Tamron 17-50mm tested VS Nikon 17-55mm

Started Jun 8, 2006 | Discussions
Ben Seese Veteran Member • Posts: 3,367
Tamron 17-50mm tested VS Nikon 17-55mm

Today I had a chance to test the brand-new $450 Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 versus the $1300 Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8. Punch-line: Just like the older 28-70, it's optically just as good its Nikon equivalent at a fraction of the cost. Tao has had me pining for the Nikon 17-55 as long as I can remember, but I think this test just saved me $850.

My test method:

D2X
Manfrotto Neotec tripod
Manfrotto 3437 pan-tilt head
JPG Large Fine, quality-optimized
ISO 100
sRGB
White balance locked on "cloudy"
In-Camera Sharpening: +1
Tone Comp: Normal
2-second self-timer
Exposure delay mode (aka mirror lock-up)

Three different focal lengths (17mm, 28mm, 50mm) and two different f-stops for each (f/2.8--1/200sec and f/5.6--1/50sec).

Focused on a brick wall about 15 feet away. For each exposure, I shot with two different auto-focus modes, and chose the sharper picture of the two.

I went in and picked corner, center, and edge crops for each focal length, then stretched each one out to 200% with 'nearest neighbor' to make the pixel-level detail visible.

Here are the results, in huge JPGs (sorry dialupers):

http://www.flickr.com/photos/benseese/162794265/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/benseese/162794441/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/benseese/162794603/

I stared at these long enough to conclude that both lenses must have a fairly badly curved focus plane at 17mm f/2.8. Turns out I'm not the only one:

http://www.photozone.de/8Reviews/lenses/tamron_1750_28/index.htm (about 2/3 down the page, they talk about the plane curvature).

Both lenses seem to slightly vignette the corners at f/2.8 at all focal lengths, but the Tamron is a little better in this respect.

All twelve full-resolution originals (with EXIF) are available for you to download at my flickr photostream:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/benseese/with/162791800/

-Ben

nikonians Senior Member • Posts: 1,298
Thanks!

I have been dying for the 17-55 but waiting it out in hopes of VR and perhaps less flare problems. I'm going to use it a lot for night shots and motion blur and VR is a must and so is the flare issue.

However looking at this in the first picture the Nikkor still looks better. Look at the pipe, at 5.6 you see purple in the Tokina, and the gray matter the Nikkor is sharper. The rest of the samples I can't really tell as my eyes are getting blury from looking at them.

Regards,
JohnnyK

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davexl Senior Member • Posts: 1,058
Re: Tamron 17-50mm tested VS Nikon 17-55mm

Great test, thanks very much for posting, that is very useful.

Does the cheaper build quality bother you?

-- hide signature --

Regards,

David F.
Melbourne, Australia.
http://www.pbase.com/davexl/folio

 davexl's gear list:davexl's gear list
Nikon D810 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G ED Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G ED Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm F1.4G Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm F1.8G +3 more
OP Ben Seese Veteran Member • Posts: 3,367
You're welcome!

nikonians wrote:

However looking at this in the first picture the Nikkor still looks
better. Look at the pipe, at 5.6 you see purple in the Tokina, and
the gray matter the Nikkor is sharper. The rest of the samples I
can't really tell as my eyes are getting blury from looking at them.

Wow, really? In the pipe crop, I definitely prefer the Tamron. Remember to compare 1 to 3, and 2 to 4. The lower-left Tamron 17mm crop certainly has problems, but I'm chalking that up to the curved focus plane.

Thanks for the reply.

-Ben

Paisley Regular Member • Posts: 126
Re: Tamron 17-50mm tested VS Nikon 17-55mm

Ben,

Thanks for taking the time to post these excellent test results.

My Tamron 17-50 should be here tomorrow or Friday at the latest.

I notice they are back in stock at B&H as of tonight.

Dale

OP Ben Seese Veteran Member • Posts: 3,367
Re: Tamron 17-50mm tested VS Nikon 17-55mm

davexl wrote:

Does the cheaper build quality bother you?

Not in the least. I appreciate the lighter weight (1.0 vs 1.6 pounds). The much shorter throw of the manual focus ring is a total non-issue for me, since manual focus is next to unusable on digital SLRs. The zoom ring is smooth enough for my tastes -- I didn't notice any difference from the Nikon zoom ring. Anything else that's "cheap" that I'm not thinking of?

-Ben

OP Ben Seese Veteran Member • Posts: 3,367
Re: Tamron 17-50mm tested VS Nikon 17-55mm

Paisley wrote:

I notice they are back in stock at B&H as of tonight.

While we're talking stock, Helix Camera in Chicago (where I work) has both lenses in stock. Give me a call.

-Ben

jtsmall
jtsmall Senior Member • Posts: 1,807
Vignetting a concern with my copy

Nice work. We both noted the vignetting tho my copy seems to have plainly visible vignetting thru f/4 at all focal lengths and into the wide angles at f/5.6. Maybe I have a dud in this regard? Otherwise as I go to bed I am pleasantly suprised.

See 'another brick in the wall' at ...

http://www.pbase.com/jtsmall/brick_wall

-- hide signature --

-jts
http://www.pbase.com/jtsmall
Nikon D200, Nikon D70s, Olympus E-1, Olympus E-300
equipment in profile

'From the first moment I handled my lens with a tender ardour.' Julia Margaret Cameron

El Taino Senior Member • Posts: 1,105
Re: Vignetting a concern with my copy

It was long ago when I started to build a sytem with mix a match accs. I had no objection (and still don't) with 3rd party lenses. Many times I clipped off corners to save myself some $$$...Always used the top camera model with a 3rd party lens. Later down the road after months of daily use I noticed weaks against the OEM lenses. I though I was saving big money but the truth is that I was loosing a lot by not getting the right thing in the first place. Like we say in our Island, 'the dressing was costing me more than the salad'.... I learned the hard way to be patient, put my money together at the expense of a longer wait to get the best out of my system...I know, OEM might come with flaws, but I'm backed up by the people who made the system I paid so much...I noticed in those days and still do, why pros are not seen with a 3rd party brands...

Just thinking out loud....

njdevil1 Senior Member • Posts: 1,727
Ben, whats your number?

Im in Lisle, IL

Phil Youngblood Veteran Member • Posts: 9,541
It's kinda funny

Has anyone else noticed this little quirk? Any time there is a whatever vs Nikkor "test", I can always tell when the verbiage is going to be slanted towards the third party lens by checking the price stated. The price difference given is always greater than actuality. Why is that? Is it some kind of human failing we use to further justify a decision? Yes, the Tamron costs $450US but the Nikkor does not cost $1300 -- never has. Interesting.

Phil

dsl_r Senior Member • Posts: 1,023
Re: I paid $900 for my 17-55 :-)

but the cost is never an issue for me... I just don't like the size and weight of that little "Beast".

Steve Thanos Regular Member • Posts: 481
Re: Tamron 17-50mm tested VS Nikon 17-55mm

Ben,
How did you judge focusing acuracy and speed between the two lenses?
Thanks,
Steve

jwalker019 Senior Member • Posts: 2,613
Re: It's kinda funny

Phil Youngblood wrote:

Has anyone else noticed this little quirk? Any time there is a
whatever vs Nikkor "test", I can always tell when the verbiage is
going to be slanted towards the third party lens by checking the
price stated. The price difference given is always greater than
actuality. Why is that? Is it some kind of human failing we use to
further justify a decision? Yes, the Tamron costs $450US but the
Nikkor does not cost $1300 -- never has. Interesting.

Phil

Phil -

To be fair, the MSRP on the 17-55 is $1,659. As late as six months ago, it was consistently selling for $1,300-1,400, but most places have it now for $1,200 - so saying it "never has" sold for $1,300 is a bit misleading.

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John Walker
http://jhwalker.smugmug.com/
Want a Sumgmug account? Use referral code 'iA22TmSWiZzr'!

 jwalker019's gear list:jwalker019's gear list
Nikon D3 Fujifilm X-T2 Nikon Z6 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm F1.8G +7 more
admiral_koa Regular Member • Posts: 202
You've got the coolest display of results...

...I have ever seen. I'm not judging the interpretation just the display of it. Showing the main pic in your background and then superimposing the crops all lined up and labeled. Wow, I'm really impressed by it. It is the easiest to read display of results I have ever seen since watching this site but I'm a nobody and maybe there are better but I haven't seen them. I think this ought to be the standard.
thanks,
ak

OP Ben Seese Veteran Member • Posts: 3,367
check your email, njdevil1 (N/T)

no text

jtsmall
jtsmall Senior Member • Posts: 1,807
Helix (OT)

Hello Ben. At one time Helix appeared to me to be one of the premier dealers for underwater photography equipment. From the looks of your flickr photos it may still be?

-- hide signature --

-jts
http://www.pbase.com/jtsmall
Nikon D200, Nikon D70s, Olympus E-1, Olympus E-300
equipment in profile

'From the first moment I handled my lens with a tender ardour.' Julia Margaret Cameron

OP Ben Seese Veteran Member • Posts: 3,367
Re: Vignetting a concern with my copy

jtsmall wrote:

Nice work. We both noted the vignetting tho my copy seems to have
plainly visible vignetting thru f/4 at all focal lengths and into
the wide angles at f/5.6. Maybe I have a dud in this regard?
Otherwise as I go to bed I am pleasantly suprised.

I'm fairly certain yours is not a 'dud.' If yours is a dud, then both of the lenses I tested are also duds. Enjoy your killer new walk-around lens!

See 'another brick in the wall' at ...

http://www.pbase.com/jtsmall/brick_wall

Great presentation. The columns & rows work out really well. Gotta say, though, I would've asked the guys in the store if you could borrow a tripod for 5 minutes. Looks like you had to shoot at ISO400 because of the lack of a tripod, and the D70 really performs its best at 200.

And it's too bad you didn't have your D200 with you at the time! Stopped down, this lens just passes sooo much detail through, you need as many megapixels as you can get to make it shine!

Thanks for your work,
Ben

OP Ben Seese Veteran Member • Posts: 3,367
Re: Helix (OT)

jtsmall wrote:

Hello Ben. At one time Helix appeared to me to be one of the
premier dealers for underwater photography equipment. From the
looks of your flickr photos it may still be?

Yep, underwater is still a big chunk of our business. Lots of stuff in stock, and fast access to the stuff that's not in stock. If anybody is serious about getting a camera underwater, Dennis at Helix is the man s/he needs to be in touch with.

-Ben

OP Ben Seese Veteran Member • Posts: 3,367
Re: Thinking out loud....

El Taino wrote:

Just thinking out loud....

Thank you for your thoughts on 3rd party lenses in general, but do you have any thoughts on this specific pair of lenses? There's no question -- usually you get what you pay for, but in this case, I'm convinced that the Tamron is giving you the same optical quality -- you're pay extra ONLY for the name and the heavier build quality.

Would any photographer (professional or otherwise) get better pictures out of the Nikon 17-55 alone OR the pair of the Tamron 17-50 AND the Sigma 70-200? They cost about the same... Just a thought.

-Ben

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