First Look: Tamron’s SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD
One of the questions that Shutterbug readers often ask me is if non-camera brand lenses are any good. The truth is pretty much what you would expect: They are often as good as camera-brand lenses, sometimes better and sometimes worse but the same could be said of the camera brand lenses themselves. Some are good, some are great while others are not so hot. Over the years I’ve used many non-camera brand lenses from Sigma to Tamron to Vivitar.
Back in my manual focus film shooting days some of my favorite lenses were the Sigma 16mm f/2.8 and the Vivitar 24-48mm Series 1 when the whole idea of wide-to-wide lenses was quite new. Today if you check out my gear page you’ll see that I am happily shooting Tamron’s SP 10-24mm F/3.5-4.5 Di II and 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD lenses. A recent addition is Tamron’s new SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD and here’s a First Look at this interesting lens.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS: While the focal length range seems like an excellent choice as a do-anything all-around lens, it’s also a serious lenses for serious photographers. You can tell by it’s fast maximum aperture, $1299 price tag (in Nikon and Canon mounts) and hefty weight—it’s 29.1 oz. Newcomers to Tamron might need a road map to the acronyms and abbreviations they use so here goes:
Tamron’s Di lenses are optimized for digital SLRs with sensors that are usually referred to as APS-C (24mm x 16mm.) The only camera I have meeting that definition is the Canon EOS 60D whose sensor measures 22.3 x 14.9mm so I guess that’s going to have to be close enough. On the D60 that translates into a 38-112mm equivalent field-of-view. On a Nikon system camera like Mary’s D5100 (Yes, she’s a Nikon shooter now) it produces 36-105mm, which includes the “hot button” focal length of 105mm for her.
VC (Vibration Compensation) is image stabilization that can reduce image shake at up to four stops faster than you or I can easily hand hold the camera and lens. When combined with the fast f/2.8 maximum aperture this looks like a practical lens for available light portraiture, which just happens to be the title of my forthcoming book from Amherst Media. USD (Ultrasonic Silent Drive) is the type of AF drive that together with the continuous manual focus control (Full-Time Manual) the 24-70mm lens uses produces speedy autofocus and with that wide aperture makes is useful under low light situations. Front glass measures 82mm and while every time I mention putting a Skylight or UV filter on a lens I get e-mail from purists who disagree, I feel that—too me—this is an expensive lens and I want to protect it. It’s your money so you can spend it on new filters or scratched replacing lens elements. Whatever you decide to do, be sure to use the bundled lens hood for additional protection and reduce the possibility of flare, always a possibility with wide-angle zooms when the sun creeps into the frame.
This SP (Super Performance) series lens uses three LD and two XR (Extra Refractive Index) elements to minimize chromatic aberration and its rounded diaphragm produces wonderful bokeh at f2/8 making it useful for portraits, landscapes, and studio shoots— something I plan to do with it shortly and will post results. Tamron’s SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD is a shot across the bow at camera makers and makes a bold statement that they can produce lenses as good, if not better than theirs. I’m excited to put it though its paces and will have updates here with photographs and additional impressions as I spend more time with the lens.