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Is This Tamron 35-150mm the Best Walk-Around Lens on the Market?

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If you’re looking for a lens that’s super sharp, incredibly versatile, remarkably cheap, and able to cover almost every scenario you want from a walk-around lens, then this 35-150mm lens from Tamron is perfect. These images testify to that.

In a recent article here on Fstoppers, the writer asked if the Sigma 24-70mm Art lens was the best all-round lens. As an owner of the Sigma Art 50mm lens, I can certainly attest to the unbelievable image quality of the Art series lenses. That 50mm lens has easily been my favorite lens for a very long time and is very often the first lens I go to when I’m a little unsure of what to use. So I can definitely understand the appeal of the wider spectrum 24-70mm zoom lens in the same series. However, as a recent buyer of the Tamron 35-150mm, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that it must go close to outgunning the 24-70mm as an all around lens. And is certainly better as a walk-around lens. 

For clarification, I don’t personally consider anything under 35mm as a walk-around lens. I’m not saying that’s a rule that anyone has to agree with or accept, it’s just that for my own circumstances anything under 35mm is used for landscape photography. Typically, I use the Canon 16-35mm for my landscape photography, and when I make the premeditated decision to go outside and take dedicated shots of nature or seascapes, I always take an assortment of gear including tripods, filters, filter holders, and all manner of other paraphernalia, which always requires a bag and a certain level of preparation. My 16-35mm lens is never something I just pick up on a whim, sling over my shoulder, and skip out the door with when I have nothing pre-planned in mind.

I have always used the Canon 24-105mm lens for that. It has served me well, but as time’s gone by I’ve fallen out of love with it, for two main reasons. The first is that it only has a maximum aperture of f/4, which is not particularly wide in today’s lens climate. Secondly, the lens creep on that particular lens is simply out of hand. I can’t rest that lens on my camera body for more than two seconds without it fully extending to its maximum zoom length. And it’s a big, chunky lens so when that thing starts bouncing into you as you walk along, it isn’t a pretty, little tickle. It seems to be a particular problem with that lens, and I used it as a convenient part of my justification for going out and getting a replacement.

The magnificent Tamron 35-150mm

Which brings us to the Tamron 35-150mm. As an owner of two other Tamron lenses I am already fully aware of their quality. Indeed, almost two years ago here on Fstoppers I wrote about the Tamron 16-300mm lens and asked if it was the best walk-around lens for APS-C format cameras. I love the fact that they just work. There’s no bells and whistles about them but they do exactly what I want them to do. To wit, I’m not particularly fussy when it comes to lenses and I’m certainly no pixel-peeper, but I do have some requirements. I want the autofocus to work quickly, accurately, and relatively silently. I want as big a zoom range and maximum aperture range as possible. I don’t want horribly funky chromatic aberration. And I want it to be affordable, as I’m not lucky enough to have any deals or sponsorships going with any lens companies. So with those things in mind, the Tamron 35-150mm to me was absolutely perfect.

It has a zoom range of 35-150mm (which extends to roughly 50-225mm on APS-C format cameras), a maximum aperture range of f/2.8-4, which allows for some beautifully shallow depth of field, and it’s currently priced at $799. Yes, yes, and yes. What I also really love about the Tamrons in my experience is that they just work straight out of the box. I have three Tamrons and from box to camera to shutter button, bang, bang, bang, the autofocus is dead on every time. Compare that with my Sigma Art 50mm, which was horribly back-focused out of the box, and it’s pretty apparent why I gush more and more about Tamron. Indeed, I had to buy the Sigma dock and calibrate the 50mm Art lens as it was almost unusable, initially. Finally, I love the fact the Tamron zoom cameras have a locking mechanism (on the right side of the image above) so that when you’re not using it you can switch the lock on and there’s no lens creep like I have with my Canon 24-105mm.

But what about the image quality? Below I’ll post a bunch of images that are straight out of camera, without any editing save for whatever processing my camera did at the JPEG saving stage. I took them at different focal lengths so you can get a sense of the autofocus accuracy, the sharpness, the contrast, and the bokeh. The captions in each image will give you all the information you need. These first three images come from a sunny day at the park with my family last weekend. Almost 100% of my shots were stunningly crisp and those that weren’t were mainly due to fumbling and bumbling about on my part, rather than any deficiencies in the lens.

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1/1600th, f/5, ISO 500, 64mm

This was a high contrast scene but I couldn’t find any evidence in any shot of chromatic aberration, or weird colored fringing. I was mostly using single point focus (without any Eye AF or Face AF) and it was lightning quick and accurate every time.

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1/2500, f/4, ISO 500, 64mm

The lens didn’t get tricked by the bubbles, as long as I did my part. All three of these images were handheld.

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1/2000, f/5, ISO 500, 43mm

These next two photos are self-portraits using different focal lengths. I placed the camera on a tripod, set my focus point and quickly ran into position. The focus was bang on every time, with some nice shallow depth of field evident too.

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1/160, f/4, ISO 125, 135mm

Apparently, I left my smile in the camera bag.

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1/200, f/2.8, ISO 100, 35mm

I also took the lens to one of my favorite hiking places in the mountains and took different shots at a variety of focal lengths. I purposely tried to find some really high contrast scenes to test out the chromatic aberration, or fringing. I think the lens passed with flying colors.

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1/100, f/4.5, ISO 500, 35mm, handheld

The lens also has vibration control (called VC which you can switch on and off depending whether you’re using a tripod or not).

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1/320, f/10, ISO 100, 150mm. The local baseball stadium, a good few miles from this vantage point

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1/1250, f/8, ISO 100, 76mm. The seahawks that hover high are a majestic sight. Paired with an APS-C format camera, this lens would be awesome for some types of wildlife or bird photography

This last shot here was taken about an hour prior to writing this. I just wanted to show people that I do actually take pictures of things other than nature.

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1/400, f/3.2, ISO 100, 52mm. Autofocus is so fast and the images are so crisp

That funky green tinge in the bottom right corner of the image above is not the lens. It was just a bit of plastic on the railing that I was leaning over.

Summing Up

The Tamron 35-150mm is so versatile and sells for such an incredibly affordable price it almost beggars belief when you consider the image quality it produces across the zoom range. It covers almost every favorite portrait focal distance such as 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, and 105mm, and then keeps on going up to 150mm. The great thing is that it’s also compatible with Canon APS-C format cameras, which gives it an effective zoom range of about 50-225mm. If I’m perfectly honest, I have never been completely sold on the Canon 70-200mm f/4 lens that I currently own and I will happily replace it with this Tamron when the situation calls for it. In closing, here’s a summary of my feelings:

Pros:

  • Fast, accurate autofocus
  • Wonderful image quality across the zoom range
  • No obvious chromatic aberration
  • Affordable
  • Lock feature to prevent lens creep
  • Not overly bulky
  • APS-C compatible
  • Really versatile zoom range of 35-150mm

Cons:

  • Only available (now) for Canon and Nikon
  • Maximum aperture of f/2.8 is not across the entire zoom range
  • Lock feature only works at 35mm

All in all, I am ecstatic with my new Tamron 35-150mm lens. It will definitely replace my Canon 24-105mm, and in most imaginable circumstances I think it will supplant my need for the Canon 70-200mm lens. Tamron is really making waves these days and the fact that I’ll be ditching two Canon lenses because I think this 35-150mm far outperforms them both should tell its own story. The Sigma Art series of lenses are astoundingly good but they are not without their drawbacks, especially the autofocus issues straight out of the box.

If you’re thinking about a versatile walk-around lens and you don’t have thousands to spare, then I highly recommend this Tamron 35-150mm. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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