Tamron 35-150mm F/2-2.8 Di III VXD / A058
Tamron 35-150mm F/2-2.8 Di III VXD / A058
A modest telephoto lens is essential when attending a festival in Bhutan. Nothing too blingy though. You don’t need a 400mm the size of a corolla to get your shots. Just something with a little extra reach so you can pull in tight on some facial expressions of monks, or compress the view of distant flags and deities. When I first heard about the Tamron 35-150mm I knew exactly where it would prove handy for me. I carried this lens in my bag for two months, almost exclusively for the purpose of attending a traditional “Tsechu” festival in a remote village of Bhutan.
Lucky for me, it proved to be exactly the right lens.
Convenience is a word I dislike very much. Many lenses are convenient, but not great. Convenient lenses are the scourge of learning to be a better photographer, because they make you lazy. Every now and then I meet a zoom lens that goes beyond merely convenient, and delivers quality right through the range from tip to toe. I was excited by the 35mm F2 on this Tamron, because that perspective and aperture is pretty much my daily drive. Adding the 150mm range, without having to swap lenses, is a powerful feature when you’re devoting your day to shooting an event.
This isn’t a small lens. It probably looks right at home mounted onto a Nikon Z8 or Sony A9, but on my teeny little ZV-E1 the 35-150mm looks pretty chunky. That impression is amplified when compared to my usual habit of shooting everything with a prime 35mm F2 from Sigma that weights less than a can of coke.
It’s not that the Tamron is a big lens, it’s just not a small lens either. On my recent journey I often felt it would be more comfortable to carry if there was a tripod collar to grab onto. Indeed there are third-party options to add such a feature. Maybe when Tamron bring out a future version of this lens they might decide a collar is worth designing into the rig. It will be a hard lens to improve upon though, so don't hold your breath for any updates to this design.
Shooting with this lens as a 35mm is a little strange at first. Physically it’s not problem, just that mentally you feel like there’s a lot of glass for a 35mm shot. It’s actually quite similar in size and weight to the Sigma 35mm F1.2, but I typically use that on bigger camera bodies anyway. Once you get past the initial adjustment (and letting go of my much loved travel-friendly primes) the 35-150mm starts to shine.
The biggest thing about the lens is the range. Being able to leap from shooting crowd scenes at 35mm to suddenly zooming into 150mm for a shot of the valley was a luxury. I was thrilled with the shots it delivered, and the performance of the AF.
READY FOR ACTION
There are moments at these traditional festivals when everything starts happening very very quickly, and without warning. One minute we’re sipping rice wine with the locals, and the next a procession of monks is dancing past the temple. Monks are beating drums and spinning their swords, while horn players and beautifully dressed local ladies guide the path through the crowd. Moments like this are when the power of such a flexible lens come into it’s own. Being able to respond quickly to a wide range of potential shots, and still have a fast aperture, is a treat.
The reason I wanted this lens at the festival was to reach in for tight shots while the masked dances are taking place. I always need a little telephoto at these events. Wide lenses are my happy place but they can't do everything, and given the effort and dedication required to travel to such a remote location it's worth making a little effort to be well prepared. For a festival such as this I typically have one camera with a wide lens (24mm for example) and the second with a telephoto.
What was new for me on this occasion was also being to slip out to 35mm instantly with the very same lens I’m using to reach long into a tight scene. That proved useful many times during the day. Keep in mind that I’m shooting stills plus video, so that flexibility is even more critical when capturing motion footage.
I’m not going to list through all of the technical details on this lens, or even explain the buttons and custom controls – The internet has that covered already. What I’m aiming to share here is confirmation that this lens delivers in the real world. High in the Himalayas, on a very very special day where an entire valley gathers together to celebrate an auspicious Buddhist tradition, the Tamron 35-150mm F2-2.8 was a gem of a lens to pack. It’s modest enough in size to be easy to pack, but long enough in reach to nail some great shots.
The performance of the lens with the Sony AF was flawless, for both stills and video.
At the very end of the day the sunlight dips low towards the surrounding mountains, and the final dance of the festival takes place. “The Black Hat Dance” is a big deal in Bhutan. That’s the one you don’t want to miss. As the monks lined up to perform their opening sequence for this dance we captured the moment with backlit sunlight. Sometimes I like to pull in tight on the monks and extract a little details from their faces or the costumes. Sometimes I like to go wider and bring in the wider scene with the valley in the background.
At all times I want a fast lens. Shooting wide open when you shoot into the sun is one way to minimise the impact of flare on the lens. Fast lenses look nice when you use this technique. The 35-150mm looked lovely on this late afternoon. Now I have a set of images from this festival that I will treasure for the rest of my travels.
Big thanks to Tamron Australia for the loan of this lens:
Checkout my other blog post that features the 35-150mm F2-2.8 from Tamron, plus their 20-40mm F2.8. They're a great combo:
Also check out my photo essay using this lens and the 20-40mm posted here: