In my many years as a travel photographer, I have tested out from a rather dizzying selection of bought and borrowed camera lenses. Picking the right lens can have you scratching your head for hours because there’s just so much to consider. From fisheyes to telephoto and super telephoto lenses with a range of 800 mm, tilt-shift lens, aperture ranges, zooms, primes, macros and more.
There is one question that I frequently get asked is, “What camera lens should I buy?” And I always answer with two words: It depends.
See, there’s no be-all and end-all camera lens in the world. You know, the one with the perfect tone, contrast, and sharpness enhancing features. One that always reproduces fresh and vibrant colors of the rainbow and highlights every fine spec of the sand – it just does not exist. However, there are the be-all and end-all camera lenses for certain seasons, lightning, subjects, distances, and scenery. By far, the trickiest time of the year for photographers is the summer.
Clicking on the Heat: A Photographer’s Glaring Nightmare
Clicking on the sun is always somewhere at the bottom of a photographer’s to-do-list. From the harsh lights, the flares, and sun glares, all the way to the black shadows, and the high contrast –there’s just so many things to turn your pictures into a summer bummer.
But if you’re a shutterbug like me then a tan and a summer glare won’t stop you from capturing each and every vivid moment of the summer.
After weeks of intense research and testing out all the different collection of lenses available to me, I have found that the fits the title of the be-all and end-all lens for summer photography just perfectly.
The Winner Summer Photography Lens:
Tamron has been designing high-quality lenses compatible with all kinds of DSLRs since the 1950’s. They do this at a fairly reasonable price as well. In fact, Tamron is everyone’s go-to company because of how easy its products are in the pockets. People repeatedly pick its lenses over Sony, Canon, Nikkon, and others.
I kept coming across the and its seemingly excellent quality pictures online. And when I saw that it was one of the top picks on various different e-commerce sites, I ordered it on a whim –because of the budget-friendly prices of Tamron, I thought I’d gotten a good enough deal.
Out of the Box –My First Impression
Now some of you may or may not know this about Tamron, but you always get the hood packaged in free of cost, and unboxing everything in the package looks a little something like shown above.
Right off the bat, the first thing I noticed when I unboxed it was how weighty the packaging was. And when I got to hold it in my hand, I had to conclude that it’s probably the heaviest lens that I owned.
However, the heaviness is probably because of the additional four features of the three-group lens, the VC (as Tamron calls it), and the USD focus.
The heaviness can be a problem if you have a lighter camera because it makes the end-product get off balance in your hands. But for those of us who attach battery grips to their camera, it isn’t that much of a hassle. Even without all the extra batteries, the lens is still light enough for comfortable usage.
And after flipping it around in my hand, having a closer look, and testing out the I had to put that minor flaw aside.
Handling and Building Quality
The has a polycarbonate construction, and a sleek, black attractive finishing. Some of its key physical features include:
- A one-button autofocus switch
- A one-button Vibration Control (VC) switch
- A plastic-composed filter ring of size 62mm
- A meter and feet based focusing scale
- A two-inch-wide rubber ring
- Petal-shaped45 inches deep HA005 hood
- A body mount made entirely of metal
The Picture Quality
The Vibration Control (VC) that reduces the shakiness of the pictures and provides a sharper, clearer image seems to work wonders against the summer artifact. There is a very little distortion of light, lens flares, awkward shadows, and light bouncing off at different angles – the results speak for themselves.
Moreover, the provides a huge focal length range depending on the camera that you fit it on; from 112-480mm on APS-C digital cameras to 105-450mm on SLRs.
However, one thing that I did note was the absence of an image stabilizer, which means that if you like to hold the camera in your hand as you click shots, then you’re probably not going to get a satisfactory result. Using a tripod for the long end of the focal range is the only way to stabilize it.
The Focal Range Performance
The first thing I did after mounting the lens on my Canon 7D was checked the main reason I had bought the for the focal length range. Here’s a summary of what I discovered:
- Between the 70mm to 300mm range, you will get the sharpest and focused images on the 70mm side of the spectrum.
- Images are tack-sharp at the focal range of f/8, on the 70mm side of the spectrum. Any other range of focus on the 70mm either reduces the sharpness or starts to soften around the corners.
- f/8 on the 70mm side also seems to be where the light diffraction starts.
- F/8 and F/5.6 on the 100-135 range also produces tack-sharp images,
- Zoomed in at 200-300mm range, the images are more towards the softer side no matter the focal range.
Another thing that I noticed as I was zooming in and out was the absence of noise. Make of that what you will, because some people actually like the clicking. But I found the slight whirling almost pleasant, and an added bonus for the summer shoots.
At its peak, which is f/8 from 70-190mm, you get maximum sharpness, no unwanted flares, fringing, bokehs, light buckets, or any sort of visual noise.
The Chromatic Aberration
The Chromatic Aberration tolerance of the is just about average; good but not great. Purple-fringing does appear on the edges of high-contrast pictures but is the most prominent at 135mm and 200mm.
Otherwise, you can pretty much avoid the CA, but I wouldn’t say it is top quality in terms of this feature.
The Vignetting or Dark Corners
Depending on the kind of camera that you are mounting the on, whether it is full frame or sub-frame, the shading may be negligent or the worst.
On the full frame, the dark corners are so bad that there is a stark difference between the edges and the centers. It’s the most prominent when you use the lens wide open at 100mm and 135mm; stopping down to f/8 reduces the vignetting.
However, the dark corners are negligent, even non-existent, if you mount the lens on a subframe.
As is the case with the vignetting, the distortion is only apparent with full frames when taking pictures with the . However, whatever distortion that is present is about the same as any other lens within this price range and features would possess –so there’s little to complain about here.
Starting off at 70mm, there is a minute, negligible distortion in the corners. From 135mm and onwards is where the distortion starts getting really significant, and it’s much more prominent in full frames than in subframes.
The Macro Effects
The magnification that the offers at 300mm from a distance of a minimum of 5 feet is about 0.25x. This is significantly less than its prior designs which were a 0.5x, and while it was a disappointment, it wasn’t exactly a deal breaker.
The Autofocus Feature
One thing I absolutely adore about this lens, and I’ve mentioned this as one of the first things I was highly impressed by right off the bat, is the Tamron’s Ultrasonic Silent Drive –as they like to call it.
What this means is that as the is zooming in and out on its own via the autofocus operation makes no sound.
Plus, the focus range is very wide so the autofocus feature is fast, steady, and silent. It does allow a full-time manual focusing as well so I could adjust by simply rotating the focusing ring where I felt the autofocus was not giving the result that I wanted. Keep that in mind for an impromptu summer photography session.
However, the focusing operation did not allow for the rotation of the front element, which means that the polarizer –which you will use for the summer – is a little bit of a hassle to mount. You’ll have to focus, then adjust the polarizer all the while crossing your fingers that your subject doesn’t move –and this can get really annoying real quick.
Grip and Rip: Summer Photography Shots
The is definitely built for capturing the wildlife at different angles of the scorching summer sun, and it does a good job.
You can get excellent quality pictures of birds and animals from a distance because of its focal range. There is no summer flare, no blown out pictures, or grossly overexposed shots, no clippings, very minute fringing. The little distortion, minute chromatic aberration, and ample flare-resistance make it the most ideal lens for summer photography.
Flaws But Not Dealbreakers
It’s a little on the heavy side
If you are used to handling smaller lenses, the is probably not going to be the best of choices. Add to that the weight of the camera and you just might find that it is, in fact, rather monstrous.
The thing with handling heavier lenses when you aren’t used to them in is that you can only get them to work if you have rock-steady hands, or use a tripod. The heaviness can be a problem if you have a lighter camera because it makes the end-product get off balance in your hands.
This is a little bit of a disappointment for those of us who don’t want to carry a whole set of equipment around, especially in the summer –but it’s not exactly a deal breaker because you get what you pay for.
For those of us who attach battery grips to their camera, it isn’t that much of a hassle. Even without all the extra batteries, the lens is still light enough for comfortable usage.
With a little practice, you can pretty much learn to hold it steady in your hand to avoid the shakiness in the pictures. This gets particularly more likely if you’re shooting from afar but the Vibration Control of the covers up for it just perfectly.
Yes, the Autofocus and Tamron’s Ultrasonic Silent Drive is probably my most favorite features of this lens, and it actually makes it the most ideal for wildlife summer photography –there’s just one thing, though: it’s a little slow.
While this is not usually a problem for general photography because you can always switch to the manual focus, it is a little bit of a trouble for summer shoots. Remember that bright light actually confuses your AF system, so taking shots of the sunbursts through the trees with the AF on is probably not going to yield the best results.
What’s more is that the focusing operation does not allow for the rotation of the front element, which means that the polarizer –which you will use for summer photography – is a little bit of a hassle to mount. You’ll have to focus, then adjust the polarizer all the while crossing your fingers that your subject doesn’t move –and this can get really annoying real quick.
Again, these things take minor adjustments and learning, and don’t exactly qualify as dealbreakers. Simply switch to manual focus when you feel it’s necessary. The focal range is great so you have plenty of chances and places to take good shots from. Don’t fix if it ain’t broke.
Comparing the magnification of the to the designs prior to it, the macro effects are significantly less; and the pictures speak for themselves.
It offers at 300mm from a distance of a minimum of 5 feet is about 0.25x, and while it was a disappointment, it wasn’t exactly a deal breaker for summer photography.
Other Cool For the Summer Features of the Tamron AF 70-300mm F/4-5.6 Lens
- A polycarbonate construction, and a sleek, black attractive finishing
- The Vibration Control (VC) that reduces the shakiness of the pictures and provides a sharper, clearer image seems to work wonders against the summer artifact
- The Focal Range reaches its peak at f/8 from 70-190mm; you get maximum sharpness, no unwanted flares, fringing, bokehs, light buckets, or any sort of visual noise.
- The Chromatic Aberration tolerance of the is just about average; good but not great. Purple-fringing does appear on the edges of high-contrast pictures but is the most prominent at 135mm and 200mm.
- The Vignetting is the most prominent when you use the lens wide open at 100mm and 135mm; stopping down to f/8 reduces it. However, the dark corners are negligent, even non-existent, if you mount the lens on a subframe.
- Distortion is minute and negligible at 70mm and remains in the edges of the frame. From 135mm and onwards is where the distortion starts getting really significant, and it’s much more prominent in full frames than in subframes.
- The Macro effect and magnification that the offers is 0.25x, at a focal range of 300mm from a distance of a minimum of 5 feet.
- The Autofocus Feature has the Ultrasonic Silent Drive which makes no sound. Plus, the focus range is very wide so the autofocus feature is fast, steady, and silent. It does allow a full-time manual focusing as well. So I could adjust by simply rotating the focusing ring where I felt the autofocus was not giving the result that I wanted.
The Bottom Line
This is one of the most budget-friendly lenses available in the market. While there’s a certain plastic feel to the exterior, it’s not unpleasant.
The focal range is its most prominent feature, but there is no image stabilization. The lens is compatible with full frame and APS-C and has a magnification of 0.25x.
The image quality has its highs and lows. However, keeping in mind the price, the focal length range, the macro feature, the sturdiness, and the good resistance to flare and ghosting, I’d say that this is a pretty good deal.
Although there are a couple of flaws here and there, they aren’t exactly deal breakers for your summer photography. The wheels of the world won’t stop turning in the summer, and neither should yours.
The Runner-Up Summer Photography Lens:
A Summary of Specs
- 35mm Focal Length
- Dial-controlled, 12-bladed internal aperture
- f/2.5 to f/3.2 Aperture
- Manual Focus, with a minimum focusing distance of 7.5” to 17”
- Optic Swap Compatibility
The Stand-Out Features
- The Twelve Aperture Blades have the ability to form the perfect diaphragm at all focal settings, so the summer specific ‘bokeh’ is always harmonic and on point – even in videos.
- Refined, manually adjustable metal ball design with tilt control that ranges from 0 to 17.5 degrees
- The Creative Effect with Sweet Spot Focus, Edge 50 and 80, and Slice of Focus is clearly the Stand out Feature.
The most interesting thing about this lens is that it was actually made to be optically flawed –and let’s list those imperfections first before I make my point.
- You can’t take tack sharp photos with this lens; there is no sharp rendering even in the corners
- There is a large amount of vignetting
- The focal plane is haphazard
- Strong chromatic aberration
The only part of the picture that will come out tack sharp is where the focus lies. That is both its flaw and its standout characteristic. Like all Lensbaby products, this was purposefully designed to be imperfect. You can tickle your creative bones and use these flaws in your summer photography.
But, there’s a reason on this list and it doesn’t have anything to do with how easy it is on your wallet either. It creates beautiful pictures in the summer.
Why This Lens Is Good For Summer Photography
If you’re a fan of making fine-tuned, whimsical images with the summer glare then this is your go-to-lens. It has a unique, quirky result and takes in just the right amount of the solar flare and focuses it on your subject.
This lens gives beautiful summer results, whimsical bokehs and on-point and creative sun glare effects – but it’s not for everyone because it is a specialty lens.
The Honorable Mention Summer Photography Lens:
A Summary of Specs
- Focal Length of 50 mm
- Nine-bladed diaphragm opening
- Aperture range of f/2 –f/16
- 200g weight, light and fast
- A telephoto lens with Long focal length, narrower field of view and a magnified image, which is what makes it versatile
The Stand-Out Features
I know I said there’s no such thing as the perfect, be-all-and-end-all lens, but the comes pretty close to it. Here’s a summary of its most incredible features.
- A Super Electron Beam Coating (EBC) feature for high clarity, reducing ghosting and solar flare
- High versatility, extremely fast and excellent for portraits, landscapes, wedding, and street photography.
- Weather-sealed and travel-friendly, resistant to strong gusts and harsh climate.
- Super fast f/2 aperture with light and compact construction, making it practical for everyday handling
The Thumbs Down
- Unlike the Tamron and Lensbaby Lenses, this is not specifically made for summer photography. It does not utilize the element of sun and heat productively. This is why, with a heavy heart, I had to place it right at the bottom of this list.
- What’s more is that, perhaps because of the large amount of only-positive things that people had to say about this lens, I expected it to be greater than it turned out to be. When I got to test it out, I did discover a major flaw. It’s not the best for up-close, wide-view pictures because of its focal range.
- If you look closely at the photos, you’ll notice that it is sharp but mostly at the center. It’s also very light and soft at the edges.
- While the cat-eye was a thumbs-down for me, many may just like it.
Why This Lens Is Good For Summer Photography?
Overall, this is a great lens, which is versatile, durable, and perfect for everyday use, especially when traveling. However, if you’re looking for some summer-specific lenses, there are better options out there in the same price range.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does This Lens Work For Portrait Photography?
The focal length of 70mm is perfect for portrait photography. But this is only as long as its focus remains well within the f/5.6 and f/8 spectrum. The aperture is not the best at this focal length. You get a lot of f-stops –plus it doesn’t really have an image stabilizer.
Its sharpness fluctuates a little past these ranges. Many people who take a lot of portrait shots may not find it to be the best choice. To make it work other than the way mentioned, you’ll have to invest more than what the lens is worth.
What Size UV Polarizer Does The Lens Need?
The Tamron 70-300mm uses the 62mm diameter filter and a circular polarizer. This slightly different from the ones used for film cameras.
Will This Lens Work For Indoor Bright Light Settings Like Basketball Games?
It works great for taking sharp, high contrast, high lighting shots indoors – usually what an indoor sports setting would require. However, any other low-lighting shot would probably not be the best idea with this lens. This is because there are plenty of other, more-suited alternatives out there.
Primarily, the Tamron AF 70-300mm F/4-5.6 Lens has been built for capturing the wildlife at different angles of the scorching summer sun, and it does a good job.
You can get excellent quality pictures of birds and animals from a distance because of its focal range. There is no summer flare, no blown out pictures, or grossly overexposed shots, very minute fringing. The little distortion, minute chromatic aberration, and ample flare-resistance make it the ideal lens for outdoor summer photography.
Does This Lens Work On Nikkon Cameras?
Yes, this lens will work with any Nikon, rather flawlessly in my opinion.
Interested in digging out more top-rated products that won’t put a dent in your wallet? Check out this WalletPath article the best all-weather boots for you and your family just in case you get caught in a storm during your summer photography adventures.