Camera gear is a forever contested part of a photographer’s life, and most of it isn’t even with other photographers. Working in an industry with such expensive tools is never easy, especially when investing in those tools comes out of your own pocket. One of the toughest things for a photographer is accepting when it’s time to upgrade. Today, the subject of that upgrade is my 24-70mm lens
Now before I get into the specifics of these two versions of Tamron’s lenses, I’m going to talk about the 24-70 as a lens overall.
If you’re a beginner photographer using the kit lens for your camera body and want to upgrade, the 24-70 is by far your best choice. You have access to the most commonly used focal lengths for most kinds of photography (24mm, 35mm, 50mm) and the f/2.8 models allow you to play with a lot more light (which means a lot more depth of field) to achieve more stylized photos. This comparison is strictly between Tamron’s original 2012 version and the version redesigned and released in 2017, but I urge you to get whichever version of the 24-70 you deem best for your bank account and photography needs based on my comparison.
The Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD
Released in early 2012, this lens was Tamron’s debut as a true competitor in the market for a third party alternative to the more pricey Canon, Nikon, and Sony “essentials”. It boasted the industry’s first in-lens image stabilization system on a standard zoom lens for full frame cameras, a silent autofocus motor, and weather sealing technology. Upon its release, this quickly became the easy choice for photographers looking to save money (all of us), all while getting a lens that stays pretty much on par with the name brand ones.
I’ll be honest, I have beat the absolute shit out of this lens in my time owning it. It’s performed well for me with very few true detriments and been the lens through which I’ve captured some of my favorite shots.
There were a few sticking points, however.
It could be an issue with the lens’s age or previous owner (I bought it used), but the main issue I had with it was the grips. The rubber grips stretched over time and eventually became disconnected enough with the actual focus/zoom rings that they’d slide across the length of the lens. The rubber also had a habit of wearing off against my clothes and staining. I never got around to purchasing new grips for it, but in my opinion, this is a problem that shouldn’t happen in the first place. No other lens I’ve owned has had parts that deteriorated so drastically.
Now on a technical level, the lens was acceptable. The autofocus was slower and less accurate than I was happy with (although it did improve once I upgraded to the Canon EOS R), the Vibration Control was normally pretty effective and smooth, and the images were relatively sharp without much enhancement. But with that being said, just as a person may still hold on tightly to their Motorola Razr because they believe it “does everything I need it to do” would likely shit themselves if they finally upgraded to the latest iPhone, the stark difference in quality between the Tamron 24-70 G1 and G2 is a pretty accurate parallel.
The Tamron SP 24-70mm F/2.8 Di VC USD G2
Announced in mid-2017, the G2 version Tamron’s 24-70mm lens featured a very clean redesign, enhanced Vibration Compensation, faster autofocus, and was a direct answer to the consumers’ complaints about the already impressive original product.
Every possible grievance I could have had with the G1 was remedied in its second iteration. Autofocus: Fast. Grips: Sturdy. Ergonomics: Sleek and sexy. The improvement that really blew me away, however, was the Vibration Compensation.
The G2 reduces shaking by up to 5 stops (meaning with VC off, you could get a sharp image at 1/200th of a second, whereas with it turned on, you could potentially get just as sharp of an image at 1/13th of a second), which feels like a night and day difference after using the G1. Both lenses offer VC, but the G2 took that concept and ran a full-fledged marathon with it.
Here is a video test of the VC (off, then on) on the G1
And here is the same off/on test with the G2.
Another direct improvement in the G2 is autofocus speed and accuracy. With the G1, there were several times (even shooting above f/2.8) that focus was soft on the subject at all focal lengths. The G2 has notably faster AF speeds and much more consistently accurate focus.
Ergonomically, photographers using the G1 noted that the toggles between MF/AF and VC on/off weren’t efficient to change, as they were low profile and more difficult to move than they would prefer. Tamron fixed this in the G2 by changing the shape and layout of the toggles as well as lowering the effort needed to switch from one setting to the other. During the first event using the G2, however, I noticed that when I brought my camera up to capture a moment, about 5 or 6 times throughout the 3 hours of shooting this event my focus was set to manual, causing me to miss the shot while I figured out the problem and toggled back to AF. I carry my camera on an Altura Photo Sling Strap, and while the camera was hanging and not in use, the MF/AF toggle was so easy to change that bumping my belt was enough to switch it. I never had a problem with the G1’s toggle switches, and would happily go back to them if I could cherry pick features between the two lenses.
Another design feature that undoubtedly sits in the G2’s favor is the radical addition of a locking lens hood. I’m not sure why every single lens hood in existence doesn’t come standard with this, but the transition felt like another “Motorola Razr to iPhone” moment in itself.
I’ve dwelled enough on the design improvements of the newest release, now let’s get into the nitty gritty. Unfortunately though, there won’t be a great deal of detail below. Sorry to crush your dreams.
The image quality between the G1 and G2 is noticeable, but not in a way that I think most people would be able to tell in a blind comparison. Most of the benefit of the G2 comes when the G1 just wouldn’t be enough to do the job (shooting at lower shutter speeds in low light, focusing quickly while shooting fast-paced action, etc). The G1 was (and still is) a fantastic lens optically, with very minimal areas in need of real critiquing. Shooting with a wide open aperture showed a bit of vignetting and autofocus perfection was mildly hit or miss, but the real differences that make the G2 worth it is the user experience and heavily improved Vibration Compensation.