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Tamron 35mm f/2.8 Di III OSD M1:2 - Review 2020


The Tamron 35mm f/2.8 Di III OSD M1:2 ($349) is a true budget lens for photographers who use Sony mirrorless camera systems. Despite slashing the price, Tamron doesn't cut many corners when it comes to optical quality, and includes dust and splash protection in its design. The autofocus system isn't as quick or quiet as pricier lenses, which does limit appeal for videography, but if you're more interested in still photography and don't want to spend too much, this 35mm might be just the lens you're looking for.

Budget in Cost, Not Feel

The Tamron 35mm f/2.8 Di III OSD M1:2 costs less than half as much as Sony's most affordable alternative, the $750 FE 35mm F1.8. The Tamron is a light (7.4 ounces), squat (2.5 by 2.9 inches, HD) lens with support for 67mm front filters. It includes a compact hood, along with front and rear caps.

Tamron 35mm f/2.8 Di III OSD M1:2 : Sample Image

The optics are housed in a polycarbonate barrel that's definitely plastic, but a type that's of higher quality than the competing Rokinon 35mm F2.8 AF. Tamron includes dust and splash protection, which Rokinon omits from its line of budget-friendly lenses. The Di III OSD also includes an anti-smudge fluorine coating.

The lens mount is a little tight, at least on my a7R IV. It adds some confidence in the seal, but does require you to apply a bit of torque when changing lenses. I noted this with the 20mm f/2.8 Di III OSD M1:2 and 24mm f/2.8 Di III OSD M1:2 lenses, both of which use the same housing.

Tamron 35mm f/2.8 Di III OSD M1:2 : Sample Image

The manual focus ring is finished in plastic, with ridges to improve your grasp. Manual focus is electronic, typical for mirrorless designs. The focus response scales based on speed—quicker turns make more dramatic adjustments. There is plenty of room to make small, precise adjustments, beneficial for manual focus macro work.

Autofocus is the weak link here. I had no issues with accuracy with my a7R IV test body, but there is some noise as the focusing element moves to lock focus, which is distracting if you're recording video, especially when using continuous (AF-C) focus. The size of the frame does change a bit as focus is adjusted, an effect known as breathing, something videographers will also want to consider.

Tamron 35mm f/2.8 Di III OSD M1:2 : Sample Image

There's also some time required to go from the close-up distance to infinity. Instead of using internal focusing groups, like the pricier FE 35mm F1.8, the entire optical block moves forward and backward here. It certainly simplifies the optical design and helps keep costs down, but comes at the cost of silence and focus speed. It also makes photographing quick-moving subjects tricky—the lens can hunt back and forth erratically.

You'll be able to net macro images when focusing as close as possible. The lens locks onto subjects as close as 5.9 inches from the image plane, good enough to project objects onto the sensor at half size (1:2)—twice as large as the FE 35mm F1.8 can manage (1:4.2).

Much Better Than Budget Optics

I tested the 35mm f/2.8 Di III OSD M1:2 with the 60MP Sony a7R IV, using software from Imatest to evaluate its optical performance. When shot wide open, it nets images with excellent resolution on average (4,420 lines). There is a loss of clarity as you move toward the edges, but even the extremes show good (3,350 lines) quality.

Tamron 35mm f/2.8 Di III OSD M1:2 : Sample Image

There's improvement all around at f/4, with the average nearing outstanding territory (4,915 lines) and edges delivering very good results (4,000 lines). It's outstanding at f/5.6 (5,285 lines) and f/8 (5,115 lines)—they're ideal choices for landscapes, as even the extreme periphery tops 5,000 lines.

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We start to see the effects of diffraction at f/11 with the a7R IV—light scatters as it passes through the tiny aperture, slightly softening photos. It still delivers excellent results at f/11 (4,660 lines) and very good ones at f/16 (3,923 lines), but you should avoid using f/22 (2,610 lines) if you want the best quality.

Tamron 35mm f/2.8 Di III OSD M1:2 : Sample Image

The lens avoids distortion, even if you leave in-camera corrections turned off. It does show a slight vignette at f/2.8, even when corrections are enabled, but it's not likely you'll notice it in most shots. If you turn vignette corrections off for any reason, expect darkened corners at f/2.8.

Best Fit for Stills

Overall, I have nothing bad to say about the images you get out of the Tamron 35mm f/2.8 Di III OSD M1:2. They're quite crisp and practically usable when shooting at maximum aperture, and stopped down a bit they're as clinically perfect as you want them to be. The ability to focus up close adds quite a bit of versatility, especially for photographers looking to take strolls with a single lens kit.

Tamron 35mm f/2.8 Di III OSD M1:2 : Sample Image

For videographers, though, I offer some caution. There is definite noise when setting focus, and the size of the frame changes when changing the focus point as well. The Sony FE 35mm F1.8, which focuses more quietly and quickly, is a better pick. Likewise, if you're interested in keeping up with pets, toddlers, and other unpredictable subjects, the FE 35mm F1.8 will do a better job. That's not to say the Tamron can't get a focused shot of a moving subject. It's very capable, just not quite as quick as the Sony.

Tamron 35mm f/2.8 Di III OSD M1:2 : Sample Image

So the Sony FE 35mm F1.8 is still the best lens of its type for the system, and our Editors' Choice, but it's expensive. For photographers on a budget, the Tamron 35mm f/2.8 Di III OSD M1:2 is better built than Rokinon's low-cost 35mm F2.8 AF, with the added bonus of macro focus and weather protection, making it a fine alternative.


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