tamron-sigma-side-by-side

Comparison Review: Tamron 28-75mm VS Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8

I often get asked about alternatives to the expensive pro lenses from Canon and Nikon. As I rely on the standard f/2.8 midrange zoom for much of my work, I thought that I'd take the time to look at some popular third-party options: the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 and the Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 zooms.

Just like the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 that I use for so much of my live music photography, both the Tamron and Sigma feature the same core range in a nice constant f/2.8 aperture.

Third-party lens manufacturers often update their lineups more frequently than companies like Nikon and Canon, so these are the exact models that I'm reviewing thanks to a loan from B&H Photo Video:

These lenses are available in a variety of mounts in addition to Nikon, including Canon, Sony, and Pentax.

What's In The Box

The Tamron is a pretty basic package – inside the box is the lens, the detachable lens hood, and the associated literature.

The Sigma package is slightly more impressive, as the lens comes with a padded zip case. Bonus points to Sigma for this, but I personally never use the padded cases that come with my Nikon lenses. My lenses are either in a camera bag or on a camera.

Advantage: Sigma

Design

For two lenses with such a similar specs by the numbers, the Tamron and Sigma are two very different executions. Comparing the two, the first thing that stands out is that the Tamron is much thinner in hand.

The Sigma seems downright obese by comparison, especially considering that the two are essentially the same height.

Build Quality

The build quality of the Tamron is good, but a little like its packaging: basic. While the lens doesn't feel cheap, there's nonetheless a very slight hollowness to the lens that makes me doubt its true longevity. Overall, the Tamron is an upgrade in build over most kit lenses.

Build quality on the Sigma, by contrast, is clearly a notch better than the Tamron. The Sigma lens is surprisingly dense feeling, and actually feels heavier than you'd expect even given its fat barrel.

Controls & Usability

Both the Tamron and Sigma's controls dead simple, and for most users, the only thing you'll ever need to do is turn the zoom ring.

Overall, the zoom ring on the Sigma offers a smoother travel with a more dampened feel that's more similar to the Nikon 24-70mm. In addition, I prefer the knurling on the Sigma's zoom ring, which offers larger ribs that are easier to grab, despite the fact that the zoom ring is more narrow.

The Tamron's zoom ring feels a little more course and hollow, but when it's mounted on a camera body, this is pretty much a non-issue due to the resistance you get from the camera in your hand.

One point worth mentioning in the Sigma's design is their zoom rings travel in the opposite direction as Nikon zooms. To zoom in, the Sigma zoom ring is rotated counter-clockwise. Canon users will feel right at home with this nonsense.

Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8

The Tamron 28-75mm is pretty simple lens. Since all of the switches on the lens are located near the lens mount, the entire body is open real estate for control rings. The design features a big fat zoom ring toward the base of the lens and a thinner focusing ring near the front.

The side of the lens features a AF/MF switch for toggling in between focusing modes. In addition, there's a switch to lock the lens at 28mm and prevent zooming when carrying the lens.

You might wonder Tamron bothers to add this locking switch at all, until you zoom the lens from 28mm to 75mm.

Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8

For Nikon or Canon users, the Sigma has the more conventional design of the two, with a distance & hyperfocal focusing display in between the zoom ring and focusing ring.

Just like the Tamron, the Sigma features an AF/M toggle for switching between autofocus and manual focus. These switches are useful for when you want to disable AF, though this can also be easily accomplished via your camera as well.

AF Performance

The AF performance of both lenses is quite good. Overall, I found that the Tamron seemed to behave a little more consistently than the Sigma in terms of overall AF performance.

In addition, the Tamron performed better in low light, with faster and more confident AF lock than the Sigma. With brighter, more even lighting, focusing speed of both lenses is pretty comparable.

As both lenses feature built-in focusing motors, the operation is quiet, but a little different for each lens. The Tamron lens produces a fast whirl-and-click noise while focusing that happens so fast that the sounds basically runs together. The Sigma, on the other hand, seems achieves focus with more of a quick stutter, and seems to rack in and out very minutely when achieving AF lock.

It's worth noting here that both lenses feature built-in motors in the Nikon version, so they're fully usable with all of Nikon's DSLRs.

Range

As you've probably noticed, these two lenses do differ very slightly in range, so if you're deciding between the two, you'll have to decide which range is more suitable for your shooting.

The Tamron 28-75mm features slightly longer max focal length, so if you favor the telephoto end for portraits and similar work, you'll benefit from this reach.

The Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8, by contrast, features a wide-angle of 24mm, which is actually wider than those four extra mm would indicate.

It's worth considering that not all millimeters are created equal in terms of their affect on the field of view for lenses. Pound for pound, each millimeter of difference on the wide-angle end of a lens makes a greater difference than adding a few millimeters on at the telephoto end.

For my work, I prefer the wider field of view offered by the 24-70mm range, but the advantage of either of these ranges ultimately depends on what you shoot.

Image Quality

I'll admit, I was fully ready to dismiss these lenses, because, in my heart, I am a snob. Surely it couldn't be as sharp or contrasty as my Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8. Consider me surprised.

Commentary later, but you can form your opinion first from these pixel-filled 100% crops if you like.

Test Scene

At 28mm, both lenses are pretty even in terms of performance. However, just as it shoot, the maximum aperture performance is what really sets these lenses apart.

In the samples I tested, the Tamron 28-75mm was much sharper at f/2.8 in the center than the Sigma at wide angle, which features a slight haziness. Both lenses clear up by f/4, and after there's little to differentiate the lenses.

At 70mm, there's almost even less to choose from. Both lenses are good at f/2.8 on up, with very similar sharpness and contrast.

By f/4, both lenses look great and hold image quality until f/16 on the Nikon D3, when diffraction starts to erode image quality.

Color Fringing/Aberrations

Both the Tamron and Sigma handle chromatic aberrations and color fringing quite well. There isn't a huge difference in the performance, but the Tamron does exhibit more green/purple fringing than the Sigma zoom (depending on the focus).

In the above crop at f/2.8 at maximum zoom, you can see that the defocused elements of the Tamron sample exhibit green-fringed chromatic aberrations. The Sigma lens, on the other hand, is almost entirely free of any artifacts.

Flare Resistance

When facing point light sources, both the Tamron and Sigma will exhibit lens flare, but do so in different ways. Overall, the Tamron produces more bright, focused points of lens flare, while the Sigma tends to produce more diffuse areas of flare.

In the above crop, you can see the differences in flaring behavior between the two lenses at their maximum zoom with a point lightsource in the frame (in this case, a blue LED).

At wide-angle, both lenses exhibited lens flare more similar to the Tamron's 75mm example, so you'll have to pick your poison here.

Vignetting

All lenses in this category will exhibit falloff at the corners of the frame, and the Tamron and Sigma f/2.8 zooms are no exception.

Overall, the Sigma exhibits the most severe vignetting wide open, with a slightly de-centered hotspot in the frame at 24mm. This hotspot disappears when the lens is stopped down or zoomed in.

This test, in which all samples are white-balanced to 3000K with a -1 tint bias in Lightroom, also shows the slight differences in color rendering as well.

Summary

Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8

+ Sharper at wide angle

+ Compact size

+ Light weight

+ Less vignetting

+ Cheaper ($500 compared to the $900 price of the Sigma)

+ Better low-light AF performance

+ Slightly more confident AF performance

– Worse flare resistance at telephoto

Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8

+ Better build quality

+ Better ergonomics

+ 24mm wide angle

+ Better flare resistance

– More expensive ($900)

Both these lenses have impressed me. As someone who owns the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8, I will say that I would not have minded if either of these lenses turned out to be junk. However, as I dug into testing, both the Tamron and Sigma really surprised me and delivered great performance in terms of image quality.

The Tamron 24-75mm f/2.8 in particular turned in fantastic performance wide open on the Nikon D3, with great sharpness and great contrast at a huge value.

My Recommendation

If you're looking for the most bang for your buck, the Tamron is hands down the winner, at nearly half the price of the Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 and as good or better performance and image quality in almost all areas. Even if price isn't the biggest motivator, the Tamron has a lot going for it in terms of performance.

It's only when you move past pure optics that the Sigma's strengths start to float. I love the optics of the Tamron, but it just feels a little whimpy next to the heavy build of the Sigma. On the flip side, you buy a second Tamron for the price of the Sigma when the 28-75mm starts to break.

Buy Yourself Something Nice

If this review and other content on www.ishootshows.com was helpful to you, please consider supporting this site by purchasing through the affiliate links in this review:

Your purchases through my affiliate links keeps me infused with the green tea that fuels these reviews and my music photography.

B&H is where I personally buy the vast majority of my gear, and I’m looking forward to bringing you more reviews thanks to their equipment loans. If you do buy through B&H, drop me a line! I’d love to hear about what you picked up.

My Camera DSLR and Lenses for Concert Photography

Nikon D750:
I use two Nikon D750 for my live music photography. Amazing high ISO performance in a compact body with tons of pro features.
nikon-24-70mm-f28-lens-squareNikon 24-70mm f/2.8:
For most gigs, the 24-70mm is my go-to lens. Exceptional image quality at wide apertures and super-functional range.
Nikon-70-200-squareNikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR:
A perfect pair to the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8, I can basically shoot any job with the midrange and this lens. Superb image quality.
nikon-14-24mm-f28-lens-squareNikon 14-24mm f/2.8:
Ultra-wide perspective, ridiculously sharp even wide open at f/2.8. I love using this lens up-close and personal, where it excels.
More Gear Recommendations

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There are 60 comments

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  1. @BennersDesign

    hi Todd… really interesting stuff as always! I bought the Tamron earlier this year and have been really impressed with it, it’s my staple for shooting concerts. I chose it for the little extra reach.

    I’d be really interested in reading a similar review about 70-200 f2.8, as for budding amateurs the 3rd party lenses are usually the only realistic $$$ option =) Though I’m tempted to blow the budget and invest in the Nikon VRII!

    • Todd

      Hey Ben,

      Thanks for your comment – glad to hear that the Tamron is working out for you. The extra reach over the Sigma is nice to have for music photography. I did find that the Sigma at 70mm was shorter than the Nikon 24-70mm at 70, which makes the difference between 75mm on the Tamron even more pronounced.

      Might consider a 70-200mm comparison between the Tamron and Sigma 70-200mm options if this review is well received!

  2. Jay

    Great review Todd. I think everybody would love to go out and buy the Nikon lenses, but when you’re talking $1200+ for some of them, a good alternative is nice.

    I recently purchased the Sigma 18-50mm 2.8 for about $400. As much as I love the Nikon 17-55mm 2.8 (I rented it a couple of times and it delivers razor sharp images), I was able to save $900 and get a lens that performs very well. It was my primary lens for a conference I photographed about 2 weeks ago.

    http://carusophotography.com/blog/catalyst-2010/

    So these reviews are extremely helpful. Keep em coming!

    • Todd

      Hey Jay, thanks for the comment. Yes, these days, who doesn’t want an economical alternative, as nice as Nikon lenses are.

      Glad to hear you’re happy with the Sigma 18-50mm – and at that price, it’s hard to rationalize the Nikon. Looks like it did a great job at that conference!

  3. Ajani Truth

    Todd great review. I actually bought a Tamron 17-55 2.8 and it works well. That range suits my needs for this one event that I shoot weekly but I wish I could have seen this review early as 24-70 range is really what I would love to have now for my other work.

    This article was helpful and like the other responder, I would love to see you review something in the 70-200 range.

    • Todd

      Hey Ajani, thanks for the comment. Glad to hear you like the 17-55/2.8 – I’ve never used that lens, but I’ve heard good things about it.

      Will let you guys know if I end up comparing the 70-200mm zooms.

  4. groovehouse

    I have that same Tamron 28-75mm. It is an excellent lens and I’ve gotten many great pics from it. My only complaint is that after many shots with it and many photo trips, it has been affected by really bad “lens creep” where it will extend, slowly, on its own. That bums me out, but otherwise a nice lens for those that can’t afford proprietary lenses.

    • Todd

      Hey groovehouse,

      Yeah, that zoom creep is probably the chief reason for that zoom lock, but then that’s not really practical to use during concerts. Again, the build quality isn’t the greatest, but other than that, the lens is solid.

  5. Christi

    Hey Tod, thanks for the review.
    I’m still very much an amateur, but I enjoy music photography a lot. I’m still using my good old nifty 50 & my 35mm f1.8 (what can I say? I’m a broke college student!). I’m looking to buy a mid-range zoom lens soon, and this review definitely helped cleared up some doubts I had in my mind. I’ve never bought third-party, so I guess I’m still a little skeptical. Since money is a big factor for me, I’ll probably end up getting the Tamron in the near future. I’d love to have the 24mm on the wide end, but I don’t think I could justify that with the $400 price difference.

    I love your work and your reviews.
    Thanks!

    • Todd

      Hey Christi, thanks for the comment. After checking out the Tamron and seeing how well it performed, I have no hesitations recommending it. The only negative is that its build quality isn’t the most robust, but at $500, it’s a steal compared to the alternatives.

  6. Fernando

    Hi Todd. I hope you can lend me a hand on this. I’m on the verge of buying the new Nikon D3100 entry DSLR but the issue is that i have not seen any reviews that help me make my mind about it. Maybe you can give me your point of view about this camera and if it’s worth the money I’m about to pay. Thanx in advance.. and I love your work BTW.

    • Todd

      Hi Fernando,

      I’ve never used the D3100, so I don’t think I can help too much. But I would expect the camera to have usable high ISO performance and good image quality overall. Not sure if the AF is up to the most challenging shoots, but this is all relative. If it’s at the top of what you can afford, I think you’ll be happy.

  7. Laura Eliza

    I just recently purchased the Tamron 28-75, and am extremely happy with it. I shoot Canon and had actually bought the 28-70L first… I didn’t like it and tried the Tamron, and actually found it to be far sharper and better in low light than the Canon one. I absolutely love it.

    Thanks for the review! It was fascinating to read the differences between these two lenses. I too would be very interested in a review on the 70-200 range.

  8. edhombre

    Nice review Todd! Just wanted to add another recommendation for the Tamron 28-75mm. For the shooter on a budget it is a no brainer imho. Sharp as all hell, small, light, lovely soft real world bokeh and very affordable. On a crop sensor it becomes equivalent something like a 42-112mm 2.8 which is actually an extremely useful range for smaller gigs and people/portrait photography. It’s also my most used studio lens. Under good lights and stopped down to 5.6 or smaller it is almost unbearably sharp. Get a 50mm first but for anyone starting out in gig photography I highly recommend as the next lens you get after your nifty fifty.

    NB. first one I got was strangely soft at f2.8, replacement was fine. Just something to bear in mind i.e. I would recommend buying from a retailer with a good returns policy. Enjoy it though! It is a cracker….

    • sydneysnow

      Hi todd, i will buy the tamron soon, but in some other reviews, they say that tamron gets soft at f2.8, if this will be the case on my new purchased lens, should i ask for replacement from the shop??? or getting soft @ 2.8 is just normal in tamron?? please help… thanks

      • Todd

        I found the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 that I reviewed quite sharp in the center of the frame at f/2.8. You can see for yourself in the examples.

        That said, any lens will have some variation in samples. Again, view the samples I’ve provided to see if that level of sharpness would be acceptable to you.

        • sydneysnow

          hi todd,

          i have d5000 camera. tamron focusing is good they say if its non-BIM, can i still buy the non-BIM for my camera? would be advisable to buy the tamron with BIM for my D5000? or should i buy the sigma with BIM instead?

          please help.. thanks

  9. Justin

    hey todd,
    I have the tamron 2.8…i loved the thing, except for the majority of the flares are green due to the coating on the lens. also the build quailty kind of sucks, the zoom lock, can slide into place and when you zoom it doesnt acctually lock, just break the lens off the base, witch happened to me

  10. ionpositivo

    Hi Todd,

    great review!

    I would like to ask you to compare those two lenses with the Nikon one in terms of AF speed and performance, sharpness and flare resistance. I’m sure the Nikon is the winner but for how much? Is the difference so big to justify the price? With this question I’m not taking into account the build quality whic I guess is a very big part of the price tag.

    Thanx again

    Ion

  11. John Hurd

    Hi Todd,

    I have the Tamron version and apart from needing recalibration its done good service. I would like to know how much better the Nikkor lens would be in terms of picture quality. I’m thinking of getting one and paying over two years but would it be worthwhile to spend so much to get something thats heavier, bigger and takes the same pictures?

  12. Rudolf Bouten

    Thanks Todd for doing a good job with tutorials for Lightroom and tests§

    I bought a Canon Dial 35 camera at B+H in NYC when I went to the USA for holidays 35 years ago. Photographers paradise( with a “good” credit card.

  13. Ashley

    I received an email that you had replied to someone on a post I commented on months ago. I was about to delete it, but then I saw “28-75mm f2.8” mentioned and decided to read. It was on your D7000 article, but it got me thinking, so I did some googling and found this article.

    You have no idea how thankful I am that you wrote this! I had resigned myself to the fact that I probably won’t be able to shoot shows for a publication or something unless I have a 2.8 lens. I didn’t want to finally get a chance to shoot for someone, and blow it because my lens selection forces me to shoot at f3.5-5.6 (aside from my 50mm 1.8)

    You are so so SO appreciated, Todd. Whenever I’m able to make my purchase I’m definitely coming back and doing it through your link, so I can support what you’re doing. Thanks for sharing your knowledge/experiences.

  14. Greg Basco

    Todd, great review as always.

    And thanks so much for this :-)

    “One point worth mentioning in the Sigma’s design is their zoom rings travel in the opposite direction as Nikon zooms. To zoom in, the Sigma zoom ring is rotated counter-clockwise. Canon users will feel right at home with this nonsense.”

    Cheers,
    Greg Basco (a dedicated Canon shooter!)

  15. Paulo Tavares

    Great review! I recently switched from canon to a nikon d700. I have read that there is a previous version from tamron’s 28-75 without built in motor that focuses even faster and accurately on high end bodies. I will try to pick one used from ebay :)

  16. Jesse

    Hi Todd,

    Thanks for the awesome review! I am definitely in need of a 24-70 zoom lens. I hesitate to purchase anything but the Canon L series as I am worried about compromising the quality of the images… However; the Tamron is so budget friendly!!

    I did have a question that the article didn’t discuss to much…do you feel that in purchasing the Tamron/Sigma version of the 24-70, users will be sacrificing anything by giving up the Nikon/Canon version (with the obvious exception of money!).

    Have you done a comparison to the Nikon/Canon versions of this lens? Thanks so much!!

    Great article:)

  17. Brandon

    Hello Todd,

    This a great review of both of these lenses. My question for you is, which lens would you choose for live music photography, the Tamron 17-50mm lens or the Tamron 28-75mm? I know this is a review for the Tamron 28-75mm and the Sigma 24-70mm f2.8, but I am interested in the two aforementioned Tamron lenses. Also, how important is VC on mid-range zoom lenses? Thank you for providing us with a great website that gives your fans tips and tutorials for all things music photography! Be Blessed!

    • Brandon

      Thanks a lot for the input, Todd, I really appreciate it! I ended up going with the Tamron 17-50mm w/o VC. I am really excited to start shooting shows with it. Be Blessed!

  18. Roelof

    Thans for this review, Todd, Now my Sigma 24-70 broke down (AF ring inside damaged) so I’am looking for a differente lens, I own already a Tamron 70-200 2.8 and I love it, the fast AF with the grab at the focus point, so I tink im going for the Tamron. (with a sony a 850)

  19. Randy Herman

    Todd
    What an amazing report on the Sigma and Tamron 28-70/75 2.8s. None more thorough or easy to understand, you helped me make a great decision for my Sony a77 body. Can’t thank you enough.
    sincerely
    Randy L Herman
    Alma Center WI
    (fly over country :-)

  20. Martin Blenstrup

    Hi thanks for a great review!!

    How would you place these lenses over the nikon kit lens 18-55?
    I recently bought the nikon 35mm F1.8 and it’s really good, but I miss the zoom.
    I use Nikon d5200
    Thanks, Martin.

    • Todd Owyoung

      Hi Martin, I haven’t shot with the 18-55mm kit lens — what these lenses will give you are a faster constant aperture. You’d lose out on a true wide angle on your D5200, which is a DX camera, so there the 18-55 would give you a more useful range. Hope this helps.


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