I Was a Prime Lens Snob Until Discovering This Surprisingly Good Alternative

My career as an elitist prime glass snob came to an end after a professional real-world job using an unexpected choice of lens showed me the error of my ways.

After years of searching only for fast prime lenses in my gear bag, last year I bet on a pre-order for, among other things, the 18-300mm f/3.5-superzoom. 6.3 from Tamron for Fujifilm mirrorless cameras. Upon arrival, although I was impressed with its initial look and build, I wanted to reserve judgment for real-world torture testing. In the end, I would forgo my usual two-body, two-lens solution for use on a commission to document a major local festival, and this choice opened my eyes to the wonderful utility of a lens. modern superzoom.

In the past, I had always looked down on not only general-purpose superzoom lenses, but even some of the high-end zooms on the market, thinking that the purpose-built design of a quality fast lens enhanced my abilities as a photographer. do my job with a high level of finish.

What I realized was that the Tamron 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 may have sacrificed some things that I was used to getting with lenses like my well- loved Fujifilm XF 35mm f/1.4, but the flexibility, functionality, and even the image quality made me feel like I was, in fact, better prepared for a professional event like festival documentation.

Let’s take a step back and look at what makes this lens a winner in my book. I’d like to say that I’m not one to be overly reliant on reviews, preferring my own hands-on experience, so when I saw the lens announcement I was curious. More than anything else, I was curious how Tamron’s first Fuji lens would fit into the Fuji system. I was a Tamron fan in the past, I loved their high end primes like the epic Tamron SP 35mm f/1.4, and while it wasn’t a prime the newer entries in support Fuji’s limited third-party lenses still excite some, so I rolled the dice and pre-ordered the lens, which would arrive about a month later.

I was skeptical whether the new Tamron lens, which was well received as a Sony E-Mount lens when it was initially released, would appease me as I had grown accustomed to the outrageous quality and character. of my Fuji bounties. My two biggest concerns were whether I would suffer much from its slower aperture range and whether the image quality would be up to my standards for professional work.

When I first started dipping my toes into digital photography, my aging Canon crop bodies really needed a sharp, fast lens to minimize the rig’s downsides, with high ISO noise topping the list of things that needed to be reduced to get good results from the sensor. Even after upgrading to a full-frame Canon DSLR with thicker EF glass, I still gravitated towards fast primes like the Sigma 50mm f/1.4, but the system upgrade was much more heavy and heavier, which made me miss my little crop bodies. Discovering the Fuji X system, with its excellent high ISO noise handling, brilliant lens array and smaller, more compact setup, was a heavenly encounter. Despite the excellent noise-handling ability, falling in love with some of Fuji’s best f/1.4 primers, and impressive internal stabilization in my X-H1 and X-S10, I rarely tested its true limits. With the arrival of the Tamron 18-300mm, I had to temporarily increase my ISO in darker settings and was immediately relieved to find that the sensor handled it without issue. With this newfound knowledge and increased confidence in the camera to compensate for the lack of giant iris apertures casting light onto my sensor, my first major concern with using the lens in a professional setting was satisfied. I knew any extreme low-light shooting would require switching to my fast lenses, but the built-in lens stabilization (trademark vibration control, or VC, in Tamron parlance) was quite effective, so the lens still had an increased ability to shoot in the dark if your subject was quite static. Overall, the lens was shaping up to be extremely well suited for my photojournalism and professional event coverage.

After doing some initial testing to confirm that I didn’t have major issues with my copy of the lens and that the image quality was usable, I was pleased to find that the lens was actually quite sharp . It was only at the furthest range of the lens that I saw any real degradation in image quality when shooting with the f/8 aperture that I used so commonly for the documentary work in daylight, and zooming out to around 270mm seemed to fix that for me, leaving an incredibly usable range of 18-270mm at your fingertips. That crazy zoom range combined with its VC technology, reliable autofocus and impressive 1:2 reproduction ratio at the 18mm end made it a powerful tool as a single lens solution. I found, to my delight, that at 230mm the Tamron actually outperformed my 50-230mm Fuji XC zoom, which many people praise for passing its weight class. This test had satisfied my second concern, confirming that the lens was indeed capable of producing professional images, and I decided that my next paid event commission would be its first major testing ground.

The day of the Scandinavian Festival in Ephraim City, Utah arrived, and as the official event photographer, I was eager to put the lens through its paces in this real-world setting, taking pictures alongside second and third shooters I had hired to help me. with a weekend’s work of capturing the festival for the city’s use. With a nonstop schedule filled with events like concerts, games, races, and other fun things that drew several thousand attendees, the festival began, and the overabundance of topics became a meal for my superzoom setup.

Shooting on my Fujifilm X-S10, I kept the camera locked on continuous autofocus the entire time and was immediately pleased with how easy it was to focus and track over time. weekend.

By the end of the weekend, I had taken over 1,000 shots and my goalkeeper rate was extremely high. When selecting photos after work, I realized that the incredible zoom range really allowed me to capture more great photos and use a very diverse range of compositions and scene arrangements. The lens’ essentially unparalleled flexibility opened up possibilities that would have been much rarer with my usual two-barrel combo with a 56mm f/1.4 and a 23mm f/1.4. I had no problem following the flow of the event as it happened thanks to this flexibility, and I wondered if the previous coverage could have been improved if I had tried a superzoom for jobs d event in good light like the Scandinavian Festival was .

Luckily, the city was extremely happy with the photos they hired me to capture, and I felt good about my newfound confidence when it came to venturing into superzoom territory. Since then, I have photographed several other well-suited works with the lens, and it continues to amaze me with its performance.

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