Tamron 35mm f/2.8 review: A sharp workhorse prime that will get the job done
Let’s get one thing straight. Tamron’s line of f/2.8 primes for Sony E mount are what I consider to be “workhorse lenses.” Meaning, they work great for virtually any use case. The 35mm f/2.8 is no exception. This tack sharp lens will perform for whatever you might throw at it.
While it might not have the artistic qualities of Sigma’s Art lineup, or even their 35mm f/2 Contemporary, it does what it needs to. And it does so incredibly well, with virtually no image quality flaws present, wonderful sharpness and macro capabilities.
- Compact and lightweight; perfect for a photowalk
- Fully weather sealed, surprising for a lens in this range
- 1:2 macro capabilities are great for nature photographers
- Sharpness is unmatched
- Incredibly affordable
- Bokeh is lacking, but it has a wonderful depth of field to help with subject separation
- Autofocus can be a bit slow and noisy
Tamron 35mm f/2.8 — Technical specifications
All technical specifications for the Tamron 35mm f/2.8 Di III OSD M 1:2 lens have been taken from the B&H website:
- Aperture range: f/2.8–f/22
- Angle of view: 63° 26′
- Minimum focus distance: 5.9″ / 14.99 cm
- Maximum magnification: 0.5x
- Macro reproduction ratio: 1:2
- Optical design: 9 Elements in 8 Groups
- Diaphragm blades: 7, Rounded
- Image stabilization: No
- Filter size: 67mm (front)
- Dimensions: 2.87 x 2.5″ / 73 x 63.5 mm
- Weight: 7.4 oz / 210 g
Tamron 35mm f/2.8 — Ergonomics and build quality
When you first pick up the Tamron 35mm f/2.8, it might look like a budget lens. And, in a sense, it certainly is, coming in at a price that’s lower than any of its competitors for an autofocus 35mm E mount lens. But if you’ve used Tamron lenses before, you know that the plastic exterior and lightweight design feels quite nice, and holds some wonderful optics inside.
The Tamron 35mm is dust and splash proof, setting it apart from some of its similarly-priced competitors like Rokinon and Sigma (which is only weather-sealed at the mount).
The exterior of the lens is simple, with just a small manual focusing ring. No dials, no buttons and no aperture ring. Tamron goes for a minimal look on the exterior of its lenses, and that’s a welcome sight given that other manufacturers seem to be taking a different approach. While this might mean changing more settings in the camera, modern Sony cameras certainly have virtually unlimited customization options.
The lens cap is Tamron’s standard cap for all of its mirrorless mount lenses. The hood suffers from sometimes being difficult to screw on, a common complaint I’ve had with some of Tamron’s other lenses. It’s not quite as forgiving as other hoods out there.
Finally, the compactness of this lens will please any street or travel photographer, in addition to videographers. Its size matches that of its 20mm and 24mm cousins, meaning it’s easy to swap out on a gimbal without having to rebalance.
Tamron 35mm f/2.8 — In the field
The Tamron 35mm f/2.8 is a joy to use, and is very approachable given its size, weight and lack of exterior controls. There might not be image stabilization present, but modern Sony bodies should have no problem with using this lens, even at slower shutter speeds.
Autofocus is accurate, but is a little noisy and has some slowness. Still, this isn’t meant to be a lens for sports. I used it on a few photowalks and it kept up beautifully, even for capturing moving street photography targets. The lens is very accurate with Sony’s Eye AF technology, too.
What really shines here is the fact that the Tamron 35mm has a minimum focus distance of 5.9 inches. That’s crazy close — making it a great macro option for those not wanting to spend money on a dedicated macro lens. It’s also significantly better than Tamron’s main competitor in this space — Sigma — which has a minimum focus distance of 10.6 inches on its 35mm f/2 Contemporary lens.
While not a true macro lens, the Tamron 35mm f/2.8 offers a super close focusing distance of 5.9 inches. This lets you create images with a 1:2 magnification ratio.
For an affordable prime, the detail you’ll get out of these close-up images is unmatched. Being able to focus close is nice, whether you’re shooting nature or still life objects. My guess is that because of these macro capabilities, this lens will raise a lot of eyebrows for those that want a small, lightweight lens they can take with them on a nature walk or while traveling.
Tamron 35mm f/2.8 — Image quality
As I mentioned earlier, the Tamron 35mm f/2.8 is what I’d call a workhorse lens. While image quality won’t blow your socks off like a Sony G Master or a Sigma Art lens, it’s also multiple fractions of those prices. It does what it does well, period.
Distortion control, vignetting and chromatic aberrations
Distortion is very well-controlled, with just a ever-so-slight pincushion distortion present. I also didn’t notice any chromatic aberration in my shots.
When it comes to vignetting, expect to see some (especially at f/2.8), but also know that this is a pretty soft vignette.
I was pleasantly surprised at the sharpness that the Tamron 35mm f/2.8 brought to the table. Shooting wide-open, you’ll get tack sharp images in the center of the frame. Corners can be a bit soft, which improve drastically once you reach f/8. Combined with its background separation, this makes for a really nice view, with the primary subject tack-sharp and some gorgeous falloff behind.
In terms of bokeh, I’d rate the Tamron 35mm to be average. But while it’s not a bokeh powerhouse, it does produce some beautiful background separation. And when bokeh is present, it’s very pleasing and brings a nice softness to the scene.
Colors with the Tamron 35mm f/2.8 lean slightly warm, but are pleasing and overall accurate. If you’ve used a Tamron lens on a Sony body in the past, you’ll immediately know what to expect here.