If you can live with a few limitations, Tamron’s new 10-24mm can fulfill your wide-angle needs, big time.By Ellis Vener
Sometimes you find yourself in need of an ultra-wide zoom. The Tamron SP AF10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 Di-II LD Aspherical [IF] is a really good, not quite great lens that fits the bill for landscape, corporate and perhaps some architectural photography. Although designed for formats smaller than 24x36mm, from 13.75mm to 24mm, without the included lens hood, it covers the full 24x36mm (Nikon FX)—for a price around $499.
The optical path consists of 12 elements, three of them molded aspheric glass designs, two others hybrid aspheric designs. There are two LD elements, similar to Nikon’s ED elements. Internal flare and reflection are well controlled, even when there are light sources in the frame. I tested this lens with FX-format Nikon D3 and D700 camera bodies and a DX-format D300 body; with the exception of some slight purple fringes, or blooming, around light sources, chromatic aberrations are virtually non-existent.
Size comparison: Left, AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G ED; center, AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 12-24mm f/4G IF-ED; right, Tamron SP AF10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 Di-II LD Aspherical [IF] lens.
If you work with Nikon DX (APS-C) format cameras, the full-frame coverage equivalent is 15-36mm, slightly wider in my experience. With Canon APS-C (20D, 30D, 40D, 50D) cameras, the equivalent range is 16-38.4mm. Minimum focusing distance is 9.44 inches at all focal lengths. At 10mm, this results in a purported 1:5X magnification ratio (one-fifth life size) for close-up photography. In my tests, compared to AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 12-24mm f/4G and AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G lenses, at any given focal length the Tamron lens has a slightly wider angle of view than you’d expect for that focal length. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the focal lengths are different from their designations, but it does indicate a difference in optical design.
Wide: AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G ED at 14mm.
Wider: AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 12-24mm f/4G IF-ED at 12mm.
The handling characteristics are generally fine. Both the zoom ring and the focusing ring are well dampened, the lens exhibited no creep with the camera pointed downward. Like the G-type F-mount Nikkors, there’s no aperture control ring on the lens. Like the similarly sized DX Nikkor 12-24mm f/4G, the Tamron 10-24mm can take a 77mm filter, which could be handy for landscape photographers who still use graduated neutral density or polarizing filters.
Optically, the 10-24mm doesn’t have quite the same quality as the already legendary AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G lens, at least on the D3 and D700 bodies. The quality comes close on the smaller-format D300, but the nod still goes to the big Nikkor. If you use an FX Nikon body and need a super ultra-wide angle lens but can’t afford the 14-24mm f/2.8 Nikkor, and if you’re willing to live with the slightly lower resolution and the moderate barrel distortion, this may be the lens for you.
Another good use for this lens is stitched panoramic interior photos. I do a lot of these for clients and, weird as it sounds, 14mm, even with the long side of the FX format turned vertically, sometimes just isn’t wide enough. Until I started working with this lens, I’d have to resort to using a fisheye lens, which takes in an extremely wide angle of view by exploiting barrel distortion. Though there’s some barrel distortion at the edges of its widest setting when used on a format larger than the designers intended, the rectilinear type Tamron 10-24mm lens reduces my post-processing headaches.
In all, this is a very good specialty lens at a very good price.
Special thanks to PPR Atlanta for the loan of the rental studio, Nikon D300 camera and 12-24mm Nikkor lens.