As a passionate photographer with over years of experience delving into the world of camera lenses, I have seen countless innovations, upgrades, and new contenders vying for a spot in photographers’ bags.
Today, I bring you an exciting and comprehensive comparison between two highly sought-after telephoto zoom lenses: the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm F4G ED VR and the Tamron 70-210mm F4 Di VC USD Nikon F (FX).
With their versatile focal lengths, these lenses have become indispensable tools for many photographers, from wedding and event professionals to wildlife enthusiasts and sports aficionados.
As we embark on this journey of exploring the nuances, strengths, and weaknesses of each lens, we will delve into their design, build quality, and performance in various aspects such as focusing, stabilization, and image quality.
We will also discuss the use cases that make each lens shine, so you can determine which one resonates with your photography style and needs. Whether you’re a portrait photographer seeking to capture the emotions of your subjects or an adventure-seeker documenting the thrilling moments in the great outdoors, our in-depth comparison will provide you with the insights needed to make the best decision for your photography arsenal.
So, without further ado, let’s dive into the world of the Nikon 70-200mm f/4 and the Tamron 70-210mm f/4, and discover which lens emerges as the champion in this epic battle of telephoto titans!
|Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm F4G ED VR||Tamron 70-210mm F4 Di VC USD Nikon F (FX)|
|Focal Range (mm)||70-200||70-210|
|Mount Type||Nikon F (FX)||Nikon F (FX)|
|Zoom Ratio (X)||2.9||3|
The Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm F4G ED VR and the Tamron 70-210mm F4 Di VC USD Nikon F (FX) are both fixed aperture lenses, meaning they maintain the same maximum aperture of f/4 throughout their zoom range. This allows for better low light performance and consistent image quality across the zoom range compared to variable aperture lenses.
Both lenses have a similar focal range, with the Nikon offering a 70-200mm range and the Tamron slightly extending to 70-210mm. The Tamron’s extra 10mm can provide a slightly more versatile option for photographers who need that additional reach.
Since both lenses have the same maximum aperture of f/4, their performance in terms of depth of field, diffraction blur, lens aberration blur, sensor dust visibility, and starburst intensity will be similar.
Design and Ease of Use
|Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm F4G ED VR||Tamron 70-210mm F4 Di VC USD Nikon F (FX)|
|Diameter x Length (mm)||⌀78×178.5mm||⌀76×175mm|
|Filter Thread (mm)||67||67|
|Zoom Method||Rotary (internal)||Rotary (internal)|
The Nikon 70-200mm f/4 and the Tamron 70-210mm f/4 have slightly different dimensions and lengths, with the Nikon measuring ⌀78×178.5mm and the Tamron at ⌀76×175mm. The Tamron lens is slightly more compact, which can provide advantages in terms of portability, balance, discreetness, storage, and lens swapping. However, the difference in size is minimal and may not be noticeable in practical use.
Both lenses have the same weight of 850 grams, so neither lens has an advantage in terms of handling or portability in this aspect. The weight of a lens can impact the overall balance of your camera setup, and a heavier lens might make your camera feel front-heavy and unbalanced. However, since both lenses weigh the same, this factor doesn’t differentiate them.
Both the Nikon and Tamron lenses feature an internal rotary zoom method, which means the lens doesn’t change its physical size when you zoom in or out. This design makes the lenses more compact, easier to handle, and typically more weather-sealed, while maintaining consistent balance while zooming. However, internal zoom lenses can sometimes be more complex in design and potentially heavier due to the additional mechanics required to maintain the constant length.
Lens Mount and Barrel
The Nikon 70-200mm f/4 lens mount is made of dull-chromed brass, accompanied by a rubber grommet for extra protection against moisture. On the other hand, the Tamron 70-210mm f/4 lens mount is crafted from plastic, with a rubber gasket at the lens mount to defend against dust and moisture incursion. In terms of durability and longevity, the Nikon lens mount’s brass construction offers a sturdier and more premium feel compared to the Tamron’s plastic mount.
Regarding lens barrel design, the Nikon lens barrel is made of plastic, with textured rubber on both the focus and zoom rings. It is designed for extreme temperatures, making it easier to hold in cold conditions without using gloves. The Tamron lens barrel, however, is made of a mix of metals and engineered plastics, featuring a matte black finish with a satin anodized touch. While the Tamron lens sports a sleek and modern look, it may feel more plasticky than some competitors.
In conclusion, the Nikon lens mount and barrel seem superior to the Tamron lens. The Nikon lens boasts a more durable brass mount and a practical barrel design, well-suited for extreme temperatures. While the Tamron lens offers a modern and stylish appearance, its plastic lens mount and slightly less premium feel make it the less favorable choice when considering lens mount and barrel quality.
The Nikon 70-200mm f/4 features weather sealing on its metal lens mount, which includes a rubber grommet for added protection. However, it is not recommended for use in heavy rain or extreme weather conditions, as the f/2.8 version of the lens would perform better in such situations. In contrast, the Tamron 70-210mm f/4 boasts comprehensive weather sealing, with gasketing at the lens mount, internal seals at the rings, switches, and front of the barrel. Additionally, a fluorine coating on the front element repels dust and moisture, making cleaning easier.
Given the significance of weather sealing in protecting lenses from dust, moisture, and light water splashes, the Tamron lens outshines the Nikon lens in this aspect. The Tamron lens offers more robust sealing, ensuring better performance and durability in various weather conditions. Its comprehensive sealing and fluorine coating make it a more reliable choice for photographers who frequently shoot outdoors in challenging environments.
The Nikon 70-200mm f/4 features 2 rings – a focus ring and a zoom ring. The zoom ring, located at the back, is about 1.5 inches wide and offers a smooth and tactile feel with slight resistance. It takes just under a quarter turn to zoom from 70 to 200mm with about 90° of turning action. The focus ring, located at the front, is also about 1.5 inches wide, providing ample rotation room and bordered with soft stops. Both rings are well-designed, boasting a comfortable ergonomic bevel and easy grip, and they rotate smoothly for a great tactile experience.
On the other hand, the Tamron 70-210mm f/4 also has a focus ring and a zoom ring. The zoom ring is situated at the end of the lens opposite the camera body, while the focus ring is closer to the camera. The zoom ring operates smoothly with about 74 degrees of rotation, and the focus ring is very smooth, offering about 182 degrees of rotation. Both rings have a medium stiffness, featuring a ribbed finish that makes them easy to grip and use.
In comparing the rings of both lenses, the Nikon lens offers a slightly more ergonomic design and a better tactile experience. The placement of the rings, as well as the beveled design and easy grip, provide an edge in terms of usability and comfort. However, the Tamron lens still delivers smooth operation and a good level of control. Considering the overall design and performance, the Nikon lens takes the crown for superior ring design and functionality.
The Nikon 70-200mm f/4 is equipped with 4 two-position switches on the side of the barrel, allowing for easy access and control of its features. The first switch lets users toggle between autofocus (with manual override) and manual focus, while the second one is a focus limiter that increases the minimum focus distance from 1m to 3m to hasten autofocus search times. The last two switches are dedicated to the VR (Vibration Reduction) module, one for turning it on or off and the other for selecting between Normal and Active VR modes. The lens’ switches and buttons are well-designed, providing smooth operation and access to various functions.
On the other hand, the Tamron 70-210mm f/4 features 2 toggle switches on the side of the barrel. One switch is designated for selecting AF/MF mode, and the other is for controlling the VC (Vibration Control) system. These low-profile switches are designed for easy access and firmly click into position. The AF/MF switch enables full-time manual focus override, even when both the lens and camera are set to AF mode. Meanwhile, the VC toggle allows users to turn the image stabilization system on or off, with the lens rated for 4 stops of correction per CIPA standards.
In comparing the switches and buttons of these two lenses, the Nikon offers more control options, featuring dedicated switches for VR and focus limiter functions. This makes it more versatile and user-friendly, particularly for photographers who require quick adjustments in various shooting situations. While the Tamron lens offers essential switches for AF/MF and VC, its configuration may be more suitable for those who prefer a simpler and more streamlined control layout. In terms of switch and button design, the Nikon lens takes the lead with its superior functionality and ease of use.
The Nikon 70-200mm f/4 boasts a 67mm plastic filter thread. This choice of material makes it lightweight and affordable while ensuring that attached filters won’t rotate during focusing due to the lack of rotation of the front element. However, for those who use 77mm filters, additional adapter rings may be necessary.
On the other hand, the Tamron 70-210mm f/4 also features a 67mm filter thread, a common size among Tamron’s newest lenses. This size is relatively small, affordable, and user-friendly when it comes to working with filters.
The Nikon 70-200mm f/4 lens comes with a plastic bayonet HB-60 hood that is lightweight and does not feel cheap. The hood has a smooth black interior, which helps minimize light reflections. It can be reversed and attached to the lens for storage, adding 2 inches to the overall length of the lens when attached. The hood does not rotate, ensuring a secure fit during use.
On the other hand, the Tamron 70-210mm f/4 includes a petal-style, semi-flexible hood with a ribbed interior that effectively prevents light reflections. The hood has narrow dimensions and can be reversed for transport, keeping the overall size compact. Offering significant protection from flare-inducing bright lights, dust, rain, and impact, the hood features a flat portion on one side.
The key difference between the lens hoods lies in their design and interior surface. The Nikon lens hood has a smooth black interior and a simple design, while the Tamron lens hood has a ribbed interior and a petal-style design. The ribbed interior of the Tamron lens hood offers better light reflection prevention, enhancing image contrast, and overall durability.
In conclusion, the Tamron lens hood is superior due to its ribbed interior and petal-style design, which provide enhanced protection from light reflections and better overall durability.
The Nikon 70-200mm f/4 offers an optional tripod collar, the RT-1, which is not included in the package and must be purchased separately. Some users have reported difficulties in securing the collar tightly enough to prevent wobbling. The RT-1 collar is also quite expensive compared to other options, such as the Kirk collar. Additionally, the collar is not compatible with the Arca Swiss quick release system, which could be inconvenient for some photographers. However, the lens itself is lightweight enough for hand-held use, and some photographers may prefer to rely on a sturdy tripod system without a collar.
In contrast, the Tamron 70-210mm f/4 does not include a tripod collar, but a separate accessory is available for purchase at around $129 USD/EUR. The Tamron tripod collar features a hinge-attaching magnesium alloy ring with a Delrin inner coating for smooth rotation on the lens. It also has a comfortable grip and blends well with the lens design. One significant advantage of the Tamron tripod collar is its Arca-Swiss compatibility, allowing easy mounting on most tripods without a separate quick release plate. The integrated Arca-Swiss-compatible quick release plate permits easy integration into a kit featuring this standard, keeping the lens compact and light.
In conclusion, the Tamron tripod collar is superior due to its Arca-Swiss compatibility, ease of use, and seamless integration with the lens design.
Focusing and Optical Stabilization
|Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm F4G ED VR||Tamron 70-210mm F4 Di VC USD Nikon F (FX)|
|AF Motor||Silent Wave Motor||Ring-type ultrasonic|
|Rotating Front Element||Does not rotate on focusing||Does not rotate on focusing|
|Min Focus Distance||1m||0.95m|
|Max Magnification (X)||0.27||0.32|
|Full-Time Manual Focus||Yes||Yes|
The Nikon 70-200mm f/4 boasts fast and silent autofocus performance, excelling at capturing fast-moving subjects. It offers instant manual-focus override at all times and takes less than a second to rack through the entire focus range. The lens features an internally focusing design, keeping its length constant and preventing the front element from rotating. While autofocus accuracy is generally on point, it may falter at 200mm at f/4 and close distances. The manual focus action is smooth, but the focus throw can become too short for precision at 200mm. The AF-operation can be a bit noisy, especially when recording video with the built-in microphone.
On the other hand, the Tamron 70-210mm f/4 has an ultrasonic annular autofocus motor for fast and precise focusing, though not as speedy as some competitors. The autofocus is quiet and generally accurate, but occasional focus racks may occur when transitioning between close/medium and infinity subjects. The lens supports Full Time Manual focusing override and has a smooth manual focus ring. Like the Nikon lens, it has an internally focusing design, maintaining a constant length and avoiding front element rotation. However, some blurriness may be experienced in the viewfinder before the AF motor locks in focus.
In conclusion, the Nikon offers superior focusing performance due to its faster autofocus speed and better accuracy, especially for fast-moving subjects.
The Nikon 70-200mm f/4 boasts a third-generation VR system, offering up to 5 stops of advantage, making it a standout performer in stabilization technology. It provides 2 VR modes: “normal” mode for most situations, including static scenes, object tracking, and monopod shots, and “active” mode to compensate for more pronounced vibrations. This VR system operates quietly, ensuring no sound is recorded from it.
On the other hand, the Tamron 70-210mm f/4 offers up to 4 stops of image stabilization, as per the CIPA standard. While effective, this VC system is not Tamron’s absolute best. It operates quietly, producing only a quick series of faint clicks on startup and shutdown and a quiet hum while active. The lens lacks different modes of stabilization on the lens itself but can be programmed through the optional Tap In Console accessory. It performs well at various shutter speeds and focal lengths, providing a 3-4 stop advantage from stabilization in the real world test.
In conclusion, the Nikon lens offers superior optical stabilization with its third-generation VR system and up to 5 stops of advantage. While the Tamron lens provides decent stabilization, the Nikon lens outshines it in terms of performance and versatility.
|Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm F4G ED VR||Tamron 70-210mm F4 Di VC USD Nikon F (FX)|
|Special Elements||3 ED lens elements, 1 HRI lens element||3 low-dispersion elements + fluorine coating|
The Nikon 70-200mm f/4 exhibits some longitudinal chromatic aberration, displaying magenta coloration on the left and greenish hues on the right. However, this aberration is well-controlled and decreases as the lens is zoomed towards 200mm. The lens performs admirably with no noticeable lateral chromatic aberration and effectively handles color fringing in high-contrast situations. Coma is not an issue with this lens.
On the other hand, the Tamron 70-210mm f/4 has axial chromatic aberration, causing different colors of light to focus at varying depths and resulting in a less sharp, hazy image quality at the widest apertures. Spherical aberration and spherochromatism are also present, along with axial chromatic aberration. Coma is noticeable, with astigmatism apparent in the corners. The lens exhibits lateral chromatic aberration, particularly in the periphery of the image circle, and longitudinal chromatic aberration, manifesting as green and purple fringing in areas behind and in front of the focal plane.
In conclusion, the Nikon lens demonstrates superior aberration control when compared to the Tamron lens. This difference results in higher overall image quality, making the Nikon lens the more desirable choice in terms of aberration performance.
The Nikon 70-200mm f/4 exhibits a slight drop in sharpness at f/22 and f/32 due to diffraction, though the results remain usable. Edge sharpness is optimal at f/5.6 to f/16, with a minor decline in sharpness when shooting wide open at f/4. Center sharpness is impressive from f/5.6 onwards and remains consistent through f/16 at all focal lengths. The sharpness is comparable between lenses in the lower focal length range; however, the f/4 lens falls short of the f/2.8 at longer focal lengths, particularly in the extreme corners. Stopping down enhances performance, with the sharpest aperture varying by lens and focal length.
The Tamron 70-210mm f/4 delivers solid sharpness performance. Center sharpness is excellent at most focal lengths between f/4 and f/16, while corner sharpness may vary depending on focal length and aperture setting. Wide-open aperture performance is acceptable but may benefit from stopping down for improved sharpness and brightness. The sharpest aperture typically falls between f/5.6 and f/11, depending on focal length and lens version. Using a teleconverter may affect sharpness, particularly at the periphery, but stopping down can still yield usable results.
In conclusion, both lenses perform well in terms of sharpness. However, the Nikon lens maintains more consistent sharpness across a wider range of focal lengths and apertures. This edge in sharpness makes the Nikon lens the superior choice in this category.
The Nikon 70-200mm f/4 delivers smooth and pleasing bokeh, owing to its iris diaphragm with 9 rounded blades. This design results in a more appealing rendering of out-of-focus areas. Background highlights remain circular throughout the aperture and focal range, except at the image borders where mechanical vignetting occurs.
The lens can produce a soft and neutral bokeh, maintaining simple disc-like blur circles regardless of focal length or aperture. However, at longer focal lengths and wider apertures, the lens may exhibit a slightly nervous image blur in areas in front of the focal plane.
On the other hand, the Tamron 70-210mm f/4 produces a pleasing and smooth bokeh, with occasional soap bubble or hard edges around out-of-focus highlights. The out-of-focus areas are soft in the center, providing separation from the background at most focus distances. The 9 rounded blade iris diaphragm contributes to a pleasing rendering of out-of-focus highlights.
The lens creates evenly lit and perfectly circular point-light images without onion rings or coloration. However, some cat’s-eye effect may appear near the edges of the frame, which may or may not be visually appealing depending on personal preference. The lens also creates small bokeh balls with no onion rings but exhibits a slightly blotchy structure inside the circles of confusion. Overall, the bokeh quality is considered very good and visually appealing.
In conclusion, both lenses produce attractive bokeh, but the Nikon lens offers a more consistently smooth and pleasing bokeh across different focal lengths and apertures. This makes the Nikon lens the superior choice in terms of bokeh quality.
The Nikon 70-200mm f/4, despite having a Nano Crystal Coat element and coated optical glass elements, exhibits some ghosting when pointed directly at the sun. When compared to other lenses, the 70-200mm f/4G VR preserves colors on subjects better, but its counterpart, the 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II, handles bright sun in the corner more effectively, with less noticeable and better-looking ghosting.
In contrast, the Tamron 70-210mm f/4 is more prone to flare and glare, particularly at the long end when a strong light source is within or near the corner of the frame. This can result in veiling glare and ghosting, which significantly reduces contrast. The lens performs better at the short end, maintaining overall contrast more effectively. However, when light is within the frame, the lens produces clearly visible flares and ghosts. Although the lens displays some artistic veiling, it is still considered an optical defect that reduces contrast. Using the lens hood can help minimize the effects of flare and glare.
In conclusion, the Nikon lens handles flare and ghosting better than the Tamron lens. Despite some ghosting when pointed at the sun, the Nikon lens outperforms the Tamron lens, which is more prone to flare and glare, especially at longer focal lengths. Therefore, the Nikon lens is the superior choice in terms of flare and ghosting control.
The Nikon 70-200mm f/4 displays noticeable vignetting at wider apertures, especially at 135mm and f/4. However, stopping down to f/5.6 significantly reduces vignetting, and it remains only around 1 stop at f/11-f/16. Vignetting is less problematic on DX cameras and can be easily corrected using the Lens Correction module in Lightroom or Vignetting Correction on recent DSLRs. Given its price point, the lens performs relatively well in terms of vignetting control.
On the other hand, the Tamron 70-210mm f/4 also exhibits noticeable vignetting at wide apertures, particularly at 70mm and 210mm, with around 1.5 stops of shading in the corners. Stopping down to f/5.6 greatly reduces vignetting, and at f/8 and narrower apertures, it is practically nonexistent. Adobe Lightroom Classic CC offers a profile that corrects vignetting with a single click. Although the lens displays a reasonable amount of vignetting, its severity depends on the aperture and focal length.
In conclusion, both lenses show some vignetting at wider apertures, but the Nikon lens has a slight advantage in terms of vignetting control. The Tamron lens experiences more shading in the corners, which may affect image quality. Consequently, the Nikon lens is the superior choice for controlling vignetting.
The Nikon 70-200mm f/4 demonstrates noticeable distortion, particularly at the long end of the zoom range. Barrel and pincushion distortion can be observed at various focal lengths, but these issues are not severe, as distortion values remain under 2%. Fortunately, distortion can be easily corrected in post-processing software or through the automatic distortion correction feature available on some digital cameras.
On the other hand, the Tamron lens displays mild barrel distortion at 70mm, which transitions to slight pincushion distortion as the focal length extends to 210mm. The distortion is well-controlled and can be easily corrected in post-processing software. Additionally, chromatic aberration is well-corrected in this lens.
In conclusion, both lenses exhibit some distortion, but the Tamron lens has a slight edge in terms of distortion control. The Nikon lens displays more distortion at various focal lengths, while the Tamron lens maintains well-controlled distortion throughout its zoom range. Thus, the Tamron lens is the superior choice for managing distortion.
The Nikon lens offers superior performance in several areas, including focusing performance, optical stabilization, aberration control, sharpness, bokeh, vignetting, and flare/ghosting control. It also features a more ergonomic design, a better tactile experience, and more control options with dedicated switches for VR and focus limiter functions. It’s important to mention that the current price of Nikon lenses is over two times higher than that of Tamron, which could be a considerable expense for certain photographers.
The Tamron lens, on the other hand, offers better weather sealing, a superior lens hood, and tripod collar design, as well as slightly better distortion control. The Tamron lens is also more affordable. Despite being slightly larger in diameter, both lenses weigh the same (850g), making portability comparable between the two.
In conclusion, if budget is not a primary concern and you seek top-notch performance in various aspects such as focusing, stabilization, and image quality, I would recommend the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm F4G ED VR lens. However, if you are looking for a more budget-friendly option that still offers reliable performance, robust weather sealing, and Arca-Swiss compatibility in the tripod collar, the Tamron 70-210mm F4 Di VC USD Nikon F (FX) lens would be a solid choice.