Having too much fun with a solid camera and an "ancient" lens. Let's go wide!

I was so wrapped up in the idea of how cool it would be to buy the Sigma 24-35mm f2.0 Art lens that I almost forgot that I have a lens that pretty much covers those focal lengths. Oh, how am I kidding, my current lens covers a full frame of silicon from 20-40mm; and it's already paid for. 

I never thought of myself as a wide angle lens user but lately I've been pushing the wide limits a bit more than I did in years past. In fact, one of my favorite projects from last year was an annual report from an electrical utility that was done predominantly with the wide end of my old, Nikon 25-50mm f4.0 lens, with a splash of Rokinon 14mm f2.8 tossed in for good measure. 

I had just about convinced myself that I "needed" the Sigma zoom to "up my game" in the new year. I had the money put aside but everything changed when the CFO stepped into my office and requested (demanded) yet another check for the IRS, effectively draining my slush fund for new toys for at least the better part of the first quarter.

I was pacing glumly around the studio wondering, "What in heaven's name will I do if I suddenly "need" a cool, wide angle lens for a vital client project??" I fretted. Then it dawned on me that I should look in the crowded Nikon drawer in the studio tool chest and take a quick inventory of the "solutions" available to me at a moment's notice. 

That's when I noticed the "sleeper" lens lurking in the back right corner of the drawer. It was the Tamron (yes, Tamron) 20-40mm f2.7 to 3.5 SP Aspherical zoom lens. A screwdriver drive, early AF lens that hit the market back in 1994. It was on the market until 2000. I had remembered it being considered pretty good in the film days so when I saw one in good shape for around $100 at my favorite used shop I bought it. I shot with it once or twice on my downtown walks and the defaulted to using the 24mm end of the 24-120mm or the 25mm end of the Nikon 25-50mm when I found myself in need of moderately wide angle focal lengths. Occasionally I needed a really wide lens and the Rokinon 14mm (in conjunction with a custom len profile in PhotoShop) handles those situations nicely. I bought into the general stigma about older, third party lenses and as result I've previously sentenced the 20-40mm to a life of lost potential...Until yesterday. 

Bereft of discretionary funds needed to buy the Sigma Art zoom I took comfort in putting the almost orphaned 20-40mm on the front of a Nikon D810 and went out for a therapeutic walk through the old town. 

I finally gave the Tamron 20-40mm lens it's chance to prove that it was more that tool kit drawer ballast. And I must say that I liked everything I saw. Wide open it's not perfect but at f8.0 it struts around like an "L" lens or a gold banded Nikon lens. There's a bit of complex distortion but I'll build a profile for the lens at 20mm and give up worrying about distortion anywhere else. 

Most of the images here are shot at 20mm and at f8.0. The lens is sharp and the colors are really great. I've almost given up pining for the Art lens. Almost. But I am fairly confident that I can use this lens for lots of stuff. It's one I've overlooked. But not anymore. 


Jim said...

I'm not much of a wide angle shooter either but I have a Tamron 11-18mm that is a 17.6 to 28.8 equivalent angle of view on my Canon 7D. I'm very happy with it. It is sharp and doesn't have a lot of distortion although I tend to pull it out wider than my envisioned final framing so that I have room to correct if I have to.

Chuck Ulm said...

I bought this lens when I bought my D700 several years ago. I have used it extensively over the years. It is a solid performer.