I love the 35mm focal length, and after switching to the Sony E mount from Canon I have been missing having a solid 35mm prime. My last 35mm was a Tamron, so I was immediately curious about Tamron’s E mount offering.

Image Quality & Sharpness

For the most part I feel the image quality is good on this lens. Good but not excellent — but at this price point the sharpness it generally delivers is on point.

I say for the most part because, of the sample images I took in different settings one afternoon, there were a few shots with a lot going on that the detail was actually a bit soft, even at f8. One I got was of a bunch of trees and the leaves looked a bit mushy.

However, some other landscapes I took at f11 had plenty of detail. These following images were exported from Lightroom as JPGs at 100% quality setting (1280px width). They made be a little slow to load on the web as a result.

Tamron detail of forest multi depth, f11
JPG for web, 35mm at f11
Rows of trees at different distances at f8
JPG, 35mm at f8
Flags detail at f5.6 against blue sky and plenty of light
f5.6 against a blue sky and plenty of light
35mm between two trains at f8
Dramatic trains angle at f8

Autofocus Speed

Several other reviews right after this lens’ release mentioned its slow autofocusing speed, and that seemed to be the biggest drawback of an otherwise solid lens at a low price.

I suspect the one drawback to these early reviews is that they cannot account for firmware updates since understandably most of these reviewers publish their thoughts and move on, and aren’t likely to return to the lens for another look.

I did test the lens, which I got used, with its v1 firmware and agree the autofocus is fairly sluggish.

However, after updating to v3 firmware (with a little hassle on Mac) the autofocus seemed somewhat snappier and more accurate. It still doesn’t focus as fast as my Samyang 45mm f1.8, and certainly not as fast as the basically instantaneous Sigma 24-70 DG DN Art lens I have.

I do find the increased AF speed to make the lens more usable, though.

As I got close up to a pillar I tested the lens focusing closely on it, then pulling away to some distance trees, back and forth, to see how well it could keep up.

For photographing buildings or landscapes it’s plenty, and you could probably do street photography with it. I wouldn’t count on the AF for action shots for sports, or for trying to snap photos of your dog or kids running around quickly. But the AF is better than it was, for sure.

Video Autofocusing Issues

At the time of this writing, this lens is a bit wonky in video. I kept having issues where continuous AF in video didn’t work. Looking into it, this is evidently a known issue that Tamron says they are addressing.

Hopefully a future firmware update will resolve this, but as of right now if you think you’ll be doing any video with a 35mm lens, I would steer away from this one.

35mm is a very versatile focal length, and for many people is a prime they keep on their camera a lot of the time. But if you know going into it that you can’t even do video, that completely negates the sense of “one lens does it all” that you might otherwise feel with a 35mm.

f2.8 Aperture On A Prime

Here’s the trouble I have with this lens. I already have a Sigma 24-70 f2.8 Art lens, which is optically superior to this lens, autofocuses much faster, and has the same max aperture.

Other than being smaller and lighter, this 35mm prime offers no advantages over my big Art lens that a prime normally would.

Normally, the reasons to choose a prime over a zoom lens are better image quality and wider apertures. This lens offers good image quality, but not excellent, and it also misses the mark on not offering the standard f1.8 you’d expect.

In Summary…

This is a nice, sharp prime at an affordable price. But the compromises you’re making for that kind of image quality at the price is slow autofocus and an unfortunate f2.8.

For many folks, a big reason to use a prime lens is having f1.8 or wider, and this concession on top of the slow autofocus feel pretty limiting.

Personally, I would explore other 35mm options such as Sigma’s excellent Contemporary f2 35mm. In Sigma’s case, the autofocus is substantially faster, the image quality is still up there, and it’s an all metal build. Plus, f2 rather than f2.8.

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