Before I start, if you’re looking for test shots of charts and the like, then this isn’t the review for you. This is my real world, working experience.
I upgraded to the Nikon 24-70mm 2.8 from the Tamron 17-50mm VC, after deciding to go full frame with my cameras. I wanted to go to the Tamron, but I came across a refurbished Nikon 24-70 at the Nikon repair center in Mississauga, Ontario when I was bringing in one of my cameras for cleaning. The cost was, I thought, unbeatable, and I decided to go ahead and purchase it at the time.
A lot of Nikon shooters used to prefer Nikon/Nikkor lenses vs the ‘third party’ versions such as Sigma and Tamron. Even to a lesser extent today, if you review the message boards of photography sites, they will have people insisting that you purchase the Nikon branded lenses. This did sway my decision a bit.
I should have gone with my gut and just waited and purchased the Tamron 24-70.
Don’t get me wrong, the Nikon focused quicker than almost any lenses I had up to that point and it really was my workhorse for a while. Paired with my D700, or even the D7100 I was shooting with as a backup, was great.
My main reason for going to the Tamron was the VC. At the time, Nikon had not yet released the VR version. I thought, to be honest, that I was giving up quality, to go with the lens with VC. I shake when I shoot sometimes, and felt, even though I didn’t need it in all situations, especially with the wider angles, I wanted it to help out when I was shooting in darker rooms and just didn’t want to worry about it. The reviews were all glowing about this lens, but a part of me just couldn’t comprehend that it would be better.
I finally went for it and my expectations were exceeded so far that I just couldn’t wrap my head around what I was seeing. I purchased the Nikon D750 at the time, and thought at first that was the only reason, but then I shot it on my D700 and realized that it was indeed the lens.
Even if you are not a pro on a budget, then this lens is not a compromise. It’s amazingly sharp, focus is very quick, with great colours, and actually let in more light than my Nikon. I constantly had to dial in ⅓-½ stop darker exposure compensation when shooting in aperture priority, or ⅓-½ faster shutter in manual vs the Nikon. The CA was also consistently less than my Nikon, although the Nikon was never a problem to me.
I’ve spoken about all the pros, now the cons.
The Tamron is definitely not on the same quality level for the build. It is a tank, to me, but the all metal body of the Nikon made it feel like the Nikon would stand up to a lot more abuse. There are those out there though that will argue that a plastic or composite body will actually stand up to being dropped better than the metal body. Personally, I don’t want to find out. I have dropped an older 50mm 1.4D all metal body and it was done afterwards.
The focus ring on the Tamron isn’t great for manual focus, but I find the majority of new AF lenses to be the same. The older film lenses just feel better when trying to manually focus, but I’ve never been a huge manual focus shooter. (What I’m shooting now is even better. Spoilers!)
This isn’t necessarily a con, but the zoom ring was stiff. Some people may not like it. It was just right for me personally, but I thought I’d mention it because it definitely had a different feel from the Nikon 24-70 I had, and ones I’ve tried in the past.
Overall I would, as the title points out, suggest people to purchase the Tamron over the Nikon in most situations. It’s less expensive, and optically better, so I don’t see why you would purchase the Nikon. I haven’t shot the Canon 24-70 for a number of years, and that was only using someone else's for a few shots, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the result was the same for the Canon version.
I purchased my Tamron from Henry’s in Mississauga, my favourite gear store. Tamron is distributed and warrantied by Amplis, in Canada.
The photo is from the Tamron USA website.