Rangefinder - Tamron

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Rangefinder - Tamron

[ first exposure ]

Tamron SP

AF 10–24mm

f/3.5–f/4.5

Di II LD Aspherical

[IF] Lens

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

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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

handheld exposures.

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

lens makers.

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

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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

better.

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

image contrast.

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

experience.

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RANGEFINDER • AUGUST 2009

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