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Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 AD Aspherical IF Macro

18.5oz 72mm Filters

  With the introduction of Nikon's AF-S 24-120 f/4 ED VR this Tamron lens has fallen off the radar and can be found at an amazing price point. For a few years this was the high end 24-XXX zoom for Nikon full frame cameras, and commanded more than double its current value. During that time all Nikon had to offer was their notoriously poor-mediocre AF-S 24-120mm 3.5-5.6 ED-IF VR. Similar in cost, the Tamron offered better optical performance without the VR. The Tamron is complete with an aperture ring and will work on film as well as digital. It's light and small, with an odd 72mm filter size. It zooms and focuses in the same direction as Nikkor lenses. Being an older lens, the auto-focus is driven by the motor in the camera body, meaning many new lower end Nikon dSLRs like the D50, D40, D40x, D60 and D5100 can't drive the focus on this lens. Which isn't really an issue, because this lens is truly of interest to people who own FX Nikons, all of which currently have powerful, in-body AF motors.

Daniel Brasuell making faces on the North Fork Kaweah.

Nikon D700, Tamron 24-135 @ 24mm 1/1000 f/8 ISO 400

A 100% crop with no sharpening applied.

Zoomed in a little, Daniel on the NF Kaweah again at 100mm.

Nikon D700, Tamron 24-135 @ 100mm 1/800 f/7 ISO 400

100% crop with no sharpening.

Now that we've seen it stopped down, how about wide open?
Nikon D700, Tamron 24-135 @ 24mm 1/500 f/3.5 ISO 2500

100% unsharpened crop. I think there is more loss of detail here due to snowfall at high ISO than anything.

It grows quite a bit when extended to 135mm

Having sold the 70-300VR I lost my standard of measurement, but found something even more people are familiar with.

Like the Nikkor counterparts, it's also listed as a macro.

Nikon D700, Tamron 24-135mm @ 135mm 1/200 f/16 ISO 200

100% crop with no sharpening.

   In short, the Tamron 24-135mm is a consistently good, if never stellar performer. It won't make people ask what you shot with (unlike the Nikkor 28mm f/2 or Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8) but it does produce publishable results. Many have complained about the AF speed of this lens, but on a high end body, where the in camera motor dictates the focus speed, it's been no problem for me. On a D50 it might be another story. 

  Build: 7/10                  -  Somewhere in the middle of what Nikon has to offer.
  Handling: 6/10            -  Zoom is smooth, but one must flip an AF switch to manual focus, which has a very short and not particularly smooth throw, like a standard AF-D lens.
  Performance: 7/10      -  Very good overall performance. Not jaw dropping, but not disappointing.
  Value: 10/10                -  Only paid $85 used
  Overall: 8/10               - A very useful zoom range in a compact package

Practicality for kayaking: 8/10 - on 12 megapixel or less cameras.  

    There is no such thing as a perfect lens for kayaking. It could be sharper. It could be faster. But to do both, it would have to be much more expensive and heavier. For an FX camera this little lens is an incredible 5x zoom under $200. Compared to the older Nikon 24-135 there is a lot to like on the performance end, and build quality seems slightly higher too. Compared to the newest Nikkor AF-S 24-120 f/4 ED VR the performance seems very similar, but it's a one stop slower on the telephoto end, and of course has no VR. The Tamron is also much lighter that the Nikkor. As far as VR, you can buy quite a tripod with the $1,200 you save over the Nikkor. In kayaking, VR is irrelevant. On a travel lens some might find the extra cost worth the money...but this is about kayaking. Because it's near disposable in price, and any of these zooms will break under extended use kayaking, this one is a gem.

    Unfortunately the Tamron 24-135mm doesn't hold up as well on modern, high megapixel sensors. Corners are quite soft even at f/8, and overall sharpness makes the 24mp D600 perform like the 12mp D700.

   Other Reviews
   Nikkor 24-120 f/4 VR Reviews:
   Nikkor 24-120 f/3.5-5.6VR Reviews:
Bjorn Rorslett
Thom Hogan