Tamron SP 15-30 F2.8 VC USD – Best UWA Lens out there?
As a user of the Nikon D750, there are plenty of choices when it comes to UWA zoom lenses. I have compared some UWA lenses like the Nikkor 18-35 F3.5 – 4.5, the Nikkor 16-35 F4 VR, the Nikkor 14-24 F2.8 and the Tamron 15-30 F2.8 VC. The Nikkor 16-35 was sharp in the center, however, the edges weren’t sharp enough for me and the aperture was “only” F4. Moreover, the 18-35 lacks the VC, starts at 18 mm and was too slow for me (although the image quality is really good). Hence these lenses dropped out of my list. The remaining Tamron 15-30 and Nikkor 12-24 both offer a very good image quality. The Tamron has moreover the advantage of the VC and a significantly lower price compared to the Nikkor 12-24. So the choice was made and I bought the Tamron.
First some of the specs of the Tamron:
Type: Zoom Lens suitable for Full Frame Cameras
Range: 15-30 mm
Aperture: F2.8 to F22, Aperture Blades: 9
Autofocus: Ultrasonic Silent Drive (USD), minimum focus distance of 0.28m
Extras: Image Stabilization (VC), Anti reflections coatings (eBand), Fluorine Coating, Moisture Resistant
The lens is not exactly small and very heavy (approx. 1.1 kg), but it is well balanced on the Nikon D750. I have used my D750 with the Tamron on several photo sessions this summer and had no problem at all carrying it around. The lens is very solid and robust – nothing is rattling or shaking. The rubber rings for zoom and focus are very grippy and smooth to turn. There is a small rubber lip around the metal mount to prevent moisture from getting into the cam between mount and camera bajonett. The lens hood is built in to protect the big round front element. Because of this it’s unfortunately not possible to mount any screw filters (more on that will follow later in this review).
This is the masterpiece of this lens. The image quality is really outstanding. I was not able to find any major problems when I have used this lens. Here my (nonscientific) impressions:
Color Rendering: For me, the color rendering is very natural and precise (not too warm, not too cold either), the contrast is also good.
Sharpness: At F2.8 great sharpness in the center and the corners are also good to very good. Stopped down a bit the sharpness is great edge to edge (excellent from F4 to F8).
Bokeh: For an UWW Lens it’s actually very good, not the smoothest but it isn’t bad in any way. The 9-Blade-Diaphragm does a very good job here.
Flares, Ghosting: Due to the coatings and special glass elements flares are very well controlled and not an issue.
C/A: The lens does a very good job in avoiding C/A, there are barely to none visible.
Distortion: There is a little amount of distortion at the extreme ends, but not really much and they are easy to correct in post processing (Lens Profile in Lightroom).
Vignetting: Some light vignetting is visible wide open, but it’s also nothing to worry.
The Vibration Compensation (VC) of the Tamron works very well and it is one of my favorite features on the Tamron 15-30. Some will say “Nah.. UWW Lens.. I don’t need VC there” but there are situations where it is very usable, e.g. when shooting in dark light conditions. I took handheld shots down to 1/2 a second without problems. I have also investigated how low I could go with the shutter speed and will provide the shots and my thoughts about it in future blog posts. Here is an example picture taken at F9, 1/5 of a sec. ISO 800. I think I would be able to do the shot at the same specs at ISO 200 handheld:
Due to the big and round front glass element and the built-in lens hood, you can’t use screw on filters on the Tamron. That’s a bit of a drawback, but this is also the case on the Nikkor 14-24. I think in the future there will be filter equipment suitable for the Tamron 15-30 F2.8. In the meantime you can, at least for long exposures, help you with a nice trick, described by Josh Cripps – Professional Photography Tips (Youtube Video). It works very well. Here you can see an example pic I took by using this trick:
The lens is a real joy to use and I have had a lot of fun in my photo trips so far. As I described above, the image quality is outstanding and with F2.8 and VC you get the opportunity to take handheld shots without using a tripod when the Nikkor 14-24 F2.8 probably will let you down. The relatively low price is also a huge advantage in comparison to the Nikkor. It works very well from wide open to stopped down. There is only one reason to buy the Nikkor 14-24 F2.8 instead of the Tamron: If you desperately need this 1mm more on the wide side. In my opinion, considering all the advantages and very little disadvantages, the Tamron SP 15-30 VC USD is the best UWA Zoom Lens for Nikon currently available.
Full size sample images
You find sample pictures in full size at my Flickr Album here.