This is a review of the Tamron 35-150mm f/2-2.8 Di III VXD lens for full frame cameras. In this review, pro photographer Ian Plant offers his assessment of this remarkable lens, which is very useful for a wide range of photography applications.
Watch the video for a summary of my thoughts about the Tamron 35-150mm f/2-2.8 Di III VXD lens, and keep reading for a more detailed review.
When I first got my hands on Tamron's 35-150mm lens, I was a little confused, but then I quickly got excited. The lens covers what isn't a typical zoom range, and I wasn't quite sure how I would fit it into my landscape and wildlife photography. But as soon as I started using the lens, I realized it was something I was waiting for all along but just didn't realize it. I saw many uses for this lens for my landscape and wildlife photography, and how this lens could simplify my gear kit. More on that below! But first, a few disclaimers . . .
What this review covers and what it doesn't
I don't have the equipment to perform MTF tests or anything like that. What I will provide in this review is my professional opinion about how this lens performs compared to other lenses I have used. Also, I will discuss how this lens can be used to its fullest advantage. Finally, I will discuss what makes this lens different from other lenses, and how it can expand your artistic opportunities. I'm mostly focused on the creative aspects of using this lens, but I will offer my technical observations to give you a more complete picture.
I have long had a sponsorship relationship with Tamron. I've worked with Tamron as a brand partner for many years and they've paid me for various projects, articles, assignments, and other things during that time. That said, this is a completely independent review without direct compensation from the manufacturer. We are committed to 100% transparency regarding financial relationships with equipment providers and brand partners, and we strive at all times to ensure that reviews are independent, honest, and free of bias.
The Tamron 35-150mm lens is perfect for a variety of intimate landscape photos. For this image of baobab trees in Madagascar, I was able to zoom in tight on the trees, pinning them against a colorful twilight sky. Sony a7RIV, Tamron 35-150mm lens, ISO 100, f/8, 1.3 seconds.
Who is this lens for?
At first glance, the Tamron 35-150mm lens is clearly designed for portrait and event photography (weddings and such). I don't do these kinds of photography, so I might be getting this wrong, but it seems to me that a fast zoom covering this range would easily be an "all-in-one" lens for this sort of stuff. I also see this lens being very useful for street and travel photography. For these kinds of photography, the versatile Tamron 35-150mm might easily become your go-to lens, meeting most of your needs and minimizing time spent switching lenses.
But I'm a nature photographer, so my first thought was to wonder how well it would fit into my needs for wildlife and landscape photography. For wildlife, I immediately found it to be an extremely useful lens. During a trip to Madagascar, I frequently used the Tamron 35-150mm for instances when I was relatively close to my wildlife subjects. The lens performed exceptionally well in those circumstances, and it paired perfectly with my Tamron 150-500mm lens. I'd use the 150-500mm for more distant wildlife encounters, and switch to the 35-150mm when the wildlife got closer, or when photographing small critters such as chameleons.
For a photo shoot with a cooperative Parson's chameleon, the Tamron 35-150mm lens was perfect. Although it isn't a macro lens, the 35-150mm has decent close focusing capabilities, allowing you to get close to your subject to throw the background pleasingly out of focus. Sony a7IV, Tamron 35-150mm lens, ISO 4000, f/2.8, 1/800 second.
For landscape, everyone knows I am a wide-angle addict, and I typically don't have much use for lenses longer than 16mm (I jokingly refer to anything above 16mm as a telephoto lens). That said, there are times when the landscape calls for tighter framing, so I typically travel with a 28-75mm and a 70-200mm lens to cover me just in case the need arises. I was very excited by the prospect of leaving both lenses behind and instead just carrying the 35-150mm, reducing my camera bag from three lenses to two. I like to travel as light as possible when shooting landscapes, as I am often hiking long distances. The 35-150mm has proven to be an almost perfect companion to my Sony 12-24mm lens for landscape photography. I say "almost" perfect, because there is a gap between 24mm and 35mm, so the two lenses don't mate perfectly with each other, but they come close enough. These two lenses easily cover almost everything I would ever want to shoot when doing landscape photography, and in those rare cases where I will routinely need something longer, I can always toss my Tamron 150-500mm into my bag.
I made this intimate landscape photo while exploring the Upper Peninsula of Michigan early on a fall morning, zooming in all the way to 150mm to get a perfect framing of this distant scene. Sony a7RIV, Tamron 35-150mm lens, ISO 1600, f/11, 1/8 second.
Build quality and size
Weighing in at 41.1 oz (1165 g) and just over six inches long, the Tamron 35-150mm has got some heft to it, but it isn't a particularly big or heavy lens. It seems well built with good weather sealing. I used it in the rain forest of Madagascar and didn't have any issues with it. The lens has switches for autofocus and custom functions (which can be programmed using the TAMRON Lens Utility) as well as a zoom lock. The lens doesn't have image stabilization, instead Tamron opted to rely on Sony's in-camera Steady Shot stabilization.
There is also a focus ring (near the top of the lens in what I call the "outside" position) and a zoom ring (the "inside" position near the mount). Personally, I wish these two were reversed; most users will rarely need to manually focus the lens, so the zoom ring is the one that will get the most use. I'd rather have the zoom ring at the outside position on the lens, since that is where I'd most likely support the lens with my hand while handholding. Whenever I wanted to change my focal length, I found myself reaching for the focus ring, and it took me a little while to get used to the lens' configuration. I ended up supporting the lens at its base with my hand on the zoom ring, which isn't the most stable way to handhold the lens, but this lens isn't particularly long even when fully extended, so it wasn't really a problem. Still, the lens would be better if the zoom ring were on the outside position.
This is a very sharp lens, especially in the center of the image frame. When shooting wide open, there is some quality fall-off as you reach the edges and corners of the lens, which is not unusual for an f/2 or f/2.8 lens. Once you stop down a bit, sharpness is very high across the entire image frame. You typically won't be shooting wide open unless photographing wildlife or shooting portraits, when super sharp corners aren't necessary. If shooting landscapes where sharpness is required across the entire image frame, you'd typically be stopping down for extra depth of field anyways, so the relatively soft corners you get when shooting wide open isn't an issue. And, to be clear, the lens isn't really all that soft in the corners when shooting wide open, the optical quality is still pretty good. So, overall, I'd rate the optical performance of the Tamron 35-150mm as being very good to excellent. For shooting applications where a wide open aperture is preferred, you have great sharpness where you need it, and for applications where stopping down is preferred, sharpness excels across the entire image frame.
Sharpness is excellent across the entire image frame when stopped down, making this lens a solid performer for landscape photography, such as with this photo taken in Grand Teton National Park. Sony a7RIV, Tamron 35-150mm, ISO 50, f/11, 1/20 second.
Autofocus, of course, is controlled by the camera, but lens characteristics can impede the camera's autofocus efficiency. This isn't a problem with the Tamron 35-150mm, which has a quiet and fast autofocus motor. Having a bright maximum aperture (more on that below) which lets in a lot of light certainly helps maximize autofocus performance as well. Overall, this lens was a joy to use when photographing even fast-moving wildlife, and I didn't see any evidence that the lens was slowing down or otherwise impeding the performance of my Sony camera's autofocus.
My camera's autofocus had no problem keeping up with quick-moving lemurs while photographing in Madagascar using the Tamron 35-150mm. Sony a7IV, Tamron 35-150mm lens, ISO 100, f/3.5, 1/320 second.
Fast f/2-2.8 aperture
Arguably the best thing about this lens is the fast, bright f/2-2.8 aperture. This makes the Tamron 35-150mm perfect for handholding, even in low light. I used this lens a lot when photographing wildlife in Madagascar, and being able to shoot at f/2 or f/2.8 allowed me to handhold even in low light all while keeping my ISO low enough to ensure high quality results.
I made this photo of a pair of mouse lemurs in the fading twilight while my guide illuminated the lemurs with his flashlight. The wide f/2.8 aperture allowed me to handhold in the low light, and I was able to keep my ISO down enough to minimize digital noise (yes, with a lot of newer digital cameras, even ISO 2000 is surprisingly clean). Sony a7IV, Tamron 35-150mm lens, ISO 2000, f/2.8, 1/80 second.
I did a few night walks when in Madagascar, and the Tamron 35-150mm was my preferred lens for these. It was such a pleasure to use while photographing nocturnal species.
I made this photo of a chameleon at night while my guide illuminated it with a flashlight. Sony a7IV, Tamron 35-150mm lens, ISO 1000, f/5.6, 1/250 second.
The fast aperture is also great for separating your subject from a messy background. Shooting wide open creates pleasing background blur (known as "bokeh"). You can see from the photo below that when I was able to get close enough to my subject, and to st