compact, although the barrel does extend to 5.25" when zoomed to 200mm. It's beautifully finished, with a wide, rubberized zoom and focus ring, ribbed for good grip. There's a distance scale in feet and meters, but no depth of field scale, a common omission with zoom lenses today. The mount is made of stainless steel, to withstand thousands of lens changes. A gold stripe--denoting premium grade optics--adds a touch of class to this affordable lens.
The Upgrades. More specifically, the following information is worth noting. All comparisons are to the AF Super model and not to earlier models or the manual focus version.
The AF Super offered a Minimum Focusing Distance (MFD) of about 3' at most focal lengths, 31.5" at 200mm, and 20.5" at the 135mm setting only. Even at the latter setting this produced a maximum magnification of about 0.20x, with a reproduction ratio of 1:4.8. The new Super II model however will focus down to 19.3" at all focal lengths, a significant improvement. At the 200mm end, that means a maximum magnification of 0.25x. In reproduction ratio, that translates to 1:4: a tiny subject can be rendered 1/4 life-size on the film frame. That factor earns this lens the "Macro Zoom" designation and also makes it the closest focusing 28-200mm zoom on the market as of this writing.
To achieve this impressive minimum focusing distance--without moving to a much larger lens size--a new internal mechanical construction was developed: Double Focus Cam optimizes movement of internal elements. Coupled with the Integrated Focus Cam of the Super model, this combination maintains small physical size; no other 28-200mm zoom is smaller, according to Tamron.
Although the filter size has not increased, the front element is of wider diameter reducing light falloff at the edges of the frame, especially at the shortest focal lengths. Finally, the new Zoom Lock mechanism--borrowed from the AF 28-300mm lens--can be set at 28mm so the barrel does not extend while you're carrying the camera with the lens pointed downward.
Other Benefits. Like the Super model, the Super II Macro version incorporates other technology and features well worth noting.
General Evaluation. Based on the information as to features, this lens promised to be a fine performer in actual shooting and it performed as well as I had expected.
The 28-200mm range was particularly appealing as it incorporates the focal lengths I use some 75 percent of the time in travel and people photography. While working from a fixed position, I rarely needed to switch to another--shorter or longer--lens. I could vary framing instantly, for a variety of compositions. Although focus does shift slightly when changing focal lengths, autofocus takes care of this detail. (When practical, zoom first, and set focus afterward.)
Optical Evaluation. While viewing my slides under a 10x loupe, I made the following notes as to this lens' optical potential:
Conclusion. Whether tucked into a hip pack or slung over a shoulder, the weight/size of this lens (on a compact SLR) never became a burden. If you're interested in maximum versatility, this Tamron zoom should be high on your list of lenses to consider. While stopping down at longer focal lengths is advisable, this model certainly holds the potential for excellent image quality. Many of my slides would satisfy photo buyers or commercial clients. Attractively priced, the Tamron AF 28-200mm Super II Macro f/3.8-5.6LD AL (IF) will meet many needs, with satisfying image quality providing top value for the money.
For more information, contact Tamron Industries Inc., 125 Schmitt Blvd., Farmingdale, NY 11735; (631) 694-8700; fax: (631) 694-1414; www.tamron.com.
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