Summary

Highly Recommended awardThe Tamron 24-70/2.8 VC delivers a pretty good overall performance - only the FX-corners disappoint especially at 35mm. On an unforgiving 36MP full-frame body you need to stop down to f5.6 to lift FX-corner performance to near good levels. Use it on a 12-16MP full frame/FX-body and you might be more satisfied with border/corner performance. Nonetheless the lens is a worthy (not to mention cheaper) alternative to the original manufacturers' offerings. On a DX-body it mostly delivers good to very good performance, even reaching excellent levels in the center (at 50-70mm from f4 onwards).

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Tamron 24-70mm f2.8 VC review
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Intro

The Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD is a new 2.9x zoom that was announced April 2012 and is the first ever stabilized large-aperture standard-zoom compatible with full-frame DSLRs. With its gold-ring, constant f2.8 aperture, and a price-tag of around 1000 EUR it is in direct/fierce competition to Nikon’s own professional AF-S 24-70/2.8G Nikkor or Canon’s EF 24-70mm 2.8 II L USM. This makes it a very interesting lens that is indeed one-of-a-kind.

You could of course also use the Tamron 24-70mm on a APS-C/DX body where it gives you an equivalent 36-105mm coverage plus future-proofing should you upgrade to a full-frame/FX-body in the future. Complement this lens with any APS-C/DX 10-24mm wide-angle zoom and you can seamlessly cover a 7x zoom-range from ultra-wide-angle to short tele with only two lenses.

The Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 VC is available in Nikon, Canon-, and Sony-mount, although the latter does not offer vibration control (VC) as Sony-bodies sport body-based image-stabilization; that said the Sony-variant without VC is no cheaper than the optically stabilized versions for the other two mounts. In this review I’ll put Tamron’s SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD zoom to the test on a Nikon D800 to see whether the lens is a good match for the highest resolution 36 Megapixel DSLR.

 

Facts from the catalog

As usual I’ll have a look at the technical data first. I’ve rated the features with a [+] (or [++]), when it’s better than average or even state of the art, a [0] if it’s standard or just average, and [-] if there’s a disadvantage.

Size (diam. x length): 88 x 109 mm (3.5 x 4.3 in). It’s a little thicker (+5mm) but substantially shorter (-24mm) than Nikon’s AF-S 24-70/2.8G and thus looks less conspicuous – when zoomed-out to 24mm. But zooming in adds another 30mm to the length of the lens and at 70mm it is not much shorter than Nikon’s. [0]

Weight: 825g (29oz) vs. 900g of the Nikon 24-70/2.8G or 805g of the Canon. Together with a full frame body you’ll be schlepping 1.7kg around. [0]

Optics: 17 elements in 12 groups. Twelve groups have 24 air/glass-surfaces that produce a lot of opportunities for flares and ghosts. We’ll see how this works out in praxis. The cross-section shows a lot of special elements: four aspherical and two low-dispersion and 2 extra-refractive elements. [+]

Closest focus distance/max. magnification: 0.38 m (15 in.) / 1:5. In my test I was able to go down to 1:4.6. This is not bad for capturing nature close-up – see one of my images from the gallery. [+]

Filter-thread: 82mm = as big as what Canon’s needs, Nikon’s lens works with the more standard 77mm. [0]

IS: Yes = helps a lot, Nikon and Canon are no match in this respect. [+]

AF: USD (ultra sonic drive), does work on D60/3×00/5×00-Nikons or similar drive-less bodies from Canon, and there’s manual-focus override by simply turning the focus ring [+]

Covers full frame/FX or smaller = very good [+]

Price: around 1000 EUR new (incl. 19% VAT) = reasonable. The alternatives from Nikon, Sony and Canon are 50-100% more expensive. [+]

Lens-shade is included and reversible for transport, the front lens-cap is of the pincer-type and the rear lens-cap can be mounted in each the the three possible orientations (unlike Sigma’s). But there’s no lens pouch. [0]

Distance information is relayed to the camera, so the Nikon body can do all the advanced exposure-related stuff with this lens. But this is true for all alternatives too. [+]

Aperture ring = no, just like all competitors. [0]

Sealing: yes! A rubber grommet at the lens-mount, like with the Nikon or Canon. [+]

The score in the “features-department” is 0[-]/5[0]/8[+]. All-in-all the lens ticks all important boxes. And the missing lens-pouch and the larger than usual filter thread are easily compensated for by the relatively low price.

Motivation

:

A stabilized 2.9x zoom with a focal range of 24-70mm may be your best choice for a full-frame/FX-body when you want to be prepared for many standard situations but want a larger maximum aperture and better image quality than you would expect from kit-zooms. It is arguably the best zoom range and focal ratio for wedding and portrait photographers.

At 24mm shortest focal length it lets you capture a crowd in tighter spaces or shoot architecture. And the 70mm on the long end gives you some reach and working distance for classic portraits and street-photography although you may find it too short on a full-frame/FX-body in some situations. It has a one stop larger aperture than kit-zooms and its image stabilization should add another 2-4 stops over a non-stabilized alternative. That gives you quite an advantage of hand-holding power under dim or fading light. Be aware though that image-stabilization is no advantage for fast-moving subjects like children or sports. In the latter shooting situations you should crank-up the ISO to get faster shutter-times.

Alternatives

:

– The Nikon AF-S 24-70mm f2.8G ED: Not stabilized and at 1500 EUR it’s 50% more expensive. This pro-lens from Nikon claims better performance. But only a direct shootout can tell.
– From Sigma there’s the AF 24-70mm f2.8 EX DG HSM. It’s the cheapest alternative at around 750EUR. Non-stabilized like all the others and 15mm shorter than the Tamron with the focus ring in front and the zoom-ring near the camera. Tests showed it to have pretty poor border/corner-performance wide open.
– For Canon users there’s the Canon EF 24-70mm f2.8 II L USM at around 2200 EUR. The most expensive lens of the group, but still not stabilized.
– And Sony users have the Sony AF 24-70mm 2.8 (what, no fancy acronyms?), at around 1800 EUR it’s the second most expensive lens. Stabilization is granted through the body-based image-stabilization of Sony DSLRs.

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