Lens release RNF: Delayed thoughts on the Tamron announcements w/ suggestions.

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Update: Things change. Since this post Tamron won me over with their zoom lenses and I have picked up the 17-28mm and the 70-180mm to replace the Sony 70-200mm mentioned below. My prime opinons remain, but who knows. With enough time perhaps that will change as well.

It took me a while to fully process the Tamron lens map. So here we go.

Bought and reviewed the excellent Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 Di III RXD for Sony a year ago and even wrote an updated post for it. I like it.


As much as I like the Tamron 28-75mm the 17-28mm f/2.8 should have been a no brainer. But it was not.

As mentioned in my review of the Rokinon/Samyang 18mm f/2.8 a wide prime makes more sense for me than a wide zoom since I almost always shoot wide zooms at their widest focal length. A smaller and less expensive prime just makes more sense.

So that was one new Tamron Sony FE AF lens that did not make it into my camera bag.

What I was really looking for from Tamron was a 70-200mm f/2.8, not a wide zoom. I have a bit of history with Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 DSLR lenses on Nikon and Pentax. They have served me well.

Pentax K-3ii and Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 Di

For this reason, I was waiting for a Tamron f/2.8 tele zoom, but lost patience and purchased the native Sony variant aka the precious.

But I was still very much looking forward to more Tamron mirrorless releases. As much as I love the precious I wondered if Tamron could woo me away. If they did release a competitive option I could literally trade the Sony for two Tamron’s since the Sony holds its value so well.

Then the Tamron press release came out.

It looks like I will not be adding any more Tamron lenses to my bag in the near future. Why? In isolation, I might have been impressed with the lenses being released. But I have issues with each lens announced.

Tamron 20mm f/2.8 Di III OSD M 1:2

Simple. The Rokinon/Samyang 18mm AF FE exists. A little wider and smaller for a little more money. Also not thrilled with the external front element focusing.

Rokinon/Samyang 18mm f/2.8 FE

Tamron 24mm f/2.8 Di III OSD M 1:2

Near covered by the 28-75mm at the wide end. And the same as above. The smaller Rokinon/Samyang 24mm AF FE exists. Not thrilled with the external front element focusing. Also not sure I understand releasing two lenses so close in focal length. Had me half-jokingly wondering to myself if Tamron was dicing up the innards of the 17-28mm and 28-75mm lenses to create these lenses, but I am sure this all must be way more complicated than that.

Tamron 35mm f/2.8 Di III OSD M 1:2

Primes are nice, but this lens offers no aperture advantage over the Tamron I already have. In addition, the Rokinon/Samyang 35mm f/2.8 is considerably smaller for a little less money and has internal focusing.


Tamron 70-180mm f2.8 Di III VXD

I cannot imagine better image quality from a lens than the precious. With that, I expected a near performer with a smaller size, similar specs, at a much lower cost without VR from Tamron as a compromise. It looks like they will deliver on the non-VR and pricing side. But they leaned too much into size reduction for me by sacrificing 20mm of focal length on the long end. While I know logically that 20mm is not a lot and can be compensated for by a crop to a degree I already crop at 200 on one of the sharpest lenses I have ever encountered.

Uncropped (at 200mm)

Kauffmann Wedding Shoot - The Wedding


Kauffmann Wedding Shoot - The Wedding

A further crop with a lens that will not likely be as sharp…

<record skip> Update. The Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8 is every bit as sharp as the Sony if not sharper. AF performance is equally impressive. Add the size, weight, and cost advantages and Tamron has a winner. As much as I liked the Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 I like the Tamron more. 

…is not an attractive scenario no matter the cost and size savings. Unlike other focal lengths and primes, I am fine with bulk for a tele-zoom. I expect it even. The Tamron zoom I have goes to 75mm as opposed to 70mm like most others. If you are going to sacrifice focal length why not lose it on the short end like a 75-200mm or an 80-200mm? Likely would not save as much space, but I would still rather that. And it would eliminate the 5mm overlap between the lenses.


Set this outside of the performance and spec section because… well this part makes no sense and should not matter for a lens… but it did at a recent wedding shoot. A lot of people own cameras now. And very nice cameras at that. And smartphones are becoming ever more capable with every model update. With no background, some guests or customers can be left to wonder if this person over here covered in cameras knows what she or he is doing. A group during pre-wedding photographs included a very nice man with a very nice camera and lens. A Sigma Art lens at that. Since he is likely the family photographer, as I am with my nuclear family, I could feel that I was being sized up. No drama. Human nature. Both my cameras were slung by each side with a Peak Design/Black Rapid hybrid setup. Tamron on one side and the precious on the other. I nodded to him… as dudes do, he nodded back. Soon our new photographer friend (We had that nod between us now. Some history there.) saw the precious in all of its “Hey look at me in my faux Canon L-esque eggshell-colored (ecru?) wonderfulness. Aren’t I something?” glory.

Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 G Master OSS

He then announced to the group, “Now I have lens envy.” I immediately returned the politeness acknowledging the great potential of his Art-ified gear set up. As you do. These are the rules. With this the group perked up, the small bit of the “can we trust this double-barrelled camera guy” tension dissipated, and we went on to have a great pre-wedding family shoot. The kicker? Used the Tamron for these family shots. Go figure. Again, should this matter? Absolutely not. Does it? A bit it seems. Add that to the stonking great images the Sony spits out with amazing ease almost as an afterthought…

Kauffmann Wedding Shoot - The Wedding

…it does make a difference.

So it is a no go for all announced so far. I really have been pleased with the 28-75mm. I hope Tamron releases more AF FE lenses.

Everyone and their mother seems to have a decent FE AF 85mm lens or two out there right now, even companies I have never heard of, so maybe not that focal length (my current choice) but there are other gaps that could use filling or more options. My Tamron wish list:

  • Perhaps a long tele zoom or prime? I do not have a huge use case for that focal length, but who knows if they offer something with a compelling price as Tamron usually does. Sony variants are way up there in price.

Sigma 400mm f/5.6

  • Maybe a macro lens? Maybe something like the compact, sharp as a tack, all-metal, WR, downright inexpensive Pentax 100mm f/2.8 I miss so much (samples below). The few AF FE macro lenses currently offered are either not long enough (really like the 100mm focal length for macros and portraits), too big, too expensive, too meh IQ wise, and/or too slow to focus. Address this, please. Thank you.

Duke Gardens - Pentax K-1


  • A slay all comers bang for buck slightly faster than normal 50mm prime perhaps? Something like the pre-Art discontinued DSLR Sigma DG EX 50mm f/1.4 I enjoyed so much (sample shot below). A simple wide, stubby chunk of glass with a gaping maw of a front element that regularly brought a smile to my face. The Rokinon/Samyang 50mm f/1.4 came close but not quite (Nice, but not nice enough to make up for the large size and not quite there AF. Hoping they come out with a vII using what they have learned on newer lenses.) which is why I replaced it with the 45mm f/1.8.

Veteran's Day Parade 2016

  • Maybe something like a reasonably priced longer portrait lens like the legacy Takumar 135mm f/2.5, but w/ AF? Like an less expensive Batis alternative perhaps?Have owned and still own legacy glass at this length, but there are no reasonably priced FE options out. Yeah, make that.

Pentax K-1

  • If you are going to go wide go really wide like the Sony G 12-24mm. A lower-cost variant of that is also something that would tempt me. Liked it a lot and 12mm is good fun, but I sold my G because I did not use it enough to justify the size and cost.

Sony G FE 12-24mm f/4

  • Maybe a crazy wide prime at 12mm besting the Rokinon/Samyang 14mm f/2.8?

Not just Tamron, I implore any lens manufacturer to step up. With so many full-frame mirrorless mount options on the market leverage risk by making variants for all mounts like companies did for DSLRs.

A lot of talk. In the end, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.


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