Build quality and handling
Build quality is a cut above most Tamron lenses, and the Tamron SP 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di VC USD feels robust, sturdy and well finished. It's no lightweight at 765g and is actually one of the heaviest lenses in its class.
This is no bad thing because, along with the VR system, it helps to combat camera shake at long telephoto zoom settings, especially when panning. The lens is quite chunky too, measuring 82 x 143mm and extending in length to 280mm at its longest zoom setting, with the petal-shaped hood fitted.
The only slight letdown in handling is that the zoom ring of our review sample was slightly lacking in smoothness. However, the focus ring was silky smooth, both in manual focus mode and when using manual override in autofocus mode.
Things start off well at the 70mm end of the zoom range and good optical performance is maintained up to a focal length of around 250mm. At the maximum 300mm telephoto setting, however, sharpness takes a nosedive, and you really need to reduce the aperture from its maximum setting of f/5.6 to f/8 to get decent results. In fact, at 300mm, the lens is only really sharp between f/8 and f/16.
At least using the lens 'wide open' isn't as critical as it might be, due to the highly effective 4-stop stabiliser. Distortions and chromatic aberrations are well controlled, and the Tamron SP 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di VC USD lens is notably better than Tamron's older 70-300mm Macro lens in these respects.
The ring-type Ultrasonic Drive (USD) autofocus is also massively quicker and much better suited to sports and wildlife photography.
Taken at 300mm, f/5.6