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If anyone read my review on the Sony Alpha DSLR`s that I wrote and went out and got themselves one then the chances are you have noticed the limited potential of the kit lens they come with.
As I said when I wrote my review of the A200 and the A350, this is the only thing that lets the cameras down a little. The chances are that these limitations have led you to start looking for a lens upgrade or as we in the business would say "new glass".
If indeed you have been looking around at new glass then you will by now have noticed that if you stick to Sony lenses you are looking at spending around £200 for the most basic zoom lens, there are however other options out there in the third party glass market and one of these is the very useful Tamron A15, 55-200mm zoom lens. If you choose to buy this lens you have to be sure to order the Minolta A type fitting version as this is the only one that will fit the Sony DSLR.
The Tamron 55-200 lens offers you a direct increase on the kit lens supplied by Sony as far as zooming goes and takes your photographic possibilities to a new level but can it really compete with the Sony lenses? Well the answer to that is no if you are looking at the top of the range Sony lenses which are designed by Carl Zeiss but if you are comparing it to the kit lens that comes with the Sony DSLR or the basic 70-300mm Sony lens then yes it compares very well and perhaps even outdoes these Sony lenses.
When buying a zoom lens there is one main thing to look out for that can become very annoying and that is lens creep, lens creep is when you point the lens directly down, say to photograph a flower perhaps and the lens slips out therefore adjusting your zoom when you do not want it to. This is particularly common in cheaper zoom lenses but I can confirm it does not happen with this Tamron lens even if you shake the camera the lens stays exactly at the focal length you set it to.
Another thing that can be annoying is when cheaper lenses sound like they are breaking down when all they are doing is auto focusing; this lens is far from silent when focusing but it sounds very smooth and not nearly as noisy as some other lower end lenses. This lens also offers a very smooth zoom action and also a very smooth focus action when used manually.
The Tamron 55-200 lens has a maximum aperture of 4-5.6 depending on focal length which is usually more than enough for your average photographer although pro`s would like to be able to use at least 2.8, it has a minimum focus distance of 37.4"/0.95m (Over the entire zoom range), which again is perfect for most amateurs although again a pro might be looking to bring that distance down a shade.
So all that taken into consideration what are the images like that this lens produces? Well very, very good would be my answer. I used this lens on both my A200 and on my new A900 and got very good quality images on both counts. I had to use a lens hood when shooting outdoors in bright light because the lens seemed to pick up stray light from everywhere but this is no big issue really with a good lens hood for this lens costing only around £15. In the studio under set lighting the hood was not needed and t=again the images were very, very good.
I changed to my Sony 16-105 lens which cost around £150 more than the Tamron and the difference was negligible making this Tamron lens very well worth its price tag of a measly £80, in fact I had to move on to my Carl Zeiss 55-300 F2.8 in the studio to get better results than I was getting from the Tamron lens and when you consider that the Carl Zeiss lens is priced around £800, this says good things for this little wonder from Tamron.
It is not fair to leave you thinking this lens is without fault though because that is simply not true, I feel the outdoor shooting with this lens offered up a couple of problems. As I said earlier a lens hood was needed to avoid stray light but I noticed that the images shot with the lens hood (the correct one for this lens) had slightly darkened corners where the hood appeared to be shading out too much of the light.
The other problem although only a slight one is the speed of the auto focus, outdoors it is fairly quick when the lighting is good but in the studio it laboured slightly. It is by no means slow but it is slower and more cumbersome than the Sony lenses.
All in all for its tiny price tag of £80 this is a lens I would highly recommend to amateurs and even perhaps to semi-pros but the professionals like myself out there will want more. It is also worth noting that this lens is not just for Sony users, it is also available in Canon and Nikon fits and is even slightly cheaper for these models and also offers good results with these brands of DSLR. I have used it on the Nikon d80 and the Canon Rebel XTI and got the same high quality results as I did with the Sony DSLR`s.
The other thing worth noting about this lens is that it is fairly small for a zoom lens even when extended and it is also fairly light which is good of you like to travel light or perhaps only have a small kit bag, as most people starting out usually do. with your standard kit lens and this Tamron you will be able to grow into your photography whilst your equipment grows with you and you will probably find it being around a year to 18 months before you are reaching out for yet bigger lenses, but believe me the lust for new and better glass will never stop but at least this glass will stay good for a long time and be of continued use to you even when you have moved on to bigger things.
Thanks for reading!