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Nikon 18-200mm vs. Tamron 18-270mm

Tom S , Apr 06, 2009; 11:14 a.m.

I have decided to purchase a Nikon D90. I have also narrowed my lens choice to either the Tamron AF 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC LD Aspherical (IF) MACRO or the Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED AF-S VR DX.

I understand the potential compromises involved in lenses with these types of focal ranges. However, I shoot mostly while traveling and don’t want to carry multiple lenses and don’t want to expose the sensor while changing them out. I shoot landscapes and print up to 13” x 19” on an Epson R2400. I do this mostly for my own enjoyment but occasionally do show and sell my work.

Two review sites that people seem to respect have written the following:

SLR Gear.com, comparing the 2 lenses writes: “The Tamron is noticeably sharper than the Nikon in the majority of focal length / aperture combinations, except at the telephoto end (200mm) where both lenses produce similarly average results.” While this is only one sentence of a more comprehensive review, this struck me a quite a remarkable statement. Can Tamron really claim to have outdone Nikon on this one?

Dpreview.com writes “It [the Tamron] the stands up well in comparison to both the Nikon 18-200mm F3.5-5.6G ED VR and the Canon EF-S 18-200mm F3.5-5.6 IS; it's softer than the Nikon at wideangle and the Canon at telephoto, but beats both in that mid-range.”

I would greatly appreciate hearing from anyone that has an opinion on this subject.


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Shun Cheung , Apr 06, 2009; 11:51 a.m.

Personally I would not buy any AF lens that is slower than f5.6 in any part of its zoom range. Nikon's auto focus becomes unreliable when the lens is slower than f5.6.

I have neither one of those lenses, but I have used the Nikon 18-200 briefly. While you certinaly don't expect great image quality from a 11x zoom, I think it is optically fine for a 11x zoom.

Another issue with the Tamron is that it is almost just as expensive as the Canon and Nikon equivalents. However, the Tamron's value is unlikely to hold up in the used market as well as camera brand lenses. Typically one buys 3rd-party lenses mainly because they are much cheaper up front.

Kari Vierimaa , Apr 06, 2009; 12:29 p.m.

Can Tamron really claim to have outdone Nikon on this one?

Why not? They make some excellent lenses.
There's nothing magical about that Nikon (or Canon) superzoom you know. ;)

Do you think you're going to need the extra 70mm? It's like 300mm vs 400mm difference.

It's true that Nikon is more desirable in the used market but do you want to choose a lens based on that?

Wayne Cornell , Apr 06, 2009; 01:12 p.m.

Shun's observation about AF lenses slower than f5.6 not focusing reliably is a major point IMO. F6.3 is too slow.

I always factor in how much a lens will be worth down the road because eventually I'll probably want to sell it.

Homer Arment , Apr 06, 2009; 02:12 p.m.

I have been using the Tamron 18-270 for about four months but on a D300 instead of a D90 and so far I have been pretty pleased with it. My only complaint with the lens is that when zooming from wide angle to tele it is stiff when crossing the mid-range. It bothered me some initially but now I've gotten used to it and seldom notice it. I have also noticed some CA at the 270 end but it seems to go away as you stop down past f8.

As for 6.3 vs 5.6 and the ability of either to autofocus in dim light situations I guess I just haven't noticed the half f-stop making that much difference. For years I shot with a D100 using a Tamron 28-300 which was 6.3 on the tele end and the only times it had trouble seeking focus was in very dim near-dusk light. In those cases I switched to manual and focused the best I could manually. I've had the same problem with seeking in very low light situations with my Nikon 7-300 kit lens which is 5.6 at the tele end.

For me the decision would be if I shot more wide and less tele then I might go for the Nikon and if I planned on selling the lens in the next couple years I would probably opt for the Nikon. I bought the Tamron because I shoot more at the long end and I wanted the 18 mm end for when I had to do family shots indoors. I think you will be happy with which ever one you choose.

Eric Arnold , Apr 06, 2009; 03:48 p.m.

let's face it: neither will be a great low-light lens. for optimal IQ, you'll be stopping down to f/8-11 and trying not to shoot wide open if you can help it with either choice.

my .02 is that there are advantages to both, depending on the application. i would put more stock in nikon's VR over tamron's VC, and on AF-S over tamron's BIM, and shun raises a good, if oft-repeated, point about Nikon AF not designed for lenses slower than 5.6 max aperture. but optically, i dont think the nikon has a clear advantage over the tamron. and, if the intended use is travel/casual photography, that 15x zoom could be the deal-breaker.

Peter Hamm , Apr 06, 2009; 05:00 p.m.

I'd get the 16-85 before I bought either of those today.

But here's some other options. A Nikon 18-70 and 70-300 VR combo would be a little more than the 18-200, but probably much better. I love my 18-200 for travel (I bought it for an Alaska trip, and was very satisfied with the results), but today I'd buy the 16-85 and crop the long end (or a used 17-55), or get the 18-70/70-300VR Combo.

Don't buy a lens that's smalle than f5.6 though.

Sanford Edelstein , Apr 06, 2009; 05:31 p.m.

The price is too close to the Nikon, I wouldn't do it for 70 extra mm's. I wonder how good or bad the Tamron 18-200mm zoom @ around $250.00 is? I have the Nikkor 18-20 and think it's a great all around lens.

Cynthia Darden , Apr 06, 2009; 06:31 p.m.

I have the D90, and my first upgrade lens when I had a D70 kit was the Nikon 18-200mm, for the same reasons you have mentioned - I wanted one good lens for traveling and didn't want to have to constantly be switching them out. Now that I actually do own a few more, however, I have found that I rarely take the 18-200mm off my camera unless I know that I am shooting something specific. It's a great walking around lens. Here is a pic I took recently in my backyard, wide open at 200mm, f/5.6, ISO 400. I also take a lot of photos of my kids, plus landscape shots when they present themselves. The only drawback to this lens is that mine creeps. I have read/heard others with similar situations and this year when I send it in for cleaning I'm going to ask them to fix this problem. Will see what happens!
Hope this helps!

Bruce Margolis , Apr 06, 2009; 09:38 p.m.

Tom, I have the 18-200 and think it's a fantastic lens. However, I have never tried the Tamron 18-270.

Obviously both lenses have some great benefits and some compromises. Yes, the Tamron is slower at the long end but as long as you accept the trade off of longer focal length for slower aperture -- which may mean difficult manual focus in some situations, if you can get a shot at all -- I don't see any problem here.

If you are buying your camera at a local store, that would be a great opportunity to try out both lenses on your new body. I don't think anyone's anecdotal experiences here will be as helpful as your own personal experience with both lenses.

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