Frugal photographer Lens Trinity complete. First half day with Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8…

Lightly used, pristine Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 from Amazon just after arrival.
Lightly used, pristine Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 from Amazon just after arrival.

May be time for another spreadsheet… Nah. Not that long ago I really liked a few camera systems, but there was always one common weak spot. Reasonably priced, constant aperture, image stabilized zooms. My initial solution? Go prime crazy since their prices were more reasonable usually.

Lenzapalooza. Loved them all, but many primes were not practical for my purposes.
Lenzapalooza. Loved them all, but many primes were not practical for my purposes.

Now I really liked this set up in theory, and primes are phenomenal when used for their intended purpose, but in practice foot zooming and frequent lens swaps became tedious. To restate I loved every one of these lenses and they performed wonderfully… mostly…

The problem? It is not them, it is me. To this day I have never been able to bring myself to spend $1,000 or more for any single piece of gear, body or lens or even a combination of gear. Never. But, I then found myself coming to grips with the knowledge that I really wanted a lens trinity set up instead of prime-a-palooza. So what is the problem now? Glad you asked. Every system I have owned (Olympus, Nikon, Samsung, and Sony) got kicked to the curb when I wrapped my brain around the fact that their factory constant aperture tele-zoom offerings were more than my price ceiling, and sometimes more than double my ceiling. A fellow school parent and I were comparing gear one day and even swapped cameras at one point. As soon as he told me he paid over $2,000 for the lens in my hands I gingerly handed it back to him and asked for my camera back. I once paid my Dad $2,000 for a mint, well aged Volvo 740 Turbo that was the legal drinking age and not that many years ago $3,000 for a bic lighter minivan that I drove to work for 3 years (once bravely to NYC and Albany) and put over 100,000 miles on it before it gave up the ghost. $1,500, $2,200 and up for an lens? No. The new Leica SL has amazing specs and I am sure they will find plenty of nice, well heeled homes, but  $7,450 opening asking price for a full frame camera? Body only. I spent $8,100 for a VW Fox new in college (granted ages ago). Unless I can drive it to work that is not happening. Plus that medium format Pentax 645Z is looking like quite the bargain right now at $6,995.95.

  • Sidebar: Other than sales and price drops another great way to save money is the used market. I have come across some that are leery of used products, but it has more to do with who you buy from, their vetting process and most importantly their return policy. My favorite places to buy are my local camera store (Southeastern Camera/Carrboro in my case, but it would be worth your time to find one near you), B&H Photo Video, Adorama, KEH, and last, but not least Amazon, where I purchased today’s gem for a $225 savings off of new ($274 vs $499). (Occasionally the trusted friend route can net some amazing results as well.) After using every one of them I have saved hundreds with not a single unresolved issue, if at all, to date. Cameras are more robust than nearly any other traded commodity and most camera people are quite fastidious when it comes to gear care and feeding. They are also good when you decide to offload some gear when trade fever hits and I have used most for that as well. Nothing collects dust. If it is not used, it goes.

I digress. Back to the task at hand. Where there were many, there are now three.

Tamron trinity for the frugal photographer.
Tamron trinity for the frugal photographer.

As I have mentioned I am already quite familiar with the Tamron 28-75mm lens having had and loved one on the Nikon D3300. Now having access to in body image stabilization I expected even better with the Pentax K-3ii and I can already tell you my expectations have been exceeded. In fact I figure Pentax saved me a pretty penny with in body image stabilization. This also kept me from settling for a non-stabilized set up like I would have done for Nikon. I have wondered since my Olympus days why more manufacturers don’t have in body image stabilization. My Dad’s Pentax K-10D and now K-20D have it. With Sony and and others now adding it to their interchangeable lens cameras perhaps more will follow.

Bottom line, one new Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8, one new Tamron 10-24mm, and a lightly used Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 came out to $1,542 combined. With little effort scouring the used market for 2-3 used one could do even better. For comparison follow these links for the prices of the factory Nikon and Canon image stabilized 70-200mm f/2.8 offerings alone. Just to be clear I can completely understand why some would spend the cash for these lenses. Especially professionals. They are phenomenal. For example these are screw drive and others, including ones from Tamron, have more advanced internal silent motor technology. Optically I am sure a pixel peeper might find a thing or two that gives an edge to the more expensive options. Technically I could purchase them if I saved and waited (I do not go in to debt for hobbies), but I won’t on GP since I am totally satisfied with the Pentax/Tamron solution. I have yet to encounter any situation that has made me second guess that decision. Now the pro/con list followed by a gallery from my first half day with the 28-75mm. -ELW

Pros:

  • Just as before with the Nikon fantastic image quality.
  • Nicely leverages in body image stabilization.
  • Like the 10-24mm switching between AF and Manual seamlessly relies on the on body switch.
  • Very quick to focus.
  • Quite pleasing out of focus bits.
  • Not quite a full blown macro as labeled technically (not 1:1), but does a fair impression of one.
  • Nothing earth shattering but a nice build that inspires confidence that this will hold up.
  • Interestingly the Pentax variant has a functional aperture ring.
  • Zoom lock is a nice touch.
  • A great deal at $499 new. An even better deal at $274 lightly used.

Cons:

  • I got nothing.

Gallery: