One of the first things I noticed about the Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 SP Di VC USD was the positioning of the focus and zoom rings. Amongst my complete selection of zoom lenses (two of which are Nikon, and the Tamron 18-270 I tested on this blog last year), the 70-200mm is unique in that the zoom ring is placed nearest to the front element. Up until now, I’ve been undecided on how I feel about this. However, an afternoon trying to photograph hawker dragonflies in flight allowed me to cement my decision on which configuration I prefer. Feel free to disagree, it’s just my opinion…
Photographing dragonflies in flight is hard. Because you have to be quite close to them, the depth of field becomes very shallow. I’ve yet to meet an autofocus system that can keep up with a hawker in flight in the middle of the day, so I always use manual focus for this sort of task. I know of a local pond that is frequented by hawkers, and is of a small enough size to maintain a close distance. Last year, I had lots of practice and came away with many “keepers”. In spite of this, I’ve not had a lot of success this time around.
I really like the gear ratio of the manual focus ring of the Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 SP Di VC USD. It doesn’t seem to take as much adjustment to do a full circuit of the range as it does with its Nikon counterpart. This means it is not quite as precise, but has the advantage of being very quick to use manually. In theory, this should make it better for this sort of work. So what’s the issue?
The fact is, it’s much easier to pan when you can hold the outermost point on the lens. And when you’re panning, I generally don’t need to zoom. On the Tamron lens, the zoom lens takes this position, with the focus ring nearer the middle. The result is that I can’t pan effectively and adjust the focus at the same time. Unfortunately, to get good images of a dragonfly in flight, it’s best to catch them as they come closest to you, which means you have to pan very quickly, at a constantly changing distance. I’ve not got anything like last year’s results yet, although I will keep trying.
Given that this lens is aimed more at the pro-end of the market, I can’t see the need for rapid re-composition with the zoom lens. In short, for me, the zoom and focus rings on this lens are definitely the wrong way round.