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| p.1 #3 · How many versions of the Tamron 17-50 exist? |
I have the F-mount A16N II model of this lens, which has a built-in motor, does not have VC (Vibration Compensation, i.e. optical image stabilisation), and is made in Japan. I don't think the country of manufacture makes one bit of difference, but there you go.
There is also a version without a built-in motor (model A16N), for Nikon cameras with their own focusing motors. This model is discontinued, but is optically identical to the current version with a built-in motor. Users seem to report faster focus, which is possible. My own lens, with built-in motor, has a more than adequate motor speed, but it doesn't move the lens to the right distance in one swift movement, like SWM Nikkors do. Instead, it moves a little bit, reports something back to the camera (?), moves another little bit, and repeats up to half a dozen times before calling it a day. This movement is accompanied by a mild staccato clatter as the gear train stutters to and fro, plus the whine of the motor itself. The version without a built-in motor might behave better. I haven't used it.
Focus accuracy is fine with my lens.
As philip_pj mentions, the build quality is not awe-inspiring, but I would not call it ghastly. Unlike the slower but more expensive 16-85 mm f/3.5-5.6 AF-S Nikkor, it doesn't use metal for its extending barrel. That does make me a tad nervous. But other than the copious use of plastic, it feels quite tough. I think this impression is imparted by the generally rough finish quality. It's not an exquisite instrument, but rather a rough and ready tank. Therefore it doesn't feel like a little knock will overly upset it.
The zoom movement feels remarkably good for plastic. No creep, just the right amount of drag, and surprisingly smooth. Focus is another matter: there's no manual-focus override, so you have to operate a switch to get into manual-focus mode. The ring is small, doesn't feel good, and has a ridiculously short travel from infinity to the impressive minimum focus distance of 0.27 metres. Accurate manual focusing is very nearly impossible.
Despite the heavy reliance on plastic (this is Tamron's secret to low cost, by the way: they spend a fortune tooling up for plastic production, but then make everything in plastic for nearly free, selling in huge quantities to recoup the tooling costs), the mount is metal. I take that as another sign that it's a step up from the entry-level Nikkors like the 18-105 mm VR, etc. (which are Nikkors in name only, having rubbish mechanics and disappointing optics).
As for the filter threads, everything has plastic threads these days, including this Tammy and several lenses from Nikon and Canon costing 3x more!
The third and final version of this lens is the B005N II model, which employs a different design entirely and offers stabilisation (VC). This model has a bad rep because of some dubious online tests. I'm sure it's better than Photozone, etc., would have you believe. I say this because my A16N II model has serious field curvature, largely ignored by places like Photozone, who refocus for the corners of the test chart. Since field curvature is by far the biggest optical problem with my lens, I suspect Tamron addressed the matter somewhat with the B005N II. If so, it should perform better than the A16N II for flat or distant subjects like buildings, seascapes, etc. Warning: this is my surmise only.
These lenses do intrigue me. An optically decent f/2.8 trans-standard zoom for 300 euros is a shocking proposition! But it's an everyday reality at Tamron.