Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 DI VC Zoom lens: It’s a Keeper!

Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 DI VC Zoom lens: It’s a Keeper!

Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 DI VC USD Lens for Nikon CamerasLike most of you, I’m always a bit skeptical of third party lenses until I get to give them a good workout. The need for a fast, but not insanely large, zoom for my recent gorilla trekking experience led me to the (newish) . The specs – lighter and smaller than the Nikon version, with Vibration Compensation included – were appealing. By themselves, that wouldn’t have convinced me to try it. Coupled with its off the charts performance when tested by DxOMark with the Nikon D800e (as close as test as I could find to the I’d be using it with), I was sold on the idea of using it as my go-to mid-range zoom in Africa. I wasn’t disappointed…

Build and Ergonomics

Like an increasing number of premium third-party lenses from Tamron and Sigma, the is very well built, feels good in the hand, and is a pleasure to use. The only trick for Nikon shooters is getting used to the “backwards” direction of the zoom. Once I got over that, I enjoyed the fact that it is smaller and lighter than the Nikon equivalent, although still noticeably heftier than my usual walking-around lens, the (newer) Nikon 24-85mm AF-S VR lens. It takes an 82mm filter, which is a bit unusual, but nothing too exotic. The lens does extend when you zoom it (goes with the territory when you want the more compact size lenses, unfortunately), but it has a lock in case you’re worried that it will creep (mine is plenty solid and didn’t show any signs of creep – with or without the lock).

The is a perfect companion for the ultra-high-quality sensor in the .
In this image you can see the incredible detail (even rescaled for the web it holds up quite well), down to individual birds.
f/9.5 @ 1/500s, ISO 560, 62mm, focused at 30m distance


Along with being a constant f/2.8 along its entire focal range, the lens’s flagship feature is its Vibration Compensation (e.g. VR or IS or OS, depending on your favorite vendor’s acronym). For some reason Nikon doesn’t seem to have any interest in stabilizing its mid-range and wide-angle pro zooms. Shooting from moving vehicles VC/VR is always helpful, for starters, and there isn’t always the time (or the space) to set up a tripod when shooting from the ground. So I appreciated the ability to shoot hand-held in tough conditions and still capture quality images.

Even in very tricky lighting like this combination of lanterns and candles shining directly into the lens,
there is almost no color fringing or other artifacts.

Image Quality

Image quality is where the rubber meets the road of course. Obviously, you’d expect any pro-quality lens to do a good-enough job that it’d be hard to tell the difference between them by simply pixel peeping. So, after convincing myself that the images from the lens looked great, and shooting a couple test targets in my studio, I turned to DxOMark for the scientific version.

Test results show that the relatively new (2012) design of the beats out the older (2007), and more expensive, design of the Nikon version when used with modern, ultra-high-resolution sensors like those found in the Nikon D800, , and .

The differences are not huge, and certainly no reason to swap out your Nikon lens, but since the Tamron is lighter, smaller, less-expensive, and has Vibration Reduction – while still out-performing in lab tests – it is a very attractive option.

Should you buy one? I’m buying mine

Here too the combines with the to make a tricky scene look easy to photograph.

I review a lot of gear in a year, but for obvious reasons I only purchase a small fraction of it. The most recent item I shelled out for was my . Its amazing image quality has made me take a closer look at my lenses. I really like my small, versatile, and high-performance Nikon 24-85mm AF-S VR lens, but knew I wasn’t maximizing my image potential when I carried it instead of a full-up “pro” model. However, I really hated lugging the Nikon version along – large, heavy, and no VR – which led me to review the Tamron version. Suffice it to say I’m sold and am purchasing the . It’ll add a little weight and bulk to my pack, so I might not carry it absolutely everywhere, but I will when image quality really matters.

Even at f/16, where diffraction starts to be an issue, the does a great job.