Nikon 24-120 f/4 or Tamron 24-70 f/2.8?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by andrew_vogl, Apr 28, 2016.

  1. Hello all!
    New member here, so go easy on me :) I've been an amateur hobbyist photographer for years and in the past couple years I've started to get more serious by doing small client gigs (family portraits, babies, engagements, etc.). I used to shoot with a Nikon D5000 with a 35mm f1.8 that never came off my camera, but I recently made the switch to FF with a combo of a Nikon D610 and 50mm f1.8. As you can tell, I love shooting with primes. However, as I start to take on more work, I'm finding them to be limiting and I could really use some more versatility in my life. So, on a whim, I purchased a Nikon 24-120 f/4 lens. Now of course I'm having a bit of "buyers remorse" and wondering if I made the right decision. I took the lens out on a shoot and was actually very impressed with the quality and versatility of the lens. It was way sharper than I expected and although it has some vignette/distortion issues, I still came away with photos I was very pleased with. However, my favorite photo of the day still came from my 50mm f1.8. So I dove back into researching lenses and found great reviews for the Tamron 24-70 f2.8 for almost the exact same price as I paid for my 24-120.
    Long story short, I'm considering switching out my Nikon 24-120 f/4 for a Tamron 24-70 f/2.8. My biggest concern is the slower focus of the Tamron for candid portraits as well as the fact that I've never purchased a 3rd party lens, as I've found Nikon glass to always be beautifully made with very few flaws. The 24-120 is no exception, this is no doubt a great lens. But as someone who takes a lot of portraits and is always on the hunt for more DOF, I really like the idea of f/2.8 vs. f/4. Does anyone have any thoughts on why I should stay put or why I should switch and go for the Tamron? Or should I be looking at something else altogether?
    Side note, the Nikon 24-70 f/2.8 is wayyy out of my price point at this point in time, otherwise I'd obviously be looking at that.
    Thanks in advance for any advice!
    00duIz-562674084.jpg
     
  2. The Tamron generally gets good reviews, although I think great bokeh is not particularly its strong point. VR is very nice. The 24-120mm is more versatile, but perhaps for portraits in the 35-70mm range then the Tamron may well be a better fit as f2.8 will blur the backgrounds more. I suspect the Tamron has better IQ (resolution) than the 24-120mm (I haven't checked). They are really rather different lenses. Personally I too prefer f2.8 for the normal zoom range (happy with f4 for 70-200mm).
     
  3. Thanks for the thoughtful response, Robin! I have found that with the technical tests online, the Tamron does perform better in terms of sharpness, chromatic aberration and overall IQ, but I always try to take those technical tests with a grain of salt, as they tend to mean less when shooting in real-world scenarios and more factors are introduced.
    And I agree, they are very different lenses, the biggest similarity being their price point, which is right on target for me. I've pretty much made up my mind that I would prefer the extra stop of the f/2.8, but I'm not sure if I should jump to buying the Tamron or just keep what I have until I can afford a Nikon 24-70 f/2.8.
    Thanks again for your help!
     
  4. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Every time I have purchased an off brand lens for a Nikon, usually based on price, I have regretted it later and have gotten rid of the lens. Except for a couple of situations where I upgraded to a faster / better Nikon lens, I still have all my Nikon lenses back to the late '60's. They all still work, and I have enjoyed them all these years. Nothing against the others, I just prefer the real thing.
    I have the 24-120, and am completely pleased with it. The VR is very good and according to some worth a couple of stops. With the VR and ISO speeds available, the difference between 4 and 2.8 is not great.
    Good luck in making your decision, and have fun with it!
     
  5. I never used the Tamron, but generically, I wonder whether it's AF will really be slower than the 24-120 f/4VR (which isn't a speed demon in lower light). The extra stop of light is also beneficial to the AF, especially in lower light, that might make a difference. As Robin, I expect a good sample of the Tamron to actually outperform a good sample of the Nikon (and I have the Nikon, and like it - but it's optically not without its flaws, it is a 5x zoom which means more of a compromise always).
    For the kind of work you describe, I'd probably prefer a f/2.8 zoom. For slower work, the combination of a fast prime and the f/4 zoom is a very nice combination (or I should say: it works perfectly fine for me), but for event-work, the faster zooms tend to work better. VR isn't too important, as subject movement is as likely an issue as camera movement - faster shutterspeeds are better than VR in this case.
    For pure (headshot) portraits and bokeh (=smooth OoF, rather than just a lot of it), on a budget the AF-S 85mm f/1.8G is very interesting. Zooms usually do tend to have a more nervous rendering in the out-of-focus areas, but their versatility of course matters more often than that last bit of smoothness.
    As for 3rd party lenses - I've had a Tamron lens and a pair of Tokina lenses. The Tamron I had was consumer-level, but sturdy enough all the same for normal casual use. I played with their 70-200 f/2.8, and it didn't feel lacking to me. The Tokina lenses have great build quality, in my view every bit as nice as Nikon. Recent Sigma Art lenses also look to be at least as nice construction. So, I wouldn't be too afraid. There is always people with negative experiences, with any brands - also Nikon lenses can fail and aren't created all equally well.
     
  6. First, the high-end third-party lenses can be excellent, and the Tamron has had very good reviews.
    It's a tough choice between these two lenses. In low light, the f/2.8 Tamron will focus faster and more decisively (with less or no hunting) compared to the f/4 Nikon. However, it seems that at present you don't have a longer lens, so that you might miss having the focal lengths between 70 and 120mm. If you are planning to buy a 70-200mm lens or similar in the future, and if you don't want to be restricted to your 50mm when shooting in low light, the Tamron seems very attractive. It depends on your criteria.
    Finally, I believe that the price equivalence between the two lenses will soon go away--unless I'm mistaken, the $200 discount on the Tamron ends in a few days, so you should make your decision quickly.
     
  7. WOW, thank you all so much for the quick, detailed responses! Some great insight here from everyone, this is exactly the type of feedback I was looking for.
    I will add that I do, on rare occasions, photograph live concerts. Shooting with a prime in this situation can be tricky, as it is not always possible to move my feet to get the shot I want. I'm usually stuck in roughly the same place the entire time. For this I would definitely welcome the f/2.8 into my arsenal, but as Hector pointed out, I might end up missing the extra 50mm of reach. The added reach was one of the things that drew me to this lens to begin with, as I don't currently have any plans to supplement with a 70-200mm anytime in the near future.
    This has definitely been the hardest purchase decision of my photography career so far! Thank you all for taking the time to respond, it is helping a ton. Ultimately, I think I am leaning towards the Tamron. I have to make my decision soon regardless, as my 30-day return window for the 24-120 is running thin :) I don't think I can really go wrong either way, it seems like they are both high quality lenses with a few key trade-offs.
    Happy shooting!
     
  8. As a cheaper option for now, you might consider downloading from Nikon's website for free, the Capture NX-D editing software. It's a little more than basic, but still has a nice function for correcting distortion and vignetting if you're useing a modern Nikon DSLR and Nikon lens. It apparently knows through the metadata what lens you're using and at what focal length the lens is set for and corrects the barrel or pincushion distortion. It's a simple click of the mouse. Also just below that option is the correction for vignetting. It's same, click on that option. Also if you have any chromatic aberration, you can correct for that, although I believe your camera automatically corrects for that.
    I use it with my D2Hs and what has become one of my favorite Nikon lens, the 18-70mm DX AF-S.
     
  9. Andrew, i think you've articulated a strong rationale for getting the 24-70. since you are shooting portraits on a full-frame body, i would consider adding an 85mm lens down the line.
    someone who takes a lot of portraits and is always on the hunt for more DOF​
    technically, you meant to say 'less DoF', right? i like zooms for the convenience, and a 24-70 should be a go-to for every shooter's bag if you're doing paid work, but none of the 24-70 zooms really have great bokeh, though they will separate backgrounds at wide apertures. if you really want shallow DoF, go with a 1.8 or 1.4 lens. i have the Nikon 24-70, but for portrait work i tend to use a 35/1.4 and an 85/1.4.
     
  10. Pete- Thanks for the info, but I have the full Adobe Suite so post-processing to correct distortion and vignetting is no biggie to me.
    Eric- Good catch, I did indeed mean to say "less" DOF, or more appropriately, more narrow DOF. As I mentioned, my go-to lens right now is the 50mm 1.8, which produces wonderful bokeh but is very limiting (I really like having the option to shoot wider angles). I think I'm definitely going to go with the 24-70! The 85mm has also been on my radar, I'll certainly consider that in the future.
    Cheers!
     
  11. ...as I don't currently have any plans to supplement with a 70-200mm anytime in the near future.​
    I don't like f4 zooms in general but thing is that the 24-70 focal length is not enough to shoot portraits and stuff like you do. You also have to have longer focal lengths like 85mm and 105mm.
    With the 24-120 you'll have your immediate needs of focal length covered with one lens. Sure it's f4 but f2.8 ain't no f1.4 either. So if you like the look of your prime, an f2.8 zoom can't replicate it.
    So I suggest keeping your 24-120 f4 when you need convenience and then buy more primes. The 24-120 will likely be easier to sell in the future and for a higher price than the Tamron.
    If you shoot lots and lots you will probably end up buying both the 24-70 f2.8 and the 70-200 f2.8 and keep the 24-120 f4 for extended zoom range AND have a range of primes as well. That is where most pros that shoot a range of things, including natural light portraits, find themselves after a number of years.
     
  12. Hi Andrew,
    I have had the Tamron since it came out and use it on a Nikon D800/810m and it is superb, I recently had an accident with it and immediately replaced it with the same lens,for the money it is excellent,nice contrast and very sharp.
     
  13. Hey Pete, thanks for the response!
    If you shoot lots and lots you will probably end up buying both the 24-70 f2.8 and the 70-200 f2.8 and keep the 24-120 f4 for extended zoom range AND have a range of primes as well. That is where most pros that shoot a range of things, including natural light portraits, find themselves after a number of years.​
    "After a number of years" is the key here :) As I'm building my collection of gear, I have to decide what is most important now, regardless of where I might be in the future. Of course it would be nice to have all of those lenses, but due to budget, I have to pick what I need right now. As I just booked my first "legit" wedding gig in a little less than a year from now, I'm trying to focus on what key things I will need. From everything I've read, a 24-70 2.8 is a must-have for weddings. I figure I can supplement that with my 50mm 1.8 and the 35mm 1.8 fixed on my backup D5000. I would LOVE to also have an 85mm 1.4 in my bag, but alas, $$$. You do make some valid points and I do think I will end up missing the extra reach of the 24-120, but I think at this point the 24-70 will better fit my immediate needs. Thank you for the thoughtful reply!

    Douglas- Good to hear! I've heard a lot of good things about it so I'm excited to try it out. Thanks!
     
  14. you will probably end up buying both the 24-70 f2.8 and the 70-200 f2.8 and keep the 24-120 f4 for extended zoom range AND have a range of primes as well. That is where most pros that shoot a range of things, including natural light portraits, find themselves after a number of years.​
    this is where i'm at right now. got the 24-70+70-200+ fast primes in various focal lengths, considering 24-120 for those times i dont need my full pro kit and/or want a one-lens solution with extended reach. i would definitely check off the 2.8 boxes first if you are doing paid work and event shooting or planning to do it down the line.
     
  15. Yep I agree, Eric. And I shoot 2 large conference events per year for my current employer, so I do definitely dabble in the
    event space. Thanks for the input!
     
  16. Side note, the Nikon 24-70 f/2.8 is wayyy out of my price point at this point in time, otherwise I'd obviously be looking at that.​
    I got a spotless used copy for under $1,000 less than ten days ago on the auction site. Everything works. I'm happy! (Anyone in the market for the Nikon 28-70 f/2.8 that it replaces?)
    Apparently, the popularity of the newer VR version of the 24-70 has resulted in lots of used non-VR versions for sale. I have never seen so many on sale.
    Today, a used--and even more spotless--copy of the Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 VR arrived at my door. No, it isn't the VR2, but it is as good as it was before the VR2 came out. This one I got for exactly $1,000 on the same auction site from Tokyo. (The owner accepted my low offer.) I have never seen used prices so low for truly stellar used lenses. For less than $2,000 I have excellent plus copies of both lenses for the first time ever with Nikon. (I had the virtually equivalent lenses with Canon from 2006 to 2012.) No, these great Nikons are not new, but I hope to get a lot of use from them. Neither came with a warranty or a box, but I think that the risk is acceptable. So, ten days ago I had neither. Now I have both in hand. Only time will tell if I made the right decision, but I am optimistic. It must be time to sell some lesser lenses. . . .
    --Lannie
     
  17. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Lanny -- Just got to enjoy the new toys -- always time to worry later. Best, Sandy
    By the way, the "old" 80-400 VR I bought a while back works a treat -- everyone said it was a bad choice. Since I haven't tried the new one, I like it just fine.
     
  18. I have the Tamron SP VC 24-70mm f/2.8 zoom and can strongly recommend it. Anyone that thinks it's optically inferior to the Nikon has obviously not used one. AF is plenty fast enough for portraits and the VC (VR) is rock steady and keeps handheld shots sharp at shutter speeds that would definitely otherwise blur. IQ wide open is well up to any pro standards.
    Build quality might be a concern, but only if you're careless with your gear, or your style of shooting puts your equipment through arduous conditions. OTOH the Nikon 24-70 non-VR zoom has known issues with its zoom mechanism, either stiffening up or becoming excessively sloppy - just google "Nikon 24-70 zoom ring problem". I don't think the VR version suffers the same issue, but then it isn't plentiful on the used market.
    I would tend to agree that 70mm on FX isn't really long enough for some portrait situations. Something in the region of 100mm would be my choice, in order to give a flatter perspective. A used 105mm f/2.8 AF Micro-Nikkor could be picked up quite cheaply, and would cover close-ups of engagement/wedding rings etc. No VR though, unfortunately. An f/2.8 aperture will give about 2/3rds the DoF of an f/4 lens, regardless of focal length, provided the subject magnification is kept the same.
     
  19. "After a number of years" is the key here :) As I'm building my collection of gear, I have to decide what is most important now, regardless of where I might be in the future. Of course it would be nice to have all of those lenses, but due to budget, I have to pick what I need right now. As I just booked my first "legit" wedding gig in a little less than a year from now, I'm trying to focus on what key things I will need. From everything I've read, a 24-70 2.8 is a must-have for weddings. I figure I can supplement that with my 50mm 1.8 and the 35mm 1.8 fixed on my backup D5000. I would LOVE to also have an 85mm 1.4 in my bag, but alas, $$$. You do make some valid points and I do think I will end up missing the extra reach of the 24-120, but I think at this point the 24-70 will better fit my immediate needs. Thank you for the thoughtful reply!​
    Always glad to help Andrew.

    If you would have said the magic word "wedding" before then I'd say you must have the f2.8.
    There are ways to shoot a wedding without having a midrange zoom like the 24-70 f2.8, for instance using primes, but it does require lots of shooting experience with primes and many also use two cameras at the same time. The classic combination being a 35mm on one and a 85mm on the other camera. Another option is to forgo the midrange zoom 24-70mm and use a wide zoom on one camera and a telephoto zoom on the other, for instance 17-35 f2.8 and 70-200 f2.8.
    One very experienced and capable photographer who often posted in the wedding forum was the late Al Kaplan. He had many decades of experience as a professional photographer and photojournalist and I consider him as one of my mentors. He said that all you need to cover something like a wedding is a 20mm, a 35mm and a 90mm. If the 90 mm isn't long enough, you are too far away. I think he was spot on with the focal lengths even though there are situations where you are not allowed to move and then you really need a longer lens that 90mm.
    Problem with the 24-70 is that it isn't wide enough and it's not long enough so it can't do it all. You could get by without having something like a 20mm as that would only be used for a small number of shots. However you really need a longer lens than 70mm on full frame. Some go for the 70-200 f2.8, other uses a prime lens, like the 85mm or even a little longer like 105mm or even 135mm. Easiest to use is of course the 70-200 f2.8, unfortunately it's kind of heavy and expensive. If you do other types of events a long zoom lens is often a must have.
    With all said I think the 24-70 f2.8 is a good choice and it should be your first pick. However you really must have a budget for a long lens as well before you take on any wedding work.
     
  20. this is where i'm at right now. got the 24-70+70-200+ fast primes in various focal lengths, considering 24-120 for those times i dont need my full pro kit and/or want a one-lens solution with extended reach. i would definitely check off the 2.8 boxes first if you are doing paid work and event shooting or planning to do it down the line.​
    I agree with you there Eric.
     
  21. " I'm considering switching out my Nikon 24-120 f/4 for a Tamron 24-70 f/2.8."​
    I have never used the Nikon 24-120 f/4 or the Tamron 24-70 f/2.8 on a full-frame. However, based on my shooting style and subjects, I know that the 24-120mm focal length range would be great for me but I could not live with the f/4 maximum aperture because I shoot a lot of moving subjects in low-light.
    However, the main reason I would seriously consider the 24-70mm is that I know it would work well with my other two Nikon wedding lenses:
    14-24mm f/2.8
    80-200mm f/2.8
     
  22. Since you can't add the Tamron to your outfit because of its price, I would suggest as others have that you add a good prime to your setup in an ideal focal length for portraits. Anywhere between 85mm and 135mm, depending on your preferences. I wouldn't necessarily exclude a manual focus lens, either, like an 85mm f/1.8 or a 105mm f/2.5. Since portraits are usually not fast grab shots, the fact that these lenses must be manually focused shouldn't matter all that much, I'm thinking. It will depend more on how your camera behaves when a manual focus lens is attached.
     

Share This Page