I went out to one of the local historical sites at Wath-Upon-Dearne the other morning. This is a site that I’ve photographed before, but not for any of the lens in the past. The last time I used a 24mm prime, so it was interesting to see the differences when compared to a modern zoom lens at the same focal length.
Both lenses were rated at F/2.8. However, the prime is a 1984 model Nikkor AIS lens, which means it’s manual focus. First and foremost, this means that it has much smaller physical dimensions than the Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD. This meant that I was unable to perfectly replicate one of the shots I took the last time (shown above), as the Tamron lens was too wide to fit between the bars of the gate (although there was a gap which allowed for similar results around the back of the kiln). However, there is much more blue lens flare in the shot from the older lens. VC in the Tamron lens helps to maintain a steady shot, even at an awkward angle, and the auto focus also meant that it was a little easier to get the shot I wanted.
This got me thinking about one of my earlier observations about the lens, namely the size of the auto focus ring. It’s quite a skinny little thing, and when I first saw I wasn’t too convinced. However, with the resolution of my new camera (the 36.3MP D800), I’m finding that my ability to focus manually can’t always be relied on without the use of live view. Thankfully the autofocus is very precise. It would have taken me an age to get the manual focus right on the shot below, because of the low light levels.
In short, it’s not the issue I thought it was, because I’m using the motors more than ever to ensure critical focus. If you’re a manual focus fan, then you may not like the size of the focus ring on the Tamron 24-70, but if you are using a high resolution sensor, or one without an anti-aliasing filter, then you may find that it’s right that the zoom ring takes priority on this model.
The other thing to note is that there is no longer a great gap in image quality between zoom lenses and their equivalent primes. Ive found that the Tamron zoom has a better ability to cope with high contrast than the older lens (largely to do with modern coatings). The only real benefit with the AIS lens here was the difference in weight, but if you have to carry two or even three lenses where one zoom lens will do, then this becomes incidental.