Eric L. Woods

Mission Distraction: Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8 and a6000

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In my recent review of the Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8 I declared it a winner. Since my A7III is out of pocket I tried it out with the A7II (released in 2014) and it performed very well, partially thanks to Tamron quickly rolling out a firmware upgrade to address IBIS incompatibility issues at the wide end.

It did so well it got me to thinking what if I used it with another Sony camera released in 2014, the a6000. Had used that same camera with the G Master.

Wonderful Absurdity

Worked of course and yielded great results. The a6000 sports impressive constant AF speed, 105-300mm equivalency, and teamed with 11fps makes for a capable if imbalanced combination.

Squirrel

Effective, but odd since the camera feels like an oversized lens cap. The set up feels like it could ruin grip, wrist, or mount if only supported by the camera. Definitely called for a Black Rapid strap on the lens rather than a camera strap.

Wonderful Absurdity

While use of the Tamron with the a6000/a6100 was not a selling point, since neither camera nor lens would be stabilized, after such a great performance on the A7II I became curious how the lens would get on with an older crop Sony. Quite well it turns out. For starters the smaller size and weight makes for a much more balanced set up easily supported by camera alone.

a6000/Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8 Di III VXD

This smaller size and weight also aids in holding the camera and lens steady. Not as capable as lens stabilization, but I was reminded that I have not always had stabilization available. When I had (traded for an A7II when it went on sale) the Canon EOS RP I adapted an older Canon 70-200mm f/2.8.

Canon EOS RP
Canon EOS RP
Random

Usable for sure, but I would expect far better overall performance from the Sony and Tamron set up based on past experience. While it does not reach 300mm, 105mm-270mm is nothing to sneeze at. Theoretically this would be a great event or sports set up. Given current 2020 pandemic and society’s reckoning with its past and current conditions neither are in the cards currently. Keeping my kids closer than usual. Today my son and I were looking after my Mother’s yard work so I brought them out.

Sure I could have brought it out more, but since the G Master was so expensive, heavy, large, and conspicuous it was only rarely used. This a6000/Tamron set up is much more practical for use in near any situation. It was great. Tracked without issue and focused swiftly and accurately. Constant AF easily kept up with the 11fps.

Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8 Di III VXD
Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8 Di III VXD
Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8 Di III VXD
Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8 Di III VXD
Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8 Di III VXD

Again, this is a 6 year old camera. I could have used the newer a6100, but I really wanted to give the old guard first crack and it did just fine. I imagine the a6600 would top these models with its IBIS if one were apt to spend the extra coin but I would rather the A7II if I spent that much. Why would someone use this cheapest Sony combination?

Value

A second hand a6000 can be had for around $250. A new camera or kit could be had for a little more. Pair that with the great value Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8 and you could get camera and lens for less than any other Sony 70-200mm lens alone, even the f/4.

Performance

Fast and accurate constant AF, 11fps, and 105-270mm equivalent focal length, with constant f/2.8 has the making of a killer sports and action camera. While lack of stabilization can hurt for indoor events I expect it would be quite usable if one is willing to crank up ISO a bit.

Image Quality

6 years after its introduction the a6000’s IQ holds its own. So much so that the newest Sony crop cameras still use that same sensor, including my own a6100. Combine that with the great sharpness, colors, and bokeh of the Tamron and this is a hard to beat combination.

Alternatives

I cannot think of another used or new crop APS-C mirrorless camera that can match the a6000’s AF accuracy, speed, and 11fps w/ continuous AF anywhere near this price point new or used. Further all of the the mirrorless 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses I can think of for any of these camera are far more expensive than the Tamron.

As comparison the only other crop camera/tele lens combination that I was fond of was the Pentax K-3/K-3II and the Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8.

Pentax K-3ii and Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 Di

Great set up capable of great results. It does have some advantages such as IBIS, battery life, 1/8000s shutter speed (over 1/4000s), and… ok that is all I can think of right now. Will add more if it comes to me. But the a6000/Tamron set up has the following advantages:

  • Performance: I loved the K-3/K-3II but I will also admit that the a6000 will clean that cameras clock in every meaningful AF measure. Same goes for the lens performance since we are comparing screw drive AF to a modern dual motor set up. The Pentax is also down on fps at 8.3 compared to 11. Many, many more phase detect focus points are at your dispaosal that are across the sensor instead of clustered in the middle.
  • Weight and Size: The Sony can actually be carried with a wrist strap where you would be better served with a lens Black Rapid set up like I used to use.
  • Price: A used K-3/K-3II or newer model like the KP will cost far more than the a6000. You could save more here if you manage to find an older Tamron 70-200mm but the two will likely be similarly priced for older tech when the dust settles.

As far as similarly cost effective Tamron with Canon or Nikon DSLR set ups most of the same points apply and you would also lose IBIS, the one clear advantage Pentax had.

That is a whole lot of words to say I like this setup. I really look forward to getting it out in the wild one day when humanity finds its way in some proximity to decency and normalcy.

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