Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 Di VC USD Review

April 27, 2015 | Mark Goldstein | |

Introduction

The Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 Di VC USD is a fast ultra-wide angle zoom lens for Canon and Nikon full-frame DSLR cameras. It features a constant aperture of f/2.8 throughout the range, Vibration Compensation (VC) technology, an ultrasonic focus motor for quiet AF operation, and a moisture-proof construction. The optical formula comprises 18 lens elements in 13 groups, including one eXpanded Glass Molded Aspherical element to control aberrations and enhances sharpness and several Low Dispersion elements, and an iris diaphragm with nine rounded aperture blades. The Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 Di VC USD lens officially retails for £949 / $1199.

Ease of Use

For such a fast ultra-wide angle zoom lens, the Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 Di VC USD is predictably big and bulky, measuring almost 15cms in length and wighing in at 1.1kg. While you can use it on a smaller APS-C body, it won't balance very well (and the focal length will also change) - as demonstrated by the images below, it's a much better match for a professional-grade, full-frame camera like the Canon EOS 5D Mark III, where it feels much more well-balanced.

Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 Di VC USDThe Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 Di VC USD lens mounted on a Canon EOS 5D Mk III, zoomed to 15mm

Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 Di VC USDThe Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 Di VC USD lens mounted on a Canon EOS 5D Mk III, zoomed to 30mm

Build quality is very good, despite Tamron traditionally offering lenses at the cheaper end of the market. The more premium-priced Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 Di VC USD feels solid in your hand, even if the outer barrel and the filter thread still appear to be made from plastic.

Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 Di VC USDThe Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 Di VC USD lens mounted on a Canon EOS 5D Mk III

Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 Di VC USDThe Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 Di VC USD lens mounted on a Canon EOS 5D Mk III

Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 Di VC USDThe Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 Di VC USD lens alongside the Canon EOS 5D Mark III

The zoom ring is generously wide and has a ridged, rubberised grip band. The lens extends by about an extra 4cm when zoomed in to 15mm, although it cleverly still doesn't extend past the end of the built-in lens hood.

Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 Di VC USDFront of the Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 Di VC USD lens

Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 Di VC USDSide of the Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 Di VC USD lens

Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 Di VC USDSide of the Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 Di VC USD lens

The focusing ring is much narrower, making it difficult to locate in a rush. There's a distance scale that runs from the closest distance of 28cm to infinity, but no depth of field scale. An AF/MF switch on the side of the lens makes it easy to switch between the two focusing systems.

Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 Di VC USDFront of the Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 Di VC USD lens

 

Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 Di VC USDRear of the Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 Di VC USD lens

The final control is the VC On / Off switch, which turns the lens' built-in Vibration Compensation on and off. This is a big selling point for the Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 Di VC USD, as neither the Canon or Nikon equivalents offer image stabilisation. In practice we found it offered around 3 f-stops of compensation, obviously dependant upon your own particular hand-holding technique, making it easier to use the lens in low-light.

Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 Di VC USDThe Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 Di VC USD lens in-hand

The lens is supplied with lens caps and a non-removeable flower-shaped lens hood - there's no bag included. Note that you can't use traditional screw-on filters with this lens.

Auto-focus

The Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 Di VC USD features a USD (Ultrasonic Silent Drive) that allows near-silent auto-focusing. Importantly, this solution allows instant manual override even when the focus mode switch is in the AF position. In use, we found the focusing to be indeed very quiet, and pretty fast - but definitely not instantaneous - with the lens mounted to a Canon EOS 5D Mk III body.

Chromatic Aberrations

Chromatic aberrations, typically seen as purple or blue fringes along contrasty edges, are impressively well controlled with this lens - the examples below show the worst-case scenario.

Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 Di VC USD Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 Di VC USD

Flare

Flare is a typical problem with wide-angle lenses, so we were curious to find out how the Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 Di VC USD fared in this respect. As this example shows the lens is effective in preventing veiling flare, but it cannot fully eliminate unwanted reflections when shooting against strong backlight.

Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 Di VC USD Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 Di VC USD

Light Fall-off

With the Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 Di VC USD wide open at f/2.8, you can see some very noticeable light fall-off in the corners. Stopping down helps, although to completely get rid of this phenomenon, you will need to use an f-stop of f/5.6 or smaller. There's also distortion apparent at both ends of the zoom range.

Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 Di VC USDLight Fall-off at 15mm

Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 Di VC USDLight Fall-off at 30mm

Vibration Compensation

The Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 Di VC USD's vibration compensation system offers around 3 f-stops of compensation - we'd recommend leaving it turned on all the time, except when mounted on a tripod. The following example was shot handheld at 1/5th second.

Off On
Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 Di VC USD Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 Di VC USD

Macro

The Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 Di VC USD is not a macro lens, but you can focus quite closely at 28cm from the film/sensor plane. The following example illustrates how close you can get to the subject, in this case a CompactFlash card.

Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 Di VC USD Close-up performance

Bokeh

Bokeh is a word used for the out-of-focus areas of a photograph, and is usually described in qualitative terms, such as smooth / creamy / harsh etc. One of the reason to buy a fast lens is to be able to isolate the subject from the background, which is normally very hard to do with an ultrawide lens. Tamron was apparently very much aware of this requirement, as they employed an iris diaphragm with 9 rounded blades for a pleasing rendering of the out-of-focus highlights. Based on what we have seen, we can say that they largely succeeded. Below you'll find some examples, but you are also encouraged to check out our sample images.

Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 Di VC USD Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 Di VC USD
   
Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 Di VC USD Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 Di VC USD

Sharpness

In order to show you how sharp this lens is, we are providing 100% crops on the following pages.

Entry Tags

review, samples, test, wide-angle, canon, zoom, f2.8, 30mm, ultrawide, sample photos, 15mm, 15-30mm, 15-30, Sample Images, Canon SX710 HS, Tamron SP 15-30mm F2.8 Di VC USD