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Tamron 24-70mm f2.8 SP Di USD VC Review

by Bob Atkins, June 2012


The Tamron SP 24-70mm Di VC USD, (compare prices) is the first, and as far as I know only, 24-70mm f2.8 which incorporates an active image stabilization system within the lens. The Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G ED AF-S, (compare prices) and Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM, (compare prices) (review) are both unstabilized and even the new Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM, (compare prices) does not have stabilization.

The Tamron AF 24-70mm f/2.8 SP Di USD VC is quite a complex design with three low dispersion (LD) elements, two high refractive index (XR) elements, three glass molded aspheric elements and one hybrid aspheric element. In addition, the iris is 9 bladed and the blades are shaped to produce a circular aperture when the lens is stopped down for smoother out of focus areas (better “bokeh”). Clearly Tamron intend this to be a high quality lens.

While not inexpensive at a price of around $1300, the Tamron lens is nevertheless less expensive then either the Nikon 24-70/2.8 ($1800) or the new Canon 24-70/2.8L II USM ($2300). So with the lower cost and optical stabilization, the Tamron lens has a lot going for it.

Specifications

Model A007
Lens Construction (Groups/Elements) 12/17
Angle of View (diagonal)
84°04’ -34°21’ (for full frame 35mm format cameras)
60°20’ -22°33’ (for APS-C format cameras)
Diaphragm Blade Number 9 (rounded diaphragm)
Minimum Aperture F/22
Minimum Focus Distance 0.38m (15.0 in)
Macro Magnification Ratio 1:5 (at f=70mm: MFD 0.38m)
Filter Diameter 82mm
Weight 825g (29.1 oz)
Length 108.5mm (4.3 in)
Full Length 116.9mm (4.6 in)
Diameter 88.2mm (3.5 in)
Accessory Flower-shaped Lens hood
Mount Canon
Nikon
Sony (no VC)

The Tamron 24-70/2.8 VC USD uses an Ultrasonic Drive AF motor which provides fast and silent autofocus and also allows full time manual focus, so even in AF mode the focus can be manually adjusted without having to switch from AF to MF. Stabilization (or VC – Vibration Compensation in Tamron terminology) can be manually switched on or off.

The lens is finished in the usual black matte color of Tamron lenses and has the gold “SP” stripe. There’s a wide rubberized zoom ring towards the front of the lens, with a zoom lock feature at the 24mm setting, and a narrower rubberized ring towards the back of the lens for manual focus. Ther is a distance scale, but no IR focus indication of DOF markings. Neither the focusing ring nor the filter threads rotate during autofocus. Zoom action is smooth and the lens extends by about 30mm when zoomed from 24mm to 70mm.

Tamron supply a bayonet mounting “petal” shaped hood with the 24-70/2.8 VC. The lens also comes with Tamron’s 6 year warranty.

Performance

Focus

Focus is fast and virtually silent. I measured the time to go from one focus extreme to the other at around 0.3 seconds. When mounted on an EOS 7D I could see no difference between AF and MF using live view with 10x magnification which indicates that focus was accurate. Actual images confirmed this observation.

Distortion

The Tamron 24-70/2.8 VC shows significant distortion at the 24mm setting. I measured it at about -3.5% (barrel distortion) This is quite noticeable if the subject of the image fills the frame and has horizontal and/or vertical lines at the edges. However, distortion at 24mm seems to be typical of the 24-70/2.8 lenses and both the Nikon and Canon versions show visible distortion (but slightly less than the Tamron). The Tamron distortion is lower than that of the Canon EF24-105/4L.

As the lens is zoomed out distortion quickly drops. It’s hardly noticeable at 35mm and 50mm. By 70mm the character of the distortion has reversed and there is a moderate (~1%) amount of pincushion distortion.

Distortion is fairly easy to correct (or at least minimize) in post exposure processing.

Vignetting

As with distortion, vignetting is also most noticeable at the 24mm setting. With the lens at f2.8, the corners of the full frame image are a little over 2 stops darker than the center. Again however, this is pretty typical behavior for a 24-70/2.8 lens used wide open and both the Nikon and Canon lenses show almost as much vignetting. As the lens is stopped down the vignetting becomes less, though even at f8 there is still a little visible vignetting on a full frame image at 24mm.

Wide open vignetting is visible at all focal lengths, though it’s smaller in magnitude once the lens is zoomed out from 24mm. between 35mm and 70mm it’s around 1.5 stops at f2.8, dropping to maybe 0.5 stop by f8.

Chromatic Aberration

Chromatic aberration is very well controlled in the Tamron 24-70/2.8 VC. Even at the corners of the frame at 24mm CA is barely visible. On a high contrast black stripe, a measured about 1 pixel width of red on the outside and 1 pixel width of cyan on the inside. This low level of CA was pretty consistent across the focal length and aperture range.

Stabilization

The Tamron 24-70/2.8 has internal optical stabilization. Sensors detect lens movement and automatically moves a small group of elements in such a manner as to keep the image projected onto the sensor steady. You can see the effect quite clearly in the viewfinder. It does take a small fraction of a second for the stabilization to lock in once the shutter is 1/2 pressed, so it’s best to make sure the lens has stabilized before fully releasing the shutter.

It’s always difficult testing the effectiveness of stabilization because you’re just looking at the probability of getting a sharp shot. Stabilization doesn’t mean you’ll always have a sharp image at a slow shutter speed and the lack of stabilization doesn’t mean you’ll never get a sharp image at that same slow shutter speed.

After shooting quite a lot of test images at various shutter speeds, I came to the conclusion that the stabilization is typically worth 2-3 stops. Tamron claim 4 stops and I’ve no doubt that on occasion 4 stops can be achieved, but I wouldn’t bet on any particular shot shot at 4 stops slower than the normal lowest speed for hand-holding being sharp. Take a few shots and you’ve a better chance that one of them might be!

Sharpness

Unless otherwise stated, all comments relate to the Tamron 24-70/2.8VC mounted on a Canon EOS 5D full frame DSLR.

The Tamron 24-70/2.8 VC is sharp in the center at all focal lengths and apertures. At 24mm and 35mm there’s virtually no increase in resolution if the lens is stopped down. At 50 and 70mm there’s a very slight resolution improvement if the lens is stopped down a stop or two. However as far as center sharpness, resolution and contrast go, there’s no concern about shooting this lens wide open.

On a full frame image the corners are visibly less sharp than the center and at all focal lengths the corner image quality improves as the lens is stopped down. The optimum aperture for the corners is around f8. Overall, considering both center and corner sharpness, the “sweet spot” for the Tamron 24-70/2.8 VC is in the f5.6-f8 region.

Compared with the Canon 24-105/4L the Tamron 24-70/2.8 VC showed sharper corners at equal apertures. It was also sharper in the corners at 24mm than a Nikon 24-70/2.8 that I tested on a Nikon D800.

Center sharpness, as measured with the Tamron lens on an EOS 7D was very similar to that of a Nikon 24-70/2.8 mounted on a Nikon D800, which is to say very good.

Conclusions

The Tamron 24-70/2.8 VC is a good lens. It’s not perfect, but then no lens is. There’s quite visible vignetting at 24mm and f2.8, but that also applies to all the other 24-70/2.8 lenses I’ve looked at and in fact it’s better than the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM, (compare prices) (review) at 24mm and f4. I have not yet looked at the new Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM, (compare prices) of course, but that lens is $1000 more expensive and lacks optical stabilization.

Given the relatively reasonable price of the Tamron 24-70/2.8 VC and the fact that it’s the only optically stabilized lens of its type, it represents very good value. I don’t think I’d use it for wideangle landscape photography at full aperture, but that’s not really the use to which this lens is likely to be put. A 24-70/2.8 is particularly useful for events like weddings and parties, where the fast aperture can nicely blur backgrounds and it can be used indoors in relatively low light levels. For this purpose theTamron SP 24-70mm Di VC USD, (compare prices) is ideal since the optical stabilization allows the use of slower shutter speeds, meaning the images can be captured at lower ISO settings.

Where to Buy

Tamron 24-70/2.8 VC
Price as low as $969.00 from 5 retailers
$969.00
$1299.00
$1299.00
$1299.00
$1299.00

Tamron SP 24-70mm Di VC USD, (compare prices). From the Tamron website: This lens is a high-quality, highly functional, high-speed standard zoom lens covering the 24‒70mm focal range. It includes both Tamron’s proprietary VC (Vibration Compensation) image stabilization to reduce shake and its USD (Ultrasonic Silent Drive) motor, enabling speedy, silent autofocusing. This SP (Super Performance) series lens makes full use of specialized glass elements in its lens layout, designed with top priority on image quality, including three LD elements and two XR (Extra Refractive Index) glasses.


Text and photos © 2012 Bob Atkins.

Article created June 2012

Readers' Comments


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Steve Hopkins , June 18, 2012; 04:54 P.M.

How about the 'build', esp. how well is it sealed against dust! I shoot many horse shows and other sports events that often are 'dusty' events!

Lex Jenkins , June 18, 2012; 05:18 P.M.

This is the lens Nikon should have made.  I wouldn't buy another lens without stabilization, but I don't need another slowpoke variable aperture midrange zoom.  This looks like a good alternative to the 24-120/4 VR Nikkor.

Ken Yee , June 18, 2012; 07:02 P.M.

Did you guys see the onion bokeh that shows up in quite a few review photos?

Looks as bad as the Sigma 24-70's :-P

 

Eric Arnold , June 19, 2012; 01:42 A.M.

sorry, bob, but this review seems incomplete. its divided into four brief sections: intro, specs, performance, and conclusion. the performance section is ok, but not exhaustive. thanks for testing focus speed but not a word about build quality and no analysis of bokeh, which are both key considerations for this lens class. i'd really like to see a comparison against the nikon 24-70 AF-S as well as nikon's earlier 28-70 af-s and tamron's 28-75 (which is still available).

Zack Zoll , June 19, 2012; 08:19 A.M.

Frank, I think you may be reading a little too deeply into the filter issue.  While you have a point, I don't think the average person to whom this lens is geared would be a heavy filter user.  I, for one, don't tend to use any filters other than UV or maybe a +1 close-up without a tripod, in which case the VC is a pointless addition.  For the size, weight, and cost, I would think that anyone working more slowly would have better results with a set of 24/28 and 50 primes.  You might even be able to sneak in an 85 for the same price, if you buy used.

 

As the review mentioned, I would be likely to use this lens for weddings and events, in which case I wouldn't have the time (or even the desire) to muck about with filters.

 

Of course, your milage may vary.

Bob Atkins , June 23, 2012; 11:28 P.M.

It's impossible to comment on build quality without taking the lens apart. The same applies to comments on dust and moisture sealing. How can anyone tell without disassembling the lens?

I can say that the lens seems to be well constructed. Focusing was smooth with no backlash, zoom action was smooth with no creep. The lens feels solid. But those are subjective impressions. If I thought the lens felt like it was poorly constructed I'd comment on it, but it didn't. My subjective impression was that the build quality was commensurate with the price. 

Tamron state the lens is well sealed. There is a rubber sealing gasket on the lens mount which I can see and which looks like the Canon gaskets on their weather sealed lenses, but I can't tell how well the switches are sealed and how good the seals on the zoom and focus rings are. No reviewer can unless they leave the lens out in the rain for a few hours or shake it up in a sealed box full of dust and see if it suffers any problems. I don't know how much Tamron (or photo.net bean counters) would appreciate me doing a "test to destruction", so I don't do that. I don't do drop tests either! Both would be very difficult indeed to quantify and you'd only get one failure data point.

So I could certainly say that the lens was well constructed and well sealed against dust and moisture - and I'm sure some reviewers would - but I don't have any hard evidence to base that on.

As for Bokeh, I really don't trust any Bokeh analysis of lenses. It depends so much on focal length, focus distance and the extent of defocus of the background and foreground objects. Though Bokeh is a real thing, much of it is in the eyes and mind of the viewer. Nobody has ever come up with a reasonable and quantitative way to unequivocally evaluate it. I think it's often a factor that concerns some photographers a lot more than it concerns most clients. Sometimes even photographers can't agree on it!

Eric Arnold , June 30, 2012; 05:12 A.M.

<Though Bokeh is a real thing, much of it is in the eyes and mind of the viewer. Nobody has ever come up with a reasonable and quantitative way to unequivocally evaluate it>

well, actually, photozone does a good job. they usually state whether the bokeh is smooth or nervous in foreground and background. so it's possible to evaluate it, you just decided not to.

Bob Atkins , July 01, 2012; 12:10 A.M.


Bokeh at 24mm - good? bad? nervous? calm? creamy? anxious?

I don't believe it's possible to quantitatively measure bokeh and any qualitative comments are subjective and highly depend on the measuring conditions.

You could make comments on how background at 6m looked when focused at 2m at 36mm focal length, but the same comments would not necessarily apply to the background at 20m when the lens was focused at 5m at 68mm or to the foreground at 2m when the lens was focused at 10m at a 24mm focal length.

Steve Torelli , July 08, 2012; 11:54 A.M.

Bob,

If IQ were the prime consideration, would you pick the Tamron or the Canon 24-105 for a FF body ?

Thanks for the review. Good luck, Steve

 

michael kurtz , July 28, 2012; 02:03 A.M.

"If IQ were the prime consideration, would you pick the Tamron or the Canon 24-105 for a FF body ?"

i can answer this question steve. i just bought the canon 24-105 4L 'red stripe' lens and it didn't match up to my efs 17-55 canon 2.8 stabilized lens by a long shot. so i returned it and ordered this tamron lens which can go full frame on the markiii where the efs cannot.


i was shocked how unsharp the 24-105 was in low light, and all the drivel about being able to shoot it wide open was not correct. i have since read this tamron has a NEWly designed VC system, since that was the only reason i hadn't bought it, and had read some reviews of an overactive VC system. when the 24-105 became not an option and went back, the tamron was all that was left if i wanted to go full frame. i called 3 independent local stores i trust and asked if they'd heard of any VC issues...none had anyone mention that, or return this lens for any reason.

so i have purchased it and it comes next week. the online pictures comparing it to the 24-105 show the same difference the 24-105 had with its own canon brother, the 17-55 2.8 stabilized.


i'm not sure this new tamron will be as excellent in sharpness as the 17-55 canon, but that lens outperforms even it's own brother/sister lenses...i'm pretty sure the tamron will outshine the canons, and this and other reviews say so. i look forward to getting it.


as for bob, i like his concise to the point reviews, and it doesn't seem his thing is to do a tear down and graph analysis of lenses, which is fair not to do as so many other reviews offer that. you don't need to get it all in one review. i like this because it's basic, to the point, and doesn't pretend to tell everything nailed down from a graph point of view. i look at those reviews too...and take it all in.

however, i think it's great the way bob comes back to answer challenges and questions, and doesn't shy away from the questions even when borderline insulting. as a photographer i appreciate the content, writing and style. as a former reporter and editor for 15 years i say also, i appreciate the writing from that standpoint as well.

 

 

Steve Torelli , July 30, 2012; 05:58 P.M.

Bob,

Thanks for the insight. A follow up would be valuable.

Good Luck

Steve Torelli , July 30, 2012; 06:01 P.M.

Michael,

Sorry about the name, I had Bob Atkins in mind when I wrote my comment. Thanks for the insight Michael.

Good Luck

michael kurtz , July 30, 2012; 06:08 P.M.

thanks steve...lens just arrives super quick from an amazon supplier, will be trying it in the same lo light conditions i shot my 17-55 efs 2.8 and the sadly underperforming in low light 24-105 4L...should have some input on this lens by early tomorrow morn. if this doesn't at least match my 17-55 or come very close, i will be going to an 85mm canon 1.8 prime, giving up on zooms for my street photography since i will be going to the 5D markiii...it would be sad indeed if there is no full frame lens out there that can match the crop camera 17-55 canon efs 2.8 image stabilized. we hope. later, michael

michael kurtz , July 31, 2012; 05:09 A.M.

here's a link to the best image i could upload to show how good this lens is, but it's great in all sorts of condition...here it is at 3.2 handheld at 1/10th of a sec at 1600 iso, pretty amazing

http://www.flickr.com/photos/lostinangeles/7682973484/in/photostream

 

Ujwal Bhattarai , September 05, 2012; 06:42 P.M.

Hi Bob, I am quite picky with my lenses but my 24-105 F4 L IS is totally usable at F4! you must have got a bad copy of that lens. I used to own a Canon 24-70 L which was also quite sharp but had a lot of AF issues.

I think my 24-105 is almost in the same class my 24mm F1.4 L ...the prime seems to be a hair sharper at F4 but the zoom is extremely good for a zoom. The good thing about 24-105 is AF accuracy...much much better than the 24-70, extremely versatile and insanely sharp at 5.6 but still very sharp wide open. And I can vouch for its built quality. Last year, my lens dropped face first with with 40D attached on concrete...the only thing that broke/cracked was the lens hood. The lens has not even one mark, no grinding, no wiggling...its still perfect! sadly I lost the hood at Newcastle beach and bought a cheap ebay replacement.

 

I have been very impressed with the cheap Tammy 17-50 F2.8, ...which is perfectly acceptable as F2.8 lens. The only problems where....well....its cheaply built so i was a bit hesitant to make it my workhorse and AF is a bit slow ( but totally usable )... that was a brilliant lens for the money!

I am looking forward to testing the Tammy 24-70 VC but the bars are very high! The prices here in Australia are insane for any lens ...so it better be very very good to persuade me to get rid of my 24-105mm F4 L IS ..my bread and butter lens- which I use on 5DMkII to shoot weddings and basically anything!

S Mal , October 08, 2012; 01:44 A.M.

How does this lens (the 24-70) compare with the Tamron AF 28-75mm f/2.8 SP XR Di LD Aspherical?

I am an amateur photographer wanting to get better lenses than the ones I have right now. Well better and faster. Because I often shoot indoors.

I have a D7000. And I am considering getting a 35mm DX 1.8 Nikon lens or 50mm f1.4, and an 80mm f1.8. Then again I feel that to shoot any event indoors, I need a zoom lens.

The 24-70 is nice but very expensive.

michael kurtz , October 08, 2012; 04:54 A.M.

i must be brutally honest, as they say, get the best glass you can afford, even if you can't afford it.


i had the 28-75 tamron and the glass was not bad, but not the lens quality of the new tamron 24-70. much worse and a deal breaker unless you are only a daylight photographer is the lack of image stabilization. on a crop camera you need to shoot this lens at 1/100th of a sec fully zoomed, or at least about 1/35th of a second totally wide...any less and you will get blur, and even at those shutter speeds you better have solid hands.

 

i've shot the 24-70tamron 2.8 image stabilized at down to 1/20th of a sec fully zoomed on a crop camera with the same lack of blur you'd get at 1/125th on most cameras...with solid hands you can go extremely slow in the shutter speed. plus, i shoot at an fstop of 3.0, barely up from 2.8, and it's quite acceptably sharp, tho clearly it gets sharper the higher you go...but i'm a nite shooter and this lens has offered me great street photogaphy shots on my t2i. better than the 24-105mm 4L canon for sure, and because of image stabilization, de facto better than the 28-70mm canon 2.8L

 

basically, at $1300 it's a pro lens worth much more. if you can possibly afford it, get it. if not, then you must get the other lenses. rather than a zoom, for night photography, i'd go with the canon 50mm 1.4...just look at internet sample pix and reviews, an amazing lens which i am waiting delivery for. if not a night shooter and you want to save money, go with the other tamron, but the 50mm 1.4 will surely give you the quality you wish given your desire to get good lenses, whereas the lower priced tamron is a compromise at best.

 

i also have the canon 85mm 1.8, which is nice, but not as good as the 50mm 1.4 from the internet sample pix comparisons and my own shooting. it can't really be shot at 1.8 like the 50mm can be at 1.4...and as a longer lens it really can't be shot slow enough for night work. i have it for daylight headshots and portraits as i like less distortion in my headshots, hence a longer lens.

 

if you can somehow spend the money for the more expensive tamron i'd fully recommend doing it. if not, go with the 50mm 1.4 at $359 most places...it's 80mm on your crop camera, super fast, and the 1.4 wide open shots are sharp...even as slow as 1/60th from what i've seen in sample pix. best of luck.

S Mal , October 08, 2012; 08:02 A.M.

Thanks a lot for such a detailed response.

I am using the Nikon D7000 - recent camera with APS sensor size (not full frame). Planned use is to be able to shoot photos of people as well as landscape when I am out and around with my family. I also often shoot pictures inside the house - kids pictures, so a fast lens is useful.

I hear you about buying good glass. I am ready for it. Still need to think through because it is quite a bit of money :)


My choices, as I see it are, 50mm 1.4 (I have the Nikon 50mm 1.8) - the 1.4 is about $440.

Or I can get 85mm 1.8 - for portraits. I think that is about $500.

Or I can get this one which gives me a decent range, less lenses to carry around and also have VR - although the VR I may not need with the faster 1.8 or 1.4 lenses.

Also, I wonder if I should opt for a DX lens (meaning for the APS-C sensor size) - they tend to be cheaper I suppose. But then some day I will move to full format camera...

Decisions, decisions.

---

Sounds like this is a good lens and the one I should go for.

And then I can add the 50mm 1.4, and 85mm 1.8 as I go along. the 85mm may not be needed as the 50mm should serve the times when it is really low light situation.

Thoughts?

michael kurtz , October 08, 2012; 10:43 A.M.

well, do remember the 80 or 85mm on a crop camera is equal to about a 125mm lens, so you need to shoot at 1/125th of a second no matter how fast the lens is to avoid blur...the fast f stop does NOT help you with that...however, image stabilization does...so again the better tamron is the way to go.


the 50mm 1.4 needs only to be shot at 1/80th sec to avoid blur, and it is so fast, and can be shot all the way open, that it really does compete with the image stabilization. these would be your 2 choices i'd think...EXCEPT that the 80 or 85mm (i only know of an 85mm at 1.8 by canon) is a bit more pleasing for portraits being longer/compression of features.


however, i did see some really beautiful portraits taken with the canon 50mm 1.4 on amazon, a lot of them with no editing so you can see how good this lens is. i'd definitely say it's better than the canon 85mm 1.8 from the thousands of images i've looked through, and having shot with the 85mm lens myself.

also, on a crop camera you are getting the full sweet spot of the tamron 24-70mm lens, so very little vignetting plus superb resolution...and it's always there if you do go up to a full frame, as are the primes.


again, good luck.

S Mal , October 08, 2012; 12:54 P.M.

Thanks for again for taking the time to share your views, and to understand my somewhat meandering prior message.

I think now I know what I am doing - well almost.

Getting either one of these lenses first and the other one next.

More likely this zoom - I am thinking that the flexibility of the zoom, plus the stabilization support in the videos that I hope to shoot with the D7000 is worth it. Then I can get the 50mm 1.4 if I feel the need for it.

michael kurtz , October 08, 2012; 01:00 P.M.

i like to write, can you  guess. but superb choices.


the tamron is essential and one of the best wide to medium telephotos you can buy, certainly better than the 2 canon L lenses my friend has and she can't use either of them to shoot decently at night because they're too slow, the 24-70mm 2.8 and the overrated 24-105 4L.


i just happened to get the 85mm 1.8 second because i thought it might be fast enough for the night, but really the 50mm 1.4 is the second lens to get. i'm keeping the 85 as i said because i do so many headshots...but my true love is night street photography...the tamron for my 5Dmarkiii and the 50mm will sit on my take along anywhere always t2i.

love to hear how you like the lens once you get it...i know you will love it.

S Mal , October 08, 2012; 01:02 P.M.

Will update once I buy it. :)

Thank you.


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