Tamron is hard at work expanding their Nikon Z mount line up.  Their second addition is out and available now, an adaptation of their 35-150 mm.  Here’s my experience with it.

This was a hands-on field test.  I’m not interested in things like the corner focus when I photograph a checkered chart under controlled lighting, not to bemoan those tests because they are useful, but I want to know how this lens works when I actually employ it.  In an effort to be as objective as possible, I did not do any additional research prior to using it.  There are lots videos out there, especially for the Sony version, but I wanted to form my own opinions.  I read the specs on the box, flipped through the instruction booklet, and that’s it.  The editing is minimal, for the images here processing is limited to minor color/shadow/highlight adjustments, maybe some cropping to straighten horizons, and absolutely no sharpening, contrast, dehaze, or denoise adjustments whatsoever.

So let’s get into it, shall we?

Nikon Z6 : ISO-200 : f/2.8 : 1/1600

The lens has a unique focal length of 35-150 mm, with a variable aperture ranging from f/2-2.8 out to f/16-22.  Housing 21 optical elements in 15 groups, and their VXD linear motor focus mechanism.  It was used in various situations on a Nikon Z6 (full frame), and a Nikon Zfc (APS-C) with a full spectrum conversion.  I did not add any filters, UV or otherwise, with the exception of an infrared filter when using the full spectrum.  The filter thread is 82 mm.

Nikon Z6 : ISO-100 : f/18 : 1/160

The Bad (but not really)

To be honest, I struggled to find anything negative about this lens.  But I wouldn’t be objective if this sounded glassy and perfect right?

The lens weighs 41.1 oz. and my Z6 weighs 20.7 oz., which makes it a bit unbalanced.  When placed on a tripod it can become a bit top heavy.  For those who wish to do so, an inexpensive tripod collar solves this quite easily.

Customization is a thing now (which is great, more on that later).  To do this, Tamron has placed a USB-C port on the lens.  It’s small and hidden under the rear of the lens, but it does not have a cover.  The port is weather sealed and for most people this will never be a problem.  However, propeller aircraft tend to kick up lots of little bits of debris, so this makes me a bit nervous.  Just a tiny patch of painter’s tape (which I already have) does the trick here.  And if you’re feeling expressive, maybe add a fun little sticker or write something on the tape.

Yeah, that’s it, that’s all I got.  Now that the nit-picking is over, let’s take a look at what this lens can really do.

Nikon Z6 : ISO-400 : f/8 : 1/1250

The Good (actually it’s pretty fantastic)

First impressions were that it’s a sturdy, well build, solid piece of equipment.  Upon using it for about 10 minutes, I immediately wished that I had it with me a couple weeks prior.  It would have been great when I was on an aircraft ramp in the Sierra Nevada mountains, or watching a rescue helicopter take off on the space shuttle runway.

Most of the time I used single point autofocus, it was fast, responsive, and accurate every time.

There is a lot happening on this lens.  Among the bells and whistles it has two adjustment rings, one for zoom, the other can be set for aperture or focus.  A zoom lock switch, which I like for traveling.  Another switch for auto/manual focus, which means no worries when it comes to doing time lapses or long exposures.  Plus 3 extra programmable buttons.

The 35-150 is extremely customizable.  If you’re not familiar with this concept, this means that you can actually tweak the settings of this lens to work better for you and your individual shooting style.  It’s easy to do with the free Tamron Lens Utility software.  I do it with my own Tamron lenses, and it’s something I recommend you do as well.  You might as well take advantage of everything you can right?

Nikon Zfc : Kolari Chrome IR Filter : ISO-640 : f/4.5 : 1/1000

Nikon Zfc : Kolari Chrome IR Filter : ISO-640 : f/4.5 : 1/500

The focus works smooth, and the ergonomics are very well thought out, making it a breeze to use.  Not once did I accidentally hit any of the buttons or switches.  And I’m pretty awkward, so for me this is a big win.

The entire lens is built to be moisture resistant, which is something I prefer not to test honestly.  However, in Florida, especially at this time of year, we get these lovely, random, surprise sun showers.  But the lens was not phased at all by this.

The lens is made for full frame mirrorless, which gives it the flexibility to work with both FX and DX format cameras.

Next, and perhaps my favorite thing about this lens.  It’s sharp, like really sharp.  This thing cuts through photons like a knife.  The frog seen here is small enough to fit in the palm of my hand.

Nikon Z6 : ISO-800 : f/2.8 : 1/160

The 9 bladed circular aperture diaphragm results in beautiful, creamy, smooth bokeh.  Evidenced here with excellent separation of the alligator from the trees behind it.

Nikon Z6 : ISO-125 : f/2.8 : 1/1600

Admittedly, portraiture is not my greatest strength.  But odd situations do arise sometimes, like having to shoot a few quick promotional images for an upcoming Halloween event at work.  Despite being a bit outside my comfort zone, this lens made it super easy to capture quality images outside, in bright sun, with dark shadows, and no additional fill lighting.

Nikon Z6 : ISO-100 : f/2.8 : 1/1000

Nikon Z6 : ISO-500 : f/7.1 : 1/800

This model sports their second generation Broad-Band Anti-Reflection Coating (BBAR-G2).  Out at the airport, I joined fellow aviation photographer and CAF member Jason Skinner, during a fundraising event for the local Commemorative Air Force Wing.  Flight crews don’t always fly exactly where you want them to (believe me, I ask).  Here, an MH-60 Jayhawk from the US Coast Guard Clearwater Air Station showed off with a fun wave as they flew overhead.  Of course the 35-150 does come with a lens hood, but still, I was facing straight up, focused on the helicopter as they flew directly between me and the sun, and got no flares or chromatic fringing at all.  (can I drop the mic right here?)

Nikon Z6 : ISO-200 : f/20 : 1/200

Things of Note

I’m sure there will be a couple of folks out there crying “There’s no VR!”  This is not a problem, and really never even occurred to me until a day or two before I sent it back.  That’s because the camera bodies it’s designed to work with already have such incredible image stabilization that it is rendered unnecessary in the lens.  In fact, it seems to me that adding vibration reduction mechanics would only create more bulk and weight in the lens, and I, for one, am glad to have less of that when out shooting in the field.

This model retails at $1,999 new, that’s a pretty penny for most folks.  But I feel confident in saying that with this tool, you will get what you pay for time and again.  There is nothing else quite like it on the market.  It’s the widest aperture zoom I’ve ever seen, and anything close to that retails well above this price point.  Also, you always have the option to wait just a bit for it to appear in the pre-owned market.  Keep in mind if you do this, buy from a reputable source, and register your lens.  This will enable you to take advantage of Tamron’s impressive 6 year warranty service.  And as someone who has used this service, it’s great.

Nikon Z6 : ISO-200 : f/3.5 : 1/1600

Facts are Facts

While this was intended to just be a test run, I did end up using it for actual work.  In two separate, and very different occasions, I had editorial images published within 48 hours of having shot them.

Not only does this lens look and feel gorgeous, it works like a charm.  It handled every situation I put it through with ease and finesse.  It’s highly versatile, I can think of a laundry list of situations where it would be an asset.  From aircraft ramps, sunsets, night rocket launches, astrophotography, landscapes, fireworks, my local birds of prey center, and on, and on.  Personally, I really want to give it a shot at the next hot air balloon launch.

If you enjoy photography, this is something that’s absolutely worth consideration.  If you’re serious about photography (and videography), this definitely something that should be on your radar.

Nikon Z6 : ISO-160 : f/2.8 : 1/1600

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