Tamron 24mm f/2.8 and 35mm f/2.8 Review: Compact & Affordable Primes for Sony

Tamron recently announced a trio of compact primes for Sony FE: the 24mm f/2.8, 35mm f/2.8 and 20mm f/2.8. We had the chance to test out the 24 and 35mm primes for a few days to see how they performed.

Overview

Tamron has been on a hot streak with Sony lenses ever since they released the 28-75mm f/2.8. Even though that lens was released a year and a half ago, it can still be hard to find in-stock at times. They followed up with the 17-28mm f/2.8 – a small, wide angle lens that holds its own against the Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 GMaster.

Instead of going for a large, heavy, fast prime, Tamron took a different approach and went for small and affordable, while adding a few neat features like 1:2 macro capabilities. Both the 24 and 35 are extremely light, weighing in at around 7.5oz. Not only are they light, but they’re small too. At ~2.5”, you can easily fit the lens in a coat pocket if you wanted to. Despite the lightweight build, the primes are still weather sealed and dust/moisture resistant.

The most appealing part of these two primes though is going to be the price. At $349, these are some of the least expensive prime lenses available for the Sony FE mount. The only lenses that are smaller and less expensive are the Rokinon 24mm f.28 and 35mm f/2.8 primes, which are $249 and $299 respectively.

The two big advantages that Tamron has are their production quality consistency, and their 6 year warranty.

Even at a price point of just $350, you still get quality LD and GM elements to reduce chromatic aberrations, Tamron’s BBAR Coating to reduce ghosting and flares, and sharpness throughout the frame. The AF is powered by Tamron’s OSD (Optimized Silent Drive) motor for quiet and fast autofocus. The front element on the lenses moves in and out while focusing, but it stays within the lens.

For convenience, all of Tamron’s FE lenses (so far) have a 67mm filter thread, making sharing filters a possibility without having to use stepping rings.

Despite their small size, the Tamron 24mm and 35mm primes have quality glass, and fast AF performance. Using Eye-AF to track a person, the tracking kept up just like it would on a Sony branded lens. When getting near the minimum focusing distance, the AF did tend to hunt or “pulse” a bit if light levels were somewhat low, but it would eventually acquire focus after a second or two. Anything past a foot focused fine, and would keep focus on a moving subject.

While the 35mm is closer to a “normal” focal length and doesn’t show much distortion, the 24mm does have some noticeable distortion if the correction features are turned off in camera, but it’s something that should be easily corrected in Lightroom once an update hits. Vignetting isn’t bad, with a little bit present when shooting wide open. Once stopped down to f/5.6, it’s all but gone.

The 24mm features a typical lens hood design, while the 35mm gets a “cap style” lens hood with a rectangular opening. A benefit of this design is that you can attach a filter to the front of the hood, and quickly take it off by just removing the lens hood. The hood also fits on the 24mm, but you get noticeable vignetting in the corners.

24mm f/2.8 Sample Photos

35mm f/2.8 Sample Photos

Crop of previous image

Final Thoughts

While many professionals may be looking for primes that are f/1.4, or even f/1.2, there is a large percentage of Sony users who are casual shooters, hobbyists, and pros on a budget. These lenses feel right at home on a full-frame a7 series camera as they do on a smaller a6XXX series camera. For street photographers, or photographers who like to travel light, these lenses are definitely worth taking a look at.

Pairing one of these lenses with an a7 III results in a combined weight of just under 2lb. The class leading macro capabilities of these lenses also allow for a new level of creative shooting with the 24mm and 35mm focal lengths.

The 24mm and 35mm primes will start shipping shortly, and can be pre-ordered here.


About the author: Ihor Balaban is a photographer and store manager of the camera store Pixel Connection in Avon, Ohio. To learn more about the store, head over to the Pixel Connection website. This post was also published here.

Testing the Animal Detect Autofocus on the Panasonic G9

Panasonic recently released a major firmware update that adds Animal Detect autofocus to the Lumix G9. As a bird and wildlife photographer, the new feature had me really excited, but how well does it actually work? I took it out into the field to find out.

Intro

I have been shooting with the Lumix G9 for almost two years now, basically since it was released. I’m am a huge fan of Lumix and the G9 in particular. I love the light weight of Micro Four Thirds lenses, as I’ve written about previously. I also love 6K photo mode, which lets you get 30 frames a second of 18 megapixel images—I’ve got a number of images that I just wouldn’t have got without this, as I talk about here and here.

One area where the G9 falls a bit short of some other leading cameras, especially the high end Sony models, is in its autofocus on fast moving objects, especially birds in flight. So I was super excited when Panasonic announced a new firmware upgrade with animal detect autofocus.

I downloaded the firmware upgrade yesterday and did some initial testing last night and this morning. Despite the fact that we have had lousy shooting conditions in Denver—very cloudy, dark and overcast—I have been really impressed with this so far. So I thought I’d share a few of the pictures I’ve taken so far alongside some commentary.

Field Test

When you shoot with Animal Detect autofocus mode on, the viewfinder shows a rectangle around the animal’s body once it detects it. If it finds multiple animals you can toggle between them by pressing the joystick button, or by panning so that only the one you want is in view, then it will lock onto that one. Once it is locked on to an individual animal, it does a good job of continuing to follow and focus on that one for as long as you keep it in the frame.

The system does an amazing job of focusing on animals even when there is vegetation or other obstructions between you and the camera. Here are a few examples of this with deer from last night’s shoot.

All the images in the post were shot with fairly high ISO because of the bad light. I have intentionally only done minimal processing on all of the images so you can see what they look like more or less straight from the camera—I pretty much just did an “auto” process in Lightroom with some additional tweaking of tone and exposure in a few cases.

The following shot had no obstructions but I thought it was quite striking how sharp the eyes were (and the face in general). I have read somewhere that the autofocus algorithm tries to focus on the eyes where possible, and it certainly has done here. This image is somewhat cropped.

This morning I went to shoot at a different location where there are generally a lot of birds. Again it was poor light, but again the system showed how well it could focus even with quite severe vegetation in front of the subject.

First, this is a black-capped chickadee in the midst of quite a dense tree, but still sharply in focus. And then also a couple of shots of a Great Blue Heron with a number of branches in close proximity.

Next, I suddenly noticed a squirrel in a dense tree behind me. I thought it was quite amazing how well the camera focused on the squirrel even when it was significantly obscured by branches in front of it.

Next is my one bird in flight shot using the animal detection. I took a few others at greater distance where the animal detection didn’t kick in, but on this one I got the rectangle identifying the rear bird’s body.

Because it was so dark, it wasn’t good conditions for birds in flight—this image was taken at 1/500s and f/5.0, at ISO 2500, with the Leica 100-400mm lens (which was used for all the images here)—so there’s some wing blur, though I think the effect is quite nice. While it’s not super sharp, I think that the focus has locked on very well despite a pretty busy background.

Finally, a few more shots of the great blue heron. All of these shots were taken from the same location through some fairly dense vegetation.

In the first shot I am using the animal detect mode, and this focused very quickly to give me the shot you see here. The second shot was taken using the 255 area focus mode, and as you can see, it focuses on the vegetation. The third shot was taken in point focus mode, and while I got a similar shot to Animal Detect, it probably took me 4 or 5 seconds to switch focus modes and move the focus point to just the right spot in the frame.

In this case the heron was stationary, so I was able to do that, but in some of the other shots like the squirrel ones, the subject was moving quickly and there’s no way I could have done this.

Lastly, here is a close up portrait of the heron, again taken through vegetation. It is very nice and sharp with the eye in clear focus.

Conclusion

I hope to get out again soon with some better light, though snow is forecast over the next day or two, so it may not be until the weekend. I definitely want to do more testing on birds in flight. But I have to say that I am very impressed with how well the system picks out animals, even with very busy vegetation in front of them. It probably takes half a second or so on average to lock onto the subject, but then it tracks very well from that point on, with no obvious “focus hunting.”

It also works very well with video: I tested it with 6K video mode and it worked in just the same way, including display of the tracking rectangles. According to this article, written in June 2019, the Sony animal detect autofocus only works for stills and not for video, so that’s a point for Panasonic.

I haven’t done enough testing yet to know if it will deliver major improvements on birds in flight—I suspect it will, though probably not to the level of Sony. But the ability to pick out animals from dense backgrounds like I’ve shown here is certainly a major step forward. Based on my testing so far, I definitely feel that the new focus system is going to deliver some significant improvements in my wildlife photography.


About the author: Peter Batty is a British-born photography and travel lover currently residing in Denver, CO. To see more of his work, visit his website, check out his blog or give him a follow on Instagram and Flickr. This post was also published here.