Comparison with primes and zooms for landscape photography

Started Feb 2, 2014 | User reviews thread
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frici Junior Member • Posts: 38
Comparison with primes and zooms for landscape photography

As I am mostly interested in landscape, architecture and related urban photography, there are only a few easy to check characteristics that matters for me with a lens. I usually want to maximize DoF, so I compared all the lenses at f8. Usually my subjects include nice textures to increase apparent sharpness, so I was interested in microdetail/microcontrast. AF performance is not an issue, as I use a tripod most of the time, has a single focus point active, or focus via LiveView on the LCD. Color cast and distortion can be fixed in Lightroom, so I wasn't focusing on these neither.

Speaking of color cast, this Tamron has some green color cast compared to my Nikons, about 250K difference in color temperature, not a deal breaker, though a bit annoying during batch processing.

Quick findings

  • @24mm: the 24/3.5 PC-E is slightly sharper on the D3, and a lot sharper on the D800E than the Tamron
  • @24mm: Tamron is slightly better than the 17-35/2.8, a bit more overall microcontrast and holds sharpness better on the edges
  • @35mm: almost as much microcontrast as the 35/1.4 AI-S, the difference is really barely visible, but the Tamron has more consistent edges
  • @35mm: has better edges than the 17-35/2.8, sharpness is the same otherwise
  • @58mm: almost as sharp as the Voigtlander 58/1.4, the prime has a better edges, but also it seems to have a narrower DoF
  • @70mm: the Tamron is worse than the 70-200/2.8 VR, with visible microdetail loss especially on the D800E

Why no AF-S 24-70/2.8 in the comparison?

While I used the Nikon zoom, I couldn't justify the price and weight for such a workhorse kind of lens which doesn't show any personal characteristics, so for a long time I opted for the primes. However I am consolidating my landscape photography travel package, and figured a 24-70 plus the 70-200 would be enough most of the times with the D800E, while I could keep using the primes for street and available light candid photography on the D3. This is how the Tamron zoom came into picture and since it is sharper than the Nikon zoom, has VR, is a tiny bit lighter and costs less, I let the Nikon zoom go early on.


As you can see from the above comparisons, it is a pass, the Tamron will replace my primes in the 24-70 focal range. I will use it instead of the 17-35 too in the overlapping range and keep the 17-35 for extreme wide angle specialty shots only. However I will try to use the 70-200 at 70mm instead of the Tamron.

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David Udvardy
senior designer • • photographer •

 frici's gear list:frici's gear list
Nikon D3 Nikon D800 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR Nikon AF-S Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8D ED-IF Voigtlander 58mm F1.4 Nokton SL II +1 more
Tamron SP 24-70mm F2.8 Di VC USD
Zoom lens • Canon EF, Nikon F (FX), Sony/Minolta Alpha • A007
Announced: Feb 6, 2012
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