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My journey into Photography, Horology, and Audiophilia

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Tamron AF70-300mm F/4-5.6 Di LD Macro 1:2 model A17NII

Why this lens?

I wanted to add range beyond the AF-S Nikkor 18-55mm F/3.5-5.6 kit lens. In the course of finding one, I had the opportunity to test the following lenses-

  • Sigma 70-300mm F/4-5.6 APO DG Macro courtesy of in-store "audition" at JT Photoworld
  • Tokina SZ-X 730 MF 75-300mm F/4-5.6 courtesy of an audiophile friend more crazy than me in photography.

The Sigma offered good results and had not that I wanted a Macro lense that day, I would have bought it. On the other hand, I failed in making the Tokina work on my D40. Maybe I should have tried harder, and I regret that.

I researched on the Tamron model that would fit my requirements and was pleasantly surprised to see an upgrade to the model A17for the Nikon- the A17NII. It now has a built-in motor for a D40 owner like me.

I was betting on the performance I got from the Tamron model 272E, so I took the plunge and bought this lens.

Specifications

There is no need to repeat what the manufacturer said here. This lens is designated Di, which means it will work for both full frame and APS-C sized DSLR bodies, such as the D40.

My money's worth

For the price I paid, I got the lens itself with front and back caps, lens hood, documentation and warranty card (Tamron HK). While I was expecting a leather case like my model 272E, I forgot that the price difference should have given me a strong clue I won't be getting one.  Besides, I was not probably paying attention on the product specs which listed the lens hood as the only accessory provided.

At less than half the price of model 272E, which was made in Japan, the A17NII has "Assembled in China" stamped on the body. The model 272E belong to Tamron's SP (super performance) series and has really nice gold accent on the body. The A17NII continues to sport the gold accent, on the cheaper side- it's a band of really narrow sticker wrapped around the body. I hope the glue is strong enough to keep this band attached for years (wishful thinking).

Enough whining on the cosmetic differences. I checked the body itself which is basically made of plastic, decent plastic, and I assume the weight of the lens is contributed by the optics inside it. The mount is made of metal and has the connections to the D40 body which is great. Unlike my Nikkor kit lens, the model A17NII seems to have better tolerances in the construction.

Features that matter to me

My model 272E feels great and I like it a lot, so I was hoping to get the same feel with the A17NII. Upon mounting of the model A17N II onto my D40 body, I felt good balance between the body and lens, and that is good. However, on two occasions, my fore finger lightly got in the way of the auto focus operation, so be cautious as this will knock the focus out.

AF/MF switch is provided which is a big difference from the "clutch mechanism" of the 272E. Nevertheless, the presence of this switch allows me to set it into MF during storage. This is important for me because the built-in motor would not be stressed (a guess) when the focus ring rotates beyond my own control during travel, transport, or whatever. I just feel the lens is safer in MF mode when stowed away.

In addition, when putting in the barrel-shaped lens hood, the AF/MF must be in MF mode as clearly stated on the manual, due to the rotating front element.

Macro capability. Now why would I want a macro mode when I have a great 1:1 macro lensalready? Well, in some situations, it might be impossible to get really close to the subject, and the 1:2 macro capability of the A17N II will come in handy.

The macro mode works when the focal length is set between 180mm and 300mm. The body has macro operation band on the focal length range and focus range. You won't go wrong with macro operation. With the focal length set to 300mm and macro engaged, it will let me shoot at a minimum focusing distance of about 1 meter (0.95m).

The lens cap is pinch type like the model 272E and I prefer that type. Not a big deal, but that's why I have a preference.

Performance

The first thing I tried is to feel the AF operation. Unlike the SWM of the Nikkor kit lens, the AF motor of the A17NII emits a whirring sound during autofocus operation. What I've noticed is that lenses I tested such as Sigma, Tokina, also emits a similar sound when AF is engaged and focusing on the subject.  I think this is where the Silent Wave Motor shines, but I have no experience with other Nikkor lenses.

The way this lens focuses sometimes reminds me of the traction control (now banned) feature of Formula 1 cars. While the lens hones in on the subject, it seems like it's down shifting so fast with traction control engaged. This behavior does not manifest on all subjects though.

I tested the AF speed. On some occasions, the AF mechanism hunts for proper focus. However, I'm glad that most of the time, it was able to focus within 2 seconds. Not really that great, but very reasonable for my needs.

I took a couple of shots to check if the lens has front and back focusing issues using the template I previously found here. I was exhilarated with the results- perfect.

So far, I've been pleased. Now, on to more test shots, where I wanted to determine the sharpness of the lens.

At 300mm and aperture at maximum, I am pleased with the results. It showed enough detail that is respectable for me. I don't know if a tripod would help this shot, as I made it hand held.

I was not able to set the lighting for proper matching, but for me it already tells a story, a story I like.

Is it worth my money?

I am not a professional photographer, as manifested by the pictures shown on this page, so I'm not expecting any ROI from the purchase of this lens. Having said that, for the money I spent (HK$1,600 + P950 other charges) I am not going to complain.

This lens is giving me the "fun" factor, and I think that is what matters most for any of my hobbies I am into.

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