Today and in the following article I want to share all the information and experiences I gained while using the two new lenses that have just been announced by Tamron. I was the second person worldwide to get to test the serial version of the lenses (which of course was a great opportunity) and we have always clearly communicated to our readers how we have arrived at our recommendations.
To prevent any possible distorsion of facts I am particularly anxious to ensure that we do not receive any salary checks from Tamron, nor do we receive any other form of payment or get sponsoring for writing this article. Both lenses will go back to Japan (sob ;-( ) and we are not allowed to keep them. So as you may know from our Tech-broadcasts, we always communicate projects (co-)financed through sponsorship.
Nevertheless, whenever a photographer gets the chance to hold one of the first lenses in their hands, that may give rise to doubts concerning the neutrality of that person. I have to admit I would do so too! BUT – Wouldn’t it have been really stupid to not take that chance to test those lenses “in action”?! Tamron did not impose any rules or regulations – it seems as if Japan was firmly convinced of the lenses! So we not only got the chance to test them but also to fulfill or arouse even more curiositiy amongst photographers all over the world by posting this early test-article.
In a nutshell
To support my personal opinion and to put my (of course) subjective evaluation on solid footing, we have added a free RAW-data download at the end of the article so you can have a close look in photoshop and assess the quality yourself. Certainly many of you wonder whether Tamron will be able to continue climbing the “quality ladder” (as they certainly did with their lenses in the recent past) or if there will be a slump in the present or near future. What some are asking themselves is whether one can top a lens like the Tamron 15-30mm or the extremely cost-effective 24-70 2.8 VC?
I can address that in advance. YES! Tamron’s trend is uphill and still improving. Rumour has it that with these two new lenses Tamron may have landed a big coup. MAY HAVE because there is no information about the pricing yet (2 September 2015). We were told that the purchase price will be in the higher three-digit euro range though.
It now depends on the final RRP (approximately 100 to 200 € more than street price) whether the price tag will put the finishing touches on a winning package. However, even at a higher price each of them will still be a hell of a nice lens. After I had signed a non-disclosure agreement, Tamron provided inital information about the lenses. I first put my head in my hands and secretly asked myself “Why 35 AND 45mm? That does not seem to make any sense. And why the hell only f1.8?” Well, that and even more is what we’re going to answer in the following.
Up north – ready for Iceland
As mentioned above, we were able to test the lenses in various situations and use them to take a few thousand photos. On our trip to Iceland earlier this year we took them with us and besides our actual job there we used every free minute and every opportunity to take pictures with the Tamron lenses. Iceland isn’t exactly a bowl of cherries for a camera lens. They had to withstand adverse conditions to project some extreme photos onto the sensor!
At this point I want to show you some of our results (more to come)!
It’s all about balance
As success is a ladder you cannot climb with your hands in you pockets, Tamron obviously took things in hand and during the development of their new lenses they kept one central idea in mind: They wanted to build the ultimate fixed focal length lens for both APS-C and fullframe cameras – with a perfect balance of weigth, f-stop and image stabilizer.
The development and creation of lenses is always a balancing act. The smaller the f-stop, the more glass is needed and the heavier the lens gets. An image stabilizer implies a movable lens element, which may reduce the overall image quality. Smaller f-stops lead to design related optical phenomenons such as chromatic aberration. But what is the point of having an f 1.2 lens which can only be used from f 1.4? Another example: why should one produce an f 1.4 lens which only reveals its full power at f 2 or higher?
Both new lenses address that issue and the declared aim of the tamron engineers was to create a small, lightweight, high speed lens usable at the widest open aperture (f 1.8) with a built in image stabilizer. No more stopping-down for optimum edge-to-edge sharpness… now there’s only one question left: did they make it? We say: YES, at nearly 100%. The new Tamron SP lenses display extreme sharpness even at the widest open aperture of f 1.8, the image stabilizer (Tamron calls that VC for vibration compensation) is not even noticable.
In my opinion they offer a superb optical quality which tops the Tamron 15-30mm by far. Here you can see two examples to illustrate the optical quality of the Tamron lenses. Of course a web-preview is not the best way to assess such things as sharpness but these comparisons will surely help – not to forget that there’s RAW-data for you at the end of the article. Feel free to have a closer look youself!
What really impressed me was the improvement regarding the coating of the lenses. With the so called e-BAND coating there is almost NO ghosting and flaring visible, although I was shooting directly into the sun! Not to forget that the sun in iceland is remarkably brighter than in germany… That’s what I call perfection!
Look and feel
Both lenses have been given a completely new design, but I couldn’t care less! Lenses don’t have to look good, they simply have to perform! Image performance ist what I look for and technical features. I would even take pictures using a tomato if that was the best lens in the world.
In addition, I already liked the look and feel of the previous tamron lenses and I personally would have seen no reason to redesign them. Hopefully someone at Tamron will win a design price for that, though 😉 Of course the lenses look fabulous and feel as good as they look but I still have to say I really don’t care about that little extra!
Image stabilization – VC rocks!
What interests me more is the built-in VC (vibration compensation) which works really well!! It surely enhances the possibility of hand-held shooting in low-light situations. You can use significantly longer shutter speeds, I have to admit I didn’t measure that, but what i can say is that the VC works as well as it did with the 24-70mm Tamron lens – it still rocks as it always did! 🙂
Why does image stablization seem to be such an issue nowadays? There are more and more high-pixel density imagers which pick up the subtlest vibrations and result in a lower overall image quality! The pixels nowadays are so teeny-tiny that every micro-vibration is noticable in the final picture. With a Nikon D810 for instance, one has to take pictures with a shutter speed of 1/400 to gain optimum results!!
What I want to emphasize is that VC not only helps you when you are trying to take a picture with a shutter speed of 1/10 in low light but also with high-pixel density cameras like the Canon 5DRS (which we used for our tests BTW)… 50 megapixels and 1/100 shutter speed get you a pin sharp image – WOW!
Both new lenses have been given another great feature – the protection against dust and splash water. A rubber lip near the lens bayonet ensures a perfect seal, which helps not only in adverse weather conditions like on iceland but also during your vacation at the lakeside. This feature is particularly important to me, because the best photos are usually captured in the worst situations!! Whoever packs away all their equipment at the slightest sign of a tiny raindrop or a single grain of sand or dust, will not get a single image on the memory card. That is certainly not what we are trying to achieve!
Now it’s time for a brief summary as an outline of the main points:
• Extremely high corner performance – sharp images even at the outer edges
• Stunning colour and contrast
• high speed f 1.8 PLUS vibration compensation – high optical quality
• low vignetting – must admit that I would definitely like that for certain looks though 🙂
• perfectly sealed – enjoy greater photographic freedom! Jippie!
• lightweight an handy
• Quick and quiet autofocussing system
Here’s the video again (for those who have read until here and haven’t seen it yet ;-))
Comparison – Tamron vs. Sigma vs. Canon
The most exciting part was undoubtedly when it came to a direct comparison of the Tamron lens with the other competitors… Canon 35mm f2 IS USM and SIGMA 35mm f1.4 ART.
Beforehand I want to point out that both Canon and Tamron lug the image stabilizer around with themselves, wich does make a difference, because a movable lens element is always harder to control than fixed installed lenses, they may therefore have a little starting disadvantage. Be that as it may, we attached all three lenses to a Canon 5DRS and took photos of a test setup.
“The bigger the better” vs. “less is more”
In a direct comparison one can easily spot the difference in size – the Tamron lens is way smaller and lighter compared to the Sigma lens, but the Canon outshines all others. In other words – I would have loved the Tamron with the size of the Canon but, hey, you can’t have everything! 🙂
Now back to our test with the Canon 5DSR. Definitely a major challenge for every lens! 50 megapixel wishing to be served… that’s when nothing remains concealed and potential weaknesses of a lens can’t be hidden anymore.
Gained in practice, for use in practice
We have not performed any laboratory-like testing and that’s for a reason. We want to use our lenses in practice and that’s why we decided to take photos of many different things with different surfaces i.e. shiny ones (to make CAs visible), furthermore we placed some text at the very edges of the setup (to evaluate the corner performance and sharpness) and illuminated the whole setup using a speedlight. Because of the very short burn-down time this guarantees perfect sharpness and any lack of sharpness can be put down to the lens.
We took five photos with autofocus and five with manual focus – that makes ten photos each (of which we picked the sharpest image of every lens). The Sigma and Tamron lens were photographed at f 1.8, the Canon lens at f 2.0 (naturally). The image stabilizer within the Canon and Tamron was activated.
Here you can see the first results. The Canon lens cannot keep up with the other two lenses. Extreme vignetting, lack of sharpness. Not bad, considering the price (less than 400€). However, Tamron and Sigma are still fighting to win the race.
Tamron vs. Sigma
When compared directly, there are significant differences between these two lenses. In a word, the Tamron lens is sharper than the Sigma lens, which is clearly visible in the following comparison. Maybe Tamron has handed us an extremely sharp lens but I hope and think they didn’t, as that would make absolutely no sense for Tamron in the long term.
Here’s a more detailed comparison but CAUTION! CAUTION! CAUTION! Due to automatic data compression on a tablet or smartphone you can ONLY VIEW THE 1:1 CROPS in a web browser that is big enough to display the blog at its original width (960px).
Now to the center of the image:
Slightly away from the center (downwards) – with lots of detail and text
The edge region at the right side
It is visible to the naked eye that there are differences in sharpness, although in the third picture the sigma turns out to have the better edge-definition and sharpness. Just have a look at the logo on the right side! It is very likely that the additional sharpness comes from the Sigma lens being stopped down from f 1.4 to f1.8..
To flare or not to flare
The Sigma lens is also slightly superior in terms of its ability to reduce or even eliminate any sign of flaring and ghosting. In a strong backlight condition the Tamron is outstanding in quality, still the Sigma stays slightly ahead in these situations, which I can tell from my own experiences with both lenses.
However, all in all the Sigma is not really inferior to the Tamron. Not to forget that we are talking about a 50 megapixel camera, meaning that most cameras won’t even be able to display the differences shown above. For me personally though… I have to admit that my loved Sigma 35mm appears to have a poorer overall level than the new Tamron lens!
RAW-files free for download
Now there’s the highlight I already announced at the beginning of this article… some RAW files directly out of my Canon 5DRS – shot with the new Tamron 35mm lens.
All photos were taken at f 1.8, we did not use any flash, instead we used continuous light or sunlight to assess the actual sharpness of the lens without the help of a flash.
Below you can find a zip-file with a RAW and a JPEG file of each photo.
!!!!! CAUTION CAUTION CAUTION !!!!!
All images are copyright of Krolop & Gerst and may NOT be used without explicit consent of Krolop & Gerst!
They shall serve the exclusive purpose of personal information and for assessing the image quality! No more, no less!!!
Something about the 50 megapixel
Undoubtedly there are only a few lenses that are able to display what a 50 megapixel camera CAN display. The two new Tamron lenses definitely have joined the squad. Just look at those details in the eyes of both models! Wow! I would say that really does look like paradise for all the pixel nerds and tech freaks amongst us! 🙂
One last thing…
This brings us to the end – well – almost. There’s one more essential thing I want to say about image stabilization in general. Canon has just announced its new 35mm f 1.4 II – again without any image stabilizer but with a special organic coating which allegedly bans any chromatic aberrations.(!!!) I am a fan of both high speed lenses and image stabilization and I still find it hard to decide what to favour. Well, I’ll have to make a decision eventually.
In principle, the following applies: an image stabilizer gets you more light onto the sensor (because you are able to significantly reduce the shutter speed) than f 1.4 compared to f 1.8 (that’s only two thirds of an f-stop, which is not really that much). Well that should be clear as daylight now 😉 Sometimes, however, you are in need of shorter shutter speeds – that’s when there is no more point in having an image stabilizer.
To sum it up, I think that it’s a good deal to have a stabilizer instead of two thirds of an f-stop more. Actually I am pretty sure that I would decide for the stabilizer again and again, especially with the new megapixel-monsters like the Nikon D810 or the Canon 5DRS. The stabilizer will come in handy even at a shutter speed of 1/300 second. Everybody who owns such a camera will know what I’m talking about! All in all I would claim that nowadays every lens needs a stabilizer!
Eventually it all depends on the price tag. Tamron surely scores off the competition a little bit with their two new lenses. Of course we are talking about bits and bobs at a high quality level. Nevertheless Tamron has succeeded in setting a whole new dimension regarding the quality standard of camera lenses. Both new lenses are absolutely high-end and provide outstanding quality even for megapixel-monster cameras. Concerning the price we can only stay curious and say… just wait and see!
35mm or 45mm? Why?
35mm and 45mm seem to lie very close together, maybe too close? The decision for these two focal lenghts raised more than a few eyebrows… when do I use which lens and why? Well, the answer to that is quite simple. The 35mm lens clearly has the look of a wide angle lens while the 45mm has the look of a standard lens. Whoever wants to be where the action is should decide for the 35mm (which is more suitable for APS-C cameras as well, as the 45mm lens is too long for most “everyday scenes”) – BUT – if you like taking portraits on an APS-C camera, the 45mm is nearly perfect though… 🙂