Who will buy them?
Ok, time for a rant. Well, maybe not a rant so much as a musing…?
Over the last year or so, third-party lens manufacturer Tamron have been upping their game – so to speak. Producing amazing lenses like the SP 35mm f1.8 Di VC USD and the 85mm f1.8 Di VC USD. These are sexy, sharp, fast prime lenses, with everything bar the kitchen sink thrown at them in terms of Tamron’s lens and glass technology. The have VC (vibration control), USD (ultrasonic silent drive), flourite and eBand lens coatings (non-marking and anti-reflective), extra low-dispersion glass elements (to reduce chromatic aberrations), and XR (extra refractive) glass to help produce a smaller and lighter end product. As I said – everything but the kitchen sink. It all sounds amazing.
But this isn’t an article about how great these lenses are – or how sharp they are, or how fast they focus – or anything to do with image quality. I have never used any of these new Tamron primes, have never even so much as held one in my hands. And I probably never will. And that’s the subject of this article.
When I think of Tamron, or Sigma, or Tokina, I think of excellent lenses (which most of them are) at an excellent price. Case in point – Tamron’s SP 24-70mm f2.8 Di VC USD (more in the forums on the SP 24-70). It’s a classic lens, loved and owned by many a serious amateur photographer (and probably more than a few professionals). It’s got great optics, in a small and lightweight package, at a very good price. At the time of writing this it retails for $1,300 USD. I don’t know about you, but $1,300 USD is still a reasonable amount of money to spend on one lens – especially for a hobbyist who has a family to support and bills to pay. But it pales into insignificance (almost) when you compare it to the $2,400 USD that Nikon is asking for their AF-S 24-70mm f2.8 ED VR. There’s just no way I’ll ever be able to afford the Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 (even second hand). But I just might, one day, be able to own the Tamron at half the price.
And surely, that’s the point of third-party manufacturers – isn’t it? Almost all the quality, at almost half the price. Otherwise, what’s the point of third party products?
This is what I’m struggling with over the latest lens releases from Tamron. As fantastic as I’m sure the lenses are – I think they’ve missed the point of the role a third-party lens manufacturer fulfils in the marketplace.
I’ve said this so many times on my blog – but I’ll say it again – my purchasing decisions are always constrained by my budget. In anything. But especially in photography. I want the best bang I can get for my buck. And usually, that best bang has come from Tamron, Sigma or Tokina – the third party manufacturers.
But let’s also be real about this for a moment. I’d rather have a Nikkor (or Canon/Pentax/Olympus). Given the choice between the Tamron 24-70mm and the Nikkor 24-70mm, I’d take the Nikkor every time – if money was no object. If I won lotto tomorrow and could choose any lenses I wanted for my kit, it would be the actual manufacturer’s lenses every time. No question.
So when Tamron release a 35mm f1.8 and an 85mm f1.8 that are more expensive than Nikon’s offerings, my brain almost explodes! I mean really – what are they thinking?
This is not all about image quality
I’m sorry, but for me – and I suspect for a good many of you too – purchasing decisions come down to price. The Tamron SP 35mm f1.8 blah de blah de blah retails new for $570 USD at the time of writing this. The Nikkor AF-S 35mm f1.8G (Full frame FX version) is $530 USD. I suppose if you simply must have VR in your 35mm, then the Tamron is a bargain. But even though the Tamron is only $40US more, I’d go for the Nikkor – every time.
As a DX shooter, I also have the option of the Nikkor 35mm f1.8G DX lens, at $196 USD. Guess which one I’m going to go for? It’s a no brainer. And please don’t tell me that the Tamron is $370 USD better than the Nikkor. I’ve owned the 35mm f1.8G lens and it’s a stellar performer with exceptional I.Q. It may not have as good a build quality as the Tamron – but it will be ‘good enough’, and $370 USD cheaper. And that there is the whole argument we used to be able to use to justify purchasing third-party lenses in the first place. Not quite as good – but good enough….
It only gets worse for the Tamron 85mm f1.8, retailing in early 2017 for $750 USD. The Nikkor AF-S 85mm f1.8G - $480 USD. Again, just a no brainer.
I can see Tamron’s dilemma – I truly can. They are producing fantastic lenses, with all the greatest technology thrown in to entice buyers. Yet all that technology must come at a price. I get that. But when third-party lenses become more expensive than the manufacturers own products, then Houston, we have a problem. Who’s going to buy them? If they are more expensive than the Nikkors, then not me. And are they really going to entice people away from the manufacturer’s own product for a higher price? I think not.
if you want to read more about SP lenses from Tamron
We have the whole list of Tamron SP articles under the "sp" tag.
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