Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD: Something Different?

 
Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD

Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD

The stabilisation of the Tamron 24–70mm f/2.8 VC differentiates it from its Nikon and Canon counterparts, but is that enough? Shridhar Kunte finds out.

Nikon and Canon has enjoyed vast success with their fast aperture standard zoom lenses. Third-party lens manufacturers have tried to venture into this orbit, but without much success. Tamron had earlier introduced the SP 28–75mm f/2.8 XR, but with newer technologies coming to the fore, the company has now introduced the SP 24–70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD, the first lens of its kind with image stabilisation.

Features

Besides being unique, it is also the first lens from the company that has f/2.8, VC (Vibration Compensation) and a USD motor. The motor allows quick, silent AF with fulltime manual focus override. The lens construction is extremely complex. The lens consists of 17 elements in 12 groups. To overcome the deficiencies of the construction, extensive use of special optics is employed. There are three LD (Low Dispersion) lenses and two XR (Extra Refractive Index) lenses. With the zoom action, the overall length of the lens varies but this is not the case with focusing.

Photograph/ Shridhar Kunte

Photograph/ Shridhar Kunte

The front element of the lens does not rotate while focusing—a big plus for CPL users. The lens accepts 82mm filters; this is a real pain in India. Filters of this diameter are not only difficult to get, they are also more expensive. I think the larger diameter was essential for the aperture of f/2.8 and to accommodate the VC mechanism. While VC is useful enough for stills, it will make the lens popular amongst filmmakers.

Handling

With an overall weight of 825g, the lens feels really solid. When mounted on a Nikon D800, the package becomes hefty but the balance of the camera-lens combination is quite good. The lens mount is metallic and the circumference of the mount is fitted with weather sealing gasket. The outer parts are made from engineering plastics.

The zoom ring is covered with rubberised textured material. The focusing ring is narrow, but can easily be rotated for manual focusing. The focusing distance scale is clearly marked in feet as well as metres, but I felt the need of a depth-of-field scale, which is missing on this lens. The AF/MF switch is a bit hard to reach with the left thumb, while keeping a firm grip over the lens barrel.

Performance

The lens exhibits decent edge-to-edge sharpness up to 50mm, but the quality does not compare to the excellence displayed by Nikon and Canon’s proprietary lenses. At 70mm, images shot at f/2.8 have soft edges. High-resolution sensors like that of the Nikon D800 pose a few problems for this lens, and one needs to stop down to f/5.6 or f/8 to get optimum sharpness over the entire focal length.

The focusing mechanism is very quiet, but it is not as quick as Canon’s or Nikon’s. There is no hint of chromatic aberration or flare.

The quality of bokeh is quite good, but the lens is not as sharp as its Nikon or Canon counterparts. Exposure: 1/20sec at f/6.3 (ISO 3200) Photograph/ Shridhar Kunte

The quality of bokeh is quite good, but the lens is not as sharp as its Nikon or Canon counterparts.
Exposure: 1/20sec at f/6.3 (ISO 3200) Photograph/ Shridhar Kunte

When I was using the lens on the D7100, I faced no problem with distortion over the entire focal length. But with the full frame D800, barrel distortion is noticeable at 24mm. Also, when zoomed at 70mm, a bit of pincushion distortion is observed. At mid focal lengths there is nothing to complain about. I tried some panning shots with VC and I consistently managed to get sharp images. Our tests found the VC to give an advantage of 3 stops.

Conclusion

This lens is available at an attractive price of Rs 77,800, which is about half the price as compared to Canon and Nikon! But then, though the proprietary lenses are far more expensive, they are far better performers as well. If you use an expensive full frame camera, especially one that has a demanding sensor like the D800, you would not want to compromise on the optics, even if you get the added advantage of VC.

The new Tamron 24–70mm f/2.8 VC, thus, is recommended mainly for those who shoot a lot of handheld video, and wish to throw the background out of focus. For most others, it does not do enough to displace the popularity that the proprietary lenses enjoy. Of course, if you are on a budget, you can get this one, or also look at the much cheaper non-VC lens 28–75mm f/2.8 lens from Tamron.

FINAL RATINGS
Features
Fast aperture, Vibration Compensation, USD motor for autofocus
17/20
Performance
Good VC performance, AF not as fast as proprietary lenses, soft at 70mm at f/2.8
26/35
Build Quality
Solid build, weather sealed
22/25
Ergonomics
No DOF scale, fulltime manual focus override
12/15
Warranty & Support
Limited number of service centres
2/5

 

MRP Rs. 77,800
OVERALL 79%
VALUE FOR MONEY 4/5 Stars
Who should buy it? Filmmakers who value image stabilisation and wish to throw the background out of focus.
Why? This is the only stabilised fast standard zoom for full frame. For still photographers, while it is priced very well, it is not as sharp as the proprietary options.
Tags: Shridhar Kunte, better photography, Tamron, may, Tamron 24–70mm f/2.8 VC, Image Stabilisation, interchangeable lens, 2013