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02-24-2009, 12:17 AM   #1
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DA* 50-135mm vs Tamron 70-200mm Comparison and Shootout

It was rainy all day today, and I needed something to do while the boy was napping... so I fell to this .

We see the questions all the time... "which should I buy?" Which is a question I asked before getting the first one, but now having handled both it seems such a silly question - they're so different, they're almost incomparable.

Pluses for the Tamron:
  • much more tele reach
  • much better "macro" ratio/magnification
  • slightly sharper (photos below for those who doubt - though you'll still doubt - I know you )
  • you can fit your hand in the hood to put on and remove the lens cap
  • tripod collar
  • six year warranty

Minuses for the Tamron:
  • much bigger
  • noisy focus
  • much bigger
  • lacks quick shift

Pluses for the DA*:
  • smaller / less intimidating when pointed at someone
  • SDM / quickshift focusing
  • weather sealed
  • 50mm is very handy indoors or when mixed in to the crowd (weddings etc.)

Minuses for the DA*:
  • annoyingly small hood / hard to put cap back on (wah... wah.. I know)
  • "long end" is still pretty short (for me)
  • close focusing capability very lacking (1:5.8 according to B&H)

If I had to give one up...

If I were a wedding shooter, I'd hem and haw and give up the Tamron... The Pentax is well suited to event shooting as long as you can get in fairly close when needed.

Since I'm more of a landscape / nature shooter... I'd drop the Pentax if necessary. The closer focusing and the longer long end are both sorely missed when I use the Pentax, and these are areas the Tamron shines in (I'd miss the wx. sealing though ).

Unless I get a layoff notice or let this itchy LBA trigger finger do something rash, I'll keep both and have options .

Chorus: "Enough with the blah blah blah josh! Show us the Pictures!" - Ok, ok, hold your horses... First an apology - they're really boring pictures. Like I said it was raining, and I needed to stay close in in case my boy woke up, so I set the tripod up on the front porch and shot at a piece of a broken ceramic planter which I propped up about 10' away. It was a dark and stormy day so I boosted the ISO to 640 and still was getting exposures of almost 1/2 second at f/8 (f/8 pictures aren't posted here yet, but they're available). To try to avoid camera shake with these long exposures, I used the two second timer and a cable release. Still, out of the 48 shots in the gallery, I think a few exhibit motion blur - oops...

Focusing was handled by letting the camera AF on the same point for all configurations. This does open up the possibility that one lens is front/back focusing which would mess up the sharpness results, and to this I can only say meh! It's true, but I'm not a lab tech and there's only so much rigor you can get out of me before I just go read Rupert threads over on the other forum . I've compared these images side by side in Lightroom (that compare function is great for pixel peeping) and for most of the shots, any weakness noted is consistent throughout the distance range (ie if one lens is weaker than another, I can't find a point where the reverse is true as would be the case if the focus points were different).

I'll post f/2.8 comparisons at 70mm, 100mm, 135mm, and 200mm (using the kenko 1.5x TC to get the 50-135 to 202mm). These are screenshots of 100% or 1:1 pixel peeping, but they're 1280 or so px. wide and I'll post 'em with imagwide tags so you won't be seeing 'em full size - should work though anyway...

Here's the scene w/ a 70mm FOV (the center focus point was used for all shots and placed on the second glaze chip from the right on the broken shard (if that makes any sense)...



Now comparison crops...

70mm, f/2.8


100mm f/2.8


135mm f/2.8 - (supposedly the Tamron is weak at 135mm, but here it beats the DA* - this is where you'll question my focusing )


200mm f/2.8


Maximum magnification comparison (100% crop)


For those interested in taking closeups with these lenses here's a comparison. Each at maximum zoom and closest focus...

DA* 50-135 -


DA* w/ Kenko 1.5x TC (this helps a lot - just like a 33% crop would) -


Tamron still wins though -


You can take a look and download at the whole series - each lens at each tested focal length in full stops from f/2.8 to f/8 in this gallery (up to full size 10MP originals).


I hope this helps someone out there make a decision .

P.S. - If anyone out there wants to mail me a Sigma 70-200 or a Sigma 50-150, I'll throw those into the mix too .

02-24-2009, 01:32 AM   #2
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they are 2 good lenses and also 2 different lenses!

you must choose what is the lens better for you!

about tamron i read that AF is slow: the similar Sigma 70-200mm has a AF faster and it is a good lens.
02-24-2009, 02:14 AM   #3
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either I'm blind or at 70/75 mm the DA* is sharper. After that Tamron is sharper as you indicate, regarding focusing, no comments I'll leave that for other ones...
BR
02-24-2009, 03:30 AM   #4
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my 50-135 seems sharper than either of those, then again my is cherry picked after sending one back and getting 2 others to choose from

02-24-2009, 09:11 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by gemini Quote
they are 2 good lenses and also 2 different lenses!

you must choose what is the lens better for you!

about tamron i read that AF is slow: the similar Sigma 70-200mm has a AF faster and it is a good lens.
In my experience the AF of the Tamron is faster than the SDM driven AF of the DA* 50-135 or the DA* 16-50 - louder though (if the camera hunts, that's no longer the case as the tamron has so more travel to go through - in this case, the 16-50 wins with it's fast cycle).

QuoteOriginally posted by axl Quote
either I'm blind or at 70/75 mm the DA* is sharper. After that Tamron is sharper as you indicate, regarding focusing, no comments I'll leave that for other ones...
BR
I agree Peter it is sharper there in my eyes too. My intention was never to knock the 50-135, but to praise the 70-200. Indeed on another day or perhaps a different distance to the focus point, perhaps the *50-135 would pull ahead - it's a stellar lens.

QuoteOriginally posted by Torphoto Quote
my 50-135 seems sharper than either of those, then again my is cherry picked after sending one back and getting 2 others to choose from
hmmm. Perhaps I should have done that too . I do find it to be a very sharp lens - perhaps the ISO 640 is lending a soft look. I would say these are two of my three sharpest lenses (the tamron 90mm macro's no slouch either ), maybe I've just never used a sharp lens .
02-24-2009, 10:26 AM   #6
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Great job, Josh, thanks for this.

The Tamron 70-200 2.8 + Pentax in-body SR makes for an absolute killer combo, truly.

I've been having a bit of fun in a Nikon forum showing examples of the Tamron 70-200 to Nikon snobs who think only the Nikon VR 70-200 2.8 can take good photos, and hold-outs who still think the older Nikon non-VR 80-200 2.8 is the ultimate. Some of them just hate the fact that the Tammy can beat their $1800 lens. (Of course, I'm showing images taken from the K20D, and of course their little D300's and D90's can't quite run with that either, so maybe it's not fair... )

(that being said, I find that my copy of the 50-135 is a tad sharper than my Tammy, but maybe not at every FL/aperture. I'll need to do some testing again this spring.)



.
02-24-2009, 10:35 AM   #7
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Thanks Jay. Can't wait to see your tests .
02-24-2009, 11:48 AM   #8
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Great test. I just purchased the 50-135mm after having the Tamron 70-200mm for a couple of months. I plan on keeping both as I think they serve different purposes and while the Tamron has superb image quality, the size, SDM, and weather sealing were the reasons I also got the 50-135mm.

02-24-2009, 11:53 AM   #9
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Im confused, first you got the pentax to the left, then to the right.
02-24-2009, 12:12 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by sharko Quote
Great test. I just purchased the 50-135mm after having the Tamron 70-200mm for a couple of months. I plan on keeping both as I think they serve different purposes and while the Tamron has superb image quality, the size, SDM, and weather sealing were the reasons I also got the 50-135mm.
Glad you got something out of it sharko. I agree these lenses serve a different purpose, and part of my writeup was to highlight that since people so often compare them in their decision making - I think people really don't need to compare these two lenses directly, they're both great optically, they need to compare their photographic needs and then choose the one more suited to their needs (if they can only get one right now). Of course if you decide on the 70-200, then you have an equally tough decision to make - Tamron vs. Sigma (or the imaginary Pentax 60-250/4).

QuoteOriginally posted by melander Quote
Im confused, first you got the pentax to the left, then to the right.
Sorry about that - I told you I lack rigor in my methods . At least you're not too confused, you figured it out. I think I'll claim I did that on purpose to keep people on their toes ...
02-24-2009, 07:57 PM   #11
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I already have the Tammy 28-70 f2.8, so I HAD to buy the 70-200 f2.8.

It's on the way as I write this, i'll let everyone know what my thoughts are after I put it through its paces.

Ray
02-25-2009, 12:11 AM   #12
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Jsherman999:
QuoteQuote:
I've been having a bit of fun in a Nikon forum showing examples of the Tamron 70-200 to Nikon snobs who think only the Nikon VR 70-200 2.8 can take good photos, and hold-outs who still think the older Nikon non-VR 80-200 2.8 is the ultimate. Some of them just hate the fact that the Tammy can beat their $1800 lens. (Of course, I'm showing images taken from the K20D, and of course their little D300's and D90's can't quite run with that either, so maybe it's not fair... )
LOL It sure is great to have you going to bat for we Pentaxians! Kind of like A-rod, without the roids of course. Keep those Nikonians down J, and don't let that d90 move you to the dark side either. LOL
02-25-2009, 12:15 AM   #13
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QuoteQuote:
DA* 50-135mm vs Tamron 70-200mm Comparison and Shootout

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

It was rainy all day today, and I needed something to do while the boy was napping... so I fell to this .

We see the questions all the time... "which should I buy?" Which is a question I asked before getting the first one, but now having handled both it seems such a silly question - they're so different, they're almost incomparable
Nice thread--thank you Josh. I am sure this will serve many of us, in many ways.
02-25-2009, 09:40 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by jsherman999 Quote
I've been having a bit of fun in a Nikon forum showing examples of the Tamron 70-200 to Nikon snobs who think only the Nikon VR 70-200 2.8 can take good photos,
well we the Pentax users don't even have that option to choose and we have to go with a 3rd party lens .
to me still "normal " prime is the #1 most needed lens. Pentax excel on that.
now I know thet my #2 most important lens for me is a 70-200 2.8 which Pentax only have a digital version of it so for my film bodies I can forget about it.

70-200 lens is such an important lens for most semi pro photographers (weddings, music gigs, photojournalism , portraits and so on) semi pro IS the Pentax market! I really cant see what they have in mind not giving us one.
the FA* USED is around the $1700 so a new Nikon with better autofocus and non rotating front elements is a very good deal.

sorry for the negativity I will always be angry about the fact that I have to buy a used lens with out warranty in the black market. trusting random eBay sellers in japan. for the price of a new better lens from Nikon.

saying that I want to thank sigma and tamron for giving us an option
02-25-2009, 11:01 AM   #15
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Hi All,
Im so confused with comparison of these 2 lenses.
When I ask myself what I will shoot and what type I shoot? Answer is Portaits.
Which one is better ? 50-135 or 70-200?
Tamron 70-200 is good because I have 135-200 with 2.8
Pentax is better - for SDM
Tamron is good but not weathersealed.
Pentax give me oportunity for 50mm 2.8 but I miss 135-200 range
Tamron is heavier.


But when I check my photos, Most of them are at 200mm.

Price is the same.

What should I do?

Last edited by AlexanderMayorov; 02-25-2009 at 11:03 AM. Reason: some addition
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