Hands on: Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2

Big and beautiful: Tamron's top-tier full-frame ultrawide zoom is better than ever

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Our Verdict

Tamron's G2 lens line-up is now three-strong, and from what we've seen of the 15-30mm G2, the company now has a trio of supremely capable optics. The SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 feels every bit as good as any rival lens from Canon and Nikon, and judging by the performance of its G2 stablemates, we don't doubt it'll also have the performance to match.

For

  • Glorious build quality
  • Cutting-edge optics and coatings
  • Great AF performance and stablization

Against

  • Big and heavy, but similar to rivals
  • Relatively unusual lens ring arrangement
  • Can't use filters with Nikon-fit lens

Tamron's original SP 15-30mm f/2.8 only went on sale in 2015, but we're already being treated to an updated G2 revision sporting a host of internal upgrades, plus slick new styling in-keeping with Tamron's current design aesthetic.

Available in Canon EF and Nikon F mounts, it looks set to be another hit for landscape and interiors photographers, especially as at $1,299/€1,449/£1,279, it's priced to undercut equivalent lenses from Canon and Nikon.

Key features

This is the third G2 Tamron optic with a constant aperture of f/2.8, and like the other G2 lenses, it doesn't compromise on optical quality.

The 18-element, 13-group lens stack includes posh glass like an XGM (eXpanded Glass Molded Aspherical) element, as well as multiple LD (Low Dispersion) lens elements to help banish distortion and lateral chromatic aberrations.

Tamron's eBand ('Extended Bandwidth and Angular-Dependency') and BBAR ('Broad-Band Anti-Reflection') coatings minimise ghosting and flare, but now they're working together with a brand new AX (Anti-reflection eXpand) coating for even greater reduction of these undesirable optical issues than was previously possible.

The front element is treated with a Fluorine coating to repel moisture and dust, and the all-weather resilience is backed up by Tamron's Moisture Resistant Construction that includes seals around the lens mount and along the barrel.

Tamron also claims the G2 variant boasts vastly improved AF speed than the original 15-30mm, courtesy of a new Dual Micro-Processing Unit. This also controls the VC (Vibration Compensation) system that's CIPA-rated to add a 4.5-stop shutter speed advantage.

Design and build

The 15-30mm G2 continues the same sleek design and top-class build as its 24-70mm and 70-200mm G2 siblings. It feels every bit as premium and well built as rival lenses like the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM or Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 DG HSM Art.

But this uncompromising build does mean the 15-30mm G2 is no lightweight, being significantly more weighty than the aforementioned Canon. That said, at 145mm long and 1,110g for the Canon version, and 142.5mm/1,100g for the Nikon-fit, the G2's size and weight is on par with the original 15-30mm, and similar to the Sigma 14-24mm and Nikon AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8G ED.

In-keeping with the original 15-30mm, the G2 uses the same arrangement of the zoom ring towards the front of the lens barrel and focus ring behind it. This configuration is still relatively uncommon and can take some getting used to if the rest of your zoom lenses use the opposite arrangement. Both rings are however exceptionally smooth to rotate, with the focus ring having plenty of rotational travel for making precise manual focusing tweaks.

Behind the the focus ring are the expected switches to enable/disable AF (full-time manual focus override is also available), as well as Vibration Compensation. The latter isn't supplemented by any fancy VC modes as you'll find on the 70-200mm G2, but these sports-orientated features aren't necessary on an ultra-wide optic. You do however get a proper focus scale window.

Up front, the bulbous front element is protected by a fixed petal hood, and as such you won't be able to use conventional filters. The Canon-fit lens does however get a small filter slot built into the lens mount that can hold gels approximately 1-inch square.

In our brief time with the 15-30mm G2, AF speed felt suitably snappy, even in the contrasty spot-lit environment of a Photokina show hall. The lens was also able to consistently find accurate focus right down to its minimum 28cm object distance.

We'll have to wait until we can run our full lab test suite to assess image stabilization performance, but it's worth remembering that this feature is less important on a wide lens than a telephoto optic.

The Canon-fit lens gets a filter holder built into the lens mount.

The Canon-fit lens gets a filter holder built into the lens mount.

Early verdict

It's impossible to properly judge a lens of this calibre without fully testing its optical performance, analyzing image sharpness, and appraising the lens's ability to minimize unwanted optical phenomena like fringing and flare. But what we do know is Tamron's other G2 lenses have performed superbly in our hands, and we see no reason why this second generation 15-30mm will be any less impressive.

If you're willing to carry it's not inconsiderable bulk, and have a spare $1,299/€1,449/£1,279 burning a hole in your pocket, the Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 gives every indication of being an excellent ultra-wide choice for Canon and Nikon DSLR users.