Tamron 28 to 300mm Zoom Lens

Moving in close and shooting up at 28mm concentrates attention on the diesel engine while minimizing the distracting surroundings. (Minolta Maxxum 9, Tamron 28-300mm at 28mm, program automatic exposure on Fujichrome Sensia II 100 RA.)
Photos © Robert E. Mayer, 2000

For extreme convenience a zoom lens with an ultra-wide range can make taking top quality images at a variety of focal lengths very practical. One example of this new breed is the Tamron 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 AF Aspherical LD lens which encompasses practically every focal length needed by most photographers in its whopping 10.7x zoom range. In addition, it does this task very capably based on the results of my extensive tests over several of Minolta Maxxum 9 Professional and Maxxum 800si AF SLR bodies.

What helps make this particular lens so practical and desirable, is the fact that it also has a close focusing capability that was lacking on some earlier versions of this type of wide zoom range lens offered by other firms. I vividly remember a shorter range 28-200mm zoom I tested about 10 years ago, which was a wide zoom range at that time when few lenses of this range were offered. But, the closest focusing distance at all focal lengths was about 10'. Now that's not bad at a 200mm telephoto setting, but it sure was a limitation at wide (28-35mm) or normal (50mm) focal lengths since you frequently want to shoot subjects only 4-10' away, but you could not do so with this early long zoom lens. The minimum focus distances at the various focal lengths for the Tamron zoom as I measured them are: 28mm, 4'; 50mm, 3'; 200mm, 23"; and 300mm, 32". These are very respectable minimum distances considering the overall zoom range of this lens. At 23" you can get a real nice close-up at the 200mm focal length.

Zooming out to about 125mm most of the surrounding buildings are cropped out to concentrate on the white Pomeroy City Hall. (Minolta Maxxum 9, Tamron 28-300mm at 125mm, program automatic exposure on Fujichrome Provia 100 RDPII.)

The lens is a handsome flat black with legible white markings showing the distance in feet and meters at the front end plus the focal length at the rear near the bayonet mount. When the lens is zoomed out magnification ratio marks are visible, again in feet and meters. The zoom ring is extra wide with grip grooves in the rubberized covering which assist for holding it tightly and actuating the zoom. Toward the front of the lens is a narrow ring, which moves when the autofocusing takes place, so it should not be held, as this would hinder the focusing. When the autofocusing is switched off (on the camera body with Nikon/ Minolta/Pentax AF SLRs or via an AF/MF switch on the lens on Canon EOS AF models) this front ring is used for manual focusing.

As you would expect for such a long range zoom lens, this lens is rather bulky and large in diameter. But it is exceptionally short when zoomed back to the 28mm focal length when it is similar in length (33/4") to a 35-80mm or 28-105mm moderate range zoom lens. But, when you give about a one-quarter turn to the zoom ring the lens smoothly extends out to the 300mm focal length when it now measures a mere 71/16" long. The fact that the lens only loses less than two f/stops in speed at the extreme telephoto position is another positive factor. The small size is attributable to an internal focusing mechanism that permits four lens barrels to expand and contract effortlessly. The construction includes three hybrid aspheric elements and two LD (Low Dispersion) glass elements.

At about 35mm you can include this entire 1954 Chevy Hardtop in the frame. (Minolta Maxxum 9, Tamron 28-300mm lens at 35mm, program automatic exposure on Kodak Gold Max.)

Unlike some other easy-operating zoom lenses I have used, this lens seems to stay at the selected focal length anywhere throughout the broad zoom range without tending to self extend or collapse when you point the lens toward the ground or sky respectively. Even so, there is a special sliding zoom lock switch mechanism built-in, which will positively lock the lens at one focal length, but only at the fully recessed 28mm focal length. You can still shoot with this lock engaged but you cannot zoom out to another focal length until the lock is disengaged.

The Tamron coupled and work-ed perfectly with both Maxxum cameras. The autofocusing was quiet, rapid, and extremely accurate under a wide variance of lighting situations and subject contrasts. This lens is capable of producing excellent images with beautiful color balance on any type of film material under any situation. I found it especially handy to use while walking about taking general pictures. For instance, I visited several antique car rallies and exhibits during the summer and just wandered around looking for interesting color and detail to record. With just this one lens attached to the camera I could first shoot an overall group of vehicles then, while still standing practically in the same spot, zoom out for a detailed view of part of the grill, hood ornament, taillight assembly, engine, etc. It sure made it far simpler to get the pictures I wanted and drastically reduced the walking back and forth customarily required to obtain a different perspective or viewpoint.

Busy backgrounds can be subsided by placing them in the shade. The shallow depth of field when the lens is nearly wide open at about 200mm places emphasis on the tulip blossoms. (Minolta Maxxum 9, Tamron 28-300mm lens at about 200mm, program automatic exposure Agfa CT Precisa 200.)

While the lens is of moderate size and weight it is easy to use handheld, you do have to be extra steady when holding and recording images at the longer (100-300mm) focal lengths or you can inadvertently have camera movement, which can degrade the image detail. In addition, even though the camera's programmed automation will automatically select a faster shutter speed to minimize possible camera movement, this also means that the lens will often be operated nearly wide open (f/6.3), so there will be considerably less depth of field at these telephoto focal lengths. Because of this, I tended to use a slightly faster ISO film speed than I normally would outdoors to enable me to use faster shutter speeds and still have the lens stopped down slightly.

Most of my images were made on Kodak Gold Max 800 color negative film or faster color slide films including Fujichrome Provia 100 RDPII; Sensia II 100 and 400; Kodak Ektachrome 200 and 400; and Agfachrome RSX II 50, CT Precisa 200, and RSX 400. Accu-color Lab., Inc., Fort Wayne, Indiana, processed all of my E6 slide films.

Cloudy bright afternoon light dulled the colors on these boats, but the lens recorded critical sharpness in the many antenna and railings compressed in this view made at about 200mm. (Minolta Maxxum 9, Tamron 28-300mm lens at about 200mm, program automatic exposure Agfa RSX 200.)

The custom-notched front lens hood is rather broad as would be expected so it does not vignette into the 28mm coverage corners. But, if you use the pop-up, built-in flash found on most any brand of SLR camera, it is advisable to remove the lens hood to minimize the possibility that it might block some of the light and thus cast a shadow into the lower portion of the image.

Further information on this interesting long zoom lens, that has a suggested list price of $798, is available from your local dealer, or by contacting Tamron Industries Inc., 125 Schmitt Blvd., Farmingdale, NY 11735; (516) 694-8700; fax: (516) 694-1414; www.tamron.com.

Technical Specifications

Maximum Aperture: f/3.5-6.3
Angle Of View: 75-8
Lens Construction: 14 groups, 15 elements
Minimum Focus: 2' at 200mm
Maximum Magnification Ratio: 1:3.7
Filter Size: 72mm
Length: 3.7"
Diameter: 3.2"
Weight: 20.6 oz