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Pro quality mid-range zoom
Can an independent-manufactured, mid-range, large-aperture zoom fulfill the demands of professional photography use?
The Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC Lens, which is available at Adorama in Nikon and Canon mounts, is clearly aimed at providing an enticing, high-value alternative to the popular 24-70mm f/2.8s offered by major camera makers. These lenses, which cover both full-frame and APS-C formats, are the mainstays of wedding and events photographers, photojournalists, and professional video shooters who prize their framing flexibility, handy size, and f/2.8 constant apertures that can yield striking pictorial effects by exploiting their very shallow depth of field when shooting wide open. They’re also very useful for shooting in low light or at night without flash, and they provide a bright viewing image at all focal lengths while giving users an edge in AF speed.
Flag Day Parade: At its widest 24mm setting the Tamron’s 24-70 covers and impressive sweep while delivering outstanding corner-to-corner image quality at f/11. Exposure data: 1/160 sec handheld at f/11, ISO 100. All photos shot with Canon EOS 5D Mark II. Photo © Jim Di Perna.
YouTuba: Good definition and depth of field in reflected image is enhanced by nice out-of-focus bokeh in foreground and background. Exposure data: 1/1600 sec at f/5.6, ISO 400. Photo © Jim Di Perna.
Tamron’s new 24-70mm f/2.8 is an SP-class lens claimed to provide superior imaging performance, and its optical specs are impressively cutting edge. Its 12-group 17-element construction includes 3 LD (low dispersion) elements, 3 Glass Molded aspheric elements, one hybrid aspheric element, and two XR (Extra Refractive index) elements, all said to enhance color correction and overall image quality.
Nathaniel, age 2: Casual portrait of toddler shows good definition at point of focus (eyes) despite slow shutter, showing effectiveness of VC image stabilization. Shallow depth of field at f/2.8 softens distracting background elements. Exposure data: 1/25 sec at f/2.8, ISO 800.
Its nearly circular 9-bladed diaphragm helps in delivering smooth transitions in out-of-focus areas of the image for beautiful bokeh. The lens features moisture-resistant “weatherproof” construction, and an ultrasonic drive (USD) motor for swift, silent AF. Finally, it incorporates the latest, compact, lightweight Moving Coil version of Tamron’s VC (Vibration Compensation) system of image stabilization, which helps reduce the size of the lens and provides up to a 4-stop anti-shake advantage when shooting handheld at slow shutter speeds.
Side-lit Abstract: Note outstanding definition and detail in leaves, vine tendrils, and wall textures in image shot at a relatively wide aperture. Exposure data: 1/2500 sec at f/4.5, 56mm focal length, ISO 400.
For a lens of this range and aperture, Tamron’s new 24-70mm is reasonably compact and lightweight, measuring 3.5 inches wide and 4.6 inches long (at 24mm) and weighing in at 29.1 ounces, a virtual dead heat with its major camera maker competitors. The Tamron is beautifully balanced on both full-frame and APS-C-forma DSLRs, and it’s gorgeously finished in a distinctive satin black pattern. Its textured rubberized 1-1/4-inch-wide zoom ring and 3/8-inch-wide manual focus ring are easy to grasp and turn with commendable smoothness.
Flag & Flowers: Excellent sharpness at point of focus (upper flag edge and stars) with beautiful bokeh in floral background enhance the pictorial quality of this image. Exposure data: 1/4000 sec at f/2.8, 53mm focal length, ISO 400. Below: Fine flag fabric detail at 100% resolution.
I appreciated the well-damped manual-focus action when we set the side-mounted tab from AF to MF. There’s also a tab below it that lets you turn the VC on and off, and a locking tab on the zoom ring that lets you lock the lens at its 24mm setting when transporting it. However, zoom creep is not a problem with this lens, which, by the way, takes 82mm filters.
Hilltop Mansion, Coxsackie, NY: Superb definition at wide- open aperture—note fine details at top or roof including cast iron railing, ornate chimney, etc. and absence of chromatic aberration fringing in white edge borders in 100% detail below. Note slight vignetting in extreme corners of the image, a common occurrence when shooting with wide-angle lenses at maximum aperture. It can be eliminated by stopping the lens down to a moderate aperture (see Flag Day Parade image, above, shot at 24mm and f/11.) Exposure: 1/8000 sec at f/2.8, 27mm focal length, ISO 400.
Shooting with this lens was a very pleasant experience, and we were really impressed with its overall field performance. The fact that the front of the lens extends an additional 1-1/4 inches when you zoom it from 24-70mm has no discernible effect on its excellent balance. Flare suppression was excellent even in high-flare situations, and the furnished petal-shaped lens hood did a good job in shielding the front of the lens from harsh sidelight. AF speed and accuracy compare favorably with a Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L (street price $1,600) we had on hand, but we did not have a chance to compare it to the latest L II version (street price about $2,300) or Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S (street price approximately $1,900).
In terms of image quality, the Tamron 24-70mm Di VC does indeed deliver truly professional performance throughout its focal length and aperture range. Sharpness and contrast at maximum aperture are outstanding, and the lens’s ability to resolve fine details at all apertures is exceptional. I found the VC system to be effective in minimizing the effects of camera shake, which is particularly important at the 70mm setting. I judge the minimum focusing distance of 1.5 feet (a maximum magnification ratio of 1:5) to provide sufficient close-up capability for most situations. True, Canon’s latest 24-70mm f/2.8 L II Canon can focus a few inches closer, and it even has a fingerprint-resistant fluorine coating, but those are relatively minor points when you consider the $1,000 difference in price.
Bob on his porch: Informal portrait shows exquisite detail at point of focus (subject’s right eye), and skin textures. Shallow depth of field softens distracting window frame in background. Exposure data: 1/800 sec at f/2.8, 70mm focal length, ISO 400.
Conclusion and Recommendation
Any serious enthusiast or pro in the market for a fast, high-performance, constant-aperture mid-range zoom, with the flexibility to go from true wide-angle on full-frame to portrait telephoto (108mm equivalent) on APS-C should definitely take a good hard look at this jewel from Tamron. Yes, the Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC Lens's current Adorama price of $1,299 it may still put a dent in your wallet, but you may rest assured it’s an excellent value.