Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 VC Hands-On Review

This hands-on review provides some initial impressions on shooting with the Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 VC. I always try to take a practical, hands-on approach with my gear reviews, so you won’t find any formal sharpness testing and other technical assessments. If readers are looking for that kind of information there are plenty of other photography sites that take that approach with their reviews. As many readers of my blog know I always prefer to shoot images hand-held so this article has quite a bit of emphasis on using this lens in that manner. NOTE: click on images to enlarge

Tam 15-30 image 1

Construction and Features

The Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 VC lens is similar in construction to the other recently launched zoom lenses from Tamron like the 150-600mm VC. The lens is hefty for a zoom of this type and weighs in at 2.43 lbs. (1.1 Kg). As a result the Tamron 15-30mm feels very solid and well built.

Tam 15-30 image 2

The controls for AF/MF focus and vibration control feel tight and well designed. The focusing ring is located closest to the camera mount, with the zoom ring positioned further away. Both feature well-grooved surfaces for good control.

Tam 15-30 image 3

Compared to the Nikkor 16-35mm f/4 VR, the Tamron is physically larger in terms of both diameter and length which makes sense given its constant aperture of /2.8 compared to f/4 on the Nikon lens. The Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 features a rounded front lens element like the Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8.

The Tamron is designed with a double, petal housing which offers additional protection for the front lens element. When shooting at the long end of the zoom range (30mm) the front lens element is in a retracted state. The front lens element extends out when shooting at 15mm. I must confess that it felt a bit uncomfortable at first shooting with the Tamron 15-30mm because I could not put a protective filter on it. After an hour or two it was a non-issue. It was reassuring to know that the lens cap fit nice and snuggly. I didn’t have any issues with it inadvertently coming off the lens so it did provide good, consistent protection.

Tam 15-30 image 7

As you can see in the image above, when the lens is fully extended out and the front lens element is exposed, it still sits back from the leading edges of the double petal hood. Knowing this I felt a lot more comfortable using the lens for some close-up images.

Optical Performance

NIKON D800 + TAMRON 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 24mm, ISO 5000, 1/15, f/8.0
NIKON D800 + TAMRON 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 24mm, ISO 5000, 1/15, f/8.0

You may be wondering why I would put such an ugly image as the one above in this article. I wanted to test the effectiveness of the eBAND anti-reflective coating on the Tamron 15-30mm and this looked like a good opportunity to do so. If you look at the top of the image, in the centre and in the corners, you’ll notice some spot lights shining directly at my camera. I positioned myself to try and attract as many opportunities for lens flares as I could. When I took this photo I could clearly see a number of flare spots all along the bottom of it in my viewfinder. To my surprise they did not show up at all on my actual image.

NIKON D800 + TAMRON 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 15mm, ISO 100, 1/125, f/8.0
NIKON D800 + TAMRON 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 15mm, ISO 100, 1/125, f/8.0

So, a few days later when I was at Ruthven Park I decided to give the lens a more difficult challenge and I positioned myself so the Tamron 15-30mm would catch some quite strong direct sunlight coming from the top corner of the frame. In this instance I did get some flare on my image as you can see in the bottom left-hand corner and also on the second pillar from the right.

I liked the sharpness of the Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 VC lens and found that it held up even at fairly slow shutter speeds. There was a bit of softening along edges and in corners at maximum aperture, but I did not find it worrisome at all for the type of work I do.

Vibration Control

Many people wondered when Nikon introduced the 16-35mm f/4G VR wide angle zoom why they chose to add VR to that lens as they felt it was an unneeded feature. Being a current owner and user of this Nikkor lens I can attest to the fact that the vibration reduction helps to extend the low light use of the lens when a photographer does not have a tripod with them. I’ve been able to successfully shoot the Nikkor 16-35 f/4 VR at slow shutter speeds like 1/4 and 1/3 of a second and I was looking forward to putting the Tamron 15-30 f/2.8 VC through its paces.

NIKON D800 + TAMRON 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 30mm, ISO 1250, 1/40, f/8.0
NIKON D800 + TAMRON 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 30mm, ISO 1250, 1/40, f/8.0

To demonstrate the additional creative opportunities that the vibration control on the Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 provides I took the image above. At 1/40 of a second the waterfall looks coarse. Depending on a photographer’s vision they may be happy with the appearance of the water, or they may want it to look smoother by using a slower shutter speed. If they did not have a tripod with them many people would find it difficult to hand-hold a non-VC lens at a slow enough shutter speed to achieve a smoother look to the waterfall.

NIKON D800 + TAMRON 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 30mm, ISO 100, 1/2, f/11.0
NIKON D800 + TAMRON 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 30mm, ISO 100, 1/2, f/11.0

To achieve a smoother look to the water I took my ISO down to 100 and also stopped the Tamron 15-30mm down to f/11. I took the image above hand-held at a 1/2 second exposure. I think the shot above produces a very different effect than the previous image. Depending on personal taste a photographer may, or may not, like the second image better. To me, having VC on the Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 lens just adds another important creative dimension to the lens. If you look closely at the bricks you’ll notice they aren’t quite as sharp in the second image. I’m not sure if this is due to my hand-holding or from a bit of diffraction shooting my D800 at f/11.

NIKON D800 + TAMRON 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 30mm, ISO 800, 1/2, f/11.0
NIKON D800 + TAMRON 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 30mm, ISO 800, 1/2, f/11.0

Of course it’s one thing to try and shoot a landscape image at a slower shutter speed and quite another to try a close up image like the one above. I took a number of test exposures of this subject matter and found that I could get good, clean images virtually every time when I shot at 1/4 or 1/3 of a second. Even at 1/2 second this image is still useable. I think that most photographers with reasonable technique could shoot the Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 VC hand-held at 1/4 or 1/3 of a second successfully.

NIKON D800 + TAMRON 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 30mm, ISO 100, 13/10, f/11.0
NIKON D800 + TAMRON 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 30mm, ISO 100, 13/10, f/11.0

I always like to push things as far as I can when I review gear just so I can see what happens, and that’s what I did with the above image. I wanted to see if I could hand-hold the Tamron 15-30mm VC for a second or more and still get a useable image. The photograph above was shot hand-held at 1.3 seconds. Here is a 100% crop from the image.

NIKON D800 + TAMRON 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 30mm, ISO 100, 13/10, f/11.0
NIKON D800 + TAMRON 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 30mm, ISO 100, 13/10, f/11.0

I did have quite a few failed attempts before I was able to get this image, and a few more just like it. I had to brace myself up against a ledge in order to capture acceptable images at these very slow shutter speeds. My take-away from this little challenge is that the vibration control on the Tamron 15-30mm is very effective and could add 4 stops depending on a photographer’s technique.

Shooting Considerations

When shooting with a wide angle zoom like the Tamron 15-30mm it is always good to remind ourselves about framing our initial image to allow for perspective adjustments later on.

NIKON D800 + TAMRON 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 15mm, ISO 100, 1/500, f/8.0
NIKON D800 + TAMRON 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 15mm, ISO 100, 1/500, f/8.0

I used DxO ViewPoint 2 to make some quick and easy adjustments to the image above, as well as a number of other images in this article.

NIKON D800 + TAMRON 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 15mm, ISO 100, 1/500, f/8.0
NIKON D800 + TAMRON 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 15mm, ISO 100, 1/500, f/8.0

I think photographers who specialize in real estate photography will really enjoy the Tamron 15-30mm. Not only does it provide a practical focal length range for that kind of work, but the vibration control and f/2.8 make it a great choice for interior images where lighting could be a challenge and the photographer may be too cramped to use a tripod.

NIKON D800 + NIKKOR 16-35mm f/4 @ 16mm, ISO 100, 1/320, f/8.0
NIKON D800 + NIKKOR 16-35mm f/4 @ 16mm, ISO 100, 1/320, f/8.0

While a 1 mm difference may not sound like anything to worry about, it is a noticeable difference that needs to be considered when purchasing a lens of this type. If you compare the above image which was taken with the Nikkor 16-35mm f/4, with the image below taken with the Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8, you will see a difference in field of view.

NIKON D800 + TAMRON 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 15mm, ISO 100, 1/320, f/8.0
NIKON D800 + TAMRON 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 15mm, ISO 100, 1/320, f/8.0

Both images were taken from exactly the same vantage point. Many photographers may find the difference is not of any concern at all, while for others it may be critical. Some may even opt for the Nikkor 14-24mm for the increase on the wide end of the zoom.

Since the lens does have a minimum focusing distance of 11 inches I did try some close up images.

NIKON D800 + TAMRON 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 30mm, ISO 800, 1/15, f/2.8
NIKON D800 + TAMRON 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 30mm, ISO 800, 1/15, f/2.8
NIKON D800 + TAMRON 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 30mm, ISO 400, 1/10, f/8.0
NIKON D800 + TAMRON 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 30mm, ISO 400, 1/10, f/8.0

Summary

I really enjoyed shooting with the Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 VC. Focus was fast and accurate, even under lower light conditions. The vibration control worked very well and added a lot of additional capability to the lens, and coupled with the constant f/2.8 aperture will make real estate photographers very happy indeed. Sharpness and colour rendition were both solid.

Many professional photographers will want to compare image quality with the Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8. Given that both lenses are f/2.8 constant aperture zoom lenses this does make a lot of sense.

The Nikkor 14-24mm costs $2,200 in Canada compared to $1,350 for the Tamron 15-30mm VC. From a practical standpoint I think budget will be an important consideration for many buyers. Since the Nikkor 16-35mm f/4 VR costs about $1,400 in Canada, many buyers will be comparing these two lenses rather than with the 14-24mm.

Whether an individual buyer chooses the Tamron 15-30 f/2.8 VC or the Nikkor 16-35 f/4 VR will come down to some basic differences between the lenses and how these match up against a specific buyer’s needs.

Real estate and wedding photographers may lean toward the Tamron if they need a faster lens that provides additional width on the short end. Other folks may prefer the Nikkor 16-35mm if they aren’t as concerned about losing a stop of light, and want some additional capability at the long end of the zoom. The 16-35 would also allow the use of filters without needing to buy an expensive kit.

One thing is certain, there is a lot to like about the Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 VC and many buyers will be giving it serious consideration as it represents excellent value.

As a reminder to our Canadian readers, you can get a special 5% discount when ordering the Tamron 15-30 f/2.8 VC directly from the Amplis Store by using promotion code AMPLIS52015TS

Additional Sample Images

Unfortunately the weather did not cooperate very much at all during the very limited time I had with the Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 VC. Most days I faced rainy conditions, with sporadic breaks where it was just overcast. I had one sunny morning and that was basically it. The selection of images for this preview suffered as a result. I was able to get a small collection of real estate/architecture related images, as well as some limited landscape images.

NIKON D800 + TAMRON 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 22mm, ISO 100, 1/400, f/8.0
NIKON D800 + TAMRON 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 22mm, ISO 100, 1/400, f/8.0
NIKON D800 + TAMRON 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 30mm, ISO 100, 1/125, f/8.0
NIKON D800 + TAMRON 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 30mm, ISO 100, 1/125, f/8.0
NIKON D800 + TAMRON 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 30mm, ISO 100, 1/160, f/8.0
NIKON D800 + TAMRON 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 30mm, ISO 100, 1/160, f/8.0
NIKON D800 + TAMRON 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 30mm, ISO 100, 1/2000, f/2.8
NIKON D800 + TAMRON 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 30mm, ISO 100, 1/2000, f/2.8
NIKON D800 + TAMRON 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 15mm, ISO 400, 1/160, f/8.0
NIKON D800 + TAMRON 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 15mm, ISO 400, 1/160, f/8.0
NIKON D800 + TAMRON 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 30mm, ISO 400, 1/125, f/8.0
NIKON D800 + TAMRON 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 30mm, ISO 400, 1/125, f/8.0
NIKON D800 + TAMRON 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 30mm, ISO 400, 1/100, f/8.0
NIKON D800 + TAMRON 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 30mm, ISO 400, 1/100, f/8.0
NIKON D800 + TAMRON 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 30mm, ISO 400, 1/60, f/8.0
NIKON D800 + TAMRON 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 30mm, ISO 400, 1/60, f/8.0
NIKON D800 + TAMRON 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 15mm, ISO 100, 1/320, f/8.0
NIKON D800 + TAMRON 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 15mm, ISO 100, 1/320, f/8.0
NIKON D800 + TAMRON 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 28mm, ISO 400, 1/320, f/8.0
NIKON D800 + TAMRON 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 28mm, ISO 400, 1/320, f/8.0
NIKON D800 + TAMRON 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 21mm, ISO 400, 1/250, f/8.0
NIKON D800 + TAMRON 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 21mm, ISO 400, 1/250, f/8.0
NIKON D800 + TAMRON 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 30mm, ISO 400, 1/200, f/8.0
NIKON D800 + TAMRON 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 30mm, ISO 400, 1/200, f/8.0
NIKON D800 + TAMRON 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 15mm, ISO 400, 1/500, f/8.0
NIKON D800 + TAMRON 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 15mm, ISO 400, 1/500, f/8.0
NIKON D800 + TAMRON 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 30mm, ISO 400, 1/500, f/8.0
NIKON D800 + TAMRON 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 30mm, ISO 400, 1/500, f/8.0
NIKON D800 + TAMRON 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 27mm, ISO 400, 1/400, f/8.0
NIKON D800 + TAMRON 15-30mm f/2.8 @ 27mm, ISO 400, 1/400, f/8.0

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As a reminder to our Canadian readers, you can get a special 5% discount when ordering Tamron or Rokinon lenses and other products directly from the Amplis Store by using promotion code AMPLIS52018TS.

Article and all images are Copyright Thomas Stirr. All rights reserved. No use, duplication or adaptation of any kind is allowed without written consent.

12 thoughts on “Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 VC Hands-On Review”

  1. Hi Thomas
    Thanks for this review:
    I already bought it for my D750 last winter and I paid much less than 1350$ cdn for it. This is a great lens, and I love it, even if it weighs that much. My experience is similar to yours with shots at 1/4 sec.

    1. You’re welcome Luc – I’m glad you enjoyed the review! I also very much enjoyed shooting with the Tamron 150-600 lens during the time when I still owned full frame gear.
      Tom

      1. Hi dear Thomas

        Nice review. One of the mos complete I read until now.
        But, what you tell about th AF speed?
        Is it as fast as canon L series (16-35 @2.8)?

        I usually work in dim conditions as churchs and wedding cerimonies.
        The wedding is coming more and more low light places

        Thank you

        1. Hello Marcos,

          I have never used any Canon gear so unfortunately I am unable to give you any opinion on comparative auto-focus speed between the Tamron 15-30mm and the Canon L 16-35mm. It has been well over a year since I did my hands-on review of the Tamron 15-30 but from what I can remember I found the focusing fast and accurate even when shooting in fairly dark surroundings. The VR also worked very well enabling hand-holding at slower shutter speeds.

          Tom

  2. hi. Great site and awsome photos! I have a Nikon d750 and the 24-120 f4 kit lens. I am very please with it. There is just one problem. I use to visit lots of church’s and museums, thus the f4 and the wider 24 mm brings me some limits…
    I,m considering buying the tamron 15-30, but guess I won’t be able to take the 24-120 anymore as it will be quite hard to travel with both lenses and wife, kids, and so on…
    So, do u think I will be able to use the tamron aa my all around lens?
    Thanks a lot. Keep up with your website!

    1. Hi Anderson,

      Thanks very much for the positive comment about the web site…I’m glad you are enjoying it!

      The Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 is a truly wonderful lens and would do a great job for you with churches, museums and other types of wide angle images under challenging lighting conditions. I suspect that the focal length likely isn’t going to be long enough to serve as an ‘all purpose’ lens…your 24-120mm would be a much better choice for that purpose. If you added the Tamron 15-30mm to your other gear it would be an awesome combination, allowing you to shoot from 15mm to 120mm. I think you will really appreciate the rather dramatic increase in wide angle capability with the Tamron 15-30mm.

      Rather than think about this as an ‘either/or’ decision perhaps thinking about the practicality of taking one additional lens with you and how you would go about doing that would be a better decision. Something else that may be good to consider is what kind of perspective control software you would plan on using if you do go ahead with the Tamron 15-30mm. You will get some very severe angles when shooting at the wide end of this type of zoom lens which you may want to adjust in post. If you are planning to do some adjustments in post I also recommend taking the time to practice with this type of lens in advance of your next trip as you’ll need to get accustomed to framing images to allow for perspective adjustments in post.

      Tom

  3. Hi,
    I am a huge fan of your reviews .
    I even buy everything after reading your reviews .

    Now I am really looking forward to buy a Ultra Wide Angle Lens.
    Currently there is a new player in the market.

    tamron 15-30mm f2.8

    Its been a while it came in the market.
    Because I am in a dilemma, that whether I should buy this tamron or should I go for the Nikon 16-35mm f4. Because both of them belong to the same price range.

    I will be really thankful to you, if you guys give me an advise based upon your experience. Which one will help me to get the sharpest photo?

    Because right now I am in California. and will be here for the next 30 days.

    If I find your review helpful then I shall buy this lens for my landscape. before I go back to New Zealand.

    So Please let know that which one will help me to get the sharpest landscape photo in between these 2 lenses.

    Thank you.

    1. Hi Solayman,
      Thanks for your positive comment…very much appreciated! Whether you decide to buy the Tamron 15-30 f/2.8 or the Nikkor 16-35 f/4 really depends on your specific shooting needs. In terms of overall sharpness, the Tamron is likely a tad sharper than the Nikkor. So, if that is your only criterion then it would be the best choice. On the other hand, if you use filters then the Nikkor 16-35 would have the edge since it accepts standard filters. The Nikkor also would give you more overall zoom range which makes it a more flexible lens. It will also depend what other lenses you have. For example, I have the Nikkor 16-35 f/4, 24-85 f/3.5-5.6 and 70-200 f/4. Since my 24-85 is a somewhat weak lens I use my 16-35 and 70-200 throughout their zoom ranges and typically used the other zoom in the 35-70mm part of its range, so I like to have the added range of the 16-35. I think either lens will be able to capture great images for you. You’ll likely choose the Tamron if: a) you need the faster f/2.8, b) your primary need is sharpness, and C) you want the additional width on the short end. You’d choose the Nikkor if: a) you want a broader zoom range for more flexibility, b) you want to use filters, and c) you want a smaller and lighter lens.
      Tom

  4. Excellent reviews article and pictures. I was really impressed with the waterfall pictures and how you accomplished to smooth the water “handheld”. The landscape images with this lens are also impressive and the long view to the Brock Monument is superb. Thanks for the work you have put in field testing this lens. In my opinion, viewing the pictures taken with this lens is more significant than graph-comparisons for making a decision on whether to purchase this lens. By posting many pictures you certainly give the viewer an opportunity to see what this lens can accomplish.

    1. Hi Ray,
      Thanks very much for your positive comment – I’m glad you enjoyed the review. I would have liked to include more images from a broader range of locations and subject matter, but as I mentioned in the review I only had the lens for a few days and the weather did not cooperate.
      Tom

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