I shoot with a Canon 5D Mark III using prime lenses but there have been occasions, such as when out in wide open spaces in nature or in tighter areas like buildings, when a zoom lens would have fit the bill perfectly. I rented a telephoto zoom lens (70-200mm) when I was traveling in Nevada visiting state parks but I’d never used a wide zoom before. As it turned out, I had recently been to a tent sale at my favorite photography store – Midwest Photo Exchange – where the Tamron people let me see what this lens could do. I was impressed but couldn’t think of any reasons to shoot with it at that time so I didn’t think any further about it. But once I saw a friends photos taken in a cathedral in Rome using a wide zoom lens, I decided to step out of my usual shooting habits and explore shooting really wide using the Tamron 15-30mm lens.
The Tamron 15-30mm is a full frame f/2.8 stabilized high speed wide angle zoom lens priced at $1199.00. It is a bit big coming in at a 2.5 pounds and 5.75 inches long. Adding that to the weight and size of my camera body and it becomes a little hefty but nothing compared to some much longer lens I’ve shot with where I needed a tripod/monopod to help not only with stabilizing the camera but also with giving my arm and hand a rest. This really isn’t difficult weight wise to handle. The lens has fixed focal lengths marked at 15, 18, 20, 24, and 30mm and mounts Canon AF, Nikon AF and Sony AF cameras. I won’t go deeper into the specifications for this lens but if you want to know about blade numbers (nine by the way) and lens construction for example, you can check that out here on Tamron’s website.
The first thing I noticed when I held it in my hand was the lens cap, which really is more like a cup. It’s not your typical pinch on and off cap but a slide on and off one. When the lens cap is removed you will see the domed glass along with the fixed lens hood which helps protect the front element there. Something else that protects the front element is the fluorine coating it has that helps repel water or contaminants; that is very important as you cannot put a filter on this lens. Once the rental was on my camera it was time to go exploring to see what it could do.
It was eye opening to see just how much this lens could capture at it’s widest setting. It was also there that I most noticed some barrel distortion of the lens. I observed this primarily when shooting vertically; horizontally it wasn’t as noticeable to my eye. The distortion becomes almost non-existent according to listed test results at the sweet spot of 20mm. To me, from 20-30mm the distortion (if any) was almost negligible. All of these vertical shots were taken hand held standing in the same spot for each shot and focusing on the door with minor editing done exactly the same. The mild distortion at 15mm is a little difficult to see here because there is so much going on in the image. In shots that were simpler as in just sky and a field, it was easier to detect but not distracting.
(Click on photos to view larger)
These photos were taken at a state park where I was able to shoot the beautiful landscapes there horizontally. I repeated my previous method of taking each photo hand held while standing in the same spot and focusing on the same object – in this case the dam – and processing the images identically. You can just barely make out a bit of distortion around the middle of the 15mm image but as I’ve said, it stands out more when shooting vertically and when the composition isn’t filled with many objects.
Shooting with this lens is a breeze! Auto focusing was quick, the images were very sharp, and I honestly cannot say if I heard the motor working or not, it’s just that quiet. The vibration control allows you to shoot hand held easily at slower shutter speeds with less light. There was one thing I noticed about the lens that did catch me off guard. When looking through the viewfinder and moving the camera to pan or recompose a shot the distortion would kick in making me feel as if I were on a 3D ride. That was interesting.
If you like to or need to shoot wide then this is a great lens to own; it’s sharp and quiet and the distortion that often happens with wide lenses ranges here from somewhat visible to almost imperceptible. I believe this lens would work best either in places like inside of a smaller room where you cannot back up far enough for the shot you want or in a larger space like a concert hall or church where you would want to capture all of that grandeur. And of course it is amazing for shooting landscapes! I wouldn’t use it for portrait work unless you were shooting a very large group and as far as shooting flowers – which I tried – a smaller garden doesn’t yield as beautiful results as a big field of them.