Tamron's new SP AF11-18mm F/4.5-5.6 Di-II LD Aspherical (IF) lens is the company's first ultra-wide zoom lens designed exclusively for DSLR cameras with 'APS-C size' sensors. Available with Canon, Konica Minolta and Nikon mounts, it is surprisingly compact. This is largely due to a new design that uses a large-aperture glass-moulded aspherical element, hybrid aspherical elements and elements made from high index/high dispersion glass and low dispersion optical glass. You pay a premium for these high-tech materials but the overall performance of this lens fully justifies its price and it remains more affordable than similar lenses from the camera manufacturers. . . [more]
Tamron's new SP AF11-18mm F/4.5-5.6 Di-II LD Aspherical (IF) lens is the company's first ultra-wide zoom lens designed exclusively for DSLR cameras with 'APS-C size' sensors. Available with Canon, Konica Minolta and Nikon mounts, it is surprisingly compact. This is largely due to a new design that uses a large-aperture glass-moulded aspherical element, hybrid aspherical elements, and elements made from high index/high dispersion glass and low dispersion optical glass. You pay a premium for these high-tech materials but the overall performance of this lens fully justifies its price and it is more affordable than similar lenses from the camera manufacturers.
Structurally the 11-18mm lens is well built, nicely designed, and lighter than most ultra-wide zooms. Some users may consider it too light, while others will appreciate its easy portability. A switch on the barrel selects between the AF and manual settings and the focus ring carries distances in both metres and feet, while the zoom ring has markings for the 11, 13, 15 and 18mm settings. Ridges on the zoom and focus rings provide a firm and secure grip and both rings move smoothly without being loose. The lens is supplied with a 'flower-shaped' lens hood, which is reasonably easy to fit and remove. Filters with a 77mm diameter can be fitted via a threaded ring inside the front of the lens to which the lens cap clips on securely.
In use, the autofocusing system was rather noisy but focusing was accurate, even in dim lighting, and the lens seldom had to hunt to lock onto a subject. Our only other gripe from a design viewpoint is that the focusing ring rotates as the autofocus changes, which can require users to constantly reset polarising filters - and any other angle-dependent lens attachments (the Canon and Nikon zooms are internally focusing and don't rotate). On the plus side, the test lens showed no sign of vignetting (darkened corners), a problem that often affects ultra-wide optics. Even with the lens stopped down to f22 at the 11mm setting, light distribution was even across the field of view.
We tested the Tamron 11-18mm lens on a Canon EOS-300D camera with the Adobe RGB colour space and all parameters set to normal. ISO 100 sensitivity was used for all shots. In use, the lens turned in a remarkably consistent performance across all focal length settings (11, 13, 15 and 18mm) and at a range of apertures. In test shots, apparent sharpness was almost as good at the widest aperture as at the f8 and f22 settings. Distortion was surprisingly low for an ultra-wide lens - although barrelling was certainly visible at the 11mm setting, but not at 18mm. Flare and ghosting were also very low, a credit to the quality of the internal surface coatings.
We used Imatest to evaluate both lens sharpness and chromatic aberration and found it confirmed our subjective assessments of the overall performance of the lens. At the 11mm and 18mm settings, these tests revealed a low level of lateral chromatic aberration that would be just visible along vertical edges in images. However, moderate enlargement of image files would be needed to reveal it. Not unexpectedly, resolution was at its best with the 13mm and 15mm focal length settings and at an aperture of f8 or f11. However, the extremes of both the focal length and aperture ranges were close enough to the median readings for users to be confident in the overall excellent performance of this lens.
This lens has been designed specifically for the popular 'entry-level' digital SLR cameras that have been released in recent years and answers many photographers' frustrations with the reduced angle of view from sensors with focal length multipliers of 1.5x and 1.6x. For Konica Minolta camera owners, it's one of the few ultra-wide zooms available (the manufacturer's range starts at 17mm). Nikon has a 12-24mm f4 DX lens - but it's more than twice the price of the Tamron model. Canon's 10-22mm f3.5-4.5 is slightly larger, heavier and more expensive - but also a little faster. However it's only compatible with EOS DSLRs released in the last couple of years. If you really enjoy using ultra-wide lenses and have a Dynax 7D, a Nikon DSLR or one of Canon's older DSLR models (the EOS D30, D60 or 10D are not compatible with EF-S lenses) the Tamron could be a very good buy. 
Focal length range: 11-18mm (picture angle equivalent to 82.5-300mm on a 35mm camera)
Maximum aperture: f/4.5-5.6
Minimum aperture: f22
Lens construction: 15 elements in 12 groups
Minimum focus: 0.25 m
Filter size: 77 mm diameter
Compatible mounts: Canon AF, Konica Minolta AF-D and Nikon AF-D
Dimensions (Diameter x L): 82.2 mm x 78.6 mm
Weight: Approx. 375g
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