Tamron 35-150mm f/2-2.8 Di III VXD Review | The Ultimate Portrait Lens
This lens was one of the most highly anticipated that we’ve ever had in our studio! I was excited to do this Tamron 35-150mm f/2-2.8 review ever since it was announced. It has been out of stock at major retailers off and on for over a year now! I’m not surprised, either. The zoom range, the aperture speed, …it all seemed too good to be true. Could this be the portrait lens to end all portrait lenses?
Tamron accomplished something special, indeed, with their 35-150mm f/2-2.8. I’ve lost count of how many times I wished my 70-200mm f/2.8 could zoom out to 50mm or 35mm, even at the expense of a little bit off the telephoto end. Today, here’s that exact lens I’ve dreamed of for literally over a decade!
So, is it too good to be true? Is the reason that such a lens has never been made before, because it’s just not a “good” optical formula? Actually, the Tamron 35-150mm f/2-2.8 offers incredible image quality, and a professional level of performance, function, and durability.
With that said, let’s dive into this review.
Tamron 35-150mm f/2-2.8 Di III VXD | Specifications
- FOCAL LENGHT & ANGLE OF VIEW: 35-150mm, 15° 26′ to 63°
- LENS MOUNT(S): Sony E (full-frame mirrorless)
- APERTURE & RANGE: F/2-2.8, f/16-22 9-blade rounded aperture
- STABILIZATION: No
- AUTOFOCUS: VXD quiet, linear focus
- MANUAL FOCUS: Fully electronic, linear response available
- OPTICAL CONSTRUCTION: 21 elements in 15 groups, 3 glass-molded aspherical, 4 low dispersion
- MECHANICAL CONSTRUCTION: Metal & Plastic, full weather-sealing
- MAGNIFICATION & FOCUS DISTANCE: 0.17x, 0.33 m (12.99 in. )
- FILTER THREADS & HOOD: 82mm, locking plastic hood
- SIZE: 89x158mm (3.5×6.22 in.)
- WEIGHT: 1165g (41.1 oz)
- PRICE: $1,899
(B&H | Adorama | Amazon)
Tamron 35-150mm f/2-2.8 Review | Who Should Buy It?
At first, you might see the “35-150mm” numbers and think that this lens would be a great all-around lens for all types of photography. You’d be right, however, there are two caveats to that! First and foremost, this lens costs about $1,900, which is almost on par with flagship pro lenses. Second, it weighs about as much as a pro 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, too!
So, “who should buy it” is going to depend on these things, and how they might affect you. In other words, this is a very versatile, useful lens, but also a highly specialized, professional one, too.
The Tamron 35-150mm f/2-2.8 has got to be one of the “ultimate” portrait lenses of all time. I don’t say that lightly; I’ve been a portrait (and wedding) photographer for nearly 20 years now, and have tried virtually every genre of the field. This is the zoom lens that I wish existed for virtually every job I’ve ever done.
Having said that, no, this lens will not replace the iconic look of a 50mm f/1.2 or an 85mm f/1.4, (let alone a 105mm f/1.4 or 135mm f/1.8!) …if you’re really trying to achieve maximum background blur and creamy bokeh.
Or, if you’re already fully accustomed to using primes, and you already own the best 35mm, 50mm, and/or 85mm that money can buy, I can understand why you might pass on this zoom. Personally, though, I can’t ignore how useful and practical the zoom range is, whether I’m doing corporate headshots or large family groups. It’s just the perfect range for portraits.
Wedding photographers should also give this lens a try, because the zoom range could potentially be perfect for them too. If you find yourself constantly switching between your 24-70mm f/2.8 and 70-200mm f/2.8, for example, and yet not really using those lenses at their 24mm and 200mm lens, then, obviously, check out the 35-150mm!
Unfortunately, though, wedding photographers also often find themselves in pitch-dark working conditions, sometimes even capturing fast action in near darkness. In this regard, the Tamron 35-150mm’s autofocus performance can leave a bit to be desired, because of how much glass it its AF motors are pushing back and forth.
As a wedding photographer, I would own this lens for portraits, though I may still reach for a 70-200mm (or the Tamron 70-180mm) for low-light action.
Fashion & Editorial Photography
One genre of portrait photography where everything is usually well-controlled and well-lit is fashion & editorial or commercial work. Such photographers will likely find that they love the zoom range of this lens.
Subjects like a fashion runway might really benefit from having the 35mm wide end, and I would dare use the phrase “the ultimate lens” once again, as long as the lighting is adequate and the pace of action is slow enough for the autofocus to nail almost every photo.
Candid, Everyday, Vacation, & Street Photography
What about as an all-around, everyday lens? The weight and size of the Tamron 35-150mm may make it feel like a bit “overkill” compared to, say, a typical compact/travel zoom, or a tiny little f/1.8 prime.
Having said that, the zoom range and fast aperture do make this an excellent lens for virtually all types of photography, even the most casual, everyday snapshots. It’s just super convenient to have that exact focal length combination all in one! I really cannot stress this enough.
Action Sports Photography
The same goes for action sports photography. Does your type of photography lend itself to having both a decent wide angle and a decent telephoto reach? This could be the lens you’ve been dreaming of.
Of course, it will simply depend on the exact working distance between you and your subjects, and the types of images you’re framing. There’s still a very good chance that a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens is better for you. Simply ask yourself how often you find yourself “bumping into” the 70mm end, or the 200mm end, of that focal range, and you’ll have your answer as to whether or not you should try the Tamron 35-150mm.
Theater & Concert Photography
One type of photography that deserves special mention here is theater and concert photography. Anything on a stage, really, could be a perfect genre for this lens to really shine. I photographed children’s theater for a decade, and I had the perfect luck of being able to photograph one theater performance during my review of this lens. I can honestly say, this is the exact lens I’ve been wishing existed since the mid-2000s.
As with portrait photography, it’s almost the only lens you need; you really could photograph an entire job with it if you had to. Or, as with wedding photography, pair it with the lightweight, compact Tamron 20-40mm f/2.8 for a truly complete array of focal lengths.
One realm where I think the Tamron 35-150mm might not give the same vibe of “best lens ever!” is definitely wildlife photography. Simply put, with almost all wildlife, “reach” (focal length + sensor size) is paramount. A 70-200mm f/2.8 is likely a better choice, and even 200mm is often not nearly close enough for wildlife. Instead, consider a super-telephoto zoom such as the Tamron 150-500mm. Or, if you’re intrigued by the wider end of this 35-150mm, I would instead recommend considering the Tamron 50-400mm. Our review of that lens will be coming out soon!
Having said that, I sure had fun photographing “local/domestic” wildlife with this Tamron, as long as I could safely get close enough!
This is one genre where it could be a toss-up. On the one hand, 35-150mm is a nice zoom range that many landscape photographers likely use a lot, especially when paired with the common 16-35mm ultra-wide focal range, or something highly portable like the Tamron 20-40mm f/2.8 or 17-28mm.
I would only recommend the Tamron 35-150mm for landscapes, though, if the genre was only one of the subjects you photograph, and you also did things like portraiture etc. that actually suited this lens. Otherwise, again, I’d rather have the awesome Tamron 50-400mm for medium-to-telephoto landscape photography.
Nightscape & Astrophotography
With such a fast aperture range, the Tamron 35-150mm f/2-2.8 could indeed make an interesting complement to other lenses for any photographer capturing the night skies. Maybe you do deep-sky astrophotography with a telescope or wide-angle astro-landscape photography with an ultra-wide lens. Either way, you’d likely use that lens most of the time, and only reach for this one for specialized situations.
Tamron 35-150mm f/2-2.8 Review | Pros & Cons
I’ll make this quick: there’s a lot to like about this lens, and not much to complain about. The image quality is excellent, the build quality is professional, and the value is, well, this lens could do the job of 3-4 lenses, so…
In terms of drawbacks, there’s really not much to complain about. Its size and weight are understandable, though your right wrist will not be happy if you try to hand-hold it without using your left hand to support the lens like you would a 70-200mm. Other than that, the autofocus is a tad bit less snappy and consistent compared to a 70-200mm f/2.8, but it’s not a deal-breaker.
With that said, let’s get more in-depth. Or just scroll through the pretty sample pictures!
Despite the truly unique zoom range and aperture speed, images are tack-sharp at every focal length, even at f/2-2.8. Sharpness isn’t flawless in the extreme corners with the aperture wide-open, but that shouldn’t be a concern for portrait & event photographers, of course.
One of the reasons why portrait photographers prefer primes that are faster than f/2.8 is, of course, the ability to “kill” a background with soft, buttery bokeh. Throughout its whole zoom range, the Tamron 35-150mm f/2-2.8 delivers gorgeously blurred backgrounds. Not only is the added shallow DOF of f/2 useful at the 35mm end, but the aesthetic of the blur is smooth in general.
I would strongly recommend that all portrait photographers check out this lens, even if they love primes! (And especially if they love zooms!)
Colors & Contrast
Clear, crisp, saturated images are delivered right out of the box, even with raw defaults applied. There is no color cast to speak of, with the exception of vignetting-related effects which we’ll get to next.
Vignetting & Distortion
Both of these aspects of image quality are now highly managed by software, so if you leave your Sony camera body’s default profile correction settings to “auto”, you won’t see much of either artifact.
Having said that, it’s definitely there, and if you work in extreme conditions, you may notice a touch of odd color vignetting. This will only be a problem if you’re heavily editing images with large portions of neutral, smooth tone. Basically, a snowstorm or a flat grey sky, and that’s it. This is a problem with virtually all modern mirrorless lenses, though.
Sunstars & Flare
Flare is beautiful when you want that warm wash of hazy light in a backlit portrait situation. Those annoying “flare dots” are, however, negligible. Because this lens is rather optimized for subjects like portraits, with fully rounded aperture blades at all apertures; sunstars are not very pin-point-y.
Color Fringing, Aberration, Coma & Astigmatism
This is the nitty-gritty side of image quality that not many photographers care about, and rightly so. Simply put, there is some chromatic aberration and other effects, especially around the edges and corners of this lens. However, they’re well-controlled when turning on the in-camera profile, and using the Adobe Lightroom removal tools.
If you look “under the hood” and turn off the automatic corrections, you see a different story. Maybe, for example, you’re interested in doing deep-sky astrophotography. In this case, as with many recent mirrorless lenses that rely heavily on lens correction profiles, …there is a substantial amount of various aberrations around the edges of images. Again, most photographers will never see this, though.
Macro & Close-Up Photography
While it is not a dedicated macro lens by any means, it can indeed focus quite closely. If you’re just looking to do a little bit of close-up photography here and there, you’ll at least find that images like the above are possible. When focusing at 150mm and the absolute minimum focus distance, there is some loss of sharpness at f/2.8 that cleans up by f/5.6.
Design & Durability
Okay, let’s move on from image quality and talk about the lens itself, physically! In terms of the mechanics and operation of the Tamron 35-150mm f/2-2.8, it’s decidedly a professional lens. I’m actually surprised Tamron omitted the “SP” nomenclature which they had been using for their flagship DSLR lenses.
I’ll get into the features & customizations later, but, suffice it to say that this is a rock-solid lens that is built to professional standards. It’s got some metal parts and some plastic parts, which is an overall combination that I actually prefer. These types of lenses seem to absorb and dissipate excessive abuse much better than some of the older “pro” lenses that were all-metal, and more susceptible to dents and dings that could cause a zoom ring or focus ring to literally grind to a halt.
This Tamron is fully weather-sealed, so I’d expect it to be ready for many years of professional duty.
Ergonomics & Portability
Make no mistake, I described this lens as “3-4 lenses in one” …and so that’s what you are getting! It’s a big, heavy lens! There is no free lunch; if you want a zoom that rivals multiple primes, you’re going to get a slightly oversized zoom.
With that in mind, The Tamron 35-150mm f/2-2.8 is only a little heavier than you’d expect. It’s heavier than the Sony and Canon mirrorless 70-200mm f/2.8’s, and almost as heavy as the relatively oversized Nikon Z 70-200mm f/2.8.
This is to be expected, so I shouldn’t complain. All I can say is, treat it like a 70-200mm f/2.8 and you’ll be fine. You may just want to keep your 35mm f/1.8 or 50mm f/1.8 prime around for those times when you want to give your hands/wrists a rest.
Autofocus is the one area where we can actually say that the Tamron 35-150 simply fell a little short. Autofocus is good, but there’s definitely a noticeable difference between this lens and a name-brand 70-200mm f/2.8 in terms of both speed and reliability.
In other words, in most photography conditions, you’ll get consistently accurate, sharp results. However, in low light, or with fast action, you’ll start to see a few missed-focus images here and there. It’s noticeable enough that I’d advise photographers check focus on their most important shots. Or, click at least a few photos in more active and/or low-light conditions.
Features & Customizations
The Tamron 35-150mm f/2-2.8 is packed with professional functionality. It has the AF/MF switch that we dearly miss on most other Tamron E-mount lenses. It also has a custom mode switch that controls what the two lens function buttons do. (Something that has usually been reserved for the most high-end flagship pro lenses!) There is also a zoom lock switch.
One of the more subtle things that I want to mention is this: Tamron put the zoom and focus rings in the “normal”, old-school arrangement, and I really appreciate that. I spent over a decade doing professional work with 70-200mm and 24-70mm lenses, and my hand just naturally prefers the zoom right being where it is on the Tamron 35-150mm.
I hope Tamron makes more of these flagship-class lenses with all the bells and whistles. (Don’t get me wrong; as I mentioned with regard to portability, I’ll still opt for the Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8 for a 14+ hour weddings.)
At $1,899, this Tamron zoom costs quite a bit more than all other fast-aperture Tamron lenses. The Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8, for example, is priced at $1,199, making it $700 cheaper. I think, however, that the 35-150mm is worth its price tag, and I bet you already know why: It’s 3-4 lenses in one.
A Tamron 28-75 2.8 G2 and the 70-180 2.8 would add up to $2100. You might prefer that route, of course, because the value is still present in the greater zoom range. A bag full of primes, however, might also cost about the same, and depending on which primes you get, there could still be significant gaps in the range.
In other words, this is the best value around. You’re not going to save money unless you compromise on focal range and/or aperture.
Tamron 35-150mm f/2-2.8 Review | Compared To The Competition
Well, this is going to be the shortest “versus the competition” part of an SLR Lounge lens review! There is no other lens like the Tamron 35-150mm f/2-2.8. It covers a truly unique focal range, making it perfect for quite a few different types of photography.
You could buy 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, and 135mm prime lenses, and still not cover the whole range of this lens. You would have to buy two f/2.8 zooms to beat its range, but of course, you’d lose the f/2 aperture at the wide end.
Either way, it isn’t hyperbole to say that the Tamron 35-150mm f/2.8 Di III VXD is peerless. To match or beat it you will have to juggle multiple lenses, period. Some portrait photographers might prefer (or “make do”) with just a couple of primes that weigh and cost less, but only if their style is very well-defined and simple. Most types of photographers would do well to consider the 35-150mm.
Tamron 35-150mm f/2-2.8 Review | Conclusion
One final note to wrap up this review: This was one of the hardest-to-get lenses that we have reviewed in many years! It has been a popular lens ever since it first became available for pre-order, and we aren’t surprised. It’s a real winner!
It’s almost perfect, but not quite, although we can’t really fault it for its excessive weight since it counts as 3-4 lenses in one. We do wish the autofocus was just a touch more snappy and consistent, but that’s only a problem in dim light or with faster action.
All in all, if you photograph literally any type of portrait, you should check out this lens. Seriously, do you photograph family groups? Maternity portraits? Newborn portraits? Boudoir? Engagements? High school graduations? Weddings? High-end fashion, editorial, or commercial portraiture? You should all rent this lens at least once to try it out.
Check Pricing & Availability
The Tamron 35-150mm f/2-2.8 Di III VXD is currently priced at $1,899, and can be found at the following links: