Why Tamron Is Currently My Favorite Photography Company

Why Tamron Is Currently My Favorite Photography Company

Tamron has become a brand new company in the last few years and has achieved both success and popularity with their newer lenses. They are using a philosophy different from many other companies, and it is why they are currently my favorite photography success. 

Tamron is a lot like Sigma. A decade ago, they were creating third-party lenses, though they generally were not taken seriously by most pros or serious amateurs. A few years ago, they reinvented themselves and seriously upped their optical quality while still keeping prices markedly below those of first party manufacturers. However, while Sigma and Tamron both followed this general path, they diverged in a key way.

The divergence came in their respective design philosophies. Sigma chose to create lenses without compromise. This meant lenses with extremely sharp performance and wide apertures, which has translated into very large and heavy lenses, though again, still at comparably affordable prices. And this has worked out quite well for the company; their beloved Art series has continued to find success as it has expanded into the mirrorless realm and offered more and more lenses. 

Taken with the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8

Tamron, on the other hand, went the other direction. They chose to create lenses with less extreme designs, favoring manageable footprints and practical focal lengths and maximum apertures combined with steady performance — the sort of lenses that pros who simply want reliable performance that will not break the bank or the back. 

Smart Compromises

Tamron's design philosophy is centered around smart compromises. It seems to have established core tenets of inviolable properties every lens must have: fast and reliable autofocus, a manageable weight and size, good weather-sealing, and good image quality. Once these are established, compromises are made in other areas. The first is in maximum aperture. The company only makes one f/1.4 primes lens; the rest are either f/1.8 or f/2.8 (all their higher-level mirrorless lenses are f/2.8). The vast majority of modern cameras, particularly the Sony cameras that a lot of Tamron's lenses are made for, exhibit fantastic high-ISO performance and do not need extreme apertures. Furthermore, f/1.8 and f/2.8 still provide plenty of subject-isolating ability. As long as the lens is still reasonably sharp at f/1.8 or f/2.8, a lot of pros and advanced amateurs will prefer the weight and cost savings over the more extreme f/1.4 or f/1.2 option. Futhermore, at wide focal lengths (currently, their mirrorless prime lenses are all wide angle optics), sharpness often takes precedence over the need for extreme apertures given their usage cases.

Taken with the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8

The second compromise has been in focal length. Standard zoom lens ranges have been long established: 16-35mm, 24-70mm, 70-200mm. Tamron tweaked the formula just a bit: 17-28mm, 28-75mm, and 70-180mm. The result has been three lenses that are light, nimble, affordable, and great performers, all while still offering the f/2.8 maximum aperture so sought after by pros in their zoom lenses. The 28-75mm f/2.8, in particular, has been a runaway hit and for good reason: it is a fantastic lens at a great price. Some photographers might find the ranges ever so slightly restrictive when compared to the standards. I do not think anyone is bothered that much by 180mm versus 200mm, but on the wide end, some are bothered by 28mm versus 24mm. In fairness, that is a noticeable difference: 24mm offers a nearly 74-degree horizontal angle of view, whereas 28mm is about 65.5 degrees. But when you look at the price of the Tamron lenses, you realize you can purchase the 17-28mm and 28-75mm together for less than the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8. In fact, consider this:

That's right: you can get the Tamron trio for $3,617 less than the Sony trio; that's over 50% less. 

Now, in fairness, the Sony lenses are generally sharper than their Tamron counterparts, but are they $3,617 sharper? I would say no, except in the most extreme circumstances. For the vast majority of us, they are plenty. And to be clear: I am in no way implying that Tamron's lenses are slouches by any stretch; I've used the 28-75mm f/2.8 for plenty of work from portraits to events coverage, and I have always been perfectly satisfied with the image quality, and I tend to be pretty picky. This is the third compromise: Tamron gave us 90% of the image quality for half the price and bulk. For the majority of us (even if we do not think so), that image quality is absolutely more than enough. I certainly have never had complaints. And given the wild success of their mirrorless zoom lenses and almost universal praise, it appears they have indeed struck a Goldilocks balance with many other photographers too. 

Moving Forward

Even better news is that the company said in an earlier interview that they are exploring the idea of developing lenses for both the Nikon Z and Canon RF mirrorless mounts. Though the company has not confirmed that they will be developing those mounts, if they do, I would be very surprised if they do not follow anything but a very similar strategy to what they are already doing with Sony, if not copying the lens lineups outright.

Taken with the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8

And that is fantastic news. Top of the line first-party lenses are never going anywhere for those who want them, and Sigma looks like it is here to stay with its winning formula of promoting image quality above portability in tandem with relatively affordable prices. But Tamron seems to have perfected a different formula that deviates from all the aforementioned companies: practicality above all else. That has translated to lenses with reasonable size and weight, very good if not world-beating image quality, reliable performance, and highly affordable prices, which is likely why they have seen such success in recent years. In a photo world increasingly dominated by extreme designs, it is a need I am very happy to see someone fill, and it is why they are currently my favorite photography company. 

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Robert K Baggs's picture

I bought the 28-75mm f/2.8 as a stopgap when I moved to Sony. It got promoted to permanent almost immediately and I've been using it on most shoots for several years now.

Nicholas Monteleone's picture

I love reading these comments as mine just came in the mail this weekend and they make me feel good about the decision.

Nicco Valenzuela's picture

I second this!

Bjarne Solvik's picture

I have both Tamrons 28-75 and Sony’s GM 24-70. I really like the Tamron and there philosophy, the weight an all. The Sony lens are to big and heavy. And expensive. But I se less failed focus with the GM lens. So I am struggling with switching back to Tamron. But the lighter less expensive and down to earth philosophy of Tamron is great!

Heiko Kanzler's picture

I am curious: why did you buy both lenses?

Bjarne Solvik's picture

I initially bought the Tamron but read autofocus was better on GM, I found a second hand GM lens and bought that. I shoot children in studio and use continuous af. I find with Tamron more images are out of focus. Actually used price for the GM lens are quite low, I got 40% of on a almost not used lens. Still I can not get myself to sell the Tamron lens. To that make more sense:)

Dale Karnegie's picture

Tamron's design philosophy is spot on; fast apertures, excellent AF motors, great optics, and light weight. I think consumers understand the focal length tradeoffs required for zoom lenses like this to work -- I hope more companies follow suit. I also hop tamron dips their toes into F1.8/F2 prime territory. bring back the pancake lens!

Spy Black's picture

Yeah Tamron is more the working man's lens maker. I love that Tamron and Sigma reinvented themselves into forces to reckon with in optics. The Chinese too, although their progress has mostly been optics, Sigma and Tamron have trudged through jumping the engineering hoops of the proprietary AF systems. Sadly, Tokina has lost it's engineering it appears. The last big home run they had that I remember was the 11-16 and 11-20 f/2.8 APS-C lenses.

Nitin Chandra's picture

Nothing is perfect. The major issue with Tamron is support. They refuse to ack and replace/fix new lenses that have defects. Personally, I never had an issue, but, quite a few people I know have. I have the 60mm f/2 (DX) and the 90mm f/2.8 (FX) macro lenses for Nikon and am reasonably happy with them so far...I guess I was lucky...

Steve Powell's picture

I had the old 150-600 that had to be recalibrated. I found their customer service to be very good.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

I didn't have issues with their support.

For the ones you know that had issues, is it possible the lenses were gray market?

Nitin Chandra's picture

Nope, there is no such availability here. All proper billed and registered and validated with the service centre.

John Xantoro's picture

The Tamron lenses are just such good arguments for Sony FE. I would absolutely prefer the Nikon Z5 but those Tamron lenses are just too strong of an argument. Not going to pay +$2000 for a 24-70 when I can get the Tamron for 700 or something.

Regarding Tamron lenses on Canon R and Nikon Z: I am not interested at all as long as there is no official blessing by Canikon. Reverse engineering is always messy and I don't trust Canikon not throw a wrench via firmware updates.

Nitin Chandra's picture

LoL..Nikon does that to its own lenses...AF-P is not supported even on mid-range older bodies...Ridiculous! :)

Yin Ze's picture

Tamron not only saves me money, it makes me money. Recently purchased the 70-180 and 17-28. On first day with 17-28 made shots and video that when licensed paid for the lens. The 70-180 is incredible and the lack of IS has not been an issue. I shoot a lot of stills and video and market both. Maybe Sony is 20% better but Tamron is good enough to make me money. Also, big factor with 70-180 is being able to handhold it. that it an unobtrusive black lens, and does not scream pro when I shoot with it. I have the Sony 24-70/2.8 and 100-400 and while those have their place I find myself really enjoying the weight saving of the Tamron.

Bryce Milton's picture

I prefer FujiPharm - The Fuji 2.8 trio might run closer to $3800, but they're the only imaging company that's curing Covid-19: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/07/27/president-trump-announces-265-million-aw...

Mark Smith's picture

I have had the 17-28 in and out of a shopping cart a few times but not made the purchase. Also the 24mm prime. Still wavering, but these lenses look great.

Mandy Coate's picture

I keep wanting the pull the trigger on that 17-28, I've done that same thing. I have the 28-75 and love it.

Steve Powell's picture

I really enjoy using my Tamron lenses. I have the 28-75, and the 70-200.

Jim Bolen's picture

I agree. When I was looking for an 85 portrait lens, I rented both the Nikon and the Tamron. The Tamron won hands down, plus it has vibration reduction. Great for doing handheld stuff. That lens is crazy sharp with beautiful contrast and silky bokeh.

Juno Morrow's picture

I'm very on board with this philosophy. I can't wait for the 70-180 to (hopefully) come out for Nikon Z. My old 70-200 always left my hand and fingers feeling broken.

Nox Vega's picture

I'm a prime shooter so Tamron is out of question for me.
Currently have Sigma 35mm f1.4 (looking to upgrade to f1.2), Sony 90mm Macro and Sony 135mm GM.
With A7R IV my 135mm GM turns into 200mm and still have the reach, resolution and quality of one of the best primes.

Jim Bolen's picture

They have quite a few primes, BTW.

Santiago Olay's picture

I have the 35 1.8 for Nikon and it is by far my favourite lens. Sharp, fast, steady and reasoanbly small and lightweight.

Tom Reichner's picture

Nox Vega,

Why do you say that Tamron is out of the question for you? What is wrong with their prime lenses?

Tom Reichner's picture

For my priorities and what I want to do with my images, Tamron's priorities don't really work well for me.

I put extreme focal length and image quality above just about everything else. When Canon releases a new 100-400mm f5.6 lens, I think, "It's okay, but it would be so much better if it was an 85-450mm f5.0".

I always want greater range and larger apertures, with no drop in image quality. I don't really care about how large or heavy a lens is. I carry around my Sigma 300-800mm lens all day, on many occasions, so obviously weight savings doesn't matter to me.

My everyday lens is the Sigma 300-800mm f5.6, but I really wish it was a 250-850mm f5.0 A bit more range on both ends and a little larger aperture for better background blur would be freaking awesome! And I don't care that it would cost a couple thousand dollars more or weigh a couple extra pounds.

250-850 f5.0 at 14 pounds and $11,000 would be a heck of a lot more useful than 300-800mm f5.6 at 12 pounds and $8,000.

Michael Steinbach's picture

The fact that Sony owns a hair over 12% of Tamron is the main reason they don’t have the exact same equivalencies in the lenses they produce that would play against Sony. They’re in fact the second largest owner of Tamron. That gives them a lot of pull to keep direct competition from occurring. I like Tamron a lot, but I’m not a fan of the odd focal lengths they’re producing.

Ted Mercede's picture

I must have gotton a "bad" Tamron 24-70 a few years back. Worst lens I had ever bought, so bad in fact that its the only lens I have purchased and returned. Tried it out on vacation with my 5DSR, horrible vignetting up into the 40mm range, barrel distortion, and the absolute worst CA from a lens that I ever shot with. The place I bought it from didn't really want to take it back until I showed them prints from how it shot.
From this experience, I am mostly all Canon lens, with the exception of the Sigma Art 50mm, which is amazing.

Spy Black's picture

Not everything Tamron has done is a home run of course. I returned my 24-70 years back when I bought one as well. The image smearing at the edges at 24mm, even stopped down, was just shit. Ironically an older Tamron 28-70 f/2.8 has wound up serving me much better, and is a much lighter and more practical lens.