Exploring the Tamron SP 15–30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD lens

 
We’ve had the Tamron SP 15–30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD lens in the D-Photo office this month and we’ve been experimenting with what it can do

It didn't take us very long to realize that this lens is a clear competitor for the Canon 16–35mm 2.8 II lens, as one of the few wide-angle lenses on the market that offer image stabilization. With a similar length and near match in price point, the two are fairly comparable. Could the Tamron be the next championing wide-angle lens?

Tamron’s unique branding of optical image stabilization (IOS) is vibration compensation (VC). With camera shake a primary cause of poor image quality in handheld photography, Tamron’s lens has been specifically engineered with the inclusion of a newly developed three-coil system. We found it to benefit the lens in creating sharp, stunning images, with particularly good performance at slower shutter speeds and  in low-light conditions. Shooting handheld at dusk was comfortable with this lens, rendering our tripod no longer necessary.

This is fairly notable even when pitched against some of the industry’s big players. Nikon’s closest equivalent is the 14–24mm f/2.8G lens, which falls in line with the many wide-angle lenses that lack image stabilization.

Rebecca Frogley, taken with Tamron SP 15–30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD lens attached to a Canon 6D body

Rebecca Frogley, taken with Tamron SP 15–30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD lens attached to a Canon 6D body

The maximum aperture of  f/2.8 allows for the creation of significant depth of field, which can often be hard to achieve with a wide-angle lens. Due to the amount of coverage these lenses provide, often, even at high apertures, we tend to find most of the scene in focus. The Tamron succeeds in focusing on specific elements in the photograph — ideal for creating moody landscapes or capturing a low-angle portrait. As a handy addition for dusk and dawn shooters, a full-time manual-focus mechanism allows for the fine-tuning of focus at any point, even when in autofocus mode.

The wide lens holds content well and  ensures high-quality imagery is achieved without much distortion throughout the photo. At maximum aperture and 15mm, sharpness in the centre is razor, however clarity towards the edges of the frame teeters slightly towards fuzzy — as we would expect with most wide-angle lenses on the market. Overall the field uniformity is excellent, with practically no variability between any aperture that we focused at.

The large front element means that attaching filters to this lens is difficult — if not impossible — as no compatible  filters are currently on the market. Still, Tamron has you sorted with the addition of two coatings, broad-band anti-reflection (BBAR) and eBAND. They work together to ensure that ghosting and flare — typically observed when shooting with wide-angle lenses — are reduced, allowing for consistent image capture. A built-in lens hood also helps to prevent stray light striking the front element. Its circular outer lens, which features expanded glass molded aspherical (XGM) elements and low-dispersion elements, also helps in reducing chromatic aberration.

A bonus for photographers who are concerned about the elements damaging their equipment, the lens is splash resistant and, though not sealed, has a rubber base band. It conveniently has a fluorine coating applied to the front element that repels water, and it does its job well with water beads appearing smaller and easier to remove. However at a rather heavy 1100g, the Tamron is the beast you’d wield for the perfect shot, rather than the extra lens you’d chuck in the backpack, just in case.

Despite the Tamron’s many benefits for its competitive price, the Tamron is a third-party lens and this may lead the Canon and Nikon enthusiasts to walk on by. Still, the Tamron is a high-quality instrument; well-built, with excellent handling in low-light conditions and featuring much-desired image stabilization technology. If you're on the hunt for a wide-angle lens to add to your kit, this is one to take into consideration.

Specs

  • Focal length: 15–30mm
  • Maximum aperture: f/2.8
  • Minimum aperture: f/22
  • Image stabilization: Yes
  • Aperture blades: 9, rounded
  • Optical construction: 18 elements in 13 groups
  • Minimum focus: 28cm
  • Maximum magnification: 1:5
  • Dimensions (DxL): approx 98.4x145mm
  • Weight: 1100g (this weight is for the Nikon and Canon versions. The Sony version does not have VC as this is built into the Sony bodies already)

To find out more about this lens, visit lacklands.co.nz.