Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Updated: Test Driving the New Tamron 28-300mm VC Lens; Is It the Best Wedding Lens Available?

Tamron lens2
It’s a long read but I think worth every word. I gave you the rundown of why I been using the gear I’ve been using  over these last two years in the previous post [link].  But things changed when Canon began delivering the 5D Mark III camera just a few weeks ago.
I photographed my first wedding with the 5D Mk3 and loved it, particularly the high ISO aspects of the camera.  The problem was that I didn’t have a comparable lens to my 18-200mm IS lens I loved on my 7D to shoot with on the new 5D. I set about finding a replacement lens.  I wasn’t interested in Canon’s $2700 six lb. lens in that same focal length so I opted to hit the NET and see what I could find.  The Tamron 28-300mm VC looked to fill the bill and my good buddies at Tamron were gracious to loan me the lens for a month. My report below is based on my experience from my first week shooting hundreds of images with that lens.
Test Driving the New Tamron 28-300mm VC Lens; Is It the Best Wedding Lens Available?
After working with the Tamron 28-300mm VC lens on my Canon 5D Mark 3 for the last week,  I’m finding this gear combo is going to be my favorite wedding gear, camera/lens combination from this point forward. Let me explain why. First, the superior image quality, quiet shooting, and super high ISO's have made the Canon 5D Mark III the most exciting camera I have ever photographed with.
5D w-Tamron lensNow add to that the Tamron 28-300mm VC lens and I’m thinking I may just have the ultimate gear combination for photographing weddings. Having said that - let's discuss the different features of the Tamron 28-300mm VC lens  Since the 5D Mark III is a full frame sensor camera versus the APS sized sensor on the Canon 7D, the Tamron 28-300mm VC lens is the equivalent focal length lens on the full frame 5D Mk3 considering the 7D’s 1.6x magnification factor which is exactly what I was looking for at a non-wallet busting price of only ($600) for my 5D Mk3.
Okay, your wanting to know, “Just how good is this new Tamron lens?” My first impressions signaled me that it is significant step up in image quality when compared to the images I was getting off of my 7D/18-200mm lens combination. What I’d like to do in today's post is walk you through several images taken with the Tamron lens at the various focal lengths from 300mm all the way down to 28mm and at pretty wide apertures to boot and then let you draw your own conclusions.
Focal Lengths Compared
300mm:  Look at the first image. It was taken with the Tamron lens racked out to 300mm and shot at F8. Looking at it in full frame mode it looks just fine. But now let's zoom in and look at it at a 2:1 magnification. You can see, upon very close inspection of this image, that we have plenty of detail in this image.
0001 - Tamron-1867
0002 - Tamron-1867
Tamron 28-300mm VC lens at 300mm, F8.0 @ 1/250 second, ISO 800
Now let's look at the next wedding image along with their 2:1 magnification view. The important thing to notice on these next two images is that they were made at the lens’s widest aperture and at its longest focal length. It's with this focal length/f-stop combination that we would expect the worst performance from the lens. From my subjective observation I find the results to be amazingly good.
0003 - Tamron-
0004 - Tamron-
Tamron 28-300mm VC lens at 300mm, F6.3 @ 1/200 second, ISO 200
During my Master Class last week, I actually printed a 24 x 36" print  from this image series and it looked fabulous. So even using the Tamron lens and what many would consider the worst-case F-stop scenario, I am getting beautiful portraits of my bride.
DAZ with Print
I have to admit I found the results surprising. You can see that were holding plenty of detail in the bodice of the wedding gown.  Surprisingly I had  the lens fully extended to the full 300mm focal length.
250mm:  Now look at the next image. It was made it at F5.6 handheld a 1/13th of the second and even in the close-up of this image you can see that we have plenty of detail in her facial features and in her pearl necklace.
0009 - Tamron-
0010 - Tamron-
Tamron 28-300mm VC lens at 249m, F5.6 @ 1/13 second handheld, ISO 800
200mm:  The next image at 200 mm could be argued to look even better. You can clearly see the texture of the skin and, see plenty of detail in the pearl necklace even under the extreme 2:1 magnification.
0011 - Tamron-1641
0012 - Tamron-1641
Tamron 28-300mm VC lens at 200m, F5.6 @ 1/80 second handheld, ISO 200
150mm:   The next image, the bride leaning against the piano, still continues to exude a high level of image quality zoomed to 154mm. Notice once again that the aperture was nearly wide open at 5.6 handheld at 1/50 of the second.
0013 - Tamron-
0014 - Tamron-
Tamron 28-300mm VC lens at 154mm, F5.6 @ 1/50 second handheld, ISO 800
100mm:  As I continue to shorten the focal length of the lens – look at this next image at 100 mm at F5 .0. You can see that the quality is still just as strong as in the previous images. I think the key point that I’m trying to make is that these images are made at the lens’ very wide apertures.  That's telling me that we have excellent optics attached to the camera.
0015 - Tamron-
0016 - Tamron-
Tamron 28-300mm VC lens at 100mm, F5.0 @ 1/60 second handheld, ISO 200
Sure, stopping down the lens even further could give us even greater sharpness but what I'm seeing is that is not necessary. And, the larger aperture allows us to separate the subject from the background very effectively.
Take a look at this next image. Once again it was made at the 100mm setting at F5 .6 handheld at 1/60th of a second. It’s a very exciting image to view capturing the beauty of our subject against the dramatic Cincinnati skyline.
0017 - Tamron-2103
Tamron 28-300mm VC lens at 100mm, F5.6 @ 1/60 second handheld, ISO 1600
But now check it out at the one zoom magnification. You can see that even at this  magnification we are looking at an extremely sharp image. And, once again it was made at nearly the full aperture of the Tamron lens.
0018 - Tamron-2103
Tamron 28-300mm VC lens at 100mm, F5.6 @ 1/60 second handheld, ISO 1600
This next image of our bride leaning against the piano was made at a slightly wider 92 mm setting of the lens. I did absolutely no retouching on this image and even under close inspection you can see that it is tack sharp throughout.
0019 - Tamron-2527
0020 - Tamron-2527
Tamron 28-300mm VC lens at 92mm, F5.6 @ 1/30 second handheld, ISO 800
50mm:  The next three images were captured at the zoom range between 55 – 39mm. These images corroborate the results we saw in the longer zoomed photographs. In the tight 2:1 close-ups we are maintaining superior detail at this wider zoom range.
0021 - Tamron-1447
0022 - Tamron-1447
Tamron 28-300mm VC lens at 55mm, F6.3 @ 1/160 second, ISO 200
0023 - Tamron-
0024 - Tamron-
Tamron 28-300mm VC lens at 50mm, F11 @ 1/200 second, ISO 200
0025 - Tamron-1986
0026 - Tamron-1986
Tamron 28-300mm VC lens at 39mm, F8.0 @ 1/200 second, ISO 100
28mm:  At the Tamron's widest setting, 28 mm, we can easily identify that the lens is exceedingly sharp. I guess the main point I'm trying to make  is I would have no hesitation at all in using this lens throughout its full focal length at my next wedding.
0029 - Tamron-2160
0030 - Tamron-2160
Tamron 28-300mm VC lens at 28mm, F5.6 @ 1/80 second, ISO 6400
0031 - Tamron-
0032 - Tamron-
Tamron 28-300mm VC lens at 28mm, F5.6 @ 1/80 second, ISO 6400
Chromatic Aberration:  Many times, at the extreme range of super zoom lenses you will see some chromatic aberration in the brightest parts of the scene.  Take a look at this next image.
0033 - Tamron-2347
Yes, it's Barry Manilow. I'm smiling as I'm writing this because you're all probably wondering what am I doing at a Barry Manilow concert. Well, I happen to like Barry Manilow and I've sadly never been to any of his concerts.
After we wrapped the Master Class last Friday LaDawn and I wanted a little R&R so we checked to see what was showing around town. Low and behold there it was - a Barry Manilow concert just 10 minutes away from our home. On top of that, some decent tickets were available for only $10 each!  We decided, heck, let's give it a try and enjoy a $10 concert. We actually spent more money on refreshments and parking than we did on our two tickets. It was certainly a was a nice diversion, an excellent concert and most importantly we had a good time;~)
But I digress. The topic here is chromatic aberration. When we look at this image under extreme 2:1 magnification you can see the chromatic aberration quite clearly around Mr. Manilow’s jacket. Notice the red and green halos on the left and right of the jacket.
0034 - Tamron-2347
Is this a big problem? For me, it's not. Why? Because I'm using Lightroom 4 as my image processor. And, in the Lens Correction Module, by simply profiling the lens and telling Lightroom 4 to remove the chromatic aberration we really make this issue disappear easily and quickly so it's really a non-issue.
0035 - Tamron-2347
Tamron 28-300mm VC lens at 300mm, F8.0 @ 1/160 second, ISO 6400
VC - Vibration Compensation:   Okay, I know what you're thinking next, “The lens sure looks good throughout it’s complete zoom range from 28 to 300 mm but how good is the built-in image stabilization of the lens?”   I have to tell you, I never carry a tripod with me to a wedding. That means I am essentially relying on the lens’ built in image stabilization to save the day for me.
Tamron calls their image stabilization VC for Vibration Control. They claim their VC to give you three f-stop safe range when shooting at the slower shutter speeds. That means that you can shoot at a 3 stop slower shutter speed than what  would normally be needed to capture a  sharp photograph with their lens at a certain focal length.
After Mass on Sunday, LaDawn and I headed to the Cincinnati Art Museum. In the dim surrounds of the Art Museum I decided to check out the vibration control characteristics of the new Tamron lens. Take a look at the Gainsborough painting below. It was shot at the 160mm setting at 7.1 at 1/10 of a second handheld. In my quick test it looks like Tamron vibration and roll is working just fine.
0036 - Tamron-2617
0037 - Tamron-2617
Tamron 28-300mm VC lens at 60mm, F7.1 @ 1/10 second handheld, ISO 6400
Take a look at the zoomed in image. I don't see any motion blur whatsoever even under very close inspection.
Later in the evening, after we returned, LaDawn grabbed the camera with the Tamron lens attached and started shooting a few photographs of me standing in our living room. I did hear that the shutter speed was quite slow so I asked her to take her time and just click off a few images and let's see what we could capture.
In the following image - you can see that I look quite sharp – easily sharp enough for a 4 x 6 print. Now prepare to be amazed! Look at the shooting specs on this image.
0038 - Tamron-2648
Tamron 28-300mm VC lens at 109mm, F7.1 @ 0.6 second handheld, ISO 6400
About 2/3’s second at 7.1 –  that's over half of a second handheld, by LaDawn who is truly not a professional photographer, and I think the image captured looks pretty darn good. I have to admit I was really amazed when I saw this image. I'm not suggesting that you routinely go out and shoot at exposures longer than a half a second counting on them the be tack sharp. But, that there are times when, in a pinch, you could get away with it using Tamron's new lens.
Shooting Macro Shots:  Another really nice feature of the Tamron lens that really surprised me was just how close it could focus. I racked out the lens to 300mm and proceeded to take some close-up photographs of some flowers in our garden. The lens was only about 10 inches away from the subject but, as you can see both in the full view and the super close view, there is plenty of detail in the image. That's an indication to me that we could also use this lens to do a great series of scene setters as part of our wedding coverage.
0039 - Tamron-2680
0040 - Tamron-2680
Tamron 28-300mm VC lens at 300mm, F8.0 @ 1/320 second handheld, ISO 1600
0041 - Tamron-2207
0042 - Tamron-2207
Tamron 28-300mm VC lens at 300mm, F9.0 @ 1/500 second handheld, ISO 1600
I even clicked off a quick photograph of LaDawn and my wedding and engagement bands. I had no idea my wedding ring was so beat up – a wedding photographer’s hands take such a beating you know ;~)
0044 - Tamron-2690
Tamron 28-300mm VC lens at 300mm, F16 @ 1/50 second handheld, ISO 1600
HDR:  And finally, during last week's Master Class I did decided to give the HDR feature on my Canon 5D Mark III a try. I framed up the city and clicked off the image you see below of the city skyline. The camera captures three sequential shots and then matches up the pixels of each of those photographs, works it’s HDR magic, and gave me this final result. Even handheld at 1/80 second and once again at F5 .6 - a fairly high ISO 6400 we have one of my favorite images I've taken so far this year.
0045 - Tamron-2134
Tamron 28-300mm VC lens at 42mm, F5.6 @ 1/80 second handheld, ISO 6400
How About On A Canon 7D or Any Other APS-C Sized Sensor?
Good question – let’s think it through.  Take a look at the diagram below I put together showing the actual field of view of the camera lens and then compared the field of view of a full frame vs. APS-C size sensored camera.   If you're shooting a full frame camera you need to be using a lens that will cover the full 24 x 36 area of frame. That's what the Tamron 28-300mm VC lens was designed to do.
Full Frame vs APS-C
We’ve discussed the sharpness of the Tamron lens throughout its full zoom range of 28 to 300mm. Many times, in lens reviews, the reviewer will discuss light fall off and less-than-perfect sharpness at the corners of the lens particularly at the longer focal lengths of these all-in-one zoom lenses. 
As a wedding photographer, this is not so an important consideration for me.  We’re not shooting scenics or architectural objects.  I don’t necessarily need perfect sharpness in the corner of my lens.  Please, no nasty emails here – when I do need that perfect sharpness, I choose a lens that gives me just that. 
But, as a wedding photographer I’m pointing my camera at people. Corner sharpness and vignetting are less of a consideration for me. Hence, the reason I put less than heavy emphasis on this aspect of lens reviews when considering a lens for my wedding photography. Nevertheless, the Tamron lens ranges from excellent at the center to good at the edges throughout its range in the tests I've seen online. This makes it a good all-in-one lens and a good choice for a full frame sensor camera like the Canon 5D Mark III when shooting weddings and events.
So what about the smaller sized sensors? If what I indicated above is true then the only conclusion you can draw is that the Tamron 28-300mm VC lens will do even better on a smaller size sensor like the one on the Canon 7D camera.  Look at the diagram above one more time – we’re using the sharper, center part of the lens’ field of view so the easy conclusion is that you will get very good image quality and a great result.
One thing to remember though is that your effective focal length changes when shooting with the smaller sensor cameras. The Tamron 28-300mm VC lens will give you an effective range of 43-465mm on the 7D – quite a long throw on the long end but not so wide on the short end.  Hey, there are always trade-offs, but you do pick up that added center sharpness when using the lens on a Canon 7D and wow, what a focal length on the long end!
In Conclusion:  The conclusion for me is that this is a great lens to be married to the Canon 5D Mark III especially for the wedding photographer. It gives me a superior shooting range I like along with good to great sharpness throughout it’s entire range.  That along with good VC - vibration control this lens will allow me to continue to shoot handheld at all my future events.
Would I marry it to my Canon 7D – I sure would when I wanted the added center sharpness and the longer much focal length. But remember, I give up the wide angle versatility I get with the Tamron lens on the Canon 5D Mark III.  It’s all about choices. I’ll keep this post updated as I continue to work with the camera.
This camera/lens combo is been on my shoulder every day for the last week and as I continue to shoot with it, I'm continually amazed by the results I'm getting.
Tamron specsThe results I'm seeing with the new camera-lens combination – Canon 5D Mark III /Tamron 28-300mm VC lens is giving me results that I find at least two notches above the quality that I was obtaining previously with my older shooting combination. I'm sold on this lens. I plan to use it throughout our shooting sessions at Texas School next week.  Plan to stop by my blog to see some more images.
Over the next few weeks and throughout June we have several weddings on the books. I can't wait to shoot with this camera-lens combo.   I'll continue giving you feedback on how the camera and lens combo works for me.
Candid shooting at a wedding reception is a different beast. I'm generally shooting at F6.3 ranging the focal length from 28mm to the full 300mm range of the lens. I suspect, based on my results so far,  I’ll be extremely pleased with the images.  .
Once again, let me say that I'm not discouraging people from buying the fast glass, and expensive lenses. It comes down to what floats your boat. Those lenses just aren't my style.  I’m most interested in maximum versatility and an image stabilization kind of a guy. When shooting one image every nine seconds for 9 hours,  you have to be quick on your feet and quick on your trigger finger to bring home the best images for your clients.
Sure, I'll also be using my Sigma 12-24 ultra wide-angle lens, my 8-15mm zoomable Canon fisheye lens, my Canon 24-105mm image stabilized lens for most of my bridal portraits and group photographs, and my 85mm F1.8 Sigma telephoto when I really want to isolate on the subject or work in extremely low light conditions. These optics are a few of my favorite optics in my gear bag.. With this gear combination I think we’re able to capture more moments most efficiently and creatively than ever before.  I’m more excited than ever before to be photographing weddings and Mitzvah events in this extremely exciting digital age.

Links to this post: 
Tamron 28-300mm VC lens
Canon 5D Mark III
Sigma 12-24 ultra wide-angle
Canon 18-200mm IS lens
Canon 8-15 Fisheye
Canon 24-105mm IS lens
Hey gang, that's it for me today. I knew it was going to be a long post and if you've read this far, congratulations for hanging in there. I’d certainly like to hear your remarks about the conclusions I'm drawing about my favorite gear combination fo event shooting. If you've got your own thoughts on the matter, why not share with our DigitalProTalk readers below in the Comment section following this post. I would love to hear from you.
On that note gang, I'm out here. Enjoy the rest of the day and I'll see you soon.
– David

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