At Tamron, a group of us travel extensively to fulfill the 350 events we stage each year teaching photography and training people and attending conventions, etc.. Those include everything from nature and macro workshops, “zoo days”, staff training events, convention booths images, and almost any kind of photography seminar imaginable. And, traveling to and from these events is often the time we get to make images.
Additionally, much of my personal work includes photographing “social events”. In my case, it involves appearances with athletes at social and promotional events. These often include group functions like awards dinners, public appearances, fitness clinics, etc.. Typically, these happen in restaurants, social halls, gymnasiums or the like. Often, they include meetings and dinners and are technically very much like photographing wedding receptions or business functions.
Because of the wide variety of situations, most involving small groups of people, in low light, many requiring specifically using flash or ambient light only; I find my Tamron SP 17-50/2.8 VC on my camera almost all the time.
1) Coverage. The 17-50mm range on an APS-C body is perfect for social functions. From portraits to table shots to “grip and grins” to couples in conversation, to dance floor situations, I seem to never have to change lenses. (For full-frame bodies, I would choose the Tamron SP 24-70/2.8 or SP 28-75/2.8 models.)
And when documenting seminar attendees, booth set up at conventions and even for fine art landscapes, the 17-50 fits virtually every situation except the most extreme wide or telephoto situations.
2) Hand held low light capabilities. The fast 2.8 constant aperture means I can work with ambient light in the situations requiring it. The additional capabilities of the VC technology enable me to work in light that we would never even consider a couple of years ago. I have never seen any stabilization feature that is as effective. Everybody’s ability to shoot hand held varies, of course. But, I find I can hand hold 1/8th to 1/4th of a second, depending on my caffeine intake.
3) Improved flash functionality. Having the constant f/2.8 is crucial for social events. I dislike the flat and high contrast usually associated with most on-camera flash photography. Therefore, in the field, to soften the light and create more wrap, I always use a fan type flash modifier, when flash is required. The drawback to this is that the effective flash distance is reduced about in half. The fast and constant f/2.8 aperture offsets this loss of light, allowing me both a higher quality of light and the greater distance required for many group shots.
4) Close focusing capabilities. In addition to citations and plaques, athletes are often awarded rings in recognition of certain events or championships. Just like the ring shots at weddings, these ‘ring shots’ come up often. With the ability to focus down to about 12 inches and a reproduction ratio of 1:4.8, I can fill the image with anything slightly larger than a business card.
5) Video clips. Today, photographers are often required to produce video in addition to still images. Again the constant f/2.8 aperture plays an invaluable roll. It prevents exposure shift associated with zooming when using a variable aperture lens. And, it allows for effective depth of field control to de-emphasize objectionable backgrounds.
6) Optical quality. The fast f/2.8 means that at f/4-f/5.6 my images will be sharper than any variable maximum aperture lens I have encountered (because they are not yet into their “sweet spot” of maximum sharpness). This means that from the eyelashes on portraits to the faces of everyone in large groups, I can be certain of great enlargement capabilities and satisfied clients.
Also, as with all SP models from Tamron, it is possible to get a bigger maximum enlargement size than with non-SP models. This becomes very significant when high quality display prints are the goal.
So, for all of these reasons, the 17-50 range is virtually my normal lens and is always on my main body unless I am traveling, then it goes to my 18-270 VC..