In my last update I mentioned I had bought a Kodak Gear 78-215mm F/4.5-5.6 in Canon EOS mount for peanuts and that I was quite optimistic about it's capabilities considering it's price and I'm pleased to say I was right. This lens is essentially a re-badged Tamron that was also available under the Tiffen name. The true focal length is 80-210mm and the Kodak version can be had with both 80-210 and 78-215 written on the side but they both report as a 80-210 in EXIF information.
Build quality and finish:
The lens has a lot of plastic in it's build but is certainly well put together and even the manual focus ring, while small compared to days of old is still superior to most of Canon's own efforts in this price range and benefits from a rubber grip. The lens is very compact and light which makes it ideal for when you don't want to be weighed down by too much equipment. The lens even comes with a custom Kodak bag that has room for the lens plus one more and a few filters, a really nice touch and along with the lens hood exhibits how stingy Canon et all are with their lower end products, often making you pay extra for such accessories. The focus motor is a bit noisy but not too bad, you can't expect a silent motor in this price range. The focus action is acceptably swift but accuracy appears to become worse the further towards the long end of the zoom you go.
This is where the lens shines for me, the colours it produces are very vivid and eye catching and contrast was strong regardless of aperture of focal length. The sharpness was good wide open up till about 135-150mm where it began to tail off slightly but by stopping down to F/8 bought the sharpness right back. You can actually get fairly sharp images wide open at full tele but the autofocus seems to be inaccurate enough to miss slightly most of the time, this may well be partly thanks to my 350D too but I found it safer to just stop down when at the long end. With a camera that has a better AF system the lens may perform better in terms of focusing at 210mm and if you had live view you could obviously tweak the focus manually.
By clicking on these images you can go to flickr where a larger version is available:
Overall this is another one of those bargain autofocus lenses that can be picked up for next to nothing and delivers surprisingly good results, I have better lenses but they cost many times as much and are also much heavier. These lenses crop up on eBay a few times a month and if you need a telephoto zoom on a budget or like me you just like a bargain I recommend giving it a try!