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Darren recently suggested that the dPS writers to contribute to a semi-regular series featuring our favorite lenses, and I knew, hands down, which lens I wanted to feature: my daily workhorse, the Tamron 18-270mm lens. All photographs in this article, with the exception of the lens itself were taken with the Tamron 18-270mm.
The full name of this lens is the Tamron 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD lens. It is a great all-in-one zoom lens and covers a wide-range of photography situations. Vibration control (VC) allows you to handhold at slower shutter speeds, and the proprietary piezodrive autofocus is quiet and fairly fast. Tamron makes versions of this lens compatible with Canon, Nikon, and Sony camera bodies. While some may argue that this lens is a “jack-of-all-trades but master of none,” I would contend that the Tamron is a perfect fit for the photographer looking to get a lot of use out of a single lens.
The Tamron 18-270mm is a perfect lens for travel photography and for the photographer-on-the-go who does not want to spend time constantly switching lenses or hauling large amounts of gear. In a single lens, you have the capability of shooting everything from wide angle, to 50mm, to a pretty substantial zoom.
When I made the decision to upgrade and replace my two kit lenses (the Canon 18-55mm and 55-250mm), I knew that I wanted a lens or lenses that would cover a similar range of photography situations and offer an improvement in image quality. I was also preparing for some extensive traveling (including backpacking) and did not have an endless budget, so both weight and cost were important considerations.
At 450 g (0.99 lbs) this is not a light lens, but it compares favorably to other long zoom lenses, such as the Canon 55-250mm I was replacing (390 g or 0.86 lbs), the Canon 24-105mm (525 g or 1.16 lbs), or the Canon 70-300mm (630 g or 1.39 lbs). After a long day of hiking and photographing, you will know that you have been carrying your camera around, but you would be hard-pressed to find another lens for a DSLR that will give you this range and flexibility that is any lighter.
Price-wise, the Tamron is a steal. This lens retails today for around $450 USD, and its newly-released upgrade, the Tamron 16-300 f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD Macro currently retails for $599 USD, after rebate. This is a great value for a quality lens for those who lack unlimited funds to spend on multi-thousand dollar lenses.
The main advantage of an all-in-one zoom lens, like the Tamron, is the flexibility. You can go from shooting a wide-open landscape shot to a close-up zoom of an individual bird in the flick of a wrist. These two photographs at Mammoth Hot Springs were taken just moments apart, at the two extremes of the Tamron’s range. If look carefully in the middle left of the wide view, you can just make out the bird. You will no longer have the excuse of “not having the right lens” if you miss a prime photographic opportunity.
Never having to change lenses also keeps my camera and sensor cleaner, my reaction speed faster, and my backpack and purse emptier. I rarely travel around with a full camera bag, since I can slip an extra battery or a few filters into a pocket or my purse. In fact, I can easily stow the entire camera, with the Tamron lens attached, in my fairly-small purse without incident (though I usually use a neoprene wrap around it).
The Tamron 18-270mm lens is a great lens for you if you do not want to specialize or you want to shoot a wide range of subjects and situations. You can go from shooting close-ups in the mornings, to architecture at midday, to your child’s soccer game in the afternoon, and still have the same lens on for shooting a few shots of the moon before bed.
The main downside to an all-in-one zoom is that you have a range of aperture values across the different focal lengths. With the Tamron 18-270mm, I can shoot as wide as f/3.5 at 18mm but only have f/6.3 at 270mm. Prime lenses offer much wider aperture values. As a workaround, backing up and using the longer focal lengths still allow you to capture decent blur and bokeh.
If you want a zoom or all-in-one zoom lens with a wider aperture value across the whole range, you need to be prepared to shell out significantly more money (say, a cool $2199 USD for the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM or $1450 for the version without image stabilization).
In the end, your favorite lens comes down to what you want to shoot and how much you can afford. For me, the Tamron 18-270mm was an excellent choice to satisfy my wide-ranging photographic interests on a limited budget. The majority of photographs that I take, including those for my articles here on dPS, have been shot using my trusty Tamron 18-270mm lens. With this single lens, I am ready for nearly any photographic opportunity that comes my way.
What will you shoot? What’s your favorite lens?