24-70: The widest lens I’ve ever used.

Okay, so in terms of the angle of view, that’s not true at all. But physically, the Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD is a large lens. Within its class, it appears to be the only with a thread larger than 77mm (at 82mm). This does has some relevance on the use and optical characteristics of the lens, so I thought it was discussing this in further detail.
Since the lens is quite compact, and shorter than some of its counterparts, the large front element does contribute to the pronounced vignetting when shooting at maximum aperture, since the distance from the centre of the lens to the edges is proportionally larger than in other lenses. I’ve talked about this in a previous post, and have said before that I don’t view vignetting as an issue, since there are certain circumstances where an aperture-controllable vignette might actually be an advantage. In any case, vignettes are easily removed with even the most basic software these days, and if it’s a choice between a vignette-free lens or a sharp lens, I’ll pick the detail every time. Since the large front element collects plenty of light, the resolution is excellent.
The more obvious effect of the large elements is the size and weight of the lens, and how it handles on a camera. This is quite an important factor, as it can potentially limit who buys the lens.

Handling

Since the Tamron is also the only lens in class to come armed with a stabiliser, the bulk at the front of the lens is balanced by the bulk at the back of the lens. It’s got some girth. I am very aware of how heavy it is whenever I use it. Of course, this is a lens designed for full-frame cameras, so extra size and weight is to be expected.
While this weight reassures me that it’s a quality product, I find myself gripping my camera very tightly, and can lead to some discomfort when shooting vertically. I have quite small hands, so my grip only reaches half way around the Tamron 24-70mm VC. A battery grip helps by giving a larger surface area to hold on to with the other hand and giving balance, but that does add more weight.
Recently I was looking for an arca-swiss type tripod plate that would allow me to use a sling strap at the same time. I stumbled on to the Joby Ultraplate, and ordered one that came bundled with a hand strap. This turned out to be a very good buy, as it’s solved the problems of wrist pain, as I can now relax my grip without fear of dropping the camera (Note: I’m a huge fan of Joby’s newest line of products, from the Ballhead X to the Ultra fit sling strap – they’re all really well designed with very little that I’d do differently). I no longer feel the need to use an additional grip for most shooting, and feel a lot more comfortable when using the Tamron as a result.

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Filters

Because of the 82mm thread, I’m not currently able to use my filters with the Tamron 24-70mm VC. Up until now, my top quality lenses both had a 77mm thread, and I’ve used stepping rings to use my circular polariser with my smaller lenses. This much more economical than buying a filter for every lens. However, I will have to invest in a larger filter now in order to cover the front of the Tamron. The price difference between 77mm and 82mm filters is only about 10%, so if you chose to buy the Tamron before buying a filter, it’s not an issue. However, replacing a polariser is a costly affair, so this is a clear negative if you’re thinking of upgrading or replacing an existing lens in your current lineup.

Advanced shooting

The increased weight comes in handy when shooting from a tripod, since it takes a stronger wind to affect the stability. The shot below was taken with the camera perched on top of handrails, with the legs splayed over a bridge and using a radio trigger to open the shutter.

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Since I can’t use my filters, I’m now more likely to use sensor dodging to control my exposures when shooting in low light. The good news is that the large element means that it’s easy for me to visualise the movements I need to make with my hands in order to make the necessary adjustments to my images. In fact, the technique is easier with this lens than with any other I’ve used, allowing me to get detailed and colourful images like those below without too much trial and error. And because I’m not using an optical filter, the “hand-filtered” images are as sharp as they can possibly be.

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As with any attribute, there’s a balance to be struck. Now that I’ve sorted out the handling of the lens with my choice of straps, I’m able to enjoy to the fullest extent the things which cause the lens’s heft and girth: an outstanding image stabiliser and a large piece of glass which allows me to shoot more creatively. The fact is, I can take images with this lens that I can’t get with any other 24-70mm in the same circumstances.

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2 responses to “24-70: The widest lens I’ve ever used.

  1. Hello,

    I just found your blog because of the tamron 24-70mm and I’m amazed to find so much useful information.

    I’m considering buying, but the 82mm diameter has is disadvantages. I was trying to figure out if the use of a step-down ring to adapt to 77mm filters would work or they would just give you to much vignetting. Have you tried that?

    Thanks!

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