Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 XR Di II VC LD Aspherical


A large f/2.8 aperture standard zoom is an important lens if you do indoor photography for weddings or other events, and these lenses have become very popular. How does the Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 perform?

Build and Handling

The Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 lens is built like a consumer lens. It is mostly plastic and feels about the same as their other zoom lenses, like the 18-250 or 18-270mm superzooms. It is made mostly of a medium grade plastic. The zoom ring takes a fair amount of effort to extend and the front focus ring turns while the camera is focusing, so you have to watch your grip.

The lens comprises 19 elements in 14 groups. The lens is relatively compact and light (for its range and aperture) at 570g (20.1oz). It uses 72mm filter threads, and minimum focus is a short 0.29m or 11.4 in, with a maximum magnification of 1:4.8. The diaphragm consists of 7 curved blades.

The lens uses an internal motor to focus, so it will work on all AF Nikon bodies. Focus is not fast, and the lens produces a lot of noise while focusing. I had to unmount it and verify it wasn’t screw drive.

The lens implements VC, which is Tamron’s optical image stabilization system. It works well, but produces audible clunks when it engages and disengages. It could stand to be more refined.

17mm MTF 50 (Sharpness)

17mm MTF 20 (Resolution)

17mm Lateral Chromatic Aberration

17mm Distortion

29mm MTF 50 (Sharpness)

29mm MTF 20 (Resolution)

29mm Lateral Chromatic Aberration

29mm Distortion

50mm MTF 50 (Sharpness)

50mm MTF 20 (Resolution)

50mm Lateral Chromatic Aberration

50mm Distortion

Overall Distortion


All data gathered using Imatest.

Conclusion

The lens emphasizes central performance. At 17mm the center starts out strong, but the extreme corners remain low sharpness throughout the aperture range. Resolution remains acceptable. By 29mm, the center is extremely sharp even wide open, and resolution is off the charts. Corners are good by f/4 and very good by f/5.6. When we reach 50mm everything loses contrast wide open. Resolution is okay, but the sharpness drops into the poor range. This will be suitable for central close-up subjects, but don’t try to take sharp edge to edge images at 50mm f/2.8.

The lens shows very noticeable lateral CA at 17mm, and it gradually disappears towards 50mm. Longitudinal CA is fairly minor at 50mm wide open.

Flare resistance is typical of an f/2.8 aperture zoom. That is to say you will see lens flare pointing near the sun, and it can become extreme at times. See the sample images.

Distortion is a fairly severe at 17mm, but it quickly fades to almost no distortion through the rest of the zoom range.

Bokeh seems extreme pleasing, especially at 50mm. Although it can get harsh at certain camera/subject/background ratios. Specular highlights are nice and smooth, but do have some rings in some situations, and the 7 curved bladed aperture really helps them remain circular even when stopped down.

Pros:
– Sharp Center from 17-50mm f/2.8 to f/4 range.
– Vibration Control.

Cons:
– Noises during focus and VC use
– Soft corners (most of the range).

Uses (sample):
– Event Photography
– Available Light (centered and close subjects)
– General Purpose

This lens is a great event lens. It sharpens up wonderfully for flash use, and is sharp enough wide open to be used without a flash where you need the large aperture. As my advice with most standard zooms, treat the lens as a 17-50mm f/2.8-4 and you have an excellent lens. Performance wise this is much like the venerable Tokina 28-70mm f/2.6-2.8 Pro II I used on my full frame, but ironically it had better corner performance even though it was on a full frame camera.

If you like my review, you might shop for camera gear at Adorama.

Buy this lens on Amazon: Tamron AF 17-50mm F/2.8 SP XR Di II VC (Vibration Compensation) Zoom Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras

The gallery images are © 2011 Eric Tastad, and may only be used for personal evaluation of the lenses. The images were exported straight from camera with my default LR3 settings for the NEX 3, which have some sharpening set since it is a fairly high resolution sensor and LR tends to under sharpen.

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