Best budget telephoto zoom lenses

Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6 SP Di VC USD - £350/ $449

Tamron's new 70-300mm lens packs a host of features. From the SP (Super Performance) stable, it's a Di (Digitally Integrated) lens suitable for both full-frame and APS-C bodies. Tamron has also managed to pack in VC (Vibration Compensation) and USD(Ultrasonic Silent Drive).

The VC lived up to Tamron's four-stop claims in our tests, and the ring-type USD autofocus was only rivalled by the Nikon 70-300mm VR lens's in this group. The former's was very fast, extremely quiet and has full-time manual override. The focus ring doesn't rotate during autofocus, and is positioned at the rear of the lens barrel within easy reach. Build quality is vastly superior to that of Tamron's 70-300mm lens, the only failing being that the zoom ring on our review sample was slightly lacking in smoothness.

Things start off well enough at the 70mm end of the zoom range, and good optical performance is maintained up to a focal length of about 250mm. At the maximum 300mm telephoto setting, however, sharpness takes a nosedive. At f/5.6 it delivered the lowest resolution of any lens on test. It's a shame, because in all other respects this Tamron lens has a lot to offer.

Lab test results

Best budget telephoto zoom lenses

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Best budget telephoto zoom lenses

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Sharpness

Centre sharpness at 135mm is high. However, detail is lost at 200mm, with the lowest result in the test.

Fringing

Although this Tamron lens shows one of the higher results for fringing in the test, visible signs are hard to spot.

Distortion

Signs of distortion across the focal range are comparatively low, producing better-than-average results for this test.

Image quality verdict

Centre sharpness at 135mm is very good, but images at 200mm and beyond lack detail. Fringing also proves an issue at 135mm.

Score 4/5

Read the full Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6 SP Di VC USD review