For most photographers, the idea of a (relatively) fast lens covering everything from 35mm to 150mm is a dream come true. Does the Tamron lens live up to the dream?
In all honesty, the second I saw the Tamron 35-150mm f/2-2.8 Di III VXD on B&H available for preorder, I knew I wanted one. In fact, for years, if I was to outline my dream lens, I honestly think I would detail a variable focal length lens that ranged from 35mm to 150mm. Even then, I think I would have written down a constant maximum aperture of f/2.8, so the fact that this Tamron lens has a maximum aperture of f/2 at the widest focal length made it even better. So long as it was decently sharp and didn’t have a crazy amount of distortion, I was ready to go all in and buy the lens straight away. Admittedly, the one thing that I did not consider might be a problem was the size and the weight. I mean, it’s a Tamron lens, right? Their 70-180mm f/2.8 Di III was shockingly light, pleasantly fast-focusing, and quite sharp. Long story short, the Tamron 35-150mm f/2-2.8 is heavy and big. So, with all of this said, is it worth it? For me, that comes down to two options: is it going to replace my lenses already covering these focal lengths, or is it small enough and light enough for my partner to carry around with her when we are traveling?
Before getting into the nitty-gritty detail of the lens, let us first talk about the strengths of this lens. Its biggest strength can be wrapped up quickly, with just a three-word, hyphenated phrase: “all-in-one.” Covering nearly the entire focal length range of the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 Di III VXD G2 lens combined with the Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8 Di III VXD lens, while also having a faster maximum aperture for part of its focal length range makes it a very capable lens. Once you consider the better build quality, better functionality, the weight saved (it is 185 g lighter than the two older siblings put together), and the money saved ($100 cheaper than the two older siblings put together), it is not even up for debate, right?
Build Quality and Handling
The build quality of the Tamron 35-150mm f/2-2.8 is astounding. Not to knock the build quality of Tamron’s other lens (I think they’re pretty nice – I liked the 70-180mm f/2.8 when I test drove it and I loved their 45mm f/1.8 on my F100), but I kept forgetting it was a Tamron lens because the build quality was so much better than every other one I’ve ever held in my hands, much less ever used. As for the handling, it had its pros and cons. The functionality is amazing; it may even be better than any other lens I own, including the Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS II (a review of which can be found here).
For as heavy as it is, it feels quite balanced while mounted to the Sony a7 IV; however, it is a lot of weight to feel balanced. Clocking in at 1,165 g, it is heavier than the Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS II (1,045 g), so while it will save you some weight compared to its two older siblings combined, it is still quite a lot to lug around. Given its long length, heavy weight, and absence of a tripod collar, it made me a bit uncomfortable to mount it to the tripod for assessing sharpness. In addition, like every lens I test for Fstoppers, I took it on the same hike in Hocking Hills to see how I enjoyed it. I honestly think that more than any other lens I’ve tested, I found this one to be a bit of a pain to carry around. The size (89 mm in diameter and 158 mm in length) isn’t the problem, and the weight, while noticeable, wasn’t a deal-breaker. I just found it pretty obnoxious to carry after passing mile two or three.
Sharpness and Vignetting
The sharpness of this lens was good as we've come to expect from Tamron lenses lately. As you'll see in the below sample images, there is not much to distinguish photographs shot wide open to those shots stopped down two stops. One thing that will be easily noticed is the vignetting, which was pretty pronounced. That said, while all these samples are shot without lens corrections turned on, after engaging lens corrections in Lightroom, the vignetting was minimized, as was the similarly strong distortion.
In all examples below, the example shot wide open is on the left and the example stopped down two stops is on the right.
What I Like
- The all-in-one nature of a 35-150mm lens with a fast maximum aperture
- The focusing speed was on point for nearly every situation. It nailed every shot with the exception of testing it on my dog when he was running full speed across the yard, where it only found focus around 30-40% of the time.
- The build quality is second to none when it comes to third party lenses
- Customization of the functions/buttons
What I Don’t Like
- Price. It is a hefty price tag for a third-party lens.
- Size and weight. It feels like this should have been expected with the dream lens-like characteristics, but my experience with Tamron lenses told me to be ready for surprisingly lightweight and compact lens.
Sony FE 24-105mm f/4 G OSS (cost: $1,398): I know very little about this lens and have not ever used it, nor do I know anyone who owns it. That said, from what I have read about it, it is nice and sharp but seems quite expensive for what it is.
Tamron 28-200mm f/2.8-5.6 Di III RXD (cost: $729): I got my hands on this lens last year (the write-up can be found here), and I liked it. Compared with the 35-150mm f/2-2.8 that I’m reviewing here, it is over 40 mm shorter (117 mm in length), comes in at 576 g, which is half the weight, and nearly one third the cost. While it has a dimmer maximum aperture, isn’t built on the same level, and doesn’t have the same level of sharpness, I would personally go with this lens over the 35-150mm.
For me, it all comes down to whether I would be willing to drop the money to buy the gear. In other words, is the value of the gear worth the cost of the gear? It’s not the sharpness, autofocus speed, the maximum aperture, or whatever else. In this particular instance, I do not ever see myself buying this lens, and as such, I don’t know that I would recommend it to anyone else. Did I take some photographs that I liked and that I would put in my 2022 photo book? Yes. Was it convenient to have the 35mm focal range up to the 150mm focal range in one lens with a reasonable maximum aperture? Yes, absolutely. If someone just outright gave me this lens for free, would it take the place of my Sony 35mm f/1.4 GM and Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 GM II in my bag when I go on my next trip? No, it would not. In all honesty, if someone gave me this lens, I would likely just give it to someone else. Of all the images I took with this lens, 95% of them were taken at 35mm or around the 150mm maximum and for that, I can just use the lenses I have now.