Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens Review

The Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens is an update to the Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Lens, a lens that rapidly rose to popularity, in part by being the first ultra-wide-angle DSLR lens covering the full frame (35mm) image circle to have image stabilization (Vibration Control, or "VC") and an aperture wider than f/4 — twice as wide in this case. While 15mm is not dramatically wider than 16mm, this was also the first image stabilized full frame lens wider than 16mm. As expected, the G2 version improves on the G1, so let's cut right to the big question.

What are the Differences between the Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 Di VC USD G2 and the G1? Sean took a humorous approach to exploring the differences in that article, but to summarize, these are the differences:

  • New lens element coatings
  • Improved Vibration Compensation — the G2 model provides up to 4.5 stops of compensation; the previous model's VC assistance was never specified
  • Improved autofocus performance through, primarily, a new AF algorithm
  • Possibly better weather sealing — the original model had some sealing that included a rear mount gasket, but the internal seals diagram was not provided
  • Rear filter holder (Canon mount only)
  • Updated exterior design to match other G2 lenses
  • Compatibility with the TAP-in console

All those changes are positive, but perhaps the more interesting piece of information is that the optical design does not appear to have changed. Here is the design diagram comparison:

Tamron SP 15 30mm F/2.8 Di VC USD vs SP 15 30mm F 2.8 Di VC USD G2 Optics

Our image quality test results for the G2 do not show improvement, backing up the observation.

When the G1 hit the market, the excitement for that lens was high and it performed well on the highest resolution cameras available. This lens offers great features including image stabilization, a wide aperture, an ultra-wide-angle focal length range, and a reasonable price tag. With much higher imaging sensor resolutions available today and little optical improvement made in the refresh, is the G2 still an exciting option?

Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens Angle View

Focal Length Range

The focal length range is a primary consideration for a zoom lens purchase or for selection for use. Focal length matters greatly because it drives focus distance choices and perspective is determined by those distances.

Most subjects can be photographed with any focal length, but not all angles of view provided by those focal lengths are practical from a working distance perspective and they do not all provide the ideal relational perspective when the desired subject framing is obtained. For example, photographing a group of 15 people with a 600mm lens requires a working distance that might require a large sports field to keep all group members in the frame, a phone may be required to communicate with them, and obstacles might prevent visibility of the subjects from the required working distance even if that amount of space is available. Longer focal length lenses make background subjects larger in the frame, emphasizing distant mountains for example, while wide-angle lenses make background details appear small, allowing foreground subjects to be emphasized. Longer focal lengths are better at creating strong background blurs and wider angles are better for keeping the background in focus.

When starting a kit, most photographers will first select a general-purpose lens and one of the next-most-needed lenses is typically a wide-angle zoom. The 15-30mm range ideally covers that need.

What is a 15-30mm lens useful for?

When you cannot get any farther away from your subject but still need to get a wide area of view in the frame, you want an ultra-wide-angle lens. Better still is to be able to choose an ultra-wide-angle for perspective reasons. An ultra-wide-angle lens has the capability, via perspective, of making a foreground object (ideally something interesting or attractive) appear large and emphasized in relation to a distant, yet potentially in-focus, and equally-attractive background with a lot of that background in the frame. Thus, especially careful attention must be paid to compositions utilizing ultra-wide-angles of view. I generally find excellent ultra-wide compositions more challenging to create than normal or telephoto compositions, but when the right scene is found, ultra-wide results are tremendously rewarding.

This foreground emphasis with background inclusion capability fits especially well with landscape photography and this is naturally one of the most popular uses for this range. Start looking for a beautiful patch of flowers in front of a large mountain range (perhaps with a lake between them) to utilize these concepts. Or, let the background go out of focus, drawing more emphasis to the foreground as illustrated in the 15mm f/2.8 image below.

Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens Landscape Sample Picture

With the focal lengths through the only-mildly-wide-angle 30mm included, it is easy to compose and show natural perspective with this lens, making the viewer feel part of the scene. This entire focal length range is perfect for photographing local, state, and national parks, beaches, and a huge number of other beautiful places. Note that this lens lacks front filter threads and the inability to install a standard circular polarizer filter will be found limiting to serious landscape photographers.

While a close-up wide-angle perspective can look amazing in a landscape scene, it is generally to be avoided when a person is the primary subject. What you do not (usually) want to appear large in the foreground of your ultra-wide composition is a person's nose. We do not typically look at a person from really close distances and if we do, that person becomes uncomfortable with us being in their personal space (and even more so when a camera is in hand). When we look at photos of people captured from very close distances, certain body parts (usually the nose) start to look humorously (to some) large. Unique portrait perspectives can be fun, but this technique should not be overused as it quickly gets old. Get the telephoto lens out for your tightly-framed portraits.

But, that does not mean wide-angle focal lengths are not a good choice for photographing people. Simply move back and include people in a larger scene, creating an environmental portrait. At the long end of the focal length range, the only moderately-wide 30mm focal length is a great choice for full-body portraits and this focal length range also nicely handles small and up to very large groups.

Especially when paired with the low light and background blur capabilities of an f/2.8 aperture, the 15-30mm focal length range (FLR) is a great option for the wide work at weddings, family gatherings, and at other events as well as for photojournalism and sports photography needs. This lens can also be used overhead, to photograph over crowds such as those arriving on-field after football games.

Many of the just-discussed uses happen at a venue that itself is worthy of being photographed. Wide-angles make interior spaces, from houses to vehicles, look large and allow for illustrative composition even when working space is limited. This focal length range is an important one for architecture.

Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 VC Lens Sample Picture

Essentially all lighthouses attract photographers and casual observers alike, but not all are similarly photogenic. While it is hard to take a bad photo of the Portland Lighthouse, I found the Sanibel Island Lighthouse to be more challenging (especially with the weather conditions I was given). But, the skeletal pyramidal iron structure is somewhat unique and it caught my attention.

Always looking for a new angle on my subjects, I ended up flat on my back under this lighthouse (when evaluating the G1 lens). For the record, no, I wasn't napping (but it was a very comfortable shooting position). It is of course not possible to get under most lighthouses, but the design of this one makes that position possible. While this shooting location and position brought my state of mind into question by observers (I received some light-hearted attention), the wide 15mm focal length allows for unique images such as this one.

When photographing architecture, a level camera is often desired to keep walls and the sides of buildings straight/vertical in the frame, avoiding converging lines. However, it is not always possible, affordable, or convenient to get the camera to a height that permits the desired framing with a level camera. This is especially common when photographing the exterior of buildings from ground level. A tilt-shift lens is the ideal choice for this situation, but an ultra-wide-angle lens can also get the job done. Simply set up the camera in a level position, zoom out until the building (or other subject) is contained in the frame, capture the image, and then crop the image to achieve the ideal composition during post-processing. Basically, having a lens that takes in wide angles of view can circumvent the need for a tilt-shift lens (with resolution loss from the cropping being a downside) or pixel-level-destructive perspective correction.

Directly related to architecture photography is real estate photography and that use has us circling back to the landscape capabilities of this focal length range. Landscapes taken after dark, aptly described as nightscapes, are a frequent use for the 15-30mm range. Also count cityscapes on this lens' great uses list. Going underwater? The 15-30mm focal length range is well suited for aquatic adventures utilizing an underwater housing, allowing close distance framing of subjects that minimizes the image degradation caused by water clarity issues.

Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens Looking Up Sample Picture

Do you like the looking upward into the woods type of picture? This lens can do that. It is seldom that my pack does not have a lens covering at least most of this focal length range in it.

For a real-world example of the 15-30mm focal length range (FLR), we'll first stop by Jane's Carousel in Brooklyn Bridge Park and then we'll take a hike in the woods.

Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Lens Focal Length Range Example

15mm | 16mm | 18mm | 20mm | 24mm | 30mm
15mm | 18mm | 20mm | 24mm | 30mm

The 16mm focal length is not marked on this lens and there is a range within the 16mm-reported focal length, so use discretion in the 15mm vs. 16mm comparison. Obviously 15mm is wider than the 16mm widest focal length available on some competing lenses and you will notice the difference. Many of those comparable lenses zoom to 35mm and that difference is also noticeable. However, most Tamron 15-30 VC owners will also own a general-purpose zoom lens that covers the 30-35mm range. Focal length range redundancy can be beneficial and is certainly more desireable than not having a specific FLR covered.

There are numerous APS-C/1.6x FOVCF sensor format DSLR lenses with an at-least-similar set of specs including stabilization. Though this lens is a very good choice for these smaller-sensor DSLRs, Tamron's 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens feature set does not stand out nearly as prominently in this format. Those using an ASP-C 1.6x (Canon) or 1.5x (Nikon) will find the 15-30mm angle of view similar to a 24-48mm or 22.5-45mm lens mounted on a full frame body. This is a very useful range that covers a significant portion of the range I generally recommend for general-purpose use with applications moving toward a better portraiture range.

I love ultra-wide-angle lenses and the creativity challenge they present. The reward of a well-composed ultra-wide-angle image is high and worth all of the effort required to get it. The entire 15-30mm range is useful and should be represented in most kits.

Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens Front View

Max Aperture

While many wide-angle lens needs call for a narrow aperture, there are definitely advantages to having a wide aperture available.

With few exceptions, f/2.8 is the widest aperture available in full frame zoom lenses of any focal length and the f/2.8 aperture is one-stop wider than the also-common f/4 aperture that many wide-angle lenses have available. One does not sound like much, but in terms of light, a one-stop aperture difference means 2x as much light. Compared to an f/4 lens, an f/2.8 max-aperture lens can stop motion in half as much light using the same ISO setting. Alternatively, a 1 stop lower ISO setting can be used in the same light level and the difference in noise can be significant at the higher ISO settings, ISO 6400 vs. ISO 12800 for example. Photographing indoor sports, low light events, and the night sky are applications where this lens' aperture advantage can be game-changing.

Another advantage held by wide apertures is their ability to strongly blur the background. Wide-angle lenses are not the most adept at creating strong background blurs, but still, an f/2.8 aperture is better at this than an f/4 alternative. In the 30mm f/2.8 example below (captured with the G1 lens), a medium-sized dog nearly fills the 30mm frame while the background details remain readily identifiable.

Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 VC Lens Max Blur Example

Here is a set of maximum blur examples:

Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens Maximum Blur Example

In a zoom lens, the max aperture will sometimes be stated as a range, indicating that the max aperture narrows as the focal length increases. A very positive feature of this lens is that the max aperture is fixed over the entire focal length range with f/2.8 always available. Manually-set wide-open exposures can be retained and counted on regardless of the focal length selected.

Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens on Tripod

Image Stabilization

Having a wide aperture is a great advantage for any lens, increasing its usefulness in low light, but VC (Vibration Compensation) significantly increases its versatility, improves its usability and, in many situations, greatly improves the image quality it delivers. Tamron was the first lens manufacturer to introduce image stabilization in a full frame 24-70mm f/2.8 lens and they were next first to cover the full frame 15-30mm f/2.8 range with image stabilization. This lens model update improves upon the first with an improved Vibration Compensation system that now includes a rating, promising 4.5 stops of assistance. The first 15-30's VC implementation was good and the G2's is quite impressive.

Under ideal test conditions, handheld and unsupported at 15mm, most images captured at 0.8 to 1-second exposures were sharp and at 30mm, most images captured at 0.4 seconds were sharp. Those are some nice numbers and better yet is that in both of those test sets, the trail-off in sharp image rate was slow, meaning that if you can tolerate a lower percentage of sharp images, even longer exposures can be attempted with success being likely. I wasn't feeling my steadiest during this testing and was concerned that the results were not going to be stellar, but this stabilization system performed remarkably.

Photographing outside, perhaps in the wind or with unstable footing? Expect to need faster exposures than those I am reporting. But, also expect a similar amount of assistance from VC as it is still similarly and significantly compensating for camera motion.

The original Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 lens' VC system showed maturity in its operation and that of course carries over into the G2. In addition to doing its primary job very well, this system presents a stable image to the viewfinder with no bounce seen at startup, shutdown, or during use when panning the lens, an important consideration for video recording. With the lens being held very still, only slight drifting is seen on occasion (Tamron advises that VC be turned while using a tripod). From an audible perspective, a light clunk can be heard at startup/shutdown and faint whirring can be heard while active — if ambient sounds are not loud.

There is an ongoing discussion about the benefit of image stabilization in wide-angle lenses. While I will not argue that these lenses benefit from stabilization as much as telephoto lenses do, I still find the inclusion of image stabilization to be very helpful, significantly extending the versatility of such lenses. When you need to leave the tripod behind, VC is there for you, helping to ensure sharp images and smooth videos. Perhaps most important is that VC allows handholding of the camera in extremely low light situations with still subjects (or permits motion blurring of subjects with sharp surroundings). Also valuable is that VC allows handholding in medium and low light levels when more depth of field is needed, allowing narrower aperture use without a tripod. VC is also helpful in providing a still subject to the camera's AF system.

With the optional Tamron TAP-in Console (more about this later), the Vibration Compensation system in this lens is configurable. Options include Standard (default, balanced), Viewfinder image-stabilization priority (stabilization of viewfinder image is prioritized) or Capturing image-stabilization (stabilization of captured photograph is prioritized).

Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens Top View

Image Quality

With no optical design changes, we expected the G2 to optically perform similar to its G1 predecessor – and it does. With higher resolution cameras available now than were available we reviewed the G1, specifically the Canon EOS 5Ds R, the test results appear magnified.

In the center of the frame, the Tamron 15-30 G2 turns in very sharp results with a wide-open f/2.8 aperture. The center-of-the-frame results slowly get softer as the focal length increases, but the center of the frame is still relatively sharp at 30mm. Improving image sharpness is almost universally obtainable by stopping a lens down one or two stops from wide-open, but this lens is so sharp in the center at the wider angles that the difference made by stopping down to f/4 is barely recognizable. At 30mm, f/4 brings on the very sharp description.

Often, image quality degrades as the image circle is traversed from the center to the periphery and that is the case with this lens. The mid-frame and corners at all focal lengths are relatively soft at f/2.8. Stopping down slowly improves periphery performance and at f/8, this lens becomes sharp into the full frame corners with 30mm performance still lagging somewhat.

In addition to our standard lab tests, I like to share some real-world examples. The images below are 100% resolution crops from images captured in RAW format using a Canon EOS 5Ds R. The images were processed in Canon's Digital Photo Professional using the Standard Picture Style with sharpness set to "1" (note that even modestly-high sharpness settings are destructive to image details and hide the true characteristics of a lens). These examples are from the center of the frame.

Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens Sharpness Comparison Example

15mm: f/2.8 | f/4.0    f/2.8 | f/4.0
22mm: f/2.8 | f/4.0    f/2.8 | f/4.0
30mm: f/2.8 | f/4.0    f/2.8 | f/4.0

To my eyes, these images mirror what the test chart results show. Overall, this lens is performing very well in the center of the frame, remarkably well at 15mm.

Now is a good time to note that focus shift, the plane of sharp focus moving forward or backward as the aperture is narrowed (residual spherical aberration or RSA), is not an issue with this lens.

Next, we'll look at a comparison showing 100% extreme-top-left-corner crops captured and processed identically to the above center-of-the-frame images. These images were manually focused in the corner of the frame.

Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens Corner Sharpness Comparison Example

15mm: f/2.8 | f/4.0 | f/5.6
22mm: f/2.8 | f/4.0 | f/5.6 | f/8.0 | f/11.0
30mm: f/2.8 | f/4.0 | f/5.6 | f/8.0 | f/11.0

At 15mm, the corners are looking very nice, considerably better than when the lens was focused in the center of the frame at a closer distance in the lab. The 22mm results are similarly improved and the 30mm results are not, appearing soft until about f/11 where they look very good.

Corner sharpness does not always matter, but it does for many disciplines including landscape photography. When I'm photographing landscapes with corner sharpness being desired, I'm probably using f/8 or f/11 to obtain enough depth of field for in-focus corner details and this lens works beautifully for this purpose at these apertures.

At 15mm f/2.8, expect about 3-stops of peripheral shading in full frame image corners. As the focal length increases, the shading decreases with about 2-stops showing in the 30mm f/2.8 corners. Stop down the aperture and the shading also decreases, as usual. At f/4, the amount of shading ranges from 2-stops down to 1-stop and f/5.6 brings about a smaller reduction to 1.2-stops down to 0.8-stops over the range. Only minimal reductions are seen at narrower apertures with the about-1-stop of shading in the 15mm f/16 corners remaining sometimes visible.

Vignetting can be corrected during post-processing with increased noise in the brightened areas being the penalty or it can be embraced, using the effect to draw the viewer's eye to the center of the frame.

The effect of different colors of the spectrum being magnified differently is referred to as lateral (or transverse) CA (Chromatic Aberration). Lateral CA shows as color fringing along lines of strong contrast running tangential (meridional, right angles to radii) with the mid and especially the periphery of the image circle showing the greatest amount as this is where the greatest difference in the magnification of wavelengths typically exists. If lens elements refracted all visible wavelengths of light identically, a lens designer's job would be a lot easier. Because they do not, we get aberrations caused by various wavelengths of light being magnified and focused differently.

While lateral CA is usually easily corrected with software (often in the camera) by radially shifting the colors to coincide, it is of course better to not have it in the first place. Any color misalignment present can easily be seen in the site's image quality tool, but let's also look at a set of worst-case examples, 100% crops from the extreme top left corner of ultra-high resolution 5Ds R frames.

Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens Lateral Chromatic Aberration Example

15mm | 18mm | 20mm | 24mm | 30mm

There should be only black and white colors in these images and the additional colors are showing lateral CA. At the wide end, there is a moderate amount of lateral CA showing with decreasing amounts showing in the mid and long focal lengths.

A relatively common lens aberration is axial (longitudinal, bokeh) CA, which causes non-coinciding focal planes of the various wavelengths of light, or more simply, different colors of light are focused to different depths. Spherical aberration along with spherochromatism, or a change in the amount of spherical aberration with respect to color (looks quite similar to axial chromatic aberration but is hazier) are other common lens aberrations to look for. Axial CA remains at least somewhat persistent when stopping down with the color misalignment effect increasing with defocusing while the spherical aberration color halo shows little size change as the lens is defocused and stopping down one to two stops generally removes this aberration.

In the real world, lens defects do not exist in isolation with spherical aberration and spherochromatism generally found, at least to some degree, along with axial CA. These combine to create a less sharp, hazy-appearing image quality at the widest apertures.

In the examples below, look at the fringing colors in the out of focus specular highlights. The primary subjects are neutrally-colored, so any other color is being introduced by the lens.

Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens Spherical and Axial Aberration Example

15mm: Background | Foreground    30mm: Background | Foreground

Any color differences being seen here are very mild.

Flare is caused by bright light reflecting off of the surfaces of lens elements, resulting in reduced contrast and interesting artifacts and lens coatings are an important factor in reducing flare. One of the new features of this lens are the coatings. I was going to quote the press release lens coatings section here but ... minds will glaze over while reading that. I'll just name the three coatings involved: AX (Anti-reflection eXpand) Coating, eBand (Extended Bandwidth & Angular-Dependency) Coating utilizing nanotechnology, and BBAR (Broad-Band Anti-Reflection). How they work is of course of ultimate importance.

In images captured with the sun in the corner of the frame, only very mild flare effects are seen at f/2.8. Narrower apertures usually present stronger flare effects and that is again the case with this lens, showing moderately strong flare effects at f/16. Does the Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens show less flare effects than the G1? The flare artifacts are about the same but the G2 perhaps has less veiling flare.

There are two lens aberrations that are particularly evident when shooting images of stars, mainly because bright points of light against a dark background make them easier to see. Coma occurs when light rays from a point of light spread out from that point, instead of being refocused as a point on the sensor. Coma is absent in the center of the frame, gets worse toward the edges/corners, and generally appears as a comet-like or triangular tail of light which can be oriented either away from the center of the frame (external coma), or toward the center of the frame (internal coma). Astigmatism is seen as points of light spreading into a line, either meridional (radiating from the center of the image) or sagittal (perpendicular to meridional). Remember that lateral CA is another aberration apparent in the corners.

The images below are 100% crops taken from the extreme top-left corner of EOS 5Ds R frames.

Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens Coma Example

15mm | 22mm | 30mm

None of the stars in these examples are perfect pin-point dots, but the results at the wide end are not bad from a relative standpoint — about normal. With this lens turning in soft 30mm corners in the 30mm image quality tests, I expected the 30mm corner stars to be very soft. While they are still not great, these results were better than I expected, though the lines extending from the stars are a bit distracting.

This lens has strong barrel distortion at the wide end that transitions into negligible distortion (at approximately 19mm) and on into moderately strong pincushion distortion at the long end. If straight lines are running along the sides of the frame, the geometric distortion at the long and especially the wide focal lengths is going to be noticeable. Linear distortion can make careful framing of subjects with straight lines more challenging.

Most modern lenses have lens correction profiles available for the popular image processing applications and distortion can be easily removed using these, but distortion correction is destructive at the pixel level and correction is seldom as good as using a distortion-free lens and focal length combination in the first place.

The quality of blur seen in the out of focus portions of an image is referred to as bokeh. As noted earlier in the review, a wide-angle lens is not going to produce the strongest background blur, but this lens is capable of throwing the background out of focus, especially with wide apertures and longer focal lengths being used. The blur quality at the wide apertures seems nice as you may have or will notice in some of the sample images shared in the review. Following are two f/8 examples of out-of-focus specular highlights followed by a pair of f/2.8 bottom-left corner crops that show any cat's eye effect the lens produces.

Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens Bokeh Example

The f/8 examples appear about normal. The 15mm f/2.8 corners show strong cat's eye shapes and the 30mm corner highlights are close to being round.

With a 9-blade aperture count being an odd-number (vs. even), distant point light sources captured with a narrow aperture and showing a star-like effect will have twice as many points as blades — 18. Here is what they look like.

Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens Starburst Effect Example

The slight outward flaring of the points is not my favorite aspect, but overall, this lens can create nice and large star effects.

Use the lab test results featured in the lens comparison tools for further evaluation of this lens' image quality. Most are going to be very happy with the center of the frame performance from this lens, especially at the wide end and most will be less enthusiastic about the wide aperture corner performance at the longer focal lengths.

Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens Side View

Focusing

As indicated by the "USD" acronym in its name, the 15-30mm f/2.8 VC G2 Lens, along with many of its recently introduced siblings, uses Tamron's Ultrasonic Drive for autofocusing. This implementation of USD is very nice with quiet operation — only a light "shhhh" is heard in quiet environments. The focus speed is good and fine-tuning adjustments made after the initial near-in-focus state has been achieved are infrequent, at least when the subject has a decent amount of contrast.

Focusing is internal and FTM (Full Time Manual) focusing is provided.

Focus accuracy is of course quite important and this lens is also a decent performer in this regard, especially for a third-party lens. Most images were properly focused, including those captured using peripheral AF points. Those using sensor-based AF systems including those in mirrorless camera models will especially find this lens to focus very accurately.

Illustrated below is focus breathing, a change in focal length/subject size caused by a full extent focus distance adjustment.

Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens Focus Magnification Example

15mm: Distant | Close 30mm: Distant | Close

Obviously, there is a noticeable difference and photographers using focus stacking techniques, videographers pulling focus and anyone very-critically framing a scene will want to be aware of this common issue.

Focus distance settings are displayed inside a small window and available at a glance.

While non-cinema lenses are generally not parfocal and this attribute can be individual lens-specific, the review lens appears very close to parfocal. Focus at 30mm and subjects remain in focus during a full extent zoom out to 15mm. You should test your lens for this attribute before trusting this capability for production work, but ... like its 24-70mm f/2.8 G2 Lens sibling, this is one of the best performing lenses I've used in this regard.

The manual focus ring is very smooth with a nice amount of dampening. The 113° of focus ring rotation is ideal for precision work even near minimum focus distance at 30mm. The focus ring positioned to the rear of the zoom ring is not my favorite design, though the narrow ring with tactilely-obvious rubber ribbing is easy to find and distinguish, yet small enough to not get in the way.

The minimum focus distance and maximum magnification specs are the same as its predecessor, with an 11.0" (280mm) minimum focus distance (same as most other lenses in this class) generating a 0.20x maximum magnification at 30mm. These are decent specs that are about average for the class.

ModelMFDMM
Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM Lens11.0"(280mm)0.25x
Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G AF-S Lens11.0"(280mm)0.15x
Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG HSM Art Lens10.2"(260mm)0.19x
Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens11.0"(280mm)0.19x
Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens11.0"(280mm)0.20x
Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Lens11.0"(280mm)0.20x
Tokina 16-28mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro FX Lens11.0"(280mm)0.19x

At 15mm, a subject measuring approximately 11.5 x 7.7" (292 x 195mm) will fill the frame at the minimum focus distance and at 30mm, an in-focus subject measuring approximately 6.2 x 4.1" (158 x 105mm) can be made to fill the frame. Illustrating this lens' maximum magnification is the lady slipper orchid image below. The large portion of the lady slipper bloom measures roughly 2.5" (64mm) and was captured at 30mm f/2.8 at the closest focus distance available in this lens.

Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens Maximum Magnification Example

Magnification from wide-angle lenses is generally significantly increased with the use of extension tubes which are, as their name implies, hollow tubes with electronic connections that shift a lens farther from the camera. This allows the lens to focus at closer distances, though at the expense of long-distance focusing. At 15mm and into the mid-range focal lengths, a relatively short 12mm extension tube is too long for this lens to be able to focus even at the infinity distance setting. By 30mm, the maximum magnification is dramatically increased and there is enough focus distance for this combination to be usable, though the periphery of the image is soft even in the viewfinder.

The Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens is not compatible with Tamron's Teleconverters.

Build Quality & Features

This is the fourth Tamron "G2" lens I've reviewed — the Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 Lens was the first, the Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens followed, and the Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens was the third. The modernized design these lenses share is much-welcomed. From the streamlined shape to the multiple shades of matte black finish and modern font used for the markings, these lenses look great and feel at least as nice in hand.

Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G1 vs. G2 Lens

Tamron's original 15-30mm f/2.8 VC lens is shown to the left of the G2 version in the comparison image above. If you take away the styling differences, the two lenses appear quite similar. Note that the rear G2 lens cap is larger.

Consistent with the other G2 lenses is the metal construction, including the barrel exterior (the G1 had a plastic barrel exterior), although in this case, the metal exterior appears to be a band around plastic (see the plastic switch bank and the immediately-surrounding area).

Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens Product Images

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The shape of this lens is relatively smooth after a significant diameter increase just forward of the lens mount. A slight diameter increase occurs as the focus ring rolls outward and a second increase occurs at the transition into the zoom ring. An additional diameter increase occurs at the built-in lens hood, where my last finger rests comfortably while controlling the lens.

The diameter of this lens is especially large. However, gripping the lens with my medium-sized hands has not been a problem.

The zoom ring is very nicely sized, is covered by sharply-ribbed rubber, is quite smooth with no play and zooms at an ideal rate. The standard for the G2 lenses introduced to date is that the zoom rings rotate in the Nikon-standard direction, opposite of the Canon standard. Canon shooters will need to acclimate to this directional change.

Strange is that Tamron has not been consistent with the direction that the G2 focus rings rotate with the 15-30 and the 150-600 rotating similar to Canon and Sony lenses and 24-70 and 70-200 rotating in the opposite direction, similar to Nikon lenses. The directional differences can be seen in this visual comparison. Photographers building out a kit of Tamron lenses do not get the advantage of consistency in this regard. Of course, those relying only on autofocus will have little concern regarding this detail.

I prefer a rear-positioned zoom ring and my position hasn't changed in this regard. While the rear-positioned focus ring is not a significant issue in this case, the potential for an inadvertent focus distance change during focus and recompose exists. Retaining a manually selected focus distance while handling the lens is another concern.

Holding the lens under the zoom ring, while great for changing focal lengths, does not provide the best balance, leaving the camera back-heavy (and requires care to avoid getting one's pinky in the picture). The zoom ring is smooth with no play and a proper amount of resistance over the 60° of rotation.

This lens does not change size when zooming in or out, but the front element and its interior lens hood extend and retract within the built-in exterior lens hood when doing so.

The switches on the G1 lens were relatively flush, but the G2's switch bank is noticeably raised. The difference does not seem important and the switches are conveniently located and easy to find. The switches are raised just the right amount in the switch bank to be usable with light gloves but not raised so much that they are easy to inadvertently move. The 2-position switches click assuredly into place.

Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens Weather Sealing

This is a weather-sealed lens with gaskets illustrated above and the rear mount gasket shown below.

Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens Mount

"Moisture-Resistant Construction protects your lens — For greater protection when shooting outdoors, leak-resistant seals throughout the lens barrel help protect your equipment." [Tamron] This feature can save the day. The front element is fluorine-coated to avoid dirt, dust, and water drop adherence and to make cleaning very easy. This feature is especially helpful in the field (if not using filters).

Relatively speaking, this is a large, heavy, high density lens with a solid feel. In the grand landscape of lenses, this one is not uncomfortable or difficult to carry and use offhand, but it is one of the heaviest options in its class. Here is a size and weight comparison chart:

ModelWeightDimensions w/o Hood "(mm)FilterYear 
Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM Lens27.9(790)3.5 x 5.0(88.5 x 127.5)822016
Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G AF-S Lens34.2(969)3.9 x 5.2(98.0 x 131.5)2007
Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG HSM Art Lens40.6(1150)3.8 x 5.3(96.4 x 135.1)2018
Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens24.0(680)3.5 x 4.8(88.5 x 121.6)822017
Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens39.2(1110)3.9 x 5.7(98.4 x 145.0)2018
Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Lens38.8(1100)3.9 x 5.7(98.4 x 145.0)2014
Tokina 16-28mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro FX Lens33.5(950)3.5 x 5.2(90.0 x 133.3)n/a2011

For many more comparisons, review the complete Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens Specifications using the site's Lens Spec tool.

Here is a visual comparison of some of the above lenses. Note that the lenses are aligned on their mounts, not their caps.

Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens Compared to Similar Lenses

Positioned above from left to right are the following lenses:

Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens
Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM Lens
Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G AF-S Lens
Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG HSM Art Lens
Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens

The same lenses are shown below, all with their hoods in place.

Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens Compared to Similar Lenses with Hoods

Use the site's product image comparison tool to visually compare the Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens to other lenses.

With a strongly-convex front lens element and a built-in hood, this lens does not accept standard threaded filters. With circular polarizer filters not supported, this lens loses points, especially for landscape photography. Companies such as Fotodiox implement filter solutions for this type of lens, but the filter holder and the filters themselves are very large. A far more elegant option is available to EOS R-series cameras — the Canon Mount Adapter EF-EOS R with Drop-In Circular Polarizer and ND filters.

New with the Canon-mount version of this lens (this feature is not included with the Nikon-mount version) is a rear drop-in filter mount for use with cut gel filters. The rear drop-in filter holder is useful for neutral density filters, my second-most-used enhancement filter type.

Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens Drop-In Filter Holder

Lenses in this class do not get a tripod ring. However, 39.2 oz (1110g) is a noticeable amount of weight to have on the front of a tripod-mounted camera and a quality head will be needed to avoid sag after lock-down.

The 15-30 G2 has an integrated petal-style lens hood that affords a decent amount of protection to the front element at 30mm, though care should be exercised when the front lens element is fully extended at 15mm as the shorter sides of the hood are then behind the glass. Interesting is that this lens has a double hood, with the mold-ribbed inside hood connected to and moving with the front lens elements until positionally matching the exterior hood at 15mm. The views included in the site's Lens Product Images Comparison Tool show the two hood position extremes.

Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens Cap Installed on Lens

With a strongly-convex front lens element and a built-in hood, this lens requires a dimensionally larger lens cap and Tamron's solution is a rigid plastic friction-fit slip-on cap that wraps around the lens hood.

Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens Cap

Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens Cap

I find these types of caps frequently slipping off, especially when being removed from top load style cases, but this model has a decent design.

Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens Case

Tamron includes a thin, soft drawstring pouch in the box. With a padded bottom, this pouch offers a small amount of impact protection, but it is otherwise primarily intended for preventing scratches and avoiding dust. Lowepro Lens Cases are a better protection solution for single lens storage, transport, and carry.

Tamron TAP-in Console

The Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens is compatible with the Tamron TAP-in Console. The TAP-in Console is a small round device that attaches to the lens mount and via a USB connection, allows communication with a computer.

Tamron TAP-in Console

Once the lens is attached to the dock and the dock attached to the computer, the TAP-in Utility checks for any available software updates, downloads them as needed, and then communicates with the lens and checks for any available lens firmware updates. If an update is available, a dialog box is presented, providing the option to update the lens. There have been a number of Tamron lens firmware updates released recently, addressing compatibility and other issues. Having the TAP-in Console makes installing those updates very fast and easy, especially compared to the alternative of shipping a lens to a service center.

Tamron TAP-in Console

Within the TAP-in Utility app, many will find the first tab, Focus Adjustment, to be the most important. Autofocus adjustments can be made at 5 focal lengths with 3 focus distance adjustments available at each focal length for a total of 15 adjustments available (I made up the adjustment numbers in the example shown above). That is enough adjustability to dial in the calibration of the most difficult camera and lens combinations – and enough to drive perfectionists crazy. A Focus Limiter tab is provided; however, this lens does not offer the ability to customize the autofocus distance range (the full range is always enabled). The last tab, Miscellaneous, provides control over full-time manual focus override and the VC mode.

Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens Angle View on Camera

Price and Value

While the Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 is not a cheap lens, it is a decent value. Without rebates factored in, the 15-30 is priced very considerably less than the Canon, Nikon, and Sony f/2.8 lenses shown in the comparison image above. The Tamron is priced similarly to the Sigma but has versatility-increasing vibration control to its advantage.

The Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens is available in Canon (reviewed) and Nikon mounts and the Canon version can be used on Sony E-mount camera bodies via a mount adapter. My standard disclaimer: There are potential issues with third party lenses. Since Tamron reverse engineers (vs. licenses) manufacturer electronics and algorithms, there is always the possibility that a DSLR body might not support a (likely older) third party lens. Usually, a lens can be made compatible by the manufacturer via a firmware update, but this cannot be guaranteed. Compatibility with the Tamron TAP-in Console is risk-reducing as Tamron can make lens firmware updates available for easy download. Tamron USA provides a superior 6-year limited warranty.

The reviewed Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens was online-retail sourced.

Alternatives to the Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens

If you want exactly the 15-30mm focal length range, this is your lens. Most photographers can accept at least a slight variation in focal length range and the list of full frame ultra-wide-angle zoom lenses continues to grow longer, but holding the max aperture requirements at f/2.8 limits the options to a manageable comparison set. Still, as of review time, the Tamron is the only option with image stabilization. I'll not repeat this advantage in each comparison, but note that it is a strong one and the Tamron once again becomes the only option if this feature is needed in this lens class.

Those with a Canon kit should consider the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM Lens. This phenomenal lens, one of my all-time favorites, has set the image quality performance bar very high.

In the image quality comparison, the Tamron compares well in the center of the frame, but the Canon has a strong advantage in the periphery. At the wide end of the focal length range, the Tamron has less peripheral shading, the Canon shows less flare, and the Canon has significantly less geometric distortion (though we did not test the Tamron at 16mm). At their longest focal lengths, the two lenses become more equivalent in these regards. The Canon lens has less lateral CA at the wide and a bit more at the long end.

Looking at the specs and measurements, the Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens vs. Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM Lens comparison shows the Canon being significantly lighter and also smaller, though the hood extends the Canon's overall dimensions beyond the Tamron's. That the Canon lens has front filter threads is a big advantage. While the two lenses have identical minimum focus distance specs (11.0" / 280mm), the Canon, buoyed by an extra 5mm of focal length, bests the Tamron for maximum magnification (0.25x vs. 0.20x). The Tamron's focal length range is shifted wider and most will find this to be an advantage. Everyone will find the Tamron's significantly lower price tag to be an advantage.

Those in the Nikon camp should consider the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G AF-S Lens, a legendary model now over a decade old. In the image quality comparison, the two lenses are competing strongly. The Nikon appears a bit sharper at 24mm, though it has stronger lateral CA at this focal length. The Nikon has less peripheral shading, the flare test results from the two are comparable, and the Nikon has the edge in geometric distortion at 24mm (the two lenses are similar at the wide end).

Looking at the specs and measurements, the Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens vs. Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G AF-S Lens comparison shows the Nikon lens very slightly smaller and lighter. Again, the two lenses being compared have identical minimum focus distance specs (11.0" / 280mm), but in this case, the Tamron, buoyed by an extra 6mm of focal length, bests the Nikon in maximum magnification capability (0.20x vs. 0.15x). The Nikon's focal length range is shifted wider at both ends. Everyone will find the Tamron's significantly lower price tag to be an advantage.

At review time, the Tamron 15-30mm VC G2 is not available in a Sony E-mount, but the Canon EF mount version can be adapted for the E-mount. Sony's entrant in this lens class is a strong performer, the Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens.

In the image quality comparison, the Sony lens shows a better performance at the wide end, especially in the image circle periphery and has an even stronger advantage at the long end. The Sony shows better flare performance, slightly less peripheral shading primarily at the long end, and the Sony has significantly less geometric distortion at the wide end (again, we did not test the Tamron at 16mm).

Looking at the specs and measurements, the Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens vs. Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens comparison shows the Sony being significantly lighter and also smaller, though the hood extends the Sony's overall dimensions enough to be similar to the Tamron's. The Sony lens has 11 aperture blades vs. 9. That the Sony lens has front filter threads is a big advantage. Again, the two lenses being compared have identical minimum focus distance specs (11.0" / 280mm), but in this case, the Tamron, despite being disadvantaged by 5mm of focal length, edges out the Sony for maximum magnification (0.20x vs. 0.19x). Once again, everyone will find the Tamron's significantly lower price tag to be an advantage.

Precisely matching the Tamron's price (at review time) is the Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG HSM Art Lens. In the image quality comparison, the Sigma is considerably sharper in the periphery at the wide end and still a bit sharper at 24mm. The Sigma lens has less geometric distortion, including at both ends of the focal length range, but the Sigma also has more focus shift.

Looking at the specs and measurements, the Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens vs. Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG HSM Art Lens comparison shows the two lenses having nearly the same size and weight. They are also near equals in most of the other relevant specs. The Sigma's focal length range is wider at both ends.

Tokina's entry in this lens class, the 16-28mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro FX Lens, is a very attractively-priced option. In the image quality comparison, the Tamron is the sharper lens. The Tokina has less geometric distortion and has a bit less peripheral shading at the long end.

Looking at the specs and measurements, the Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens vs. Tokina 16-28mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro FX Lens comparison shows the Tokina lens is a bit smaller and lighter. The Tamron has 9 aperture blades vs. 8. The Tamron lens' USD-driven AF system is more modern than the Tokina lens' DC motor-driven AF system and the Tokina's push-pull AF/MF mechanism is not my favorite. The Tamron has a longer focal length range, a longer focus ring rotation (113° vs. 86°), and a longer Zoom Ring Rotation (60° vs. 42°). Again, the Tokina lens' big advantage is low price – less than half the price of the Tamron lens'.

Again, the Tamron has the vibration compensation advantage over all of the lenses just discussed and that can translate into improved image quality when handheld shutter speeds are long. Use the site's comparison tools to compare other lenses you are interested in.

Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens Front View on Camera

Summary

The Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Lens was a big hit at its introduction and the Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens brings improvements to this model.

The 15-30 G2 is relatively large and heavy lens, but it is very nicely designed, from both functional and aesthetic perspectives, and the focal length range is a very useful and fun one. Being the only full frame ultra-wide-angle zoom lens (with a focal length wider than 24mm) that has an f/2.8 aperture and image stabilization is one of this lens' key competitive advantages. As I said earlier in the review, most are going to be very happy with the center of the frame performance from this lens, especially at the wide end and most will be less enthusiastic about the wide aperture corner performance at the longer focal lengths. Most f/2.8 lenses in this class are very expensive and while not cheap, price is another decision-making advantage this lens holds.

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