Dec 032009

Today I’ll give you another followup to my review of the Tamron SP AF 17-50mm 2.8 XR Di II VC LD Asp IF. This may or may not be the last one, basically that depends on what more I find out while using the lens.

So far I have found much to like. Sharpness is excellent, distortions are bearable, low-light capabilities are astounding and surpass my expectations, stabilization comes extremely handy, not only on the long, but, contrary to the general opinion, on the wide end as well.

There is an occasional hiccup of the autofocus system, but if you turn the camera off and on again – two flicks of a finger – it works again perfectly. This happens rarely and is not a problem at all for me, but if you are a sports or action shooter, it may disturb you.

I recently revealed, that I think I’ve found the achilles heel of this lens: flares and ghosts. That’s what I’ll talk about today, that’s what I’d like to show you.

The first image after the bicycle, the park with the houses in the background, shows a strong reflection of the sun in the windows. The very strong reflex was only slightly off-center, I’ve cropped the image to put it into the exact center of the square. See the ghost left below the center? The image was taken at f8 and overexposed by 1 EV.

This is not the JPEG from the camera, it’s an image that I worked upon in Photoshop, but I have not cloned out any ghosts or flares. The next three images are from the camera. They were taken yesterday morning as well, in just the same park, but now the sun is inside the frame or slightly outside, always in a corner. That’s about as bad as it gets.

The vertical image is overexposed by 1 EV, the left of the two horizontals by 1/3 EV, and the right had no exposure correction.

Finally there is another image from last Saturday. It is the same forest, almost the same spot, but again the sun inside of the frame, while in the Image of the Day I had used the trees on the right side to block it off.

I guess you see now what I meant by light bouncing around wildly and getting reflected by every single lens element? Images like these can’t be fixed – no way. If you use this lens, you may be able to use the defects to your advantage, after all, the forest image doesn’t look sooo bad and lens reflexes are a cliché in their own right. Sometimes it can look really good. The problem is only, that you can’t rely on this lens to produce an acceptable image in any such situation.

In fact, the most prudent measure would be, to avoid those situations in the first place. If you must photograph into the sun, just use a lens that can handle the situation. The Sigma 28/1.8 does a decent job and so does the 20/1.8, if I remember correctly. The Tokina 11-16/2.8 performs nicely, the Nikon 18-200 VR is good for shooting into the sun, and the Sigma 10-20 and 30/1.4 are nice as well. The Nikon 35/1.8 is not so great in that regard, the Nikon 24/2.8 is pretty bad, and the otherwise excellent Sigma 70/2.8 shows neither ghosts nor flares, but it strongly loses contrast.

It’s just a matter of using the right tool for the job. Let’s face it, no lens is perfect, the cheaper ones are less so, but even the most expensive have their dirty little secrets.

The panorama, you ask? Oh yes, that’s also from Saturday. I have just auto-aligned and auto-blended the JPEGs in Photoshop. I’ve uploaded a relatively big version, 1200 pixels high. If you happen to have a monitor of that height, just put the browser in full-screen mode (F11 on a PC, no idea on a Mac) and scroll the image with cursor left/right. Left in the far background, behind lake and river, the city that you can’t really see, that’s Villach, the place where I live.

The Song of the Day is “The Crying Light” from the 2009 Antony and The Johnsons’ album of the same name. Hear it on YouTube.

  One Response to “1146 – The Crying Light”

  1. First, a beautiful panorama. I like that you loaded the larger size. This looks like a nice place to live.

    Second, some pretty severe flares and ghosting examples. I appreciate your posting these images as it gives a truer picture of the level of weakness of this lens. But, as you’ve stated this is a common issue for a number of lens…some of which reside in my kit. 🙂

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