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Which Lens Should I Buy?
by Jon Sienkiewicz
Which lenses do you recommend? People ask me that question all the time. I have some answers that are based on more years of experience than I care to admit. But before we delve into the specifics, let’s start at the very beginning.
The Tamron Advantage
A knowledgeable colleague recently asked me why I prefer Tamron lenses over other brands. I explained what I call the “Tamron Advantage.” Please keep in mind that these are my words, not the buzz-speak of some PR firm.
First, Tamron is a lens specialist. Camera manufacturers make all sorts of products in addition to making cameras, and they do a darn good job of it. Some make televisions and baby monitors. Others make copy machines or medical equipment. Tamron makes lenses. I like the idea of using a lens that was designed and manufactured by a lens specialist.
Second, Tamron has a lens to match my every need. There is a Tamron lens to cover every situation I encounter. If you look in my golf bag you’ll see that my wedge was made by one company, my driver by another and my putter by still a third. In fact, I even have a special 3-wood that I made myself. But if you look in my camera bag, you’ll see that all of the lenses were made by Tamron. That means I get consistent, predictable results from lens to lens, shot to shot.
Finally, Tamron is a premium brand. I can tell by just handling the lens—a characteristic that insiders call “built quality.” Tamron lenses are built solid and are a pleasure to use. I have never had a Tamron lens fail me, not even once. And Tamron lenses feature the latest technological advances too, like Vibration Compensation.
Make the World Stand Still
Vibration Compensation is so important that it deserves a chapter all its own. If you do not have VC, you are literally missing the picture—probably many pictures. The number one cause of bad photos is camera shake. Vibration Compensation counteracts the vibration so you get sharper pictures. It’s that simple.
If you want to read the technical explanation of how VC works, click here.
Any lens can suffer from the shakes, but the damage is most noticeable when you’re using a telephoto. Ever look through a pair of binoculars while sitting in a boat or moving car? Everything looks like it’s jumping around. Same thing happens when you’re trying to hand hold a long telephoto zoom lens in your backyard. But Tamron’s Vibration Compensation “tames the shakes,” so you could say that it makes the world stand still.
Which lens should I buy next?
As you might suspect, I hear this question often. I try to resist telling people which Tamron lenses are my favorites, because every photographer has different needs. Instead, I use that time-proven technique of answering a question with a question. I revert back to my journalism training and run through the litany of: Who? What? Where? When? Why?
Let’s get the who and why out of the way first. In most cases, the who is an amateur (advanced or otherwise) and the why is answered by “for fun.” Sometimes it’s a professional who’s trying to get a certain shot, but in most cases it’s a person who takes pictures to preserve family memories or for the sheer passion of photography. In other words, a person like you or me.
Deciding which lens to buy comes down to the kind of photographs you plan to take—that’s the what, where and when aspect. Here are some typical responses, and the lens (or lenses) most suitable.
I take photos when I travel or visit new places
If you’re going on a once in a lifetime trip, my advice is to take as many lenses as you are comfortable carrying, and an extra camera body. No one ever regrets having hundreds (if not thousands) of great images of some new, exotic place. A wideangle zoom should be at the top of your list, especially if you’re visiting an urban area. The Tamron SP 10-24MM F/3.5-4.5 Di II LD Aspherical (IF) is hard to beat. Whether you are trying to shoot the streets of London or the crowds at the State Fair, you will appreciate what a wideangle zoom can do.
Unless you are traveling light or otherwise have limited cargo space, take along a Tamron all-in-one zoom, too. Which? The 18-270mm zoom offers the greatest versatility, and covers everything from moderate wideangle (28mm) to super telephoto (460mm). Note that the focal lengths shown in parentheses are the equivalent focal lengths we were accustomed to in the 35mm world.
You might also consider a SP 17-50MM F/2.8 Di II VC LD Aspherical (IF). Why? Read on!
I shoot a lot of family stuff, mostly indoors
Next to travel, family photography is most popular. I always recommend that DSLR camera owners abandon the so-called “kit lens” that they purchased with their camera and switch to a 17-50mm Tamron instead (full name SP 17-50MM F/2.8 Di II XR VC LD Aspherical IF). This lens has a constant aperture, so whether you’re shooting indoors at the wideangle setting of 17mm, or zoomed out to the portrait-pleasing 50mm (75mm equivalent) you can take advantage of the large f2.8 aperture and shoot without flash. This lens is a great travel companion, too.
My second choice would depend on whether or not you have children who participate in sports. If the answer to that question is “yes,” see below.
My children are into sports and I want better photos of them on the field
Congratulations! You are doing what photographers have been doing ever since the days of the Dinosaur Bone Toss competitions back in the Stone Age—you are trying to capture the image of a small creature that is far away and is constantly moving. Photographing fleas in a hot skillet would be easier. Tamron has several lenses that help you capture junior athletes with style, and the two that I most often recommend are the SP 70-300/4-5.6 Di VC USD (my personal favorite telephoto zoom) and the All-in-one 18-270 Di II VC PZD. The PZD in the latter lens stands for “Piezo,” a special technology that allows Tamron to make this lens very small and light. By “small” I’m talking 2.9” x 3.5” small, in a package that weighs under a pound.
It’s winter and I can’t go outside—got anything that will help me?
I feel your pain—I live in a climate that’s unfriendly November through March. When the snow flies, I forget about the cold, wet world outside and instead peer deeply into the world of Macro photography. Macro lenses are specially designed for close-up photography and yield fantastic results without cumbersome accessories like tubes, bellows or filters.
I prefer the Tamron SP 60MM F/2 Di II LD (IF) because I also use it as a fast portrait lens (90mm equivalent) and often leave it on my camera for general photography. I also use and recommend the SP 90/2.8 Di VC 1:1 Macro.
I have a “kit” lens, Tamron all-in-one zoom and a Macro lens; am I missing anything?
Advanced amateurs know that they can expand their photographic horizons by learning to use new lenses. If you already have what you consider to be a pretty good collection of glass, you’ll be happy to learn that there are still more frontiers to be conquered.
The Tamron SP 180MM F/3.5 Di LD Aspherical (IF) is an extremely sharp Macro lens. Its longer focal length means that you can be farther away when shooting close-up photos. You can get the same image size from twice as far away as compared to the 90mm Macro, for example. Plus, this lens is the equivalent of a very fast f3.5 270mm telephoto (converted to 35mm terms). Going to the Balloon Festival? This is your lens. Indoor basketball game or gymnastics meet? Take this glass along. With a little imagination you’ll find dozens of other applications.
If you’ve ever wished you had a telephoto zoom with a large, constant aperture, your dream lens is here. The Tamron SP 70-200mm F/2.8 Di VC USD offers the flexibility of a 70-200 zoom plus the light-gathering power of an f2.8 f-stop. Because depth-of-field is largely dependent on the diameter of the aperture, you can capture tremendous images that show the subject in sharp focus and the background completely out-of-focus. This technique, long used by portrait photographers, makes the subject practically jump out of the background.
I’m on a budget, but I want to get better pictures with my DSLR
When I ask people about the Tamron lenses they already own, most can talk for hours and hours about the fabulous pictures they’ve been able to capture with them. But only a few remember how much the lens cost. The point is, long after you’ve paid for the lens and lost the receipt, you’ll be getting great shot after shot. Tamron offers lenses at prices that fit just about any budget, but my personal advice is don’t make your decisions based on price. Decide which lens you will use most often, and which will give you the most enjoyment. Then skip that Designer Double Latte for a couple of months and buy the right lens. You will not regret it.