Tamron 24mm F2.8 OSD M1:2 (F051) Review
December 13th, 2019
Tamron has started to jump into Sony FE with both feet. It’s first two zoom lenses (17-28mm F2.8 RXD and 28-75mm F2.8 RXD) have been very well received, and now Tamron is following up with not only the announced 70-180mm F2.8 RXD zoom but also three prime lenses (20mm, 24mm, and 35mm) that have only a moderately wide aperture (F2.8), but sport nicely compact, lightweight bodies and one other trick up their tiny sleeves: they are all 1:2 Macro lenses (one half life size). These are lenses that are somewhat similar to a lens like Zeiss’ classic 50mm F2 Makro-Planar…though with a smaller maximum aperture and costing less than a third of the price. I always have a few reservations when examining a prime lens that doesn’t offer an aperture advantage over a zoom lens, but we’ll see how each of these primes compares to Tamron’s zooms that cover the same focal lengths in the review of these lenses. One thing is sure: the macro(ish) performance of these lenses at least gives them a “killer app” not matched by the zoom lenses…and Tamron has priced them to move at $349 USD each. I started my series of reviews with Tamron 24mm F2.8 OSD first, as the 20mm is taking a little longer in development. The full name of the lens is the Tamron 24mm F2.8 OSD Di III M1:2, which is a mouthful, so we’ll refer to it by it’s internal code name (F051) instead. Here’s what those initials mean: OSD = Optimized Silent Drive (the type of focus motor), Di III = designed specifically for mirrorless (in this case Sony Full Frame E-mount), and M1:2 =1:2 Macro…which is one of the main reasons why this lens is interesting.
I’ve looked at the 24mm and 35mm lenses at the same time (they are releasing at identical times), and while researching, I’ve found an interesting quirk connected to that internal code of F051. The yet-unreleased 20mm F2.8 OSD has a lens designation of F050, the 24mm is F051, but the 35mm (which I have on hand) is code-named F053 (not F052).
This makes me suspect that another lens (most likely a 28mm) is yet to come in this series. 28mm is a great focal length…and there aren’t a lot of options there, so this could potentially be a solid move for Tamron.
Is there a reason to choose this little 24mm F2.8 prime over, say, the excellent Tamron 17-28mm F2.8 RXD? (you can see my review here) Ultimately that’s a question that only you can answer, but I’ll do my best to help answer that question in this review by doing some direct comparisons to that lens.
I’ve done the review on both Sony a9 and Sony a7RIII bodies…with a peek at how that magnification is affected by the crop factor on the Sony a6500 as well. Let’s jump in and explore whether or not the Tamron 24mm F2.8 OSD makes any sense for you.
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Tamron F051 Build, Handling, and Design
Part 1 of my video review covers Build and Handling + Autofocus Performance, so you can check that out here:
As mentioned previously, the F051 is designed specifically for Sony FE, though it can also be used on Sony’s crop sensor E-mount cameras where it has an equivalent angle of view of roughly 36mm. This makes this a very attractive lens for video work, as 24mm is a great vlogging focal length along with a classic wide focus length (but without the more obvious keystoning effect of wider focal lengths). But 36mm is also very close to the also-popular and useful 35mm focal length when filming in Super 35 mode on Sony. The same observations are true for stills, obviously, as well.
All of Tamron’s development to date for Sony FE has come without their popular VC (Vibration Compensation) system and instead relies on Sony’s Steadyshot Inside (IBIS) for stabilization. This has allowed Tamron to have less complex lens design and really focus on keeping things smaller and lighter, which is often the forgotten element of modern lens design. The F051 weighs only 7.6 oz (215 g), which is incredibly light for a full frame optic.
There are currently four autofocusing options at the 24mm focal length on Sony FE. Two of them are larger, heavier, more expensive F1.4 options, and the other two are much smaller and cheaper F2.8 options. The second F1.4 lens is the Sony FE conversion of the Sigma 24mm F1.4 ART. I’ve reviewed the FE version of that lens, and while it offers good value for money (around $820 USD), I doubt many photographers will be cross-shopping these two lenses for the simple reason that the Sigma is pretty huge by comparison. I weighed it and found that the weight was 768g (over 250% heavier than the 215g of the Tamron). It is also 126mm (4.75″) compared to just 63.5mm (2.5″) for the Tamron – nearly 100% longer. Physically the two lenses have very little in common. The Sony 24mm F1.4 GM is more reasonably sized at 445g and 92.4mm in length, though that is still over 100% heavier and nearly 50% longer than the Tamron.
The other F2.8 option is the Samyang/Rokinon AF 24mm F2.8, which is a truly tiny lens at just 37mm in length and 120g. It’s also the closest in price, with the MSRP being a little more expensive ($399 USD) but frequent sales (it’s been out for a while) making it potentially even cheaper. I haven’t tested either the GM or the Samyang yet, so I can’t comment on either lenses optical performance. What I can say about the Samyang definitely is that it doesn’t have weather sealing (the Tamron does) and definitely isn’t a macro-ish type lens (it has the lowest magnification figure of the group at just 0.13x compared to the F051’s 0.50x). You might choose the Samyang if size is your ultimate goal, though both reviews and user reports suggest that the Tamron F051 is almost certainly the winner in both image quality and autofocus performance.
The very popular Sony FE 24mm F1.4 G Master lens can obviously do things with its F1.4 aperture that the F051 cannot (as can the Sigma), so in one way there is no comparison between the two. But not everyone needs a G Master, and the idea of a small, light, optically good 24mm lens that costs more than $1000 less ($349 vs $1399) and happens to have 1:2 magnification (0.50x rather than the 0.17x of the G Master) might make the F051 an attractive alternative for some buyers. I will say this: as a consumer I’m thankful for options…at varying price points, sizes, and quality levels. Each of these four lenses have varying strengths and weaknesses, and we are fortunate to have so many options at the focal length.
Tamron has given us fairly strong value for money when it comes to the build of these little primes. They all have a LOT of shared design elements with each other and even with the FE zooms. One shared design element is the inclusion of weather sealing, starting with a gasket at the lens mount, several internal seal points, and a fluorine coating on the front element to resist fingerprints and watermarks (this also makes the front element easier to clean).
Few lenses at this price point offer that, and certainly the inexpensive first party options on any system would not. So far Tamron has included this on all of their FE lenses…and it’s very welcome!
Another shared design element is that every FE lens thus far has had a shared 67mm front filter thread. There are both pros and cons to this. The primary con is that this shared design element is a limiting principle in the size/shape of a lens. This lens probably could have been smaller than what it is. At 2.87″ (73mm) diameter, the F051 is almost the same as the GM (2.97″/ 79.4mm), which has a two-stop faster maximum aperture. The overall length of the lens is modest, but it could have been narrower than what it is. Fortunately the short, squat look is a rather attractive one in a lens.
The main upside (and it’s a big one) is similar to what Zeiss has done with the Loxia series. That shared diameter and front filter thread means that one set of filters can easily be shared across all the Tamron lenses (and in a very common size), and also anything like gearing or other accessories can be shared in a similar fashion. The shared filtering is a rather big deal to me, as I’ll obviously invest my filter money on the most commonly shared size, and this means that I’ll have a wide range of filters available to use with the lenses. I complained about EF-M lenses that non of them had a shared filter size in the first few years, which often meant none of them got filtered or that you were stuck using step-up rings of various sizes all the time.
You’ll have to decide whether this is a net negative or net positive for you, but it is clear that Tamron does have a design philosophy for these lenses.
The physical design is also quite similar. These little primes carry a strong family resemblance to the FE zooms, with a body made of mostly engineered plastics around a lightweight metal mount. This is finished in a satin black with a platinum-color (“luminous gold”, according to Tamron) accent ring near the lens mount. There is white lettering on the lens barrel with lens designation and other information, and no switches to be seen anywhere. I do prefer having an AF/MF switch, but you’ll have to rely on controlling that from within the camera.
There is a ribbed focus ring a few centimeters wide near the front of the short lens. The focus ring moves fine…though with no particular smoothness or quality. It mostly just does the job in a fairly uninspiring fashion. You’ll never mistake the action for a Loxia lens! While focusing the selected area of the image will automatically magnify to help you to visually confirm focus.
If you look at the front of the lens while focusing, you will find that the front element group is the group that moves to achieve focus, so you will see some movement forward and backwards, though all within the lens housing, meaning that this is still technically an internally focusing lens, as the the lens does not change length during focus. There are a few seal points near this area according the diagram, so Tamron has taken steps to assure that dust won’t enter here. If you have any further concerns, however, adding a protection filter is always an option.
The F051 has a small petal-shaped hood that comes with the lens. It bayonets into place precisely (with a satisfying “click”). There is no locking mechanism. The interior of the hood has plastic ribs intended to stop light from bouncing around.
The F051 can focus down very closely (4.7″ or 11.94 cm), which is the primary reason that it can achieve such a high magnification figure. This is essentially twice as close as what all the other lenses can focus down to. Just know that you will be VERY close to your subject when shooting at MFD, as that figure is from the sensor of the camera. Here’s what that looks like:
You might want to remove the hood to keep from shading your subject, and you’ll obviously need fairly good light on your subject, too. A wider focal length like this will have some keystoning and stretching of many subjects if they are off-position or have protruding elements (the reality of physics with this focal length and being that close), which is why this isn’t a typical focal length for macro lenses. You can see the very high magnification level here, however.
If you attach the F051 to an APS-C camera (or shoot in crop mode), that magnification level rises even higher (roughly 1:1), which is even more useful.
The “macro” capabilities (many contest if 1:2 constitutes macro) of the lens are a definite selling feature, and gives you many additional creative options when photographing different scenes…and image quality is quite good at close focus distances (any distance, really).
The lens has an aperture consisting of seven rounded blades. Wide open geometry is pretty good, with only some slight deformation near the edges of the frame (lemon shapes). It’s slightly better at F4 (though not perfect), but by F5.6 you (unfortunately) start to see shape of the aperture blades. The geometry is consistent, but it’s not really round.
Examining the bokeh circles reveals a fairly clean result with a bit of busyness inside but no concentric rings (onion bokeh). The outer line isn’t overly defined, which helps real world bokeh look pretty good.
Overall, the lens design here is clean and simple. There are no obvious bells and whistles, though the nice amount of sealing throughout the lens is a great selling point.
Tamron F051 Autofocus Performance
The OSD in the lens designation stands for “Optimized Silent Drive”, and, as with other lenses that I’ve reviewed with this particular focus system, it is not a highlight for me. It’s worth noting that Tamron has released more named autofocus systems than any lenses maker I’ve ever seen before. USD, RXD, OSD, HLD, DC, and PZD are some that spring to mind from reviews in the last few years alone. That’s not to say that other lens makers don’t experiment with focus motors; it’s just that Tamron likes to name them all! OSD is a somewhat misleading designation, as while I’ll cede the O (optimized) and d (drive), I’m not willing to give them the S (silent). While the focus motor is not like the old scratchy, buzzy micro-motors of the past, there is definitely some clicking that you will hear during focus…particularly when shooting in AF-C and as the focus motor makes tiny adjustments to accommodate for movement either of the camera or the subject. The RXD motors in the FE zooms are quieter and smoother by comparison.
This is, however, a better application of OSD than what I saw in either the 17-35mm F2.8-4 or the 35-150mm F2.8-4 (an otherwise brilliant lens!). The reasons for this is that on DSLRs where manual focus is typically accomplished by a direct coupling to the lens elements, the OSD focus motor had two major limitations: 1) It did not allow for full time manual override, and, since this is rare these days, you would often grab the focus ring and start to turn it and then feel like you were stripping the gears. If you switched to MF, however, there was no damping on the focus ring at all, so you had no resistance, making precise focus difficult. 2) There was no distance window on those lenses, and, because the viewfinder was optical, there was no electronic distance calculator. Manual focus just wasn’t a great option due to the nature of the OSD.
Fortunately those major problems are solved here. Because mirrorless lenses are designed for manual focus input to be routed through the focus motor (not a direct coupling), manual override is available when in DMF mode. All focus modes are supported along with every aspect of Sony’s hybrid AF system (more on Eye AF in a moment). Feel during manual focus isn’t exceptional (ever so slightly “gritty” feeling), but neither is it poor, either. During MF there will be both a distance scale (in either the viewfinder or on the LCD) along with an automatic magnification of the focus area to help visually confirm correct focus. As always, of course, you also have the option of employing Sony’s manual focus aids in your camera like colored overlays. Functionally OSD works much better on mirrorless than it did on DSLRs.
But the function of focus still lags behind the RXD focus system of, say, the 17-28mm F2.8 (which covers this focal length). Focus has a smoother feel on RXD, and focus acquisition speeds are noticeably faster. The 24mm has a slightly deliberate feel where momentum gathers for a split second before focus begins. This is similar to what I saw on the first generation Tamron 24-70mm F2.8 VC lens. It’s fast enough for most situations, but there is a noticeable lag before everything sets into motion. It’s not unusual to see a small pulse at the end before final focus lock is signaled. I think that the RXD motors have more torque and are thus able to focus faster and quieter. They are probably also more expensive to manufacture, which is probably (my guess) as to why they aren’t being employed here. That being said, I noticed a marked distance in focus speed between the F051 and the 17-28mm F2.8 RXD when purposefully making big focus changes (like from one foot/30cm to infinity). Smaller focus changes are fast enough that you won’t notice a difference.
On a positive front, I had largely excellent focus results with the F051. In real world situations focus was confident and I didn’t run into the pulsing that I sometimes get with wide angle lenses on Sony when shooting landscape scenes with all focus points active.
On a few rare occasions I did run into the glitch where the lens wanted to focus on a background rather than the foreground object much closer to the camera, like this:
What I wanted was focus like this:
In these cases the solution was typically to just touch the LCD screen with my thumb and put a Flexipoint right on the desired subject, though sometimes it required me to focus on another closer object first, and then return to my desired subject.
Low light sensitivity was not exceptional (probably due to the only moderately wide maximum aperture). In my low light torture test I was unable to lock focus with the F051 with either my a7RIII or my a9, and I was able to lock focus in the same situation with the Sony FE 35mm F1.8. I also wasn’t able to lock focus with the 17-28mm F2.8 RXD, which is what makes me think that this more about maximum aperture than anything else. When a camera has a lens with a larger maximum aperture attached, it is able to open the aperture up during focus and let in as much light as possible, which helps the AF system achieve focus. In this case the limiting principle is the F2.8 aperture which cannot be opened any wider, so the Sony had a 1 1/3 stop advantage of light, which means that it can let in more than twice as much light to help achieve focus. This may be a consideration if you are often shooting in very low light conditions, though in less extreme, real world situations I didn’t really have any problems.
Eye AF worked quite well overall, though it should be noted that there are some limitations with all wide angle lenses (or other lenses at greater distances) in that if the eye occupies too small an area on the sensor, the system will automatically switch to face detect. This obviously happens more often with a wide angle lens in that the eye typically occupies less area in the frame.
I ran two tests for Eye AF. One series was with the subject backlit by the sun (so less contrast on the eye) at three different focus distances ranging from about one meter (3 feet) to 6 meters (about 20 feet). In this scenario the easiest focus result is the close position where the eye is most easily detectable. Focus was perfect there. At the medium distance the eye was not detected in the backlit situation, and focus was off. At the furthest distance the system switched to face/body detect, and focus was excellent once again. I utilized myself as the subject and my wife as the photographer (she’s definitely NOT a professional), so there is some possibility of user error…but that’s always the case! In the second test, I moved the subject (myself) to a more front/side lit perspective where focus was easier and repeated the drill at three focus distances. The improved contrast and lighting made eye detection easier, and all three of these shots were perfectly focused. The conclusion is that Eye AF will work just fine in most situations.
Finally, let’s talk about video for a moment. The F051 will not be a top pick for video shooters who are using on board audio recording. You will DEFINITELY hear some clicking through the onboard mic as the lens makes adjustments, and the noise makes the focus seem a bit less smooth than what it actually is. If you are recording audio separately, this isn’t a problem, and I loved the footage from the lens which had a great quality to it (very punchy and detailed). Focus pulls are not incredibly fast, but they are fairly smooth, and there wasn’t any pulsing or settling when arriving on the subject.
Where I will criticize, however, is that when filming a fairly static scene (like one of my YouTube presentations), the focus doesn’t always stay still. It doesn’t do major pulses like some lenses, but the F051 is guilty of some unnecessary microadjustments where you can see tiny pulsing on occasion. The fact that you hear a little click when this happens also serves to draw your attention to it. My most-used video lens for my channel is the Tamron 28-75mm F2.8 RXD, which is noticeably better in this kind of scenario than the F051.
I did some work on a gimbal, however, and I was perfectly happy with the footage and quality of focus. My conclusion for both videos and stills is that the OSD focus motor works fine for the vast majority of work, but it isn’t as refined in the more difficult margins as some better focus systems including Tamron’s own RXD. To be fair, this is a budget lens, but so is the Samyang AF 45mm F1.8 and (to a lesser extent), Sigma’s 45mm F2.8 (two somewhat similar lenses for Sony that I’ve reviewed in the past six months) and I would call the focus system in both those lenses more sophisticated in operation.
F051 Image Quality
Part 2 of my video review breaks down Image Quality, Video Performance, and delivers a final verdict. Check out this video to see these results interactively:
There’s a lot of good news to report on this front, as Tamron has does a great job of delivering excellent image quality out of this little prime lens. The formal tests are done on the a7RIII (42MP) with real world tests down on either the RIII or the a9.
There is some barrel distortion and vignette that is exaggerated by the close focus distances of my brick wall test. Fortunately the distortion itself is very linear and corrects both easily and cleanly (no mustache pattern).
Both JPEGs and video will receive automatic corrections (if enabled), and the in-camera profile produces very clean JPEG results:
Though you can’t see it here, obviously, video is similarly clean. Very good news on that front. When compared to the 17-28mm RXD zoom (set at 24mm), there is unsurprisingly less native distortion on the zoom. I say unsurprising because the zoom is the middle portion of its zoom range where distortion tends to be lowest.
When comparing resolution and contrast, we find that the zoom lens is sharper and more contrasty in the center of the frame, while the situation flips in the mid-frame and corners where the F051 is the sharper of the two:
I’m not at all surprised by this result, as it essentially mirrors what I saw from comparison between the 17-28mm and the Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 FE zoom. The 17-28mm is rather exceptional in the center of the frame but not quite as strong in the corners. The third shot in the series above shows that even though the F051 isn’t as sharp when compared directly to the zoom, in a real-world F2.8 shot it is delivering strong image quality even at landscape distances.
Stopping down to F4 shows an uptick in contrast and a very minor resolution improvement (particularly in the corners). The comparison to the zoom is the same – slight edge to the zoom in the middle, slight edge to the prime on the edges.
At F5.6 the F051 catches up to the 17-28mm F2.8 in the center of the frame while retaining an edge in the corners. That edge in the corners remains at all tested apertures. The 24mm F2.8 OSD is a very sharp little landscape lens, as these shots demonstrate.
While doing these tests I also noted that both lateral and longitudinal chromatic aberrations are extremely well controlled, with little to no purple or green fringing showing up in any of the high contrast situations I put the lens in. I shot a lot of light through this crystal and metal decoration as a torture test…and liked what I saw.
Another area of tremendous strength is the flare resistance of the F051. I was essentially unable to make it ghost or veil in any of the scenarios I put it in, so Tamron’s BBAR coatings are working a treat here!
The worst-case scenario did not involve the sun but the moon (final shot in the series above). A very bright moon (ruining my astro tests!) produced a bit of a ghosting pattern over the long exposure, but that was as bad as I could get.
Speaking of astro: this is a terrible time of year for astro. Almost every night is overcast, and the one clear night I got had a very bright, very persistent moon. I was able to get a look at coma, however, and the news is mostly good. There is little increased coma at the edge of the frame, with only the very start of “wings” growing on star points. This lens isn’t the best astro lens I’ve tested recently, but it does the job just fine and, for the money, is actually a good option.
I also felt like color rendition was quite good. Colors are rich and have good contrast. There’s nothing “cheap” about the end results coming out of the lens.
As noted previously, the F051’s ability to focus closely allows it to create a decent amount of bokeh, and image quality at close focus distances remains good.
I actually really liked the quality of the bokeh in this shot along with the tension between the dried weed in the foreground and the tree towering in the background.
This shot (and crop) highlights two truths. The first is that the high sharpness and low CA allow for great detail in the subject.
The second is at 24mm lens with a maximum aperture of F2.8 has a limited potential for blurring out backgrounds altogether other than in ideal circumstances. Still, I’m quite happy with close-up optical performance.
There’s a reason, however, that most macro lenses aren’t 24mm. At close focus distances there’s a good chance that some portion of the subject will be negatively impacted by the perspective distortion caused by a wide angle lens. This screw bit, for example, looks like it is slightly bowed in the image.
It isn’t. That’s just perspective distortion. It isn’t an optical flaw, per se, but rather a physical reality of a wide angle lens at close focus distances. Expect this to be even more exaggerated on the 20mm F2.8 when it comes out.
At the end of the way, however, there’s a lot to celebrate when it comes to the image quality here. The lens is sharp, has great flare resistance and chromatic aberration control, and delivers good image quality at all tested focus distances. Not bad for a lens this small and inexpensive!
So is a 24mm prime lens with a maximum aperture of F2.8 worth buying when there is a very competent zoom lens that covers the same focal length? Ultimately that question is going to be up to you, but here are the two most compelling reasons that I can see to consider purchasing the Tamron 24mm F2.8 OSD M1:2 over the excellent Tamron 17-28mm F2.8 RXD. The first is price. The 17-28 RXD is reasonably priced at $899; a relative bargain compared to competitors, but that is more than twice as expensive as the prime at $349. If you just want 24mm, there is no reason to buy the more expensive zoom, which, though light and compact, is essentially twice as big and heavy. The second compelling reason is if you want the awesome 1:2 macro capabilities of the F051, which can genuinely useful. It works well at minimum focus distances when used well, and there’s no question that the magnification provides new ways to frame a scene.
The F051 is a very strong little optical performer, but I’m not as wowed by the OSD focus system. It’s a little noisier than some competitors and is slower as well. There’s a good possibility that you will pick up some focus noise if you are recording in or on camera in a quiet environment. It got the job done and supports all aspects of Sony’s Hybrid AF, but it’s not as smooth and quick in operation as some other options. I wouldn’t consider it a deal-breaker for my type of use, but it’s definitely the main (only?) area that really drew any criticism from me. I would suggest you watch the video episode on autofocus to see if it falls within your “tolerance zone”. If it doesn’t, the autofocus on the 17-28mm is excellent, and that might be your preferred choice.
It’s a sign of the times that I offer up even that criticism, however, as just a few years ago the focus system would have been considered quiet, and none of us would have expected a feature like weather sealing in a lens so cheap. I would have been complaining that Canon (for example) didn’t include a lens hood in a $700 lens or that focus was so inconsistent that you might want to manually focus the third party lens instead. We live in a great age of photographer where even the bargain lenses like this one are shockingly good. So if the idea of a prime lens with a maximum aperture of only F2.8 doesn’t throw you, the reality of the lens certainly won’t. The Tamron 24mm F2.8 OSD is a solid little lens and a lot of fun to use.
- Strong optical performance
- Good close up performance
- Excellent flare resistance
- Excellent chromatic aberration control
- Good color and contrast
- Includes weather sealing
- Excellent price to performance ratio
- OSD focus motor is not silent nor as fast as some competitors
- Lens can do a lot of micro-pulsing when continuously focusing in stills or video
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Keywords: Tamron 24mm, withmytamron, Tamron, 24mm, F2.8, OSD, M1:2, Tamron 24mm F2.8 Review, Tamron 24mm 2.8 review, Tamron 24mm F2.8 OSD, F051, Dustin Abbott, Review, Autofocus, Sony a7RIII, Sony A7RIV, Sony a7R IV, Sony a9, Hands On, Video Test, Portrait, Video, Coma, Real World, Comparison, VS, Sony FE, Tamron 17-28mm F2.8, 17-28mm
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