As 2021 came to a close, I found myself looking for a new camera brand and new lenses. I settled on Sony, specifically the A7RIV and A7IV. I will share my reasons for that choice in another article, but one thing was for sure – I would not purchase Sony lenses. Sony lenses are expensive, and then, to add insult to injury, they are big and heavy and only carry a one-year warranty. In my opinion, they are not worth the inflated prices.
The remaining lens options were somewhat limited, but that was a blessing that made the choice much easier than expected.
Be sure to read to the end for my tips on how to be sure you are purchasing the right brand of lens for your needs.
Indeed, some companies make high-quality yet inexpensive lenses that are small and feature manual focus, but I don’t consider that an option for two reasons. My eyes are not what they used to be, and manual focus is a slower and more difficult process than when I was in my teens and twenties. I am also a big believer in my gear being an extension of my thought process as a photographer. Autofocus allows me greater accuracy and more bandwidth to pay attention to my subject instead of my camera.
That leaves me with Sigma and Tamron, and I began this process leaning towards Sigma for no other reason than the fact that I had the impression they would be a better lens because of the amount of metal they use in their exterior designs. I purchased two Sigma lenses, anticipating settling on Sigma as my brand of choice.
A Little Background Information on Sigma and Tamron
Tamron was founded in 1950 as a binocular and camera manufacturer. Sigma started in 1961, and their first product was a 2X telextender – the first ever in the photography industry. They followed that up with their first 200mm F4 telephoto lens that featured an interchangeable lens mount in late 1961.
Tamron started selling Zoom lenses in the 1960s and hit its stride with the introduction of the Tamron Adapt-A-Matic mount system in 1969 and the Adaptall mount system in 1973. By the 1980s, Tamron had developed significant optical innovations and even patented its manufacturing techniques for lens coatings. This new technology was a game changer for the entire photography industry that led to the introduction of the first high-performance ultra wide angle to ultra telephoto zoom lenses.
Tamron’s optical patents, combined with their patented aspherical lens manufacturing processes, allowed Tamron to transition into the OEM manufacturing segment of Japan’s optical industry. OEM = Original Equipment Manufacturer. In other words, camera manufacturers.
Many OEM camera manufacturers sought Tamron’s optical expertise and proprietary aspherical lens manufacturing technologies. They contracted with Tamron to supply aspherical lens optics and even entire lenses – a practice still occurring today. Compare the internal specs of the NIKKOR Z 28-75mm F2.8 to Tamron’s Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8. While neither company has confirmed who makes the lens – it is generally considered to be the Tamron lens in a different shell manufactured for Nikon.
Did I mention that Sony Corporation maintains a 14.8% share hold in Tamron, making it the largest shareholder?
So here we are, fast forward to 2022, and Sigma and Tamron seem to be two companies on different paths. Sigma, it would seem, has leaned into the concept of craftmanship with very well-made lenses that are uniquely machined and that have a reputation for outstanding performance at wide apertures, which means that Sigma lenses are generally bigger, heavier, and more expensive. Sigma has also invested much of its bandwidth into its lineup of Cine lenses.
Tamron chose a path that I feel benefits more photographers in ways that genuinely make an impact. Tamron lens designs are simpler and more streamlined with a focus (pun intended) on practical focal lengths and reliable performance in an affordable lens.
Tamron lenses have excellent weather sealing – YES, I have sprayed water on them like I used to do with my Olympus lenses. The autofocus speeds for Tamron’s lenses are fast and reliable. They are smaller than most of the OEM lenses on the market and, as a result, weigh less. Most importantly, they deliver excellent image quality at a very affordable price.
Let’s talk about the warranty. I’ll leave this list here for you. It speaks volumes.
- Sony Lenses: 1-year warranty
- Canon Lenses: 1-year warranty
- Nikon Lenses: 1-year warranty
- Fuji Lenses: 1-year warranty
- Sigma Lenses: 4-year warranty
- Tamron Lenses: 6-year warranty
My Decision To Purchase Tamron Lenses
Tamron lenses checked all the boxes for me.
Excellent manufacturing quality
Wide range of available lenses from a company that routinely releases new lenses with new technology
Most lenses use the same 67mm filter size.
Compared to the Sony Options, Tamron comes substantially ahead in the categories of Size, Weight, Filter Size Consistency, and Price. All without sacrificing image quality for my needs.
Substantial Price Difference: Comparing three similar zoom lenses from Sony and Tamron, you can see that the Sony lenses are MORE than double the price. The chart above includes the original version of Sony’s 70-200mm, while the chart below includes the newer version II.
Weight Difference: The Sony lineup with version one of the 70-200mm is more than double the weight of the Tamron series. The series II Sony brings the weight down to “almost” double the Tamron lenses.
Filter Sizes: 5 of my 6 Tamron lenses use 67mm filters which is a tremendous money saver for anyone who wants to be able to use Polarizers and Neutral Density filters.
My Tamron Lens Lineup
17-28mm F/2.8 Di III RXD
How Do You Know if a Tamron Lens or Any Other Brand Is Best for You? Here Are My Top 4 Lens Purchasing Tips
- Let go of the notion that OEM brands are automatically better – they aren’t. “Better” is determined by your needs, the genres you shoot, and what you do to display your photographs afterward.
- Do your research. That means more than watching a few YouTube reviews from photographers whose working style is probably very different than yours – which means that what works for them will not necessarily work for you! Research means comparing the size and weight of the lenses you are considering. Be sure to factor in how they will fit into your current camera bag, case, or backpack. Look at the filter sizes and consider the additional cost if you have to buy the same filter in multiple sizes. Compare warranties and service options for all the brands you are considering.
- TRY BEFORE YOU BUY! Visit your local photo retailer. Take your camera body with you and try out the lens(s) you are considering. Put it on your camera. Touch it, handle it, shoot with it in the store. If you can’t visit a store to see it in person, B&H, Adorama, and even Amazon have excellent return policies. Depending on the brand, you can rent them from online rental houses like LensRentals.com.
- Remember, very few photographers actually have a “NEED” for super-fast lenses that shoot at f/1.4 or wider. Don’t forget that those lenses are much bigger, heavier, and dramatically more expensive. Remind yourself that every camera on the market today can handle a 1-3 stop ISO increase with little to no noise introduced into the image. And please don’t fall into the trap of thinking that a wide aperture is the only way to get a shallow depth of field. If you believe that, I have a bridge that I would like to sell you!
It does seem logical to buy a lens made by the same company that made your camera. You would expect that the engineering is better. It carries the same brand name, and they often look cooler. But as you now know, that is not always the case – except for the brand name part.
Please do your research. Spend your money wisely, and you will have more money to purchase more gear or, better yet, go places and do things to take more amazing photos with equipment that was well researched and thought out to meet your shooting needs.
I hope you found this information useful. Now go pick up that camera and shoot something! Because – “Your BEST shot is your NEXT shot!” — Joe Edelman