Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Lens (Nikon F) - A photojournalist's perspective

I've been reading an awful lot about the Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Lens lately. Currently, the top search results in google go to photographylife by Naseem Mansurov and The-Digital-Picture.

But hungrily devouring reviews and sample images didn't do justice to me. (The images on the lens brochure didn't really help with some boring landscape images from a certain photographer). I needed to borrow a unit and test it in the my assignments, then decide whether it's worth the purchase or not. At RM4,000, it's not exactly a budget lens.

Fortunately luck was on my side. After a few emails, I was privileged to have one in my hands for 3 days. I put it to good use for the day to day assignments I needed to carry out in my line of work.

Even next to the 70-200 VRII, this lens looks beastly.


15-30mm focal length. A useful range to have. Sometimes I feel the 14-24 is a bit short. 30mm would've been ideal

Constant F/2.8 is a very bright aperture, which helps to AF better, and also use lower ISOs if you really need to do so versus an f4 lens such as the Nikon 16-35mm.

Very well controlled distortion at 15mm

World's first ultrawide F/2.8 lens with Vibration Compensation. I was talking to another user (canon mount), and he thinks the VC doesn't work as well as advertised. But as for me, I'm getting sharp images at 1/10s.

Ultrasonic Silent Drive - Though not as great with regards to speed and accuracy as the Nikon's AF-S and Canon's USM, it performs admirably. I rarely had a misfocused shot, except if lighting conditions are terrible.

Sharpness - This lens is sharp across the frame at almost all apertures and is meant to complement today's high megapixel cameras - 5Ds and D810. Of course with all ultra wide angle lenses, sharpness decreases as you zoom in to the long end but not by much.

Fluorine coated front element - Throughout the whole duration of using the lens, no dust or dirt stuck to the front element so I've never needed to clean it.

Front and back caps - Contrary to what some are claiming, the front and back caps are more sturdy and attach quite well to the lens as compared to earlier lenses from Tamron.

Sub par DOF and bokeh. But this is a trait of most ultra wide angle lenses anyway.

Colour - The images look as vibrant as I imagine them to be.


This lens is HUGE. Maximum diameter - 98.4mm, and 145mm long. Larger than the Nikon 14-24 and Canon 16-35/2.8 L that I'm familiar with.

Weight - 1.1kg. The 14-24 is 1kg while the Canon 16-35 is even lighter at 640g.

Construction - industrial grade plastic instead of metal alloys

Weathersealing - This is a well built and sturdy lens, but the Canon and Nikon are supposedly more weathersealed than the Tamron.

Very stiff zoom ring. I guess it's due to the double hooded design. The zoom rings of the Canons and Nikons are easier to move. (Edit - Perhaps someone knocked the test unit, hence the stiff zoom ring. Mine works fine).

No filters possible to protect the huge bulbous XGM (eXpanded Glass Molded Aspherical) element. So you have to be super careful when using this lens.

It is still prone to flare because of the huge front element, but it supposedly performs better than Nikon's 14-24.

Service and support - As I know, Tamron doesn't have any official service center in Malaysia, so if anything goes wrong with it, you might have to wait a while before it returns. Canon's service center is at Peremba Square while Nikon's is at PJ State.

Sample images

Sorry I don't do test charts, shoot brick walls or MTFs. These are just a couple of sample images I took with the lens.

Camera: 12 MP Nikon D3
Basic quality JPEG, size priority
Standard picture control, sharpness level 4
D lighting and noise reduction OFF
Photos straight from the camera, no editing done except resizing and uploading to the web.

Malaysian Productivity Council CEO Forum @ Grand Dorsett

f/3.5, 1/20s. The hall was quite dark, and I did not use any flash, only relying on the VC capabilities of the lens.

At 30mm

At 15mm.

Night shot testing at Sunway Resort Hotel & Spa

I didn't bring any tripod with me, all these images are hand held.

f/3.2, 1/25s.

Henessy XO appreciation @ Scoop, Menara Dion

Guinness 50 years anniversary @ Intermark Ampang

Despite challenging lighting conditions, the lens performed admirably.

Great for taking interior shots with lots of crowd.

I took the pictures of these girls in dismal lighting conditions, and I was surprised the lens could actually focus !


I'm missing this lens already! It's the only full frame, ultra wide lens in it's class with f/2.8, VC and a RM4,000 price tag (including GST).



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