Sep 012010

Today I got a phone call. My camera was back and with it the Tamron 17-50/2.8 VC. I didn’t mean to, but I left work early nevertheless.

Uhhh … what can I say? It works. Everything works. Autofocus on my D300 works again, the Tammy works again, no, the camera wasn’t even dusty. And … my, does this lens try to impress me!

And it does. Still, I wouldn’t feel comfortable to recommend this lens any more. I’ve made my experiences and I wouldn’t want you to suffer like I did. But then, so far this particular specimen works absolutely flawlessly. No focus problems, no problems with the aperture blades not closing down, no problems at all.

I’ve tried it. I’ve tried setting the zoom to 50 mm, pointing it rapidly into one random direction, at something at a random distance, and it just worked. Yes, there were some images that were blurred, but setting the minimum shutter speed to 1/30s and/or waiting just a fraction of a second to let the stabilization lock on usually sufficed.

Do I feel fine? You bet 🙂

I made an excellent image of a bike rider. I tracked him, I took an image at f2.8, he looked at me, a little surprised but not hostile. The image was taken in bright sunlight, it was sharp, had dramatic shadows, and somehow it was just the place and the moment. Everything came together, fell in place. I loved that image. It was just the product of an impulse, seeing, raising the camera, focusing and releasing the shutter, all together in one moment.

Then I deleted the image. Accidentally. I mean, I’m no idiot, but every once in a while I do such outrageously stupid things. I didn’t take any more images and at home I tried to recover the file, but it was too late. I couldn’t find it. It was gone.

Some while later, when I already sat in my living room and tried to use one the files left, I saw this amazing light outside.

My living room looks to the east, and when the sun sets, when its rays come really low, they reflect in the windows of the buildings on the other side of the garden, and this reflected light fills my living room with a sudden flood of warm gold. It doesn’t last very long, only a minute or two, but during that time it is breathtaking.

The Song of the Day is “Goodbye Sunshine” from the 1993 Ceremony album “Hang Out Your Poetry”. Ceremony was a band around Chastity Bono, and they made no more than that single album. What a shame. I absolutely love the album.

I couldn’t find the song on YouTube, and so I took the liberty to upload it. Seems like I didn’t offend the copyright gods this time 😀

Aug 202010

There is much brand snobism on the Net. Go to a Nikon forum and ask for people’s opinions about a certain Sigma lens for the Nikon D300. You are guaranteed to get some answers along the lines of “never put third-party glass on a Nikon camera”. Sigma is a company that many people seem to loath particularly, claiming enormous quality problems.

Well, I have eight Sigma lenses and only one of them has a problem. It’s my old and battered 10-20. The first thing is, that it never autofocused well on the D300. The other thing is, that it is not as sharp as it was and it is even a little decentered, which it definitely was not, when I bought the lens. Thus the Sigma 10-20 is in need of an overhaul and most likely a firmware update.

Other than that, I don’t have any problem with any of my Sigmas. My personal experience is absolutely contrary to much of the published opinion.

On the other hand, I understand how people develop such extreme views. Sometimes you make a very bad experience, and the experience costs you so much time and nerves, that it simply sticks, and from that moment on you have a hard time looking objectively at that particular brand.

I’ve just made such an experience with my Tamron 17-50/2.8 VC. Remember that I sent it in, because it frequently failed to close the aperture upon shutter release? Remember that the Tamron service company asked for the camera body to be sent in as well? Remember that I did that ten days ago, and that I use my old D200 since then?

Well, today I got camera and lens back, they haven’t found anything, they claim that everything’s OK, and when I tried for myself, I found that the autofocus does not work anymore. Not with the Tamron 17-50/2.8, not with any other lens.

Cool, huh? I sent them a lens to be fixed, they asked for the body as well, and instead of fixing the lens, they broke the body!!!

I’m so fed up, I can’t tell you, really. OK, lens and body went back, I’m in for at least another week of waiting.

Hmm … I had a bad, bad feeling about sending in the camera. I already thought of giving up and buying the Sigma 17-50/2.8 OS instead, and I should have just followed my instincts. But then, when the damage is done, you always know better.

As regards the Tammy, well, as long as it works, it is a fabulous lens, but after that experience, I won’t ever buy Tamron again. They have completely broken my trust.

The Song of the Day is “I’ve Had Enough” from the soundtrack of “Quadrophenia”. Hear it on YouTube.

Jul 142010

No, this image was not taken with my Tamron 17-50/2.8, but I have made this post part of my review series, because I think you should know, that I have sent it in to Tamron one more time.

You remember the last time, when my bag had fallen from negligible height and the lens barrel broke? Tamron has repaired the lens, the autofocus error is gone, but instead a new problem had appeared:

Often when I turned the camera on, the first image was severely overexposed. Well, this became very frequent in the last few weeks, to an extent where I could be almost certain that the first image or even the first few images would be unusable.

Further study has revealed, that the lens fails to stop down during exposure. You know, while metering and while you look through the viewfinder, the lens is always wide open, in case of the Tamron this means f2.8. Only for the actual exposure the lens stops down to the aperture selected. Or it does not, just like mine. When that happens, the camera exposes for, say, f8, but the lens faultily stays open at f2.8. The result is an overexposure by three full stops.

Now, when I look back, this lens, while it works, is extraordinarily versatile, and the image quality is pretty good as well. On the other hand, I had this autofocus problem (that seems to have been corrected with a firmware update when I sent the lens in the last time) and now I have this problem, that makes the lens completely unusable for street photography.

Would I buy it again? Maybe. Not all of them can be that flimsy, and optically it has brought me through the dark winter like no lens before. Nikon simply has no alternative. I guess it all depends on how well the upcoming Sigma 17-50/2.8 OS will perform. It has just become available for Canon and may come out for Nikon within the next month. Less and less can I imagine to be able to resist 🙂

Being without the Tamron, I had to switch to another lens, and in this case it was the Nikon 70-300 VR. For a few days I had seen this image, but the Tamron was not the right lens. This cried for a serious telephoto lens. Yesterday I finally took the image. This is one of two exposures. It’s a tad awkward standing in the middle of a crossing 🙂

The Song of the Day is “Let’s Get High” from Lenny Kravitz’ 2001 album “Lenny”. Very recommendable. Hear it on YouTube.

Jun 022010

And if it’s not the forest but only my backyard in Vienna, oh well, it’s rain nevertheless 🙂

Yesterday I told you about the latest quirk of my Tamron 17-50/28 VC lens, namely that it sometimes overexposes the first image after I have turned on the camera. This is what it looks like:

Both images have the same EXIF data. It’s 1/20s, f6.3 and ISO 200. They should look exactly the same but don’t, thus one of the values must be wrong. ISO and shutter speed are set in the camera, thus it must be the aperture setting.

This actually makes sense. Normally the lens is wide open, to make for a brighter viewfinder image. Only when I press the shutter, the lens is stopped down to the selected aperture, then the shutter opens, the image is exposed, the shutter closes, and finally the aperture opens up again. Seemingly my lens sometimes fails to react to the command to stop down. From f2.8 to f6.3, that’s two and a half stops, and this is about the amount the exposure is off.

As I said, my current strategy is to set the camera to continuous mode and make not one but two exposures. It works but is still a crutch.

The Song of the Day reflects today’s weather: “The Perfumed Forest Wet With Rain” from Abdullah Ibrahim’s 1979 album “Africa – Tears And Laughter”. YouTube has it.

Jun 022010

What I call a “review” on my blog, always consists of a series of posts, sometimes with big gaps. I try to lump it all together, but some things you simply learn with time. And sometimes, when I thought everything that could possibly be said has been said, a new interesting fact creeps up. This is such a case.

Remember my Tamron 17-50/2.8 VC? I bought it on November 6, and I used it with great pleasure through all that dark winter nights. It had only one major problem: Sometimes it would not focus. You had to turn the camera off/on and then everything was OK. It didn’t happen too often and I learned to live with it, though it cost me some images.

Then, sometime in spring, I dropped the camera bag, and although that has happened before, in this case the Tamron literally broke. Through a gap near the lens mount you could see the electronics inside. With little hope I sent it in, but after three weeks or so I got it back, repaired or replaced on warranty, and, lo and behold, the focus error was gone. They either had updated the firmware or it was simply a new lens.

So far the good part that you may know if you follow my blog. Now the bad part: There’s a new flaw 🙂

The new problem is, that the first image after I turn on the camera is frequently overexposed. It is always the first and only the first image. It does not happen all the time, in fact it does not happen most of the time, but it is annoying. It has cost me images.

At the moment the solution is very simple. I set the camera to high-speed continuous mode and instead of making one image, I simply make two. Does not cost a thing, could be a problem only with very rapidly moving subjects.

Regardless of these quirks and its unreliability I still like this lens, especially as long as the newly announced stabilized Sigma 17-50/2.8 is not available. I still recommend it to anybody who takes pictures like I do: still subjects, some street photography (but that’s already borderline). For a wedding shooter or a journalist it would definitely be impossible.

Why I still like and use it? Well, there’s no alternative. Stabilization in that range is incredibly valuable (I’ve explained it in earlier posts of this review series), the ability to focus near matches my style so well, and general image quality is superb. As long as the Sigma is not available, there is no alternative on the market. Certainly the Nikon 16-85 VR is none. It is much too slow and it does not focus near enough. Maybe the Sigma will be a match, but until then I have no choice.

The Song of the Day is “Como La Lluvia En El Cristal” from the 1996 Roxette album “Baladas En Español”. Basically it’s their hit album “Crash! Boom! Bang!” in Spanish. Absolutely great, I love it. Hear the song on YouTube.

1301 – Here Comes Sunshine

 Tamron 17-50/2.8 VC  Comments Off on 1301 – Here Comes Sunshine
May 072010

One of the beautiful things in Spring is, how easily it takes you from rainy despair to sunny exaltation. Of course it can also go the other way round 😀

Remember that I dropped my bag with the camera in it, the Tamron 17-50/2.8 VC mounted? Remember that the lens barrel broke and I sent it in for repair? Remember the tiny flaw of this lens, making the autofocus sometimes not reacting, needing a switch off/on of the camera?

Well, it’s gone! Obviously you have to drop it 🙂

Nope. Don’t drop it. Unfortunately I did not write down the original serial number. They may have not repaired the lens at all but instead exchanged it (that’s not what the shop said, though), or along with repairing the lens, they have made a firmware update. Fact is, I have used this lens for more than a week now and I have had no single problem with autofocus. It just works. Reliably. Precisely.

The Song of the Day is “Here Comes Sunshine” from the 1973 Grateful Dead album “Wake Of The Flood”. Hear a live version on YouTube.

Apr 282010

Well, actually I’m not. I finally have my Tamron 17-50/2.8 VC back. Tamron repaired it under warranty. Pretty nice, I’d say.

I’ve tried it out, everything works as it used to and as it should. Focus is precise, stabilization is excellent, sharpness is outstanding. No problems at all.

If you came here because I’ve tagged this post as part of my Tamron 17-50/2.8 VC Review, well, that’s pretty much everything I have to say today. I just remember having reported the damage in one of the review posts, thus I think I have to report the outcome as well.

Of course the actual image was not made with the Tamron but with the Sigma 150/2.8 Macro.

The Song of the Day is “I Am Waiting” from the 1966 Rolling Stones album “Aftermath”. I have the UK version, the original version, I might say, thus I link to that. Hear the song on YouTube.

Mar 282010

You may have guessed as you read in the last post about the “first image of yesterday”: I was not photographing today, this is the second image of yesterday. Same trip, last golden light.

You may wonder though, why I made these images with the Nikon 50/1.8 and not with my currently preferred Tamron 17-50/2.8 VC. Well, the answer is simple: I dropped it and it’s broken. Not figuratively but in a real, hard sense.

I had the camera with the Tammy in my weekend lens bag, a Lowepro Slingshot 200. I was only at the supermarket, but you know me, I’m never without my camera. I didn’t bring more than the camera with the one mounted lens and the Nikon 50/1.8 (that’s always in the bag), thus the bag was not full. I can’t remember exactly, it happened when I put something in the car or took something out, the bag slid from my shoulder and fell to the ground. I didn’t even bother to check, the bag is padded and things like that happen from time to time, have happened to me before. Never had I any problem.

Until now that is. On our afternoon trip, when we were still in Villach but some kilometers from home, I wanted to take an image of a sunlit factory. It really looked good, but I got no focus confirmation. No problem, you know the routine, switch the camera off/on and … nothing.

Ahh! I must have set the camera from single shot AF mode (the only mode where it beeps for confirmation) to continuous AF mode or manual … nope, that was not it. I took the lens off, mounted it again … no way.

This was the moment when I began to worry. A close inspection revealed, that the lens was literally broken. Not the glass, no, but on one side of the lens, there’s a gap between the mount and the zoom ring. You can see the electronics inside.

Oh well, I’ll take it to the shop where I’ve bought it, let’s see what they can do and what a repair will cost. Of course this does not fall under warranty, but who knows, maybe it’s not as bad as it looks. At least when you press the front of the lens against the mount, it focuses again and seems to work normally. I don’t know, just expect me to use some of my other lenses for a while. It was about time anyway 🙂

The Song of the Day is “Fields Of Gold” by Sting, originally from his 1993 album “Ten Summoner’s Tales”. I have it on a collection of greatest hits, thus I’ve linked to that. YouTube has the song.

Feb 022010 has finally published a lab review of the Tamron 17-50/2.8 VC. It’s for the Canon version, but that should not make much of a difference. The review sparked off a thread in the Nikon forum of, where the review was regarded as almost devastating. The original poster concluded with “If you value your photography, stay away from this lens!

Well, regarding distortions at 17mm, yes, it distorts badly, and apart from the brick wall, this original shot, provided for you in all glory of its full size, is as bad as it may get. For the Image of the Day I have applied PTLens, but that could only remove part of the barrel distortion. I’ve removed some more with Photoshop’s Lens Distortion filter, cropped, and you see that what I’ve got is pretty perfectly rectangular. Just frame a little less accurate, leave room for correction. That’s for distortions.

The other thing is, that down in the thread Eric Arnold tried to compromise:

essentially,it comes down to this: if you need corner sharpness but constant aperture isnt important, i.e. for landscapes, get the 16-85 VR.

if you need a fast constant aperture and want stabilization at the expense of losing some corner sharpness, get the 17-50 VC.

I think my answer is relevant, and I don’t want it to be buried in an off-site thread, so please allow me to quote it as well:

I think this is wrong. The reason to get the 16-85 VR can only be the extended range.

Yes, it is sharper in the corners at f3.5 than the Tamron at f2.8, so what? Would you take landscape images at f2.8 or f3.5? Most of the time I wouldn’t. And even if:

I’ve just tried the Tamron at f3.5, tried it with book shelfs (detail!), tried it with flash (it’s still night here), and I can see a subtle sharpness falloff, only in the extreme corners, and I can only see it because I look for it. Even at f3.5, you would have a hard time seeing it, and for the 16-85 VR this is still wide open.

No, I suppose with the 16-85 you would shoot normally at at least f5.6, and by that the Tamron is stellar across the range. We’re speaking of 50/1.8 sharpness here. And that’s only at 17mm. Think of 24mm: the 16-85 just begins at f4, from 35mm at f4.5, and by 50mm it is at f5. At none of these focal lengths and at starting aperture it is a match for the Tamron.

Now take it the other way: Imagine a situation where you do want to take a scenic image at f2.8, for instance because it is night. Let it be architecture, for instance in a city, or let it be within a cathedral. It’s quite a typical situation, and it’s quite typical for situations where you either have no tripod or may not be allowed to use it.

In such situations the shot is frequently repeatable, thus I may go down from my normal 1/15s (auto ISO lower speed limit) to 1/8s or even 1/4s. With VR I have a sharp image, it may take me two or three attempts though, especially standing without support and shooting portrait format. Even in low light I may get away with ISO 200.

With the 17-55/2.8 at twice the price I may be lucky to get the shot at 1/15s, but I suppose 1/30s will be more likely, especially in portrait format. We’re talking two to three stops, i.e. ISO 800-1600 here. Do you believe that the added corner sharpness of the 17-55/2.8 will still be there at these ISOs? And if were not talking extreme corners but center or off-center, for instance a typical “rule of thirds” composition? The Tamron will be much better than in the extreme corners. The Nikon may or may not still have a slight edge on the charts, but you would have a hard time seeing it, and, remember, that would be at the same ISO. But what with our fictual but not so unrealistic situation in the church or at night in the city? With an advantage of ISO 200 vs ISO 800-1600 across the frame and the main subject where main subjects typically are, don’t you believe that any theoretical sharpness advantage of the Nikon, even if it were there at that point in the frame, would be hopelessly buried in noise?

Now say you accept some added noise because you need depth of field. You go to f5.6. That’s two stops, we are at ISO 800 with the Tamron. We may need two or three attempts to hold the shot at 1/4s, but we would need the same with the Nikon at 1/15s or even 1/30s. Both lenses operate at maximum sharpness now. Under ideal light and in the lab, you may still be able to measure a slight sharpness advantage in the extreme corners for the Nikon. Our subject is not in the extreme corners though, and the light is low as it is. Where is the Nikon now? ISO 3200-6400, right? Forget about any theoretical advantage it may have. At that light it is severely hampered by sensor noise. ISO 800 vs ISO 3200-6400? This is an almost too easy win for the Tamron.

I may sound like being biased, I may even sound like being affiliated with Tamron, but that’s not the case. I just own this lens and have used it for three months in the darkest time of the year. Really, I wouldn’t so easily dismiss this lens 🙂

Here we are. The Image of the Day was taken at 1/15s and f2.8. The extreme corners of the original shot are about 10cm in front of the focal plane. They are mushy because they are clearly out of focus. If they were in focus, they might be still mushy but less mushy. That’s how bad it can get. Could be worse, huh?

And, given the example in the quote, had I taken my time, I could have gone down to 1/4s and ISO 200. With non-stabilized lenses you’d still hover at ISO 800 or maybe at ISO 1600, look at the noise and console yourself with the fact that it’s not the lens, it’s only the light that’s so bad 😀

Oh yes, “Rahmen” means “frame” or “frames” in German. Thus the Song of the Day is “Framed” from The Sensational Alex Harvey Band’s 1972 album “Framed”. See them in a fine live performance on YouTube.

Jan 022010

For a change, this is another part of my review of the new Tamron SP AF 17-50mm 2.8 XR Di II VC LD Asp IF.

Basically it’s no big news, it’s just a warning. You know, every now and then someone asks at the photography forums if it is necessary to turn lens stabilization off when working from the tripod. I mostly see this asked on’s Nikon forum, but that’s just what I read. I am sure it is the sama at Canon forums.

Normally there are no clear answers: some people say it makes no difference, some claim to see it, some tell us that it depends on the lens, and so on a so forth. Well, nobody has asked me about this lens, but as I stumbled upon it today, here’s the answer: If working from the tripod with Tamron’s stabilized 17-50/2.8, for heaven’s sake turn stabilization off, at least when you work on the long end.

The second image is a JPEG straight from the camera. See the shake? It’s extreme. Because of the gloomy light at 4:10pm I used a tripod. I was in a hurry and because of the snow I didn’t review the images when I was there. I simply assumed that they would be good enough. Why not, when shooting ISO 200 from a tripod? Well, here it is, the image could not have been worse hand held.

The Song of the Day is “Shake Away” from Lila Downs’ equally titled 2008 album. Hear it on YouTube. Great song, great album 🙂