Nov 082009
 

This is the first in a series of entries about my newest lens, the Tamron SP AF 17-50mm 2.8 XR Di II VC LD Asp IF. These images are from Saturday, a day that began with rain in the morning and ended as a wonderful autum day. In the first two posts I want to look into two questions, bokeh and sharpness. So far I have made no formal tests, no charts, no brick walls, nothing standardized. Let’s begin with bokeh.

In the morning I had brought the car to the repair shop for a check. I used the 40 minutes to take a walk through a residential area down to river Gail. There I made the Image of the Day. While walking, I constantly made images, many of them I deleted immediately, some make good examples for what this lens is capable of.

I have bought this lens although I have seen some examples of remarkably bad bokeh. They were in a Japanese review with many images, and some of them don’t just look bad, they look outright ugly. Thus my expectations regarding bokeh were very low.

Now, if you look at the image of the red berries on a hedge, wet with rain, the image taken at f5.6, then this does not look bad at all. I have linked this image to the full-size original straight from the camera. See for yourself.

The next pair of images, linked to the originals as well, was taken at f2.8 and f8, and finally there is another pair, the one with the twigs crossing, taken at f2.8 and f5.6, all images so far at a focal length of 50mm and focused near.

Basically I can see nothing that would be wrong in these images. Obviously this lens does not have a serious bokeh problem at the long end. This is very fortunate, because exactly at the long end it is, where we are most interested in creamy bokeh. Well, this is certainly not a Sigma 50/1.4, but I think the examples don’t put Tamron’s zoom to shame either. I’d regard this bokeh as at least neutral.

Unfortunately this doesn’t mean everything’s perfect though. Let’s have a look at this cute little cat. I met her on my way down to the river, and obviously she expected some cookies from me, because she constantly thwarted my efforts to take an image of her by clinging to my feet. I took a series of images holding the camera down to her, most of them are focused on my feet or on the background, but this one came out quite well, even though I’d have liked the right paw to have been completely inside of the frame. Anyway, the cat’s pose is more than cute, and the image perfectly shows where this lens’ problem with bokeh lies. Look at the hedge in the middle of the upper edge. I can’t say for sure what the light points are, maybe it’s simply sky shining through, but those points are decidedly donut-shaped. The manhole cover in the background, left behind the cat’s face, looks almost equally ugly.

Is it that bad? I’d say no. Of course I’d have liked the bokeh at 17mm to be creamy as well, but normally when I am photographing at 17mm, I am not looking for bokeh, I am rather going for depth of field. And if I’m not, if I am forced to use f2.8 just to get as much light as I can, honestly, then bokeh is normally not my first consideration either. These are the cases of getting the shot or not.

All in all, when it comes to bokeh, I am pleasantly surprised by the performance at 50mm, while the results at 17mm are about as expected. This is it for bokeh, the next post will be about sharpness and distortion.

The Song of the Day is “Cream” from Prince’s 1991 album “Diamonds and Pearls”. See an acoustic performance on Dailymotion.

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