The Tamron 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 Di II VC HLD lens is more than an update of the older version it is a complete redesign in almost every way. Its overall design reminds me of the new Sigma Art lenses with its smooth clean lines and all black body construction. Something I’m happy to see Tamron adopt moving forward.
I’ve owned several Tamron lenses and currently use the 24-70mm f/2.8 VC as my go to for full frame bodies. A quick comparison of build quality shows the 10-24mm is not nearly as robust and heavy duty feeling as the 24-70mm. However at almost a third the cost it stands way above what I would expect for something in that price range with several improvements over the 24-70mm. As of this writing it is available for both Canon and Nikon mounts and is designed to work with APS-C/DX cameras. The Canon version does have an EF mount instead of the typical EF-S found on Canon APS-C lenses. So it could be used on a full frame camera at its upper range starting around 13-14mm. Still making it quite a wide option.
The overall body construction feels solid, although mostly a hard plastic, possibly something polycarbonate with a metal mounting plate. The VC and AF switches feel much better than older Tamron lenses, something i'm not a fan of on the 24-70mm. The lens as a whole has weather sealing to keep out dust and moisture. Most of the focusing and zooming is done internally so the front element only extends about ¼ inch when zoomed from 10mm to 24mm. There are 16 lens elements in 11 groups which is a huge improvement over the old version with 12 elements in 9 groups. The front lens element also has a fluorine coating to help with cleaning dust and smudges. Both the focus and zoom rings spin smooth with just enough resistance though can feel a little cheap.
A few minor details I feel really stand out. Both the lens cap with its pinch feature and back cap sloped to match the weather seal are a nice touch again improving on older lenses.The outer lens threading, which is 77mm does not rotate when zooming or focusing. So Landscape photographers will be pleased when fitting directional filters. Also the lens comes with a standard plastic petal style wide angle lens hood. Which can be attached or removed while keeping the lens cap on. Something I’m always happy to see.
Autofocus Image Stabilization
I tested the lens with my Canon 7d Mark ii with its amazing focusing system to see how it would hold up. Super fast autofocus on a wide angle lens might be something most users are not concerned with, as this lens seems well suited for landscapes and skyline photographers. However it seems to keep up just fine even as I casually walked around the park stalking tourists.
If you are a street photographer who likes shooting on the wide side I’d say this lens will have no trouble finding its mark. It comes with Tamron's new High/Low Torque Modulated Drive Motor (HLD) which claims higher torque for still auto focusing but smoother and quieter focus for video. The noise level while focusing wasn’t a bother when I was out testing it and for most still photographers shouldn't be an issue. While doing some of the video testing I did notice in playback that it was much louder then I expected. If you're not using external mics or thinking of this lens for a podcast then that is something to keep in mind.
Another surprise feature was image stabilization or what Tamron calls Vibration Compensation (VC). You don’t often find IS on wide angle lenses for a reason and most manufacturers prefer to save on the cost of the lens by not including it. There are of course reasons why one might want it however and this lens does deliver. I’m an adventure photographer and find myself in all sorts of awkward and precarious places. I often have to expend a lot of energy to get to the locations I photograph. Some of which include climbing and hanging from ropes. So I will take any advantage I can get to help me hold a lens steady.
Whether it is for low light situations or just a long day rock climbing. Video is another great example of why you might want IS on this lens. Since both Canon and Nikon don't have internal stabilization on their bodies even shooting at its widest will often give you shaky footage. I didn't do extensive video testing though I did do a little handheld walk test both with VC on and off. Even with my wobbly hands there was quite a difference. A typical run and gun user surely would be able to get super smooth movement hand held using the VC.
The 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 Di II VC HLD is compatible with Tamron's Tap-in Console which is a similar device to Sigma’s for updating firmware and making focus adjustments. I own the Sigma version and think this is a another smart direction Tamron is making with its new lenses.
It’s impressively sharp for a wide angle zoom lens and a big improvement over the original version. At the center you get very little loss in quality through its entire aperture range. Wide open at f/3.5 you do get softening at the corners but it’s very reasonable with plenty of detail. At f/5.6 the overall quality does improve.
Flare, Chromatic Aberration, Vignetting
There didn't seem to be many issues with flare. Shooting directly into the sun will result in a few small reflections, though with very little loss in contrast. At wide open apertures Chromatic Aberration was at its worst, with improvements stopping down. Nothing that couldn't be easily fixed if shooting in raw. Although there is vignetting wide open it isn't very dark and in several images I was hard pressed to notice it at all. Stopping down to even f/4 made it even less of an issue. Again another easy fix if shooting in raw.
During actual use, I was very impressed with the amount of distortion even at 10mm. When I did the brick wall test it was clear there is barrel distortion at 10mm but it’s only at the extreme edges with no weird warping through the middle. At 15mm it’s almost non-existent going up to 20mm. There is some pin cushioning at 24mm but again, in actual use settings I didn't notice it at all. When attempting to shoot the horizon at level I had no issues getting an almost completely straight line. Another great reason for landscape photographers to check out this lens.
What I Liked
- Vibration Compensation (VC)
- Weather sealing
- TAP-In USB Console
- Overall sharpness for its price range
- Much nicer body design and look
What I Didn't Like
- Variable aperture. However might not matter to a lot of users
- HLD motor noisy for video
Tamron has made a great budget wide angle lens that is sure to be competitive with a lot of what is currently offered for both Nikon and Canon. If image stabilization is import there are only a few options and none with the range as large as 10-24mm making this an easy choice. Landscape photographers will be impressed with the huge improvements in image quality over the previous version and although the motor drive may not be silent the VC and low distortion should make for a great video option.