Many people regard the 70-200 f/2.8 lens as a necessity for portrait photographers. However, I have always preferred to get up close with my subjects during a session. My bag has always had a trio of prime lenses (35mm, 45 or 50mm, and 85mm) for most purposes. I also have a 100mm macro lens, which is my longest lens. I kept wondering what I was missing not having a 70-200 f/2.8 in my arsenal. There have been a few times when I’ve really wished I had one.

I recently had the opportunity to get a Tamron 70-200 f/2.8SP DI VC USD(A009) from KEH, and I knew it would be the perfect lens to take on a family trip to Tennessee, where we spent a day out on the lake and visited a hobby farm with goats and chickens.

The lens was rated EX and looked flawless to me. Like all 70-200 f/2.8 lenses, it was heavy—weighing in at a little over 3 pounds. I could have used a tripod or monopod to help ease the weight, but that doesn’t fit with my shooting style. Because this lens is a slighter older model (released in late 2012 for Nikon), it was a terrific bargain at under $900. Especially when compared with other 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses available.

To try the portrait capabilities of the lens, I had my daughter and her cousins pose for some quick pictures. I love how the lens compression separated my subjects from the woods in the background. I felt a bit far away while we were shooting, but I can definitely see where this lens could fit into my client portrait sessions.

Nikon D800 | 130mm | ISO 400 | f/3.5 | 1/500 sec.

When we visited the farm, I spent a lot of time in the pen with the goats and chickens taking pictures and trying to test out the focus accuracy of the lens. Turns out farm animals move very quickly, so it was a challenge to nail focus. My primes lenses may have focused more quickly and accurately, but it’s hard to say. And I really liked having the ability to zoom, so I could react more quickly as the animals darted around the pen. I didn’t have to chase the animals around, and could zoom in on the goats’ faces even when I was further away. I don’t normally shoot farm animals, so this was a fun new experience.

A Week with the Tamron 70-200 f/2.8- Gear Review by Kelley Krohnert Nikon D800 | 200mm | ISO 1600 | f/3.2 | 1/400 sec.
A Week with the Tamron 70-200 f/2.8- Gear Review by Kelley Krohnert Nikon D800 | 98mm | ISO 800 | f/4.5 | 1/640 sec.

As evening fell, I wanted to try out the lens in low-light situations with a non-moving subject. It was a surprise how sharp these turned out, even at ISO 2500. I used a slower shutter speed as well to test out the vibration compensation with my shaky hands, and it did not disappoint. When zoomed in 100%, the fine print at the bottom of the sign is perfectly clear.

A Week with the Tamron 70-200 f/2.8- Gear Review by Kelley Krohnert Nikon D800 | 110mm | ISO 2500 | f/3.2 | 1/100 sec.

In addition to being a great portrait lens, I know a lot of moms who swear that the 70-200mm f/2.8 is ideal for shooting youth sports. I was excited to take the lens out on the boat for some water sports. After shooting all day, I have to admit, the lens really did seem like the perfect choice. It performed great in the bright sun and was quick to focus. The longer end of the zoom range was great for photographing tubing and skiing.

Overall, I really loved the flexibility of the lens. The zoom range is perfect for shooting a variety of subjects, and the wide aperture makes it great for low light. The sharpness was impressive, even when shooting fairly wide open at f/3.2. It was heavy, but not as bad as I expected. I shot about 1,700 images over the course of just a few days without my arm getting too tired. I wasn’t sure what I’d think of a lens this big and different from my primes, but it was a workhorse I’d recommend.

A Week with the Tamron 70-200 f/2.8- Gear Review by Kelley Krohnert Nikon D800 | 145mm | ISO 400 | f/4.5 | 1/2000 sec.
A Week with the Tamron 70-200 f/2.8- Gear Review by Kelley Krohnert Nikon D800 | 200mm | ISO 160 | f/3.5 | 1/1600 sec.