First Impression! Tamron SP AF 17-50mm f/2.8 XR DI-II VC (Part II)

I was too busy in the last few days, so don’t have time to follow up with my “first impression” write-up of the Tamron SP 17-50mm VC lens.

I have asked Futuromic to loan me a sample to test, but no news from them. Nevermind, one of my customer has requested me to test his lens, so I did some tests and share the results here. All lenses were handled with extreme care. 🙂

The Old and the New

I have the Tamron SP 17-50mm F/2.8 lens myself (First Generation, screwdriver type), so I were able to compare it to the new VC version side by side. The new VC lens is significantly larger – fatter and longer. Good solidly built, which I am quite impressed with.

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The VC lens is made in Japan, which is normally an assurance of good quality control (but not all the case). At least is better feeling to owner. 😀

Vibration Correction

How does it works? Nikon has VR (Vibration Reduction), Canon has IS (Image Stabilization), Sigma has OS (Optical Stabilizer), of course now Tamron has VC. All works similarly by having one of the lens element inside the lens moves in up and down / left and right position to correct for the shake of the lens and making sure that the image that hit the sensor is always sharp and stable. The good thing about lens optical correction as compared to sensor stabilizer is that you can see the effect immediately through the viewfinder, and the degree of shake correction is better.

I still remember the first Tamron VC lens that I have tested is the 18-270mm VC, which has an annoying TICK TICK sound whenever the VC hits in. The new VC in this Tamron 17-50mm lens does not has such sound anymore, and is actually a great improvement!

I did some test shots at 1/4 second, F/8 at 50mm focal length and found the image to be quite acceptable. Though not extremely sharp. Without the VC ON, the hand shake is obvious.

This is my test subject:

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VC ON
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VC OFF
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Ok, VC does helped but at 1/4s, it is kind of a bit extreme… 😛

Sharpness?

The Tamron 17-50VC is a very sharp lens, which I am quite impressed with.

Test Subject
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100% crop
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Another full view

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100% crop
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As compared to the first generation version that I have, I found that mine is slightly sharper…not a scientific test so don’t take it as a definite answer. When you turn the VC OFF, I find the photo to be sharper as with VC ON.

I also notice that VC is less successful with shooting at 1/15s, which is a critical shutter speed that is very much affected by camera mirror bounce.

Auto Focus Speed?

There are 3 versions of Tamron SP 17-50mm lens for Nikon mount.  First is the screwdriver type, Second is the built in motor type, and now the Third version is the VC lens.

In terms of AF, the built in motor type is the slowest, really slow that I feel throwing the lens away and you can fee how lame the lens is in AF when you first use it. The screwdriver type is fast and the VC version is similar speed as compared to the screwdriver type. This is a great improvement in Tamron for the 17-50mm lens considered that the VC version is using built in motor as well!

How does it compared to Nikon AF-S 17-35mm? Not near and not even close. The Nikon AF-S 17-35mm is extremely fast and you can feel the difference immediately once you tried it. This can be partly due to the fact that Nikon AF-S 17-35mm is shorter in range as compared to Tamron 17-50mm. Sorry, I do not have the Nikon AF-S 17-55mm ready in hand to compare. While the Tamron 17-50mm VC has improvement in AF speed, it still can’t compare to the Silent Wave technology I believe.

Not forgetting that the S lens is extremely quiet, while the Tamron is slightly noisier (not disturbing).

Conclusion

I wonder why Nikon and Canon does not implement VC into their 17-55mm and 16-35mm or 17-35mm f/2.8 lenses, is it because it might reduce the overall sharpness of the lens or is it because it is not needed in such wide angle?

While the screwdriver version (first generation) of the Tamron SP 17-50mm f/2.8 lens is no longer available, and only the built in motor version and the VC versions are available now, I would suggest to get the VC version for the improvement in focusing speed in Nikon mount (Take note that Canon version has built in motor from day 1, and is fast like the Nikon screwdriver version.).

A recommended lens for those who do not want to spend 2-3 times the money of the Tamron for Nikon or Canon counterparts, and is definitely a nice addition to have VC to play with when you needed it. 🙂

About Dr Koh 1536 Articles
An Entrepreneur, Photographer, Coder, Lecturer, Father, Husband, Believer, Sinner...

21 Comments

  1. Hi Prof.:)
    Nice review. I have been looking for a replacement lens for Nikon Kit Lens since I bought a D5000 months ago. Searching thru sigma 24-70 f/2.8 and any Tamron made lens for my little budget to spend on kit lens handicap at night shooting.

    I bought a Tamron 17-50 F/2.8 without VC somedays ago in png. My first impression about this lens is solid!, that is few streets ahead of my existing 18-55mm Kit Lens in term of sharpness, contrast, warmer tone, details except focusing speed as you point out earlier on.

    Personally I have tried the VC version, VC helps in certain situation but keeping it on may not always producing somethings that you would expecting it to be. I am more concern about its focusing consistency rather than VC. So I left the shop with VC lens hand it back to merchant.

    I agree with your point that why big player not putting VR in their medium zoom lens. My personal view point is, most photographers do not need VR/VC at this optical range for outdoor. Shooting 50mm @ F/2.8-4.0 is as good as entering nobody street like Nikon 35mm F/1.8G. It is fast and most of the time I am getting a shuttle speed faster than 1/100s..a very very comfortable hand held zone.

    At night, I just simply turn multiple shot shuttle on and firing 4-8 shoots and then pick a right picture out of them. So my good 1/4s shot is not any worse than picture with VC.

    With a little more shuttle firing which I found VC version is not worth more than 400+ to pay for. At this price I would rather pay for a affortable decent 50mm/1.8D by hand focusing yet better speed at low light.

    I am appreciate if you have read till this line. I am looking forward to see more pictures comparing your screw driver lens and new VC lens.

    Cheers.

  2. Hi Louie,

    Appreciate your feedback.

    Did you compare the focusing speed of the Built in Motor version with the VC version? Are you using Nikon or Canon system?

    For me the biggest improvement in the VC version in Nikon mount is the focusing speed. The built in motor version is just too slow.

  3. Hi Kho King,
    Yes, I am Nikon D5000 user.
    I did the comparison at the shop. VC is significantly faster than motorize (MKII?) version, less twisting torque and zigging less. But not as impressive as Sigma version of HSM and not even close behind to Nikon AF-S system, both later make photographer like a lame.

    I always comparing this Tamron with Kit lens. Yes, for daylight shooting, Kit Lens ranked second of responding to focus locking..slightly behind 35mm/1.8G, and better than Tamron. At this speed, it is faster than my hand indeed.

    During the night, Tamron tops Kit lens in second place. While 35mm remains its crown.

    So do you recommend VC over motorized for additional 400+?

  4. Hi Louie,

    For just the improvement of AF speed, I would recommend the VC version. I can hardly recommend the Built in Motor version nowadays due to its really slow AF speed…

  5. Thanks KhoKing,
    Perhaps this is my last investment on DX lens for my need. I will be more interested looking into FF exceptional optical lens. Again before I can own a FF. Here is the list of what I plan.

    Flash SB900
    Indoor event 24-70 f/2.8. probably I will let go my 17-50.
    Tele 70-300 f/x
    Wide Angle 1x-24 f/x
    50/1.4..

    Do email me if you have a good deal..
    huchew nùon?

  6. For the record, the 17-55 f/2.8 from Canon HAS IS, so with Canon body, the question is whether the Tamron has a equal or better quality than the Canon. The price tag difference is for USM then (on the Canon but not on the Tamron)
    However, if you said VC has difficulties with 1/15s, it is very a shame because it is the area where you need it!!

  7. Agreed~

    In practical, shooting in low light outdoor which usually pushing ISO to 3200; with only well achieved speed of 1/8~ 1/10 on f/2.8
    It will be pretty stressed up if there is no VC on hand held. I tried 1/4 secs. with IS ON/OFF(Canon) the result was very different when you inspect it 100% crop! Even with Continuous Shots let say in 1/8 sec. still you will find it blur because of the lag.

    It only will be more sharp when your speed hit 1/20 sec. on Continuous shots … or perhaps a tripod. For me it will be very troublesome to bring the tripod around especially when we go travel under tour group. Since most places are meant for travel once .. such as Japan, Nepal, Korea …

    VC is very crucial in low light … especially when the speed below 1/10sec. And you will find it painful if the camera(not pro) is not in 2008 made or above… coz most were only up to ISO1600 …LoL~

  8. Hi Alpha Ace,

    Personally I find 1/15s to be very difficult to get sharp photos because of the mirror bounce in the camera. If you use mirror lock up, you will be surprised with the success rate you can get.

  9. Thanks KhoKing

    I have been reading the comments from users on your previous review on the non VC motorised version, where some ppl had issues with the lens not AF then having to switch the camera on/off.

    Have you heard of any issues like this with the new VC lens?

  10. just got mine here. It was pretty sharp and the VC had just performed as Tamron claimed to have up to 4 stops.

    However, I found that the focusing speed was normal or just a bit faster than kitlens. It was kinda re-bounce and focus or pause focus. It definitely faster than the non VC version or should I say the non VC was tad slow? Ya…even slower than my Canon kitlens.

    By the way, I just found out that slightly adjustment on our Diopter will also affect the sharpness of it. Geee..i just realized that my vision power had gone up a bit d …

  11. Hi KKK,
    Im using nikon d40 & plan to buy this tammy VC lens..
    heard that this lens got problem when using 3rd party flash (im using nissin di622)
    hav u try it?

  12. I’m using Nissin Di622 too … not really any problem though except on the skill of using flash ^^

    Most flash has no problems but mastering it might be a bit painful to some. Even pro might not able to give clear cut on ideal setting for flash by given ETTL II technology. Best bet is Manual it …but people still find it hard to mastering flash for Day Time usage …

  13. Hazri,
    i found that Nissin Di622 can’t perform HSS which is very crucial for Day Time shooting!~ However, there are 2 ways to solve it
    1) use heavy ND to solve it
    2) USe Tv mode 1/200sec. max, ISO 100 or below and let it handle aperture.

    Flash photography during day time is awesome stunning with speed of 1/2000 sec. & Exposure -1. I might get myself a flash wif HSS function.

  14. Dear Dr KKK,

    Firstly, it was me who e-mailed you two weeks ago to test out the lens in JB, but I was occupied with family matters so I couldn’t make it. Sorry for that.

    I’m looking for a lens that can help me to shot in low light specifically indoors with no ceiling to bounce the flash (and sometimes lazy to put on this heavy ftd5700).

    So far as of all the lenses I’ve researched, this Tammy 17-50 VC is the best choice (large f2.8 aperture + vr/vc). Then after more digging,I found that the VC version is less sharp than the non-VC non-BIM version (plus your review also mentioned the same result). So how does this compare with any kit lens i.e. the 18-55,18-70,18-135 or 18-105?

    Btw, how does this compare to sigma’s OS HSM in terms of low-light focusing, af, and sharpness? I dont care much about vignetting or distortion, but a little bit on CA.

    Thanks

  15. Hi MFMJ,

    I am not sure of the performance in CA. Didn’t test the lens in that area.

    Have not tried the Sigma, so can’t comment.

    I would say the current VC version is a good buy. The VC version is definitely better than the BIM version. Built is better than all the previous two versions.

  16. Hi, am interested with this lens on the D7000. However, I’m very confused with the built in motor and where it is made. So the ones now in the market are all with BIM and all local warranty set(futuromic) are made in china? Which is better, BIM or the other one?

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