In May 2012, the Tamron 24-70 mm f/2.8 DI VC USD was introduced as the world’s first 24-77 mm with built-in image stabilization (VC; Vibration Compensation). A 24-70 mm f/2.8 with a 70-200 mm f/2.8 zoom lens is probably the most common combination in the equipment bags of professional photographers heading out to do a report. Both high brightness and built-in image stabilization come in handy for these photographers. Tamron’s SP, “Special Performance,” series is meant for professional photographers. The “Di” designation means that the lens is suitable for (Digital) cameras with a full-frame sensor. Meanwhile, the Tamron 24-70 mm VC has, with respect to image stabilization, competition from the Canon 24-70 mm IS f/4. Even so, the combination of a constant f/2.8 aperture and the built-in image stabilization from this Tamron lens remains unique. The list price of the Tamron 24-70 mm with image stabilization is considerably lower than that of 24-70 mm f/2.8 lenses without image stabilization of other brands. We’ve tested this lens using a Nikon D800E and a 50 megapixel Canon 5DsR.
Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD SP (model A007) @ Nikon D800E
Tamron 24-70mm 2.8 VC: a multi-use lens: On a camera with a full-frame sensor, such as the Nikon D800E, the Tamron 24-70mm DI VC USD has a view angle that varies from wide angle (24 & 28 mm), standard (35 & 50 mm) to slightly telephoto (70 mm). In the last position, the lens is usable as a portrait lens, especially if you do not make the portraits completely full-screen.
On the construction of the Tamron 24-70mm VC, it’s clear to see that it is made for a professional audience. This lens is solid and heavy (800 gram) and is extra-well sealed against water splash. A large part of the weight comes from the glass. To keep the weight as low as possible, the lens housing is made from high-quality plastic. The lens becomes about twice as long if you zoom out to 70 mm. A free, flower-shaped lens hood is included. The Tamron 24-70 mm lens is equipped with switches for AF/MF selection and for image stabilization/VC ON/OFF.
I still have to get used to the fact that you have an AF/M switch on Nikon cameras, and then you also find one on the lens. The AF/MF switch on the lens I find easier to reach if I have the camera in my hand. If either of the switches is set to MF, then AF is not available. For this reason, I always use the AF/MF switch on the lens, to avoid confusion.
The autofocus has an ultrasonic motor with a piëzo element. With this, you can manually override the AF whenever you want, without first having to flip a switch. The autofocus is fast (in 700 ms from infinity to 1.5 meter) and quiet. The latter is of extra importance for the growing group of photographers who want to use their single-lens reflex camera for filming. The front lens does not rotate when focusing, which is nice when using filters. You also notice with the autofocus that Tamron set the bar higher for themselves than with the two less expensive lenses (Tamron 28-75mm and Tamron 18-270mm) that we tested previously.
An important advantage of image stabilization that most photographers don’t immediately consider is the quieter viewfinder image that you get if the image stabilization is turned on in low-light situations. That makes accurate framing easier. But the most important advantage is still of course that you get less movement at slower shutter speeds by using image stabilization.
We tested the image stabilization at a focal length of 70 mm. The Tamron 24-70 mm image stabilization is quiet, but not as silent as the image stabilization in Nikon lenses. Up to shutter speeds of 1/50 of a second, the sharpness of images made with and without is comparable. For slower shutter speeds, we profited by about two stops. An image made without image stabilization with a shutter speed of 1/25 of a second is as sharp as an image made with a shutter speed of 1/3 of a second with image stabilization. With a shutter speed of 1/6 of a second, you can, thanks to the image stabilization, still take sharp photos holding the camera – not as sharp as an image made from a tripod, but for many purposes sufficiently sharp.
With respect to sharpness, the Tamron 24-70 mm aims high, thanks to the 50 megapixel sensor of the Canon 5DsR. In general, peak sharpness is reached at f/5.6 or f/8. The edges are somewhat behind in terms of sharpness at the center, but stopping down one stop improves a lot.
In terms of vignetting, the Tamron 24-70 mm f/2.8 exhibits the same pattern as similar lenses. At maximum aperture vignetting is clearly recognizable at all focal lengths. Here you see the worst case. Also at f/4 vignetting is apparent. After two stops, vignetting becomes negligible at all focal lengths after 24 mm.
The nice thing about Nikon cameras is that the in-camera adjustment for vignetting also works for other lenses than Nikon’s own. In the two graphics below you’ll see that the jpg files on which the fix for vignetting in the Nikon D800E was on (setting: Normal) have a lower vignetting than the RAW files. For almost all tests of lenses that we did on a camera with a full frame sensor, we add that you can probably achieve even better results at the “high” setting, and that the vignetting from RAW files can be easily corrected with lens correction profiles in Lightroom or Photoshop.
The Tamron 24-70 mm has with respect to distortion the same image as other 24-70 mm full frame lenses. At 24 mm, there is clearly visible barrel distortion, which above 35 mm turns into visible pincushion distortion.
Distortion is generally only apparent in images with straight horizontal lines (horizon in a landscape) or vertical lines (buildings). In a portrait, you will totally not see it. In Lightroom and Photoshop, there are standard lens correction profiles available that let you “with 1 push of the button” correct vignetting and distortion.
The bokeh is nice and round, thanks to the rounded aperture blades. In general, the bokeh nice and soft, as you expect from a bright lens on a full frame sensor. If there is a light source in the background, then the bokeh shows clear rings. We see that more often in high-resolution lenses. According to Photozone this might be caused by the aspherical lens elements. Also in the pictures taken in practice, highlights are in the bokeh, for example from light that comes through leaves (move your mouse over the image here), rendered less beautifully. On this point the Tamron 24-70 mm f/2.8 shows lesser results than the 24-70 mm lenses from other brands on a camera with a full frame sensor.
Flare is generally kept well under control. Just as we saw in our test of the Canon 24-70 mm 2.8 II, such a complex lens is never completely free from flare. A bright light source just outside or in the image creates a flared zone with reduced contrast. At smaller apertures in combination with bright backlight, you will sometimes encounter aperture-shaped ghosts, so in sunny situations, use the included flower-shaped lens hood.
The lens design with 17 lenses in 12 groups is fairly complex. There are 2 XR glass elements (glass with extra refraction) used to keep the length of the lens as low as possible. There are 3 LD (Low Dispersion) lens elements to reduce chromatic aberration. Lateral chromatic aberration is indeed low in our Imatest measurements at all focal lengths and all apertures. In 100% image clips from RAW files lateral chromatic aberration at sharp contrast transitions in the outer corners is just visible at a focal length of 24 mm. In-camera jpg files are stored by the Nikon D800E stripped of that last remnant of chromatic aberration, as you can see on the right.
Conclusion Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD SP review
- High image quality
- Professional construction and finish
- Built-in image stabilization
- Very attractive price/quality ratio
- Visible vignetting and distortion
- Highlights in the bokeh somewhat less beautiful
The Tamron 24-70 mm f/2.8 VC is a class-lens that would not look out of place in the camera bag of any professional photographer. It is very well made, including additional seals against dust and moisture. The AF is fast (in 700 ms from infinity to 1.5 meter) and quiet. The built-in image stabilization is useful and effective. The image quality is of a very high level. The visible vignetting and distortion are the main drawbacks, but you find that with all full frame zoom lenses in this focal length range. The Tamron SP 24-70 mm 2.8 has a list price just above a thousand euros, and that leads to a high price-quality ratio.