Review: Tamron 35-150mm f/2-2.8 Di III VXD lens (Z-Mount)
One afternoon back in 1994 a sales rep dropped by the newspaper, told me to sell all my other lenses, and promptly handed me a new Tamron Adaptable-II 28-200mm f3.8-5.6 lens.
It was a compact lens, weighing just 508 grams, and it did cover most of my working range, but it was two stops slower than my usual lenses and its minimum focus distance was only 2.1 metres!
To amateur photographers, the new Tamron 28-200mm was a superzoom but for professional photographers the lens had too many design compromises, from distortion and chromatic aberration through to a lack of overall sharpness.
I didn’t swap my lens kit, however, superzooms have improved a lot in recent years and Tamron’s latest offering could actually deliver what most serious photographers want from one of these lenses - performance and speed!
The Tamron 35-150mm f/2-2.8 Di III VXD (RRP $3,499) was originally released for the Sony E-mount in late 2021, but more recently this same lens has been released for the Nikon Z-mount.
Although it doesn’t have the 10x zoom range that some superzooms have, the Tamron 35-150mm f/2-2.8 does qualify because its 4.3x zoom covers the wide-angle, normal and medium telephoto range.
What is remarkable about the lens though, is that it’s maximum aperture is f2 at the 35mm setting; this creeps to f2.2 at 50mm, f2.5 at 70mm, f2.7 at 85mm and f2.8 at the 135 and 150mm settings.
While all of us want an amazingly compact, ultra-fast superzoom lens, its the laws of physics that govern lens design, and so a 35-150mm f/2-2.8 lens was always going to be rather large. The lens is 158mm in length (200mm when zoomed out) and the filter size is 82mm.
Weighing 1165 grams, the Tamron 35-150 is 360-grams heavier than the Nikon Z 24-70mm f2.8 and just 200-grams lighter than the Nikon Z 70-200mm f2.8.
This lens is also twice as heavy (and twice the price) of most other superzoom lenses on the market, including the Nikon Z 24-200 lens. Ignoring its size though, the Tamron 35-150 does feel good in your hands once you start working with it.
The lens is both solid and well built, with weatherproofing ensuring you can feel confident using the lens in most conditions. The zoom control fits easily in your hands and rotates firmly with just under a quarter of a turn between the 35mm and 150mm positions.
A lens lock on right of the lens prevents the lens from zooming out if it is in the down position but I didn’t need to use it.
Just in front of the zoom ring are three buttons (positioned at the top, bottom and side) that can be assigned a variety of tasks (including AF-ON or AE-AF Lock) using the camera’s control menu.
Also on the lens barrel are the AF/MF switch and a Custom Switch with three settings.
By downloading the Tamron Utility software to your computer and connecting a USB-C cable to the small USB port beneath the lens you can use Custom Switch to define and switch between some of the more advanced functionality of the lens, including preprogramming focus distances (useful when shooting video) and adjusting the feel and functionality of the focus ring.
The lens uses Tamron’s VXD (Voice-coil eXtreme-torque Drive) AF motor to drive focus and it is reasonably fast.
When working at the 35mm setting the lens takes less than half a second to get from its closest focusing distance of just 15cm to infinity, while at the 150mm setting the lens takes just over one second to get from its minimum focus distance of 60cm to infinity.
This lens doesn’t have built-in images stabilisation but the Nikon Z camera’s in-built stabilisation does a good job of compensating for any lens movement.
Overall the results from the Tamron 35-150mm f/2-2.8 Di III VXD are very impressive, and compared to superzooms of old, the sharpness was excellent and there was no obvious signs of distortion or chromatic aberration.
I was even impressed working around bright lights with the fact there was almost no lens flare except in the most extreme conditions.
The Tamron 35-150mm f/2-2.8 is not a lens I would take on holiday with me; it’s just too bulky. What appeals to me about this lens though, is that it is a “tweener” that straddles nicely between the two most popular professional lenses - the 24-70mm f2.8 and the 70-200mm f2.8.
Most pros spend their careers walking about with a camera on each shoulder, one with the 24-70 f2.8 attached and the other with the 70-200 f2.8. And why? It’s because the 24-70 has never been long enough for most situations, and the 70-200 has never been wide enough!
Hence the magic of the Tamron 35-150mm f/2-2.8 Di III VXD; like most superzooms it gives you a mix of wide-angle through to telephoto, but this lens also gives you the benefit of fast apertures that you need to shoot in low light, or drop a background out of focus with shallow depth-of-field.
This lens is never going to be wide enough for landscape and architectural photographers, and its never going to suit the majority of sports shooters, but it is perfect all-in-one lens for the photographers who regularly shoot portraits and weddings, or even commercial and event work.
Knowing you can spend an entire day just using the one lens makes life rather easy for you; it lets you concentrate on moments rather than fumbling around all day with different lenses.
Funnily enough, I still keep in touch with that sales rep who tried to sell me that superzoom back in 1994.
Nowadays Vince Benefield works for Photo and Video in New Zealand and while I’m sure he’d happily sell me a Tamron 35-150, I doubt he’d bother telling me this lens would replace all my other lenses again.
We both know that it is impossible to fit the scope of modern optics into one lens. That being said, the new Tamron 35-150mm f/2-2.8 Di III VXD could well be the only lens that many professional and keen amateur photographers need to keep happy.