The Tamron 35-150mm 𝑓/2 – 2.8 Di III VXD

Notes from a week at Disney World with this remarkable (mammoth!) lens.

Assumed Audience: People interested in cameras and photography.

My family and I recently went to Disney World as a huge celebration of paying off our house (!) this spring. For the trip I rented the Sony α7 IV and the Tamron 35 – 150mm 𝑓/2 – 2.8 Di III VXD, and I also took along my recently acquired Sony Sonnar T* FE 55mm 𝑓/1.8 ZA. Over the course of the week, I took a bunch of notes on using each. This post focuses on the Tamron lens; see the sibling posts for details on the camera and the Sony lens!

Posts in this little series:

First impressions

Written June 4.

The very first thing I noticed about this lens — the very first thing anyone would notice, I expect — is that it is heavy. At just over 41 ounces (over 2½ pounds), it’s more than 4× the weight of my most-commonly used lens, the Sony FE 35mm 𝑓/1.8. Considering it before the lens arrived, I wondered if hauling it around Disney World was going to be a good idea, and that concern only doubled when I pulled the lens out of the shipping kit.

Even visually, the thing is almost comically large.

Even mounted to the α7 IV, it dwarfs the not-small body:

Sony α7R IV, 35mm FE 𝑓/1.8, ISO 1000, 𝑓/4.5, 1/250s

It’s not as large as the 100 – 400mm lens I rented last year, of course… but it’s not that much smaller. For context: the 100 – 400mm weighs 8 ounces more and is about 2 inches longer — 20% bigger across the board. Mind, I’m not complaining: the 35 – 150mm has a way better minimum aperture, and at the size of a telephoto zoom it would be completely unworkable as a carry-around lens. Writing this paragraph now, before walking around at Disney World with it, though… I kind of doubt it’s all that workable as a carry-around lens.

Its versatility is undeniable, though. As every review I have seen comments, it just works well — incredibly well — at the entirety of its range. It’s a very solid portrait lens:

ISO 500, 150mm, 𝑓/2.8, 1/100s

But it is equally good for shooting a still life at ~55mm:

ISO 100, 56mm, 𝑓/2.2, 1/800s

Travel day

Written June 5.

I barely used this lens today. To be fair, I didn’t much use the camera or the other lens, either, but for this monster of a lens in particular, there was just no way I was going to have it out in the few moments I did have my camera out in the airport. I finally pulled it out to shoot a few things around our lodge at Disney World, after spending much of the day with the 55mm. The only shot I kept of those I took with it was this landscape:

ISO 125, 36mm, 𝑓/8.0, 1/40s

It is nothing remarkable here, though a pretty enough scene. To its credit, though, the lens pulls this off nearly as well as my go-to 35mm prime would have done under the same circumstances.

Reflections on some walkabout days

Written June 10: Monday through Wednesday of this week, I carried this lens with me more or less all day — the only exception being the time we spent at the pool on Wednesday. Yesterday, I switched over to the 55mm lens I brought along, because I wanted less weight, period. That gets at the fundamental tradeoff of the Tamron 35 – 150mm: its size. However, I come here not to bury the lens for its weight but in fact to praise it.

Written June 12: To praise it, I affirm these days later, because despite its size it is just — just! — light enough to carry around all day without a sore shoulder. Would I take it backpacking? Well, I don’t go backpacking, but even so: probably not. It’s a lot of weight. But for a day wandering around an amusement park, with it in and out of a decent shoulder bag? Totally doable. The fact that you can get this much versatility out of a lens this size persuaded me that I want to buy it… right after I sell my 24 – 70mm.

Parting thoughts

Written June 14. The lens went back to LensRentals today, and I have zero doubt I will indeed buy it at some point in the future. After I wrote that last note on the 12th, I spent one more day with it: our visit to Disney World’s Animal Kingdom park. And boy was I glad I did. One of the shows we attended was Feathered Friends,” which has a bunch of very neat tricks performed by birds and their human handlers. Courtesy of having the 35 – 150mm with me, I was able to take pictures like this:

ISO 10,000, 150mm, 𝑓/5.0, 1/800s

And this:

ISO 160, 150mm, 𝑓/2.8, 1/500s

And this:

ISO 200, 150mm, 𝑓/2.8, 1/500s

And, for that matter, these from other times in the week:

ISO 125, 150mm, 𝑓/2.8, 1/1,250s
ISO 2,000, 150mm, 𝑓/2.8, 1/160s

Had I had only my 55mm prime lens with me, I could have gotten maybe one shot comparable to any of those!1 I have a half dozen others from the rest of the day as well: the park is teeming with cool birds. The zoom came to my rescue again and again to get an up-close view I could not have gotten otherwise.

In sum, this lens does everything I want and more. I concluded in the companion post about the 55mm lens that it’s likely to become my go-to for events with family and friends… but in a case where I want the most flexibility, this lens might take that slot instead. Certainly for travel, I would be inclined to take this and only this lens — unless perhaps also the 20mm for landscape shots — because it covers the full range of the rest of my primes, and if it doesn’t quite match any of them for speed (they’re all 𝑓/1.8 lenses) its versatility makes up for it in circumstances like that. It may take me a while to get around to buying it, though: at ~$1,800 it’s anything but cheap!

  1. Had I had my own α7R IV camera body instead of the α7 IV, maybe I could have gotten more mileage out of crops, too, but… I didn’t! ↩︎