Tamron 15-30mm f2.8 Di VC USD Review
At the start of the 2015 music season in China, my Nikon 16-35 F4 lens fell apart on the second day of a festival. This left me in big trouble for the festival so I decided to incorporate my Fujifilm XT1 with the Fujifilm XF 10-24 F4 lens as its replacement. This would give me the same focal length as my Nikon and I thought the lighter camera would be great on an all-day shoot. Two months later, I was pulling out my hair with that combination and I decided to order the Tamron 15-30 F2.8 lens as a replacement. It was supposed to be a whole stop of light faster than my Nikon lens that it was replacing and I had heard good things about this lens online. So I ordered the lens in China and it arrived the next day.
I had heard that this lens was a beast, really heavy, but I have shoot with some big glass so I was not really worried about it too much. But oh boy, they were right, this lens is truly a beast in size. It is heavy, and chunky. It is much thicker than the older Nikon lens but it felt really well constructed.
I will say this right up front, I have mostly used this lens at work only, as it is really heavy and I did not want to carry this lens with me while I was out around town or going to visit some tourist attractions. I simply think this lens is too heavy for that and will not be fun to use.
So let’s get to the lens review. The lens is a super-wide-angle lens with image stabilization, weather sealing and a bulbous front element with a fluorine coating that is supposedd to reduce water and dirt build up on the lens. This sounds great to me, as I often shoot in terrible weather and I love the stabilization on my two other Tamron lenses, so this lens sounded perfect for me.
The lens is really well built for a modern lens, it is weather sealing and a special eBAND coating which reduces internal reflections and thus effectively minimize ghosting and flare. Even though the lens is made of plastic, it is a heavy lens but it feels incredibly solid. I would hate to know how heavy this lens would be if it was made out of metal. The zoom ring offers just the right amount of resistance to work comfortably. I like everything about the build of this lens except the front bulbous element. I am so worried that I am going to scratch it and I am extremely careful when I walk around. When the lens is set to 15mm, the bulb sticks out a lot so when I will walk around with this lens, I always zoom into the 30mm which hides the bulb behind the build-in lens hood. But this is the only negative thing I can say about this lens. The lens hood of this lens is built into the body of the lens and is made of extremely thick plastic. The lens hood obviously does a good job with flaring but I often use the lens hood to protect the lens as well, which I don’t think this lens hood will be capable of doing. The front element will extend past the lens hood when the lens is zoomed out at 15mm.
I really like the images that the lens produces, the lens is really sharp wide open, and it is sharp throughout the frame. I like the colors that the lens produces as well, it is slightly warmer than the Nikon lens that I have and is certainly much sharper.
The lens handles difficult lighting situations incredibly well, I could not get the lens to flair at work. I often shooting into the sun during the day and into bright lights at night, but I have not had one single photo with any flaring at all. If the lens is capable of flaring, then I have yet to shoot it in those conditions. That new special eBAND coating is really doing an amazing job. The lens handles chromatic abortions extremely well. Even when shooting in some high contrast scenes, I have found almost no chromatic abortions to speak of. This lens goes to prove that Tamron has really picked up their game over the last few years and they are engineering some top quality glass for us photographers to play or work with. As far as image quality is concerned, you really could not expect the lens to perform any better. Sure there is so distortion at the wide end, but this is a super-wide angle, there has to be some distortion at that angle but it is extremely well controlled.
There is no doubt that this lens outperforms the Nikon 16-35 F4 lens when shot wide open and when stopped down to F4, it is completely in another class compared to the Nikon 16-35 F4 lens. Not that the Nikon lens is bad, I have used the lens for a few years and loved it, but the Tamron is just so much better. I have never shot the Nikon 14-24 though, so I cannot compare it to that lens.
Shooting this lens in both good light and daylight is a real pleasure. It focuses really quickly, quietly and accurately. It does not hunt and it nails the focus all the time. Being such a wide lens, the lens has a lot of depth of field so focusing really should not be a problem. Again I would say the auto-focus is just a little faster and more accurate than the Nikon lens. I have absolutely no problem with the auto-focus on this lens. Even when shooting in the dark, the auto-focus is very fast and decisive. There is no hunting around.
I was always impressed by the image stabilization of the Nikon 16-35 f4 lens and for a long time it was my best lens for shooting in low light with slow shutter speeds, but this lens image stabilization is just a little step better in my opinion. I took the lens with me one day to shoot a lantern festival and I was shooting with some very slow shutter speeds, up to one second and I was consistently getting sharp photos with the lens. I will say this, as of right now, I own three Tamron lens, and their stabilizing is so much better than any of my Nikon lens.
I really love this lens and I am absolutely not sorry that I spent a large sum of money on this lens. I am sure that this lens will give me great photos at work and if I ever do shoot this lens out for a shoot when I am not working, I know it will give me some great shots. But this lens is not perfect, well the lens is really good but Tamron has taken some real liberties with their marketing on this lens.
There are two very big misleading things about the advertising of this lens, and I think people really should be aware of these. Let’s start with the biggest one and that is the speed of the lens. This lens may be marketed at F2.8, it will register on your camera at an F2.8 but it is not an F2.8 lens. Go shoot any F2.8 lens manually, and then put this lens on your camera and you will see that you are under-exposing by a little. I am not the only person who has noticed this. I would guess the lens is really around an F3.0 and Tamron decided to round down to F2.8 because that sounds a whole lot sexier than a constant F3.0 lens.
The next that people should know is that this lens is not a true 15mm lens. When I first started to use it, I noticed it was almost exactly the same viewing angle as the Nikon 16-35 F4 lens and that my Fujifilm 10-24 F4 lens was wider. The Fuji lens is a 15mm lens on the wide end so when I used the Tamron, I could clearly compare the two together and the Tamron is simply just not as wide as it should be. It is hard to calculate but I guess this lens is a 15.7mm lens and Tamron is being consistent and rounding the number down. Now I cannot blame the lens for Tamron deceptive marketing. The lens is absolutely brilliant and from an engineering standpoint, it beats the pants off the Nikon and squeaks ahead of the Fuji with sharpness, auto-focus and image stabilization. So to knock a lens for the marketing team’s fault is simply not fair but it is the only negative thing I can say about this lens.
Tamron has gone on to prove that they really know how to make top class glass now and are beating Nikon at their own game. I have replaced more than half my Nikon lens with Tamron lens recently and I have done this because their lens continues to impress me. I have to buy all my own lens, I don’t have any kind of sponsorship, so before I spend any money, I do a lot of research on a lens. It is hard to find someone saying anything negative about this lens. It is simply a great lens that any photographer looking for a solid super-wide-angle lens will be a fool not to consider this lens. During the Chinese winter, I am basically not working so I sent my Nikon 16-35mm F4 lens in to be repaired by Nikon and now that I have it back, it is basically the backup lens and never gets used as the Tamron lens is simply a much better lens.
An amazing lens, one of the best lens that I have ever bought. I could not be happier with this lens and after using it at about 10 music festivals and looking at the results, I have completely satisfied with my purchasing choice. When it comes to buying a lens, I have learned the hard way. Buy right, and only buy once. Buy the wrong lens and you will have to eventually drop more money and buy the right one in the end.
- Image Quality: 5 out of 5
- Focus speed: 5 out of 5
- Build quality: 4.5 out of 5