NEW: Comparison Chart of Digital Ultrawide Zooms 02 January 2009
Ideal Uses: Perfect for use on amateur digital (Nikon DX, Canon 1.6x, Pentax and Minolta/Sony) cameras as a general-purpose wide to super-wide zoom, especially in daylight. Unlike many non-Nikon lenses like Tokina and other Tamrons, this particular Tamron works great on Nikon's cheapest D40, D40x and D60.
When I first wrote this review, there was no Nikon 10-24mm lens. Now that there is, I'll save you a lot of reading to point out that the Nikon 10-24mm is superior in every way, and priced accordingly. I never skimp on lenses because lenses are something I'll be using on several cameras to come; they don't go obsolete every year like digital cameras.
Please read the rest of this review accordingly. As of July 2009, I suggest everyone get the Nikon 10-24mm instead, or for cameras which will autofocus with it, the superb Tokina 11-16mm.
This Tamron 10-24mm lens feels great. It doesn't feel anywhere near as dinky as Tamron's earlier 11-18mm lens. It sells for $500 as of January 2009.
This 10-24mm covers a huge ultrawide zoom range, it's very easy to zoom and it focuses fast enough.
The Tamron 10-24mm has a great 7-bladed diaphragm for great 14-pointed sunstars, and it focuses super close: 9 ½" (0.24m) from the image sensor, which means just inches (centimeters) from the front of the lens.
The only gotcha is that it's not very sharp. At apertures of f/5.6 and larger it's obviously softer than the Nikon 12-24mm, even on a 6MP D40. If you count your pixels, especially if you shoot a higher-resolution camera, forget this Tamron lens. Stopped down to f/8 and smaller it's OK, but still not as good as the real Nikon lens.
On Nikon, this Tamron has a small motor that sounds like a toy car to turn its focus ring for auto focus on all Nikon digital cameras. Unlike the Nikon and Sigma 10-20mm, you have to move a switch to swap between auto and manual focus; there is no automatic clutch.
See also my Comparison chart of Digital Ultrawide Zooms.
This covers 90% of my review. Feel free to skip to Recommendations for the next 5%, and only bother with the rest of the details for the last 5%.
Tamron 10-24mm. enlarge.
Specifications with commentary top
Name: Tamron's marketing calls this the Tamron SP AF 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 DiII LD Aspherical (IF), model number B001NII. The letters are meaningless marketing crud designed to make you think you're getting something different than every other lens.
Don't fret these; this Tamron is optically the softest ultrawide I've used on digital cameras.
Optics: 12 elements in 9 groups. Internal focusing.
Coverage: Small-format digital only, no film or full-frame.
Focal Length: 10-24mm, which on a DX camera gives angles of view similar to what a 15-35mm lens gives when used on an FX or 35mm camera. Used on a Canon 1.6x camera, it covers angles of view similar to what a 16-39mm lens would see.
Close Focus: 9 ½" (0.24m) from the image sensor, which means just inches (centimeters) from the front of the lens.
Maximum Reproduction Ratio: 1:5.1.
Hard Infinity Focus Stop? No.
Focus Scale: Yes.
Depth-of-Field Scale: No.
Infra-Red Focus Index: No way, José.
Diaphragm: 7 straight blades. Stops down to f/22 at 10mm to f/29 at 24mm.
Aperture Ring: None.
Filter Thread: 77mm, plastic. Does not rotate.
Size: Tamron specifies 3.4" (86.5mm) extension from flange by 3.3" (83.2mm) diameter.
Weight: 15.020 oz. (425.8g), measured, in Nikon mount. Tamron specifies 13.1 oz. (370g), which is much different.
Hood: AB001N plastic bayonet, included.
Made in: Red China. Hood is marked "Japan."
Available: Since late 2008.
Tamron Model Number: B001NII.
Packaging: Silver-ink single-wall box, corrugated inserts.
Price: $500, USA, January 2009.
Bottom of lens barrel, Tamron 10-24mm.
The Tamron 10-24mm feels great. Everything is wonderful, except that the images, even on only a 6MP camera, are soft at larger apertures.
If you want an easy to handle, wide-range ultrawide zoom that can work on every model of camera, go ahead and get this lens, but if you're picky about optical quality, skip it.
This Tamron, at least in Nikon mount, uses a dinky electric motor to move the focus ring. It sounds like a toy.
This is how Canon did it — back in 1987.
AF speed is fast enough, but not fast, in Nikon mount. This Tamron lens has a dinky little motor in it that moves the focus ring around.
AF seems close enough.
Manual focus is great; but you do have to move a switch.
Unlike the Nikon, Canon and Sigma lenses, you may not move the focus ring until after you've moved the switch ont he lens to MF. If you move the ring while in AF, you'll be working against the motor built into the lens.
Focus is internal, so nothing moves externally except the focus ring, which moves even in AF mode. Keep your hands clear, otherwise you'll interfere with it during AF.
The Tamron front cap is OK, although I'd leave it in the box and replace it with a good Nikon cap since the newest Nikon caps are much sturdier and easier to get on and off than the Tamron caps.
The Tamron rear caps for Nikon suck. The Tamron caps expect you to look at them and carefully align them to the dot on the lens before you twist them on. Forget it!
I'd use a real Nikon rear cap instead, since you can pop them on in any alignment without having to stop and look.
The Tamron 10-24mm has what I'd expect for distortion: plenty of barrel (bulging) distortion at the widest end, and less barrel distortion at the least wide end.
This can be corrected by plugging these figures into Photoshop CS2's lens distortion filter. These aren't facts or specifications, they are the results of my research that requires hours of photography and calculations on the resulting data.
The good news is that the distortion is simple, so it's fully corrected when you use this simple tool.
© 2009 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.
It feels great! Zoom and focus feel just right.
You do have to move a switch to get to and from manual focus, but I'll take that as a reasonable compromise over not having AF at all on my D40.
See the big gold ring? That's a treat, because you can grab the lens there for mounting and unmounting.
Falloff on Nikon DX is negligible. I never saw it, except in these deliberate torture-tests shooting gray fields and dropping them on top of a flat gray background.
Watch out: on Nikon DX, you need to use a medium to thin-mount filter.
At 10mm, there is no vignetting (dark corners) with a typical Hoya filter with a 4.9mm thick ring, but there is vignetting with a typical Tiffen, with its thicker 6.4mm ring, will give dark corners at 10mm.
This shouldn't be a problem on Canon, since Canon uses smaller sensors, but then again, with Canon, you ought to use the much sharper and less distorting and better focusing Canon 10-22mm lens instead.
Forget polarizers, not so much for the vignetting issue with thick mounts, but because the sky doesn't look right hen polarized with ultra-wide lenses. more.
There are some lateral color fringes on the D40, which doesn't correct for them automatically. You'll also see these on Canon cameras.
If you have a better Nikon, it will AF with all third party lenses, and you'll be much happier with the superior optics of the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8.
Nikon's D300, D90 and other second generation Nikons do correct these lateral color fringes, but if you're shooting one of the better Nikon digitals, you'd be much better off with a better lens like the superior Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8.
The Tamron 10-24mm feels like pretty good plastic. I wouldn't kick it out of my camera bag based on how it's put together.
Barrel Exterior: Plastic.
Filter Threads: Plastic.
Hood: Plastic bayonet.
Focus Ring: Plastic; rubber covered.
Zoom Ring: Plastic; rubber covered.
Depth-of-Field Scale: None.
Aperture Ring: None.
Identity Plate: Metal ring around barrel.
Serial Number: Sticker on bottom of barrel.
Ass-Gasket (dust seal at mount): No.
Noises When Shaken: Mild clicking from something which sounds like probably the focus motor system.
Warranty: Six Years, USA.
Made in: Red China. Hood is marked "Japan."
With those caveats, the Tamron 10-24mm is one of the softest lenses I can recall using recently, and this is only using it on a 6MP Nikon D40. It would look even worse on a higher-resolution camera like a Nikon D90, which would expose more of the lens' optical faults.
Wide Open: Most of the image is soft. The corners are very soft.
At f/5.6: Better, but still softer, especially in the corners.
At f/8: Much better, but still worse in the corners than the other lenses.
With its straight 7-bladed diaphragm, the Tamron 10-24mm ought to make magnificent 14 -pointed sunstars on bright points of light.
Zooming feels great. It's easy to set any desired precise framing.
The front section with the filter and bayonet mounts pumps in and out as you zoom. It's longest at 24mm, shortest at 14mm, and comes out a little again at 10mm.
Tamron 10-24mm. enlarge.
The Tamron 10-24mm is nice enough, except that it's not very sharp unless stopped down. There are better lenses out there for the same price. Used wide-open in dim light, the results are soft enough to be noticeable in normal-sized (8x10" or 20x25cm) prints.
I wouldn't buy one of these, even for use on a Nikon D40, D40x or D60. On these cameras, I'd suggest finding a way to get the more expensive Nikon 10-24mm, since money spent on lenses is always an investment that pays well for many years.
Even on the D40, D40x and D60, for the same money I'd get the far superior Tokina 11-16mm and focus manually using these camera's manual focus systems. This way, when I got a better camera in the future, the Tokina would autofocus, and I'd save myself having to sell this Tamron.
If you're shooting Canon, the superior Canon 10-22mm is well worth the small extra cost.
If you're shooting anything else, get the superior Tokina 11-16mm. It's the sharpest ultrawide made for small format digital SLRs, and it's a stop faster than anything else, too. The Tokina is also built relatively like a tank, and is about the same price as this Tamron.
The saying "the poor man pays twice" applies here. If you get one of these Tamron 10-24mm to save money just to autofocus on the D40, chances are that you'll want to buy the better lens in the future anyway. If you're a Tamron die-hard, the Tamron 11-18mm is much better.
If you do use this lens, keep it stopped down to f/8 and it's fine. It is nice that it covers such a huge zoom range with reasonable distortion.
I'd leave a 77mm Hoya Super HMC UV on the lens at all times. I would leave the hood at home.
I'd pitch the crappy Tamron cap and get a new Nikon front cap. I'm serious: the newest Nikon caps are much sturdier and easier to get on and off than the Tamron caps. Keep the Tamron cap stored in the box for when you resell your lens. I'd also replace the rear cap with a real Nikon rear cap, since Tamron's rear caps are tougher to attach because they have to be carefully aligned.
Many thanks to Tamron USA, Inc., who loaned me this lens so I could offer you these observations.
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