Tamron 15-30 f/2.8 Di VC Partial Teardown

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We've become fans of the Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD lens since we first tested it optically, but we haven't really been inside of one yet. It's not that we weren't curious. We've just been trying to get through the week before and after Memorial Day, typically one of the busier times of the year for the repair department, so we haven't had time.

But we had two copies show up in the repair department with a jammed zoom mechanism. A peek under the zoom rubber didn't show any obvious problems. So we needed to open them up and see what was wrong, and thought we'd take some pictures along the way. This is a rather different looking lens and we were curious if it was different inside too.

All photos copyright Roger Cicala and Lensrentals.com, 2015

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May 12th - Customer Service Closing Early

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On May 7th, our customer service manager, Sharon Perez, passed away unexpectedly. Sharon was a wonderful friend and co-worker for the past 4 1/2 years. She was an integral part of our Lensrentals family and she will be sorely missed by all of us.

Out of respect for our friend Sharon, and to allow her co-workers to attend her memorial service, our customer service department will be closing at 12:00 PM CT today. If you need our assistance, please call us before this time. We will have staff monitoring email throughout the afternoon but our response times will be slower than normal.

Canon Announces T6 Sensor Recall

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I want to give credit to Canon for so quickly handling the problem we first reported with some T6 sensors. We announced the problem on April 30th, and within 10 days Canon had determined which cameras were affected (those with Serial Numbers beginning with "01 or "02") and issued a product alert.

Let me add that most cameras in the affected SN range do NOT have the problem. Some cameras have a mark in the battery door that identifies them as not possibly affected.

Credit for image, Canon, USA. http://www.usa.canon.com/cusa/support/consumer?pageKeyCode=prdAdvDetail&docId=0901e02480f0bcb2


Even if your camera does NOT have this mark, it still probably isn't affected. If you lock up the mirror for sensor cleaning you can look and see if you have one of 'those' sensors. If you aren't sure, Canon will check for you at no cost and correct the problem without charge, although it will take them a bit of time to get a solution ramped up.

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Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 G OSS Resolution Test

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We got a pre-release set of Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 G OSS Macro lenses in for preliminary testing last week, and I was kind of excited about this lens for a couple of reasons. First it simply gives me a nice short telephoto prime option that has been lacking in the lineup (although the Zeiss 85mm Batis lens will be coming along fairly soon). Second, it gives me a true macro lens at the focal length I prefer.

Image Courtesy Sony, USA


I hoped that the combination of a good macro lens with the A7r sensor would turn out to be a winner. We used our Imatest lab to compare Sony 90mm f/2.8 G OSS lenses mounted to Sony A7r cameras, and compared them with Canon 100mm f/2.8 IS Macro lenses shot on Canon 5DIII cameras in our Imatest lab. (For those who are curious, we can't test Sony E mount lenses on an optical bench because the electromagnetic focus system requires electrical power to operate. Until we do some really geeky, overly complex engineering modifications, the optical bench isn't an option for Sony E mount lenses.) It would have been nice to also compare with a Nikon D810 and Nikon 105 f/2.8 Micro lens, I know, but our time is limited.

Overview of the 90mm f/2.8 G OSS

First of all, if you're used to Sony E mount lenses being smaller than their SLR counterparts, you'll need to get over that. The 90mm lens is very similar in size to the Canon 100mm f/2.8 IS and other SLR macro lenses in this focal range.


Canon 100mm f/2.8 IS on 5D III (left) and Sony 90mm f/2.8 on A7r (right). Lens rentals.com, 2015


If you'd like the numbers for comparison, I've put them in a table.

Sony 90mm f/2.8 OSS Canon 100mm f/2.8 IS L Nikon 105mm f/2.8 Micro VR
Weight (lb.)1.321.381.58
Length (in.)5.144.844.9
Filter size (mm)626762
Min. Focus Dist. (in.)111212
Aperture Blades999

The Sony is a bit more expensive, but that's not unusual for a new release. Otherwise they are pretty similar in specifications.

Test Results

We tested these in our Imatest lab but at two different focusing distances and with two different charts. Remember, the higher resolution of the A7r camera will make the system resolution higher. My thinking when making this comparison was if the Sony lens wasn't up to the standards of the Canon (which is arguably the best macro lens in this focus range), then the Canon system would be close to the Sony, despite the higher resolution of the Sony camera.

The tables below shows the MTF 50 results averaged for 6 samples each of the Sony 90mm f/2.8 OSS on a Sony A7r compared with 6 samples of the Canon 100mm f/2.8 IS L on a 5D Mark III.

Our first test was using a standard Imatest setup shot at a distance of about 20 feet.

Canon 100mm f/2.8 IS LSony 90mm f/2.8 G OSS
Center1580 lp/ih2300 lp/ih
Average1340 lp/ih1665 lp/ih
4 Corner avg. 1125 lp/ih1210 lp/ih

We then repeated the tests, using a high-resolution, back lit chart made by Imatest specifically for testing macro lenses. The focusing distance was now just under 2 feet. This doesn't give us quite full 1:1 macro working distance, but it's pretty close.

Canon 100mm f/2.8 IS LSony 90mm f/2.8 G OSS
Center1540 lp/ih2210 lp/ih
Average1290 lp/ih1765 lp/ih
4 Corner avg. 1105 lp/ih1380 lp/ih

At both focusing distances the Sony system is clearly out resolving the Canon system. We would expect that, to some degree, given the higher resolution Sony sensor. But the difference was, quite frankly, surprising to me. It would seem to indicate the new Sony 90mm Macro lens performs at least as well as the Canon 100mm f/2.8 IS L, from a resolution standpoint, anyway.


Please don't take this out of context. These are simply Imatest MTF50 numbers. By that standard the new Sony 90mm f/2.8 G OSS Macro seems to be a superb addition to the E mount lineup, and the lens on an A7r should provide superb resolution. We'll have to look at more in-depth, hands on reviews to see how it actually performs in the field, what the bokeh looks like, how well the OSS performs and a host of other factors to decide how great (or not) the lens performs in the real world. But these preliminary results look very good.


Roger Cicala and Aaron Closz


April, 2015

Canon T6 Sensor Issue

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NOTE: As of May 8th, Canon has issued a recall of affected units. My hat is off to them for superb Customer Care. I didn't dream it could be done this quickly. 



Every once in a while we notice something, because of the large quantities of cameras and lenses we buy, that we think people should be aware of. This particular issue won't affect our renters; we've sent the affected cameras back. It may not affect very many people at all, since this is from a relatively small sample size. But I still think it worth mentioning.

The bottom line is that 4 of the Canon T6s and 2 of the T6i cameras we received had to be sent back because of a defect in the sensor stack (the layers of filter glass over the sensor). This is out about 10 copies of each; the others were absolutely perfect.

The affected cameras all had a dramatic pattern that at first we thought was oil or dust on top of the sensor glass.


Affected Canon T6s sensor, Lensrentals.com 2015


But when the techs couldn't clean the 'dust' off, they alerted us. Closer examination with a 10X microscope show the spots are inside, within the stack and under the top layer of glass. I would assume it's a defect in the adhesives used to put the layers of glass together, but I don't know for certain. One person has suggested there may have been dust on the glass when the adhesive was applied, which seems logical, but again, I have no real knowledge of how it happens.

The affected cameras all looked exactly the same, so I won't bore you with more images. It's quite easy to see, even without a sensor loupe, so don't make yourself crazy trying to find it on your camera; if it's there, you'll notice it. Actually it's easier to see without a sensor loupe. Angled light seems to show it up very clearly, lights shining directly down on the sensor not quite as much. The other cameras had no signs of this at all, so it was either a 'yes' or 'no' situation. We didn't see any cameras with just a few dots.

We took a number of images to see how much they would show up on an actual photograph. In wider aperture shots, as you'd expect, they don't show up at all. At about f/11 to f/16, taking pictures of sky, clouds, or a well-lit white wall, they do become apparent, but they aren't as bad as I would have expected.

They're also have a very different appearance than dust on the sensor does. These have have a ringed, or target appearance rather than the dark blob that sensor dust has. Below is a 100% crop from the corner of the camera with the sensor pictured above. Remember, this is an f/16 image of a clear sky. In a regular photograph at wider apertures I doubt you'd notice it.


f/16 sky image from affected camera. Lens rentals.com, 2015


Here's another image that is contrast boosted quite a bit, showing the bulls eye pattern a bit more clearly.


Contrast enhanced f/16 photo showing the pattern is very different than dust on the sensor. Lens rentals, 2015


All of the cameras we received had early serial numbers, and there is not going to be a direct serial number correlation with the problem. For example, we had 7 cameras in the SN 0220310007X range. Cameras with the last digit of 2 and 4 were affected, but 3 and 6 were not. That's not surprising, really, since sensors would be manufactured somewhere else and then placed into the camera during assembly.

I've talked to people at Canon about this issue and they are aggressively looking into it. It will take some time for them to figure out what the issue is, where it occurred, and what cameras might be affected. They're actively looking into the situation. They are NOT telling me, as some manufacturers do, that there is no problem.

My guess, and it's just a guess, is that a bad batch of sensors were made, quality control missed this, and they got put into cameras. How big is a batch? I have no clue. Maybe it's just a few hundred and we happened to get a lot (all of the cameras we've received have been pretty close in serial number). Maybe it's thousands. Time will tell and I'm comfortable the problem is being addressed.

Oh, and for those of you who want to bash Canon quality control over this, well it's appropriate, I won't stand in your way. But I can't because when I looked at these cameras myself the first time, I missed two of the ones with bad sensors. Like I mentioned earlier, direct light through a sensor loupe didn't reveal it nearly as well as an angled spot light did. It's possible the inspection of the sensors after assembly is done using a direct light, or some other automated equipment that isn't capable of seeing this.

So I'm not throwing any stones out of my glass house. And having dealt with many manufacturers concerning many issues over the years, I'm just pleased that this issue is being taken seriously and investigated immediately. That's not always the case.

In the meantime, check your new T6 when you get it, return it if you need to.

Roger Cicala and Aaron Closz


April, 2015


Addendum: I originally speculated that the problem might be in the adhesives used between layers of glass in the sensor stack. Several people, at least one of whom is an engineer in the industry, have emailed to tell me it appears much more likely this is a defect in the sputtering process used to coat the glass in the stack. Assuming this is the case, the problem would be visible immediately, it's not something that would show up later after originally appearing normal.



The Best Products of NAB 2015

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This past week, I had the unique opportunity to go to the National Association of Broadcasters' trade show, more commonly known as NAB. To say NAB is massive, is a gross understatement; with over 100 thousand people in attendance, and over 1 million square feet in booths and other showrooms, NAB is one of the largest expos and trade shows in Las Vegas. LensRentals was there to see all the new products as they were announced, as well as supply gear for Post Production World - an educational function held within the NAB trade show.

Given the size of NAB, it's nearly impossible to see everything this show has to offer. Hundreds of booths are placed within the Las Vegas Convention Center, making it incredibly easy to get overwhelmed, exhausted, and even lost at times. Even after a full 3 days of walking the showroom floor, I am convinced I missed a thing or two, and wasn't able to see everything that NAB has to offer. That said, here are some of the biggest and best products I noticed while walking NAB show room.


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Infrared Photography: Imaging in a Different Light

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Creative Experimentation

As a photographer with an art background and an employee of a company with endless gear options, I am always looking for something to give me a fresh perspective on image making.  On our recent trip to the Wedding and Portrait Photographers International Conference+Expo (WPPI) in Las Vegas I took the opportunity to learn more about Infrared photography with the Sony A7s IR modified camera.


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Tearing Down the Sony 24-70 f/4 ZA OSS Vario Tessar

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Those of you who read our teardowns know that we commonly are tearing down Canon or Nikon mount lenses. The reasons are pretty simple and it basically comes down to the fact that we have a lot more of those lenses. If we have a lot more it's less of a problem to take a couple out of stock for a teardown. Plus, we're more likely to be doing repairs on them in-house so we need to know the layout. Not to mention, since we spend most of our day inside those lenses, we know our way around them pretty well and don't look to stupid when we do a teardown.

But people who shoot Sony, or Pentax, or micro 4/3 ask us to rip apart their lenses, too. We've avoided doing that because of the above reasons and because we rarely try to repair them. But in the last few months, we've gotten motivated to look inside Sony E mount lenses. Partly it's because we're carrying a lot more of them. Partly it's because repair costs on Sony lenses have become — well I like Sony, so let's just say "fully valued."

A few days ago, we sent a Sony 24-70 f/4 ZA OSS  to repair because it made a grinding noise and wouldn't autofocus properly. That kind of thing happens all the time and the repair cost at most manufacturers is $200 to $300. When the service center told this would be an $800 repair, we decided to have them send it back and take a look inside ourselves.

"Self Portrait in a Vario-Tessar". Lensrentals.com, 2015. Call for print prices. 

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Sony FE 35 Match-up: Is More, More?

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Time to trash the adapters?

Sony has just released a new line of full frame FE lenses that will hopefully eliminate the need to use adapters with lenses from other systems.  We just received the  Sony FE 35mm F/1.4 ZA Distagon which has the largest aperture in the lineup and we couldn't wait to have a look at it. Will this replace the petite FE 35mm F/2.8 ZA Sonnar? Probably not for the photographer who enjoys fitting a camera/lens combo in her purse. For the low light lover, bokeh buff, and adapter averse? Let’s find out.

Before I show you fair comparisons of each lens at F/2.8, here are photos taken with each lens at its widest aperture.

Both images were captured on the same camera and tripod setup, so it looks like the Distagon is actually a touch wider even though they are both technically 35mm. Will this make a difference? Not really.


Sony FE 35mm F/2.8 ZA Sonnar at F/2.8

Sony FE 35mm F/1.4 ZA Distagon at F/1.4

And now for a better look at those out of focus areas I threw the focus ring all the way to the closest focus. With everything blurred it is easy to notice the variations in color between the two images.  The shape in the highlights is slightly different with a noticeable increase in softness in the 35mm F1.4.

Sony FE 35mm F/2.8 ZA Sonnar at F/2.8

Sony FE 35mm F/1.4 ZA Distagon at F/2.8

Time for the contrast challenge. Here is a mix of light and dark subject matter in bright sunlight. Both lenses seem to handle the situation without obvious aberrations, but the solid background makes it easy to see the vignetting in the 35mm F/2.8.

Sonnar at F/2.8 1/5000 ISO 100

Distagon at F/2.8 1/5000 ISO 100

Another thing to consider with these two lenses is the difference in minimum focusing distance. It's handy to purpose wide angle lenses as macros when possible. The FE 35mm F/2.8 has a minimum focusing distance of 13.8in while the F/1.4 version lets you get as close as 11.76in.  And in my experience, 2 inches can really make a difference.

Sonnar at F/2.8 1/2000 ISO 50

Distagon at F/2.8 1/2000 ISO 50

Okay, onward and upward (literally). Let's take a look at flare. As I have noted, the 35mm f/1.4 has a more buttery quality in the out of focus areas. When put against the sun it doesn't seem to hold together as well as the f/2.8 version, exchanging creamy blur for flatter color and more blown out highlights.

Sonnar at F/2.8 1/5000 ISO 100

Distagon at F/2.8 1/5000 ISO 100

And for the final event, landscape photographers, here are two images shot at f/8 focused at infinity. Again, the vignetting and color in the sky is noticeable. What we really want to know, though, which one is sharper. Right?

Sonnar at F/8 1/500 ISO 100

Distagon at F/8 1/500 ISO 100

This is an interesting comparison. The center of each image is very comparable as shown in the 100% crop. You may notice, however, that the edges of the 35mm F/1.4 lose some clarity. This is especially apparent on the left side of this particular image. This is not a flaw of the lens, but due to the curvature in the field of focus.  It's commonly thought that the wider the aperture, the sharper the lens is stopped down. We have seen in our labs at LensRentals that this is often not the case.  Many lenses made to open as wide as F/1.4 are built with a field of focus pattern that have one or several curves making them less desirable for shooting landscapes or architecture.

Sonnar at F/8 1/500 ISO 100 (100% Center Crop)

Distagon at F/8 1/500 ISO 100 (100% Center Crop)

One last thing to consider when comparing these lenses is the size. The 35mm F1.4 weighs in at 1.39 lbs while the smaller 35mm F/2.8 is only .26 lbs. The weight alone could be a deciding factor.


I'm really impressed with the image quality of the Sonnar F/2.8. This lens is tiny, sharp, and half the price of the Distagon F/1.4. Am I a sucker, like many others, for the smooth F/1.4 lowlight capable lens? Definitely. And I will probably use it whenever I am renting. For the consumer looking to purchase, however, the FE 35mm F/2.8 looks like a smart choice.


Sarah McAlexander