Thursday, January 31, 2013

Tamron 135mm f/2.5 Close Focus

This is a quite interesting lens. It's a short tele (well, pretty medium tele for DX standards perhaps), it's fast, and it's close focus - thank you Tamron for not calling it "Macro". How does it perform? Well, I can tell you this: it surprised me!

This is what it looks like

+ great value. f/2.5 @135mm with close focus capabilities at a price which is more than competitive (I bought mine for 60$)
+ image quality very good wide-open, excellent between f/4 - f/11
+ although not very heavy, its construction quality seems to be very good.

- manual focus can be a problem with a tele...
- ... considering also that 135mm and f/2.5 means a very short depth of field - and with manual focus, it means breathing heavily as you press the shutter, will make you move outside the focus zone
- Its scope is, in the end, pretty limited (more below)

Wide-open, @f/2.5. Not bad at all! (click to enlarge)
@f/5.6 - even (slightly) better! (click to enlarge)

Intended Users
Great for:
  • portraits - at least of people who can stay still
  • forest/nature walks - although not a macro
  • for the very budget-minded, it could be used as an indoor performance lens (stage, concert, theater), although manual focus will require some anticipation and patience

Not for:
  • moving subjects (with the exception of point above, i.e. indoor performance)
  • true macro work - it doesn't get that close
  • people who can't have the patience required for manual focus

Final Verdict
A more than decent lens. I was happily surprised, actually, I expected it would be far less sharp wide-open. At a price of 60-80$, it's a pretty decent quasi-macro lens, that can deliver good results in the hands of patient photographers. I suggest using it as a studio portrait lens, with a proper flash setup, stopped down to f/8 - where it's super-sharp (more latitude for focus errors there, too). On the other hand, it is still a manual focus lens. With not much more money, you can get an autofocus 50mm f/1.8 and skip the manual focus issues. If you need an autofocus fast tele lens, you're gonna have to spend a significant price penalty, so consider your options wisely.

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