Photography is a very diverse artistic craft, and it gets even more diverse when you add video! Whether you are a portrait & wedding photographer, a landscape photographer, or an all-around content creator, the most important tool you can have is the right lens for the job.
In the past, if you wanted professional results, you had to pay a fortune for a professional, “flagship” lens, and it was usually extremely heavy, too! Today, however, that is simply not the case, especially with third-party lens manufacturers like Tamron that offer flagship quality lenses at an affordable price, and even in a very portable form, too!
Choosing the right lens for the type of work is not actually very complicated, however, because there are so many excellent options out there, it is still a very good idea to understand your own needs, priorities, and creative style. To answer these questions and find the best lens for you, read on!
Questions To Answer For Yourself When Choosing Your First (Or Next) Lens
Serious photographers and videographers both know the hallmark of what constitutes a “serious” camera: an interchangeable lens. This is the same reason why the best phones now have literally 3-4 separate fixed lenses! If you want the best image quality from ultra-wide angles to telephoto focal lengths, there is just no substitute for a dedicated optic.
With this in mind, today’s article will dive into the vast array or lenses, from ultra-wide to super-telephoto. We will discuss why you might consider any such lens, and which Tamron lens is likely an optimal choice for your type of photography.
What Is My Budget?
Of course, for most people, this is always going to be a topic of discussion. The good news is that, quite honestly, you don’t need to break the bank in order to get the results you want! The best thing you can do is start by asking yourself if you are interested in owning just one lens that can do everything you need, or if you’re likely going to have to budget for two different lenses, one of which will likely be a more specialized lens of course.
Either way, whether your budget is well under $1,000, or just around $1,000, there are quite a few excellent options. (Yes, even if you want an “exotic” super-telephoto lens or ultra-wide zoom!)
However, the first task is to determine if you even need to budget for more than one lens, and the next questions will help you find your answer…
What Sensor Size Is My Camera?
This is a practical question, but it’s very important to answer it because it’s possible for you to buy a partially incompatible lens, depending on your camera body.
Here’s all you need to know: Make sure the lens you are buying is a full-frame lens if you are using a full-frame camera! Oppositely, if you have an APSC camera, then APSC lenses are the best choice.
The caveat is this: If you have an APSC camera, then if you are using a telephoto lens, often times a full-frame lens can be even better, because the crop factor gives you more effective “reach”.
Oppositely, if you have a full-frame camera, and you mount an APSC lens, the camera usually crops the image for you, basically “wasting” the advantage of full-frame.
What Type of Conditions Will I Be Working In?
Here is some great news: almost all lenses these days have highly durable construction, and many have weather sealing too! Regardless of whether you are working in a studio, or in a harsh outdoor environment, almost any lens will be up to the task. With that being said, if you plan on doing a lot of traveling to extreme environments such as an arctic winter or a tropical summer, always double-check to make sure the gear you are buying has as much weather sealing as possible. (And still, take good care of it too!)
Type of Light Will You Be Making Photos & Videos In?
The type of light can also dictate which type of lens you need. If you are mostly working in daylight conditions, then you might not need a very fast aperture, and an f/4 or similar lens will allow you to save on both cost and weight. Oppositely, if you are often working indoors or at night in dim lighting, then you’ll likely want an f/2.8 zoom at a bare minimum!
Of course, there are a few exceptions to this guideline. If you are a portrait photographer, then even if you are working in good lighting, you may still want a shallow aperture for background blur. Oppositely, if you are a landscape photographer who always works at f/11, then the light levels won’t matter, either!
There is a lot more to discuss regarding which types of subjects you photograph, but we’ll save those things for when we get to each lens recommendation, below.
What Am I Willing to Carry?
Last but not least, even if you have an unlimited budget, this question is very important. Depending on the types of photos and videos you create, and depending on the general conditions for those photos, answering this question will likely help you narrow down your search, even if you are choosing between two “perfect” lenses.
This is because, if you’re doing a lot of content creation, whether it be vlogging, podcasting, or even travel, landscape, or nature videos with time-lapse, B-roll, etc, …then you will frequently find yourself needing two cameras (and lenses) or more!
Because many of us are content creators these days, it is often a good idea to consider lighter weight options so that you can “double down” with a 2nd or even 3rd kit when necessary.
Comprehensive Guide to Tamron Lenses
In this guide, we will cover which lens we think is optimal for various different kinds of photography. Whether you are an all-around photographer hobbyist who wants to take pictures of everything, or you are a specialty photographer or videographer (or both) who focuses on one type of subject, there is likely a best choice for you…
Tamron 17-70mm F/2.8 Di III-A VC RXD
No lens can do EVERYTHING, but a few lenses do come very close. For the photographer who is looking to do a little bit of everything, a mid-range zoom lens with a fast aperture is the best starting point.
In this article here, we talk about what makes the Tamron 17-70mm f/2.8 such a good everyday lens. Of course, as you can see, the focal range and fast aperture make it capable of a lot more than just casual photography!
When this lens was released, it earned the title of the most impressive zoom ratio of any f/2.8 lens, at 4.1X! It still holds this record among APSC lenses, and especially among portable, lightweight lenses that are perfect for all types of everyday photography, as well as professional work.
Tamron 150-500mm F/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD
Of course, one of the things that a mid-range zoom cannot do is provide the “reach” for getting up-close with very distant subjects. For this, a telephoto lens is required, and telephoto lenses are a bit of a commitment to purchase.
Thankfully, you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars and lug around a lens that weighs 10 lbs in order to get dramatic imagery of wildlife or action sports, not anymore! Although lenses with super-telephoto focal lengths are quite a bit bigger and heavier than the average small, compact lens, some can still fit in a relatively modest-sized camera bag, yet offer truly impressive capabilities.
This is why we really appreciate the zoom range, as well as the size and weight, of the Tamron 150-500mm F/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD. Most highly compact and/or affordable telephoto zoom lenses end at 200mm or 300mm; only a few extend to 400mm or beyond. If you’re looking for a balance of achieving that extended range, while staying within a budget of both price and weight, the Tamron 150-500mm is an excellent choice for Sony E, Nikon Z and Fujifilm X users.
Tamron 11-20mm F/2.8 Di III-A RXD
On the opposite side of a standard zoom range, of course, we find the ultra-wide focal lengths. Again, this focal range may not be for everybody, but it sure does create some amazing artistic opportunities!
Whether you are a landscape & travel photographer, or a nightscape & low-light photographer, having an ultra-wide zoom is essential. Especially if you are creating any type of video content, from cinematic films to daily vlogs or quick reels, having such a lens is also a key tool for setting the scene and documenting your environment.
Unfortunately, many ultra-wide zooms are very large, heavy, and expensive. Some ultra-wides have highly impractical, bulbous front elements that stick out and just love to somehow get a huge scratch on them. For these reasons, one of our favorite recommendations is the Tamron 11-20mm f/2.8 Di III-A RXD for APSC cameras, because it bucks all of those trends. It’s compact, lightweight, and shockingly affordable at $699! (For the Sony E-mount version, when “instant savings” is available.)
The Tamron 11-20mm f/2.8’s focal length equivalent is 16.5-30mm, which is very impressive considering either the size or the price. Adding to that attractive value is the f/2.8 aperture, of course, as well as the relatively decent close-up focusing capability that delivers a magnification of 0.25X. (It may not sound like much in terms of “true macro”, however, at such wide focal lengths, the perspective you get is truly unique!)
Tamron 17-50mm F/4 Di III VXD
For full-frame mirrorless cameras, it is indeed a little bit more difficult to find portable, affordable ultra-wide lenses. Furthermore, the ones that do achieve either of those features usually offer a restrictive focal range, and/or a very slow aperture.
For this reason, one of our favorite full-frame ultra-wide lenses is the new Tamron 17-50mm f/4 Di III VXD. With a nearly 3X zoom range, it makes for an incredibly versatile all-around travel lens! Whether you are doing landscapes, cityscapes, or any type of active adventure, having the ability to zoom in to a true “normal” focal length makes the 17-50mm one of the best lenses to carry around.
(Pairing the Tamron 17-50mm f/4 with the Tamron 50-400mm, for example, is quite possible the biggest total zoom range of any two-lens combination that we know of! If you are going to be doing landscape photography one minute and wildlife photography the next, these two lenses pair together beautifully)
Tamron 70-300mm F/4.5-6.3 Di III RXD
For those content creators who travel extremely light and want a telephoto lens that delivers professional results yet conforms to a highly portable, on-the-go lifestyle, we have been really enjoying the Tamron 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3 Di III RXD. It is lightweight and compact enough that it doesn’t require a tripod collar, and fits into relatively small camera bags. Still, the image quality is incredible, and the autofocus performance is up to the task of most types of action/wildlife subjects!
Historically, the exact zoom range of 70mm to 300mm used to have a reputation for being a low-quality “kit lens” type of zoom lens. If you wanted professional results, you would have to step up to a significantly larger, much more expensive 100-400mm, or bigger. With the Tamron 70-300mm, thanks to its made-for-mirrorless optical design, we finally have a 70-300mm lens that is worthy of professional work, if the slower aperture is acceptable.
For a more complete guide to telephoto lenses in particular, check out this article here!
Tamron 28-75mm F/2.8 Di III VXD G2
Full-frame users who are looking to find an all-around mid-range zoom lens, the market has always offered plenty of 24-70mm f/2.8 options, but most have been very large, heavy, and expensive. Professionals and hobbyists alike will appreciate a mid-range zoom that delivers gorgeous results, without those aforementioned drawbacks!
This is why we were very happy when Tamron created their first full-frame mirrorless f/2.8 zoom, a 28-75mm f/2.8, and we have been even more pleased with its G2 successor, the Tamron 28-75mm F/2.8 Di III VXD G2. Simply put, the images it produces are beautiful! Whether you are a wedding photographer, a portrait photographer, or just an all-around professional and/or hobbyist, it makes an excellent go-to lens for general event coverage, group portraits, and even close-up detail photos.
Tamron 35-150mm F/2-2.8 Di III VXD
We have covered almost all types of lenses, for virtually every kind of photography! However, there is of course one significant category for which none of these lenses is truly specialized. I’m talking, of course, about portrait photography.
While the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 G2 (which we just mentioned) is indeed an excellent portrait and wedding photography lens, it’s not exactly a dedicated portrait lens. This is where the Tamron 35-150mm f/2-2.8 enters the picture. It is essentially the ultimate portrait lens, for almost every type of portraiture.
The Tamron 35-150mm offers a fast f/2 aperture at its 35mm end, which gives the look of a medium-wide or normal portrait prime! Then, as it zooms to 150mm and the aperture gradually transitions to f/2.8, it becomes even more portrait lenses, …all in one!
This combination of zoom range and aperture makes it perfect for everything from large family group portraits and environmental portraits, to bridal portraits, maternity, newborn, and even headshots or editorial fashion. It really is not an exaggeration when we say, if you’re a serious portrait photographer using a Sony E or Nikon Z system, this lens is the one that can do it all.
What About Tamron DSLR Lenses?
All of these lenses are the best choices partly for one similar reason: they are all made specifically for mirrorless cameras. This allows them to have optical formulas which previously just weren’t feasible on a DSLR camera, and that creates a huge advantage for both image quality and portability.
However, almost all of the lenses on our list do have similar DSLR counterparts. If you already own any of these lenses, and/or you own both a mirrorless camera and a DSLR camera, then any of the following lenses are also excellent choices:
- Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2
Sacrificing portability compared to its mirrorless descendant, this standard zoom does not skimp on professional durability, features, or image quality!
- Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2
Although it is significantly larger than the mirrorless 15-500mm, it offers impressive image quality at 600mm!
- Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2
- Tamron SP 35mm f/1.4 Di USD
- Tamron 100-400mm f/4.5-6.3
An excellent telephoto zoom that balances portability, performance, and affordability very well.
We do think that when comparing mirrorless camera systems overall, Tamron is currently one of the biggest reasons to go with Sony’s E-mount, and the increasing number of lenses available for Nikon Z and Fuji’s X mount is exciting, too! Whether you are using a full-frame camera or an APSC camera, the diversity of options is impressive.
Conclusion | Lens Choices for All Types of Photography
Different types of photography and videography certainly require very different types of lenses, however, virtually all types of subjects and imagery can be captured with impressive, professional results yet not drain your bank account.
The balance of performance, value, portability, and unique, useful focal ranges are all excellent reasons to consider the above lenses for your various content creation needs!