Can two Tamron lenses replace five lenses?

When I first moved to Sony mirrorless cameras, the appeal was a lighter camera and a lighter backpack of lenses. The reality ended up being  something rather different, and after a few years I accumulated several lenses, all Sony G series or G Master lenses, plus a single Tamron that I bought as a travel lens. Of course all those lenses require storage too, so a bigger backpack was required, particularly when I got the Sony 200-600mm lens. I ended up with an 11kg backpack!

After my recent outback trip, and ten days of carrying this heavy backpack, I decided something had to change. I was however at a loss as to what that change might be, and only having recently purchased the Sony 200-600mm and the Tamron 28-200mm travel lens, the thought of off loading them seemed crazy. The bigger question however was what exactly to replace, and with what?

At that moment, Tamron released their new 35-150mm F2.0-F2.8 lens, which sounded too good to be true, and several months prior to that they released the 150-500mm F5.0-F6.7 lens. The thought of these two lenses being able to replace several lenses was an itch I needed to look at scratching. I proceeded to watch every YouTube review on both lenses, particularly the 35-150mm as that would be my primary lens. I think to many peoples surprise, the 35-1500mm was proving to be an exceptional lens that performed far above any previous Tamron offering, and the Tamron 15-500mm it seemed was not too far behind. I am now very intrigued!

These two Tamron lenses did not come cheap, at around AUD$5,000 for the pair, but what they offer for that money simply can not be beat when compared to the five lenses they replaced; Sony/Zeiss 55mm F1.8, Sony 85mm F1.4, Sony 200-600M F5.6, Sony 70-200mm F4.0 and the Tamron 28-200mm F2.8. Needless to say, I took the plunge and put all my faith in these two new lenses from Tamron, which was a big risk as I offloaded all five lenses PRIOR to buying the two new Tamron lenses. The reality was, that I was prepared to lose a little performance for the benefits of less gear to carry around.

Tamron 35-150mm at 52mm, F5.6, ISO250, 1/1250s

After having used both lenses for a few weeks now, I am nothing short of blown away by their performance to be honest. The Tamron 35-150mm is every bit as sharp as any of my Sony lenses, distortion is minimal, and at no stage do I feel like I am using a third party lens with respect to focus speed or accuracy. Not only is focusing fast and accurate, Sony features such as face detect and eye detect work perfectly, as shown in the image below, where it was able to pick out my sons face among the trees and locked onto his face for focus.

Tamron 35-150mm at 150mm, F5.6, ISO125, 1/250s

Sharpness too is exceptional at both ends and everywhere in between. The lens can produce extremely sharp images, such as the rusty metal in the banner image above, and the writing on the concrete, both of which are exceptionally detailed. The lens does not have any stabilisation built in, instead one must rely on the IBIS of the Sony camera, which proves more than capable of reducing any motion when shooting with this lens. This is a good thing as the Tamron 35-150mm is a bit of a heavy lens, weighing in at 1165 grams, but it does handle surprisingly well given it’s heft.

Tamron 150-500mm at 150mm, F5.0, ISO 1000, 1/640s

Having had all my expectations exceeded with the Tamron 35-150mm, it was time to put the Tamron 150-500mm through it’s paces, and answer that question; can it truly replace the Sony 200-600mm lens in terms of performance? While it does not offer as much reach as the Sony it replaced, it does offer more at the other end, 150mm instead of 200mm, but the greatest gain for me is in physical size. The Tamron 150-500mm lens is significantly shorter than the Sony 200-600mm, and is therefore easier to carry around. I no longer need the huge backpack I had to buy to fit the Sony in.

Tamron 150-500mm at 459mm, F6.3, ISO2000, 1/640s

The Tamron 150-500mm is about 110mm shorter in length than the Sony 200-600mm, and weighs in at 1880 grams with the tripod mount on, which is a less than the Sony’s 2115 grams. The Tamron 150-500mm does extend it’s length when zooming out to 500mm, but does not feel unbalanced when doing so, and does feel a little easier to handle than the cumbersome Sony.

The Tamron 150-500mm produces smooth background blur, as seen above, and can produce nice bokeh too so no complaints at all in that regard. Like the Tamron 35-150mm lens, the Tamron 150-500mm feels like a Sony lens with respect to auto focus speed and accuracy. The Tamron 150-500mm does have built in stabilisation and seems to work flawlessly with the Sony A7R IV’s IBIS. The hit rate I get from this Tamron pair is very high indeed, certainly as good as my Sony lenses.

Tamron 150-500mm at 500mm, F6.7, ISO2500, 1/500s

The only thing I really miss with the Tamron 150-500mm is a focus hold button, which all Sony lenses I had feature, even the Tamron 35-150mm has three of them which can be programmed to be anything I desire, so the omission here is a little odd, and a tad frustrating to be honest. When photographing birds for example, I always focus on the eye, press the focus hold, then frame my shot and take the image. With the Tamron I have to switch to auto focus single, focus on the eye, and then frame and shoot. I will get used to this method in time but for now it is a little frustrating.

Tamron 150-500mm at 500mm, F7.1, ISO1250, 1/500s

After shooting with both lenses for a few weeks, I am now very comfortable with the decision I made to go with the Tamron lenses. Both Tamron lenses have exceeded my expectations for image quality, sharpness, focus accuracy and speed. I do not feel I have made any compromises over the Sony lenses they replaced, and my back feels much better carrying less weight. While neither lens fulfills that early mirrorless promise of small and light, they do in combination replace many lenses without compromising performance, and that is a big win for me.

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