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Falling In Love With the Tamron SP AF 17-50mm f2.8 XR Di-II VC LD Aspherical (IF) Lens

by Chris Gampat on 12/15/2011

Recently, I was loaned the Tamron 17-50mm f2.8 with Vibration Compensation for Nikon DSLR cameras. The lens is the answer to most users’ dreams: a sharp lens with a fast aperture and a form of image stabilization (or vibration reduction) to help you get better photos. Though I’m not usually one for third party lenses, after using the Tamron 17-50mm f2.8 for a while I grew to love it when attached to my D5100.

A full review is coming on the lens, but here’s a preview of what’s to come.

Gear Used

Nikon D5100

Tamron 17-50mm f2.8

The New Walkaround Lens?

As many readers of this site may know, I’m a Canon user at heart though I freely admit that I can take a great photo with any camera you put in my hands (as anyone with a vision and knowledge of how to execute it can.) To clarify, most of my professional work is done using Canon DSLR cameras. But sometimes, I also like to shoot just for the leisure of it and that’s partially the reason why I got a D5100 (like many of you.) I used the Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 ED AF-S on the camera, and found the combo to be too large and bulky. Additionally, it’s extremely expensive. Nikon has their own 17-55mm f2.8 lens, but that is also quite costly.

Then I could go back to my favorite lenses: primes. But sometimes, I don’t want a prime.

After looking around the internet, I decided to try out the Tamron 17-50mm f2.8 lens and unexpectedly fell in love with it. I say unexpectedly because I’m always skeptical of third party lenses but as of recent, there have been many options that have been very impressive. This lens’s color rendering and sharpness are spectacular. Granted, some of the photos I shot aren’t in perfect focus because of subjects moving around nor are many of these photos their original color because they were subject to some editing BUT WAIT: while Nikon lenses render images very warm, this lens rendered images more neutral and therefore made overall editing to be much more simple.

The photo above of Mike was subject to very little editing: except for color shifts, an added vignette and lowering the contrast for a more Kodak Porta type of look. And you indeed get that look when you overexpose your images by around a stop.

While at NYC SantaCon, I took many photos and the majority of them were keepers. But the image quality isn’t one of the only reasons to spring for a lens like this. It also has to do with the small size.

When you’re surrounded by many drunken Santas, you’ll often be in tight quarters and a large lens can bump into people. The Tamron 17-50mm is pleasantly small and in fact the lens can fit with ease into a peacoat pocket.

When you and your subject are both still, the lens will often nail the focusing spot on and will sharpen even more at f4. However, the focusing motors are quite loud. In fact, they sound a bit like a small crane struggling to lift a heavy load. But at loud events, no one will hear it.

As a walkaround lens, it performs extremely well. The zoom range lets a user go from wide to portrait focal length with ease. And if you need to get in closer, the D5100 allows the user to crop to their hearts content with all those megapixels.

What is most interesting about this lens is the locking switch on the right side of it. This switch locks the lens at 17mm and therefore can turn it into a 25.5mm f2.8 prime lens with Vibration Compensation. For the user that loves primes and zooms, you essentially get the best of both worlds here.

Additionally, though the lens feels a bit plasticky and light, it is super durable. It has taken many bumps during my commutes and I’ve even used the lens and camera combo during shoots for work. However, it has stood up to all the torture without any problems at all.

Hell, I even took it into a light rainfall without any problems.

Lastly, I want to make a point to talk about just how amazingly creamy the bokeh is from this lens. The in focus areas will be tack sharp and the rest of the scene will fall into a gorgeous and creamy haze. You’ll surely be able to see a full and clear distinction between the focused areas and the rest of the scene. In fact, I believe that the lens has micro-contrast the way that Zeiss lenses do.

The full review of the lens is yet to come, but so far this one seems like a winner. More to come soon, so stay tuned!

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