[ first exposure ]
Di II LD Aspherical
By Stan Sholik
One of the earliest criticisms of digital
SLRs with APS-C (smaller than full-frame
sensors) was the lack of lenses capable
of delivering an ultrawide-angle field of
view. Not only photojournalists, but fashion
and wedding photographers also use
the unique capabilities of ultrawide-angle
(UWA) lenses to create a unique point
of view by placing the subject in its environment
rather than isolating the subject
from its environment. And of course UWA
lenses are essential tools for landscape, architectural
and interior specialists.
It didn’t take camera firms, as well as
third party lens manufacturers, long to
respond to this need, not only with fixed
focal length UWA lenses upgraded for
digital sensors, but also with UWA zoom
lenses. Until now, the UWA zooms from
independent lens manufacturers available
for a variety of camera systems were limited
to a maximum zoom ratio of 2X. Tamron
has broken the 2X zoom ratio ceiling
with its SP AF 10–24mm f/3.5–4.5 Di II
LD Aspherical [IF] lens, currently available
for Nikon APS-C bodies as well as Canon.
Pentax- and Sony-mount camera users will
need to wait a bit longer. To explain the
naming acronyms, which seem to be getting
out of hand from many manufacturers:
SP (Super Performance), AF (AutoFocus),
Di II (Digitally-integrated design, version
2), LD (Low-Dispersion glass), Aspherical
(incorporating aspherical lens elements),
and IF (Internal Focusing).
The lens is just less than 3.5 inches
long at the 14mm position and the length
increases slightly at both the 10mm and
24mm positions. It is light, weighing just
over 14 ounces, thanks to the use of polycarbonate
rather than metal for the lens
body. The lens is finished in matte black
that is indistinguishable from the finish on
the latest Nikkors. The zoom and focusing
rings are finished in ribbed rubber and
different enough in size and feel that there
is no question which one you are holding.
The ribbed rubber provides an excellent
grip, but tends to collect dust and dirt due
to its stickiness.
This is a good time to mention that
Nikon users will probably be more comfortable,
at least initially, with this lens than
Canon users. The focus and zoom rings
turn in the same direction as those on
Nikon lenses. Unless things change on the
Canon-mount lens, Canon users may find
this a bit disconcerting, as it is the opposite
direction to which they are accustomed.
Both controls work very smoothly, another
indication of the care Tamron has put into
the design and manufacturing of this lens.
Top: The Tamron SP AF 10–24mm f/3.5–4.5 Di
II LD Aspherical [IF] lens at 14mm, its shortest
physical length, and with its lens shade. The lens
shade is included with the lens.
Above: The Nikon version of the Tamron
10–24mm includes an Autofocus/Manual Focus
switch. The switch must be in the MF (manual
focus) position to touch up focus.
Although the Tamron lens incorporates
a motor, autofocus operation is a little
slower and somewhat louder than my Nikkor
lenses with built-in motors. And it is
not possible to touch up the focus using the
focusing ring while in autofocus mode, as is
possible with Nikon lenses. Tamron warns
that serious damage could result. Manual
focusing for Nikon cameras requires the
use of the camera’s manual focus switch
as well as the AF/MF switch incorporated
into the lens.
Lenses with a fixed (constant) maximum
RANGEFINDER • AUGUST 2009
Above: Ultrawide-angle lenses such as the Tamron
10–24mm allow you to capture foreground
subjects while placing them in their environment.
The wide field of view allows you to manipulate
perspective to add visual tension to the scene.
Exposure: HDR image produced from seven
Above right: Ultrawide-angle lenses allow you
to force perspective by focusing on foreground
subjects, but including background objects. The
Tamron 10–24mm lens is great for this with
a minimum focusing distance of 9.5 inches
throughout its zoom range. Exposure: 1/60 sec,
f/4, ISO 400, at the 10mm setting.
aperture are prized by professionals. The
Tamron 10–24mm varies from f/3.5–f/4.5,
making it a little faster at the wide end and
a little slower at the long end than other
UWA zooms. If the focal length markings
are accurate, the f/4 aperture kicks
in at about 13mm and f/4.5 at just over
18mm. If this were a lens for a film camera,
that would probably be a deal breaker for
me, since I’d be shooting transparency
film with manual exposure. But capturing
digitally, it just means I have to do a little
exposure tweak on some images, which is
no big deal. Minimum aperture is f/21 at
10mm and f/22 from 12mm–24mm.
Filter size is 77mm, but you will need
ultra thin filters on this lens. My normal
thickness filters caused obvious vignetting.
The front of the lens doesn’t rotate
during focusing, simplifying the use of
filters such as (thin) polarizers. A flower
petal lens hood is included with the lens
at no additional cost as it is with some
UWA lenses are great in landscape
photography for capturing a wide field of
view, but to creatively use their ability to
exaggerate perspective, close focusing is
required. The 10–24mm delivers on that
count, with a minimum focusing distance
of 9.5 inches throughout its zoom range.
At 24mm this amounts to a magnification
of 1:5. At 10mm you can focus on a fallen
cactus and show the surrounding desert
and the mountains in the background.
Dramatic ultrawide-angle photos are easily
possible with this lens.
Tamron seems to have pulled out all
stops in the optical design of the 10–24mm.
Twelve lens elements are present in nine
groups. The front element is a single highprecision,
large-aperture glass-molded aspherical
lens element and three hybrid
aspherical elements are incorporated to
minimize spherical aberration, coma and
distortion. In addition, the lens uses a
pair of low dispersion (the ‘LD’ acronym)
glass elements to compensate for on-axis
and lateral chromatic aberrations. Multiple
layer coatings are used on many air/glass
surfaces including the exposed side of the
rear element. They are also used on the
cemented surfaces of lenses within groups
to minimize image degradation caused by
reflection of light rays entering the lens and
those reflecting off the image sensor.
Evaluating the optical performance of
any single lens is a slippery slope. There’s
no way to know if the lens in my hands is
typical of the run of Tamron 10–24mm
lenses. If it is, then Tamron has succeeded
very well with its complex design and
RANGEFINDER • AUGUST 2009
manufacturing, once you stop down from
maximum aperture to f/8. Center as well
as edge sharpness improves visibly from
maximum aperture to f/8 at all focal
lengths and remains very good from there
on. The “perfect storm” of softness occurs
at 10mm, f/3.5 and minimum focusing
distance, resulting in obviously soft images.
Under the same conditions, but using an
aperture of f/8, the captures look significantly
While I was never bothered by chromatic
aberration, red/blue fringing is quite
evident at all times at the edges of high
contrast areas. This is easily eliminated
using the appropriate slider found in most
post-production imaging software.
Also an issue that requires post-production
help is the barrel distortion that is also
present at all focal lengths, though worse
at the shorter the focal length. This is not
the lens you’ll want to use to photograph
brick buildings straight on without postproduction
help. As with red/blue fringing,
most imaging programs also have a lens
distortion correction tool to deal with the
problem. Realistically, it is unlikely that you
will notice the barrel distortion in your images.
I didn’t bother to apply any distortion
correction to any images shown here.
“ …under normal shooting conditions,
even with the sun or other
light sources in the field of view,
flare and ghosting are well controlled
by Tamron’s multicoating
on internal lens elements.”
I did find that images are uniformly
bright from center to edge, with very little
vignetting. While I was able to create flare
and ghosting by pacing the sun just outside
of the field of view, under normal
shooting conditions, even with the sun
or other light sources in the field of view,
flare and ghosting are well controlled by
Left: An ultrawide-angle lens is essential when
shooting interiors with an APS-C based digital
camera. Exposure: 1/20 sec, f/3.5, ISO 800, focal
length setting of 10mm.
Above right: There was very little room around
the new FDIC headquarters to take photos for a
news agency, so I was happy to have the Tamron
10–24mm available to create a dramatic perspective
from less than 20 feet away. Exposure: 1/400
sec, f/10, ISO 400, focal length setting of 10mm.
Tamron’s multicoating of internal lens elements.
Multicoating also contributes to the
high contrast that the lens delivers, which
is important with an ultrawide-angle lens,
since there are few subjects you can shoot
that won’t have large areas of sky or bright
light sources that could potentially degrade
Ultrawide-angle lenses aren’t for everyone,
but with the unique field of view
opportunities they open up, they can be
valuable tools in the right circumstances
and in the right hands. At its widest 10mm
focal length, the lens is the widest available
for APS-C sensors. At its longest 24mm
focal length, it segues nicely to your 24-towhatever
mm zoom without creating a gap
or overlap of focal lengths.
Street price of the lens is about $500,
including lens hood. For more information
go to www.tamron.com.
Stan Sholik is a contributing writer for NewsWatch
Feature Service. He is also a commercial photographer
with 30 years of studio and location
RANGEFINDER • AUGUST 2009