I don’t typically shoot with super wide angle lenses. It’s not because I don’t enjoy them, but simply because the super wide angle doesn’t align with my shooting style. This doesn’t, however, mean that I can’t appreciate them from time to time. I do want to provide you with well rounded lens reviews, and definitely the best wide angle lenses on the market, so I reached out to Tamron, and they were kind enough to send me out the Tamron 15-30mm F/2.8 Di VC lens for a few weeks to review.
Typically when shooting with ultra wide angle lenses, one does not need any type of image stabilization. However, Tamron introduced VC (vibration compensation) into this lens, with the idea being that one can shoot with even longer shutter speeds than typical. Also introduced into this lens is a coating on the front element that makes it extremely easy to clean. If you’re the type of shooter who puts your gear to the test, this can make your life a little easier. It seems like most lens manufacturers are stepping up their lenses, and everyone is reaping the benefits.
While the build on the Tamron 15-30mm is not metal, the lens does feel fairly robust in the hand. In my personal opinion, I would say that the build is slightly better than the Canon 17-40mm lens. The size dwarfs other similar focal length lenses, and at over 2 lbs, it is also heaver than the Canon 16-35 f/2.8L II.The switches feel pretty good clicking back and forth, and don’t feel like they could get switched on or off accidentally. The Focus and zoom rings are made of a nice thick rubber, that feel good in the hand, and have a decent amount of resistance. One con, with regard to the zooming, is the general feel when you are zooming in and out. Some lenses, for instance most 70-200mm lenses, feel smooth when zooming. However, I felt like the elements in the outer shell were sliding instead of gliding. This did not affect the performance of the zoom feature, but it did take some getting used to. Other than that, I did not encounter any issues with the build of the Tamron 15-30mm.
The lens is the weather sealed, and the built in lens hood is rather robust. I did not test the weather sealing on the lens, so I honestly cannot comment on how much rain, dust, or sand it can withstand. One part of the makeup of the zoom functionality that I did appreciate is that when the shooter is zoomed out to 15mm, the front element extends. However, it does not extend passed the built in lens hood. I appreciate that, as I like to set my lens down upside down when switching lenses. I give the build an 89/100. The only reason I am not scoring it higher is because of the zoom functionality, and the use of plastic instead of metal. Don’t get me wrong, I do fully understand that this lens would be even heavier if they had constructed it from metal.
The performance of a lens in my opinion typically involves image quality and autofocus performance. I’ll start with the autofocus performance of the Tamron 15-30mm. Being a third-party lens, I expected the autofocus to be slower then and an equivalent Canon or Nikon lens. This, however, is not the case. Autofocus locked on quickly, and on my copy of the lens was extremely accurate. I also found the image quality on the Tamron 15-30mm to be fantastic. I previously owned the Canon 17-40mm, and the Tamron is vastly sharper from corner to corner. Sharpness wide open at 2.8 was great, with a little falloff in the corners. Stop the lens down a little, and the sharpness will increase slightly, but not greatly. That is a testament to how sharp this lens is wide open. Way to go Tamron.
Chromatic aberration isn’t a big deal with this lens, and if some does occur, it is easily taken care of in Lightroom. Another area that I don’t think needs to be taken into consideration is the bokeh, or out of focus areas. At 15mm and f/2.8, you just aren’t going to get blurry background like you would at 135mm, and in my opinion the quality of what bokeh that can be achieved isn’t even worth talking about. You don’t buy this lens for the bokeh.
Ultra wide-angle lenses are typically easier to shoot with at slower shutter speeds than telephoto lenses, but the addition of vibration compensation to this lens makes it a breeze to work with. When shooting at 15mm with vibration compensation on, I didn’t worry about camera shake, even down to 1/30 shutter speed. I even had about 50% accuracy down to ½ second. That is amazing, allowing for much lower ISO when shooting, and cleaner images. While possibly not 100% needed in all situations, it just makes it that much easier to shoot handheld. I give the Tamron 15-30mm a 92/100 for performance.
Value is a tough thing to measure for this lens, because you inevitably end up comparing it to other lenses. I think that before purchasing a lens in this focal length, a photographer needs to determine what he or she needs first. If you are the type of shooter who needs that extra stop of light, and need the ability to shoot hand held at slow shutter speeds, then this is a fantastic option for you. If you need to shoot with existing filters that you own for long exposure photography, and the front element is going to be an issue for you, because not many manufacturers make a filter system for this lens. The Tamron 15-30mm runs $1,199 new, so you need to take the price into consideration as well. If you are looking for a robust lens, with fantastic image quality, this may be the wide-angle lens you’ve been looking for.
– Sharp wide open
– Robust and built well
– Weather sealed
– Front element wicks moisture well
– Limited filter systems
– Foreign zooming feel
I definitely enjoyed shooting with this lens. I personally don’t shoot ultra wide very often, so the novelty of that was cool, and it is by far the best one of the best wide angle lenses I’ve ever shot with. If I were in the market for a lens in this focal length, I would seriously consider purchasing the Tamron 15-30mm. Give it a look, you might be pleasantly surprised with the direction Tamron is going.