It wasn’t that long ago (a year, really) that I jumped with both feet straight into the photography world and photography gear. At that time, I was all about the all-in-one Tamron 28-200 (review here). And pretty quickly I started moving towards more purposeful focal ranges depending on what I was shooting. That said, despite me shifting some of my beliefs, there’s always a soft spot in my heart for a lens that makes lens switching a less common occurrence. And just when I thought I’d continue down that path of hardware towards a land in which my shelves were stocked full of lenses, Tamron comes along and drops quite the bombshell – their new 35-150 f/2-2.8 lens for Sony’s e-mount system.
Officially dubbed “Tamron 35-150mm f/2-2.8 Di III VXD”, we’ll simplify things a bit with “Tamron 35-150” for brevity’s sake. This was a text book definition of “insta-buy”. In the blink of an eye I went from never leaving the house without at least a few lenses to immediately craving this lens as it could be the only lens I put in my bag on a daily basis. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Step on through as we check out Tamron’s new all-in-one lens that may just be the all-day lens that wins you over.
- Focal length: 35-150mm
- Aperture Breakdown
- 35mm – f/2.0
- ~40mm – f/2.2
- ~60mm – f/2.5
- ~80mm – f/2.8
- Filter thread: 82mm
- Image Stabilization: No
- Minimum Focus Distance
- Wide (35mm): 13″
- Tele (150mm): 33.5″
- Magnification Ratio: 1:5.7 to 1:5.9
- Blades: 9
- Elements: 21 in 15 groups
- (L) 158mm (6.2″)
- (W) 89.2mm (3.5″)
- Weight: 1.17kg (41.1oz)
- Weather Sealing: Yes
- Price: $1899 USD
When you first take this lens out of the box, you’ll come to realize that unlike the other all-day lens and nice travel size you’d find in the company’s 28-200mm offering, the 35-150 is a higher end lens. And with that higher end status comes a number of features that simply lend to a bigger, weightier lens. That said, if you’ve used Tamron’s 70-180mm lens at any point in the past you’ll be mostly right at home with this 35-150mm offering. While this lens is a bit bigger in weight, length, and especially filter diameter/width, it’s not measurably so. That said, if you’re used to pancake lenses or smaller primes in your day-to-day shooting, this lens is definitely going to be a bit of an awakening of sorts.
Make no mistake, this is a solidly built lens that should take years of abuse.
Continuing Tamron’s move upscale, the 35-150 features a noticeably nicer build quality. While I wouldn’t say it matches Sony’s first party lenses, it’s definitely more solid feeling than some of Tamron’s lower priced lenses of years past. Additionally, besides build quality alone Tamron is continuing to add more features onto their premium lenses. In this case, those features materialize as more buttons/switches as well as the addition of custom, programmable buttons.
Looking down on the lens while it’s attached to your camera body (left to right) you’ll find the following
- Focus hold (1)
- Custom mode 1 / 2 / 3
- AF / MF
- Focus hold (2)
- Focus hold (3) – Rotate 180 degrees around the barrel.
As far as focus holding goes, Tamron has provided not one or two buttons but three focus hold buttons. No matter what position your hand or lens is in, you can take comfort in knowing that focus holding is probably within reach.
More exciting however are those custom modes via the mode switch. Near the very base of the lens is a weather sealed USB Type C port that you can utilize Tamron’s free utility software with. Features that become available with the Tamron Software include:
- Assign function from camera
- preset A-B focus pulls
- presetting a specific focus distance (like for an event)
- switching between focus and aperture for the focus ring (like Samyang offers with their lenses)
- changing the speed and/or tension of the manual focus ring
- AF/MF selections
- Direct firmware updates
For the full details on what all you can do with the Tamron utility software, head right over here.
Switches galore aside, there are a few other notable things on the hardware front to mention. At the front of the lens you’ll find the lens hood which, while a bit shallow, does feature a locking mechanism this time around. To be honest, I think how they’ve implemented it with the simple, flush switch is the way to go. I’ve been spending some time with the Sigma 150-600mm as well and really dislike the screw-on lock for that lenses giant lens hood. I wish they would have made it just twist on or done something like Tamron has done here with a quicker, simpler button lock.
As noted above, this lens is robustly sealed. Some of the early reviews of this lens noted how it made a weird suction noise when zooming in and out rather quickly. After some time with this lens I can confirm it is a thing. That said, it’s not a detrimental “thing”. You notice at first and then quickly begin to forget it’s any different than any other lens. On that subject of weather sealing though, Tamron really has improved things here with a gasket at the lens mount as well as a handful more internally as documented by their official spec material (image from their site). And as noted above, the usb port is also weather sealed. As for those concerned with claims of “weather sealing” on an open port, I’ve taken this lens out in the mist / rain / snow already a couple of times and it’s been totally fine.
In addition to all of the weather sealing, Tamron has also slathered a fluorine coating on the front element to help protect against scratches as well as make cleaning easier, and finger print resistance more…. resistant. As I’ve touched on a few times, Tamron is definitely trying harder to move up market. This lens is the latest example of that after a rather great super-tele offering with their 150-500 (review here).
If I had to have a gripe with this lens, and I’m really splitting hairs here potentially, it is the zoom and focus rings. The zoom ring is closest to the camera body with the manual focus ring located near the end of the barrel. Coming from some of Tamron’s other E-mount lenses, the focus and zoom rings here are not only reversed, their rotation is as well. Every time I swap between this lens and something else, there’s a few minutes where my hand just doesn’t know what to do and where to do it. Nothing that a few minutes doesn’t straighten out. Minor complaint aside, both rings are nice and firm without being overly so. That said, if you don’t like the focus ring action, you have the choice of modifying it via the Tamron Utility software and adjust a number of characteristics such as rotation direction and linear / non-linear action.
Optically speaking, this is a packed lens with 21 elements arranged in 15 groups.
All of the build quality and buttons/switches perks are great. But if the lens is sub-par optically, it would be a story of upmost disappointment. And I’m happy to say that is not the case here. All of that build quality and new-found feature additions (and the increasingly higher price) has resulted in a lens that is quite amazing optically speaking for the range it’s working with. Going off of the MTF charts you’ll come away with a lens that is incredibly sharp in the center throughout the zoom range. Corners on the other hand are the main weak point here. They’re not bad by any stretch for the majority of the zoom range with the exception of wide open at 35mm. It is here that the most softness and lack of acuity will occur. As always though, stopping down a bit will help. If you’re shooting portraits or center-focused things, the softness doesn’t matter all that much or at least isn’t all that noticeable. Just note that for landscapes, if you’re shooting wide open you will definitely want to stop down to at least ~f/5.6-f/7. Shooting on the other end ~100mm and above, the soft corners are significantly reduced and as such, the necessity for stopping down becomes less apparent. That said, it goes without saying that Tamron has made an exceptionally sharp lens here and one that is optically top of the game.
A secondary and more minor weakness of this lens revolves around lens flare. Specifically, it’s quite easy to get some pretty apparent flare, especially on longer focal length shots. That said, even with the flare being a bit higher than one might expect, the auto-focus abilities didn’t seem to be hampered too much if at all. And to be honest, the flare can be a nice (real world) effect at times.
Finally, since this is portrait super lens given the focal ranges covered, it wouldn’t be right to not talk about bokeh. Bokeh fiends will be pleased to know that this lens handles it quite nicely. I’d go as far as saying that the quality of the bokeh is starting to encroach upon some of Sony’s finest lenses’ offerings which is saying something. Whatever Sony does, they manage to generally keep the crown of bokeh king as 3rd party lenses just never quite get there, often coming out more pointed or cat eye like.
I started this review by both lamenting and praising how I’ve come full circle to my first foray into the photography world. While some will still scoff at a lens such as this being a “do anything” lens and/or not believing that it could ever compete with the better primes of the world, the reality is that it can, at least optically, on a number of fronts. Size and price ($1899 USD) are two factors that you will ultimately have to sacrifice if you truly want a class-leading, all-in-one such as what you get with the 35-150. It’s not small. It’s not light. It also isn’t exactly cheap. But it is a fantastic piece of gear that whether you shoot portraits in the safe confines of a studio or the dirtiest alleys for those street photography journeys, this lens will produce consistently great results. And the biggest bonus of all, you get all of this without having to play musical lenses. Even the hardest core prime enthusiast has to appreciate that.
By no means do you need to get this lens. But if you can swing it, you will be rewarded with a fantastic piece of glass that will produce amazing images, make your lens switching less, and ultimately make your life easier.