Tamron SP AF 24-135mm F3.5-5.6 AD Aspherical IF Macro A-mount lens review by macronut

reviewer#11841 date: May-22-2014
sharpness: 4
color: 4
build: 5
distortion: 3
flare control: 3
overall: 3.8
tested on:
  • film camera:Film camera
  • APS-C: 6MP6 MP; 10MP10 MP; 12MP12 MP; 14MP14 MP; 16MP16 MP; 20MP20 MP; 24MP24 MP
  • full frame: 12MP12 MP24MP24 MP36MP36 MP42MP42 MP
ownership:I used to own this lens
compared to:Minolta 28-135 'Secret Handshake'
price paid:
positive:Build quality is very nice, though not perfect.
Good colors.
Fairly sharp.
Comes with a nice storage pouch.
72mm filter size is common.
Handsome lens, with a professional look.
Very useful focal range on FF and apsc.
Zoom lock.
negative:Worthless in low light!
Auto-Focus moves VERY SLOW!
Hood is flimsy.
Not a D lens.
Zoom is a little stiff.
comment:This is a lens I wanted so badly to like, but in the end could not.

A very nice looking lens and well built. The focal range is what grabbed my interest initially. After buying it, the look and feel of this lens made me very happy. It is a solid lens. The weight and feel instantly convey quality in the build. My only build complaint is the zoom is abit harder to turn than I prefer.

Unfortunately the performance is not as nice as the build. This is a slow lens. It is only f3.5 to about 28mm, and climbs steadily throught the range. It is pitiful in low light. If you buy this lens, know that for optimal results, outdoor use will be limited to sunny days. Not only do images suffer, but AF in low light is quite painful to tolerate. In low light It hunts terribly and refuses to focus often.

In good lighting, the lens takes nice photos. Not quite Minolta colors, but nice. Sharpness is good, but don't expect G results.

Perhaps a bigger complaint than the low-light performance, the AF is annoyingly slow. This lens just was not built with a fast AF system. I can't understand why Tamron put the SP label on a lens so damn slow. I swear I could read a book in the time it takes to travel from one end of focus to the other end. For this reason alone, I refuse to recommend this lens. It left me very frustrated.

There are things to like about the Tamron, but the Minolta 28-135 is a better lens. Aside from resisting zoom creep, the Tamron doesn't do anything better than the Minolta. Buy the Tamron below market value and live with its shortcomings, or don't buy it at all.

UPDATE 8/30/2015:

I have acquired an A900 camera and happened to find an unused old stock copy of this lens. performance on the A900 is better. AF is faster. on this camera I did comparison shots with the Minolta 28-135. sharpness was too close to call. colors were very similar, with the Minolta being slightly to my personal preference. the Tamron does render a darker image in some shots, despite using identical settings. The Minolta focuses faster.

My opinion of this lens has changed abit. it is a capable lens, most suited for a camera with fast AF motor. on the A900 I was not unhappy with focus speed, but it certainly isn't lightning fast. I do like the colors. sharpness is really good for the money. this copy seems sharper than my last one. I no longer hate this lens, but don't really need it. I will probably sell it. I haven't tested flare and distortion enough to judge. I rated them a 3 just as a middle of the road guess. Had I rated those two factors higher, my overall score would have been bumped up to a deceivingly high score. The rating system is flawed by not allowing half scores on all factors, given the range is only 1-5. The fact does remain, I do not recommend this lens unless bought cheap.

rating summary

lens image
  • total reviews: 51
  • sharpness: 4.33
  • color: 4.47
  • build: 4.51
  • distortion: 4.29
  • flare control: 4.22
  • overall: 4.36
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