One Lens, One Body
For as long as I have had a DSLR (a little over three years now) I have always kept to a single lens. There are a few reasons for that, most obviously is convenience. Lugging around the extra weight of an additional lens or lenses and having to switch lenses in sometimes awkward places, situations, and/or positions does not particularly appeal to me. Also, with digital cameras dust on the sensor can be a real aggravation, especially if you are shooting with your aperture closed down, and changing lenses frequently just promotes the problem. That’s why the single lens that I do carry is an all purpose lens with a very generous focal range, 18-250mm to be exact.
Shooting In Low Light
There are other reasons why I would prefer to stick with a single lens, but going into them all seems pointless. More important is why I decided to go ahead and get another one anyway. Well, I think I have done pretty well with one lens, it is a Sony 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3, model SAL18250. Nothing spectacular about it, except its noteworthy focal range – otherwise its maximum aperture range is typical. The Sony SAL18250 has been a steadfast companion to my Alpha 350 and I have always been satisfied with it in well lit situations, but low light has always been a challenge for me with that lens; indoor shots and even outdoor street shots are difficult or impossible to capture. So that’s what I was looking for, a fast lens for low light – enter the Tamron A16S.
The Tamron A16S, otherwise known as the Tamron AF 17-50mm f/2.8 Di-II LD Aspherical lens, has a nice wide maximum aperture of f/2.8 throughout the focal range. That means that you can shoot wide open at f/2.8 from 17mm all the way through 50mm, and with a wide aperture like that you can shoot at faster shutter speeds, or at a lower ISO, or both. Often, when using my Sony lens indoors, I would need to up the ISO to 800 or shoot as slow as 1/30 or 1/20 second, which usually results in grainy, blurry photos.
Along with a wide aperture comes nice bokeh. Bokeh is the blur/soft focus effect that you typically see in portrait photography. Its that effect, which you may see in photos of wedding invites and such, where one line of text on the invite is in focus and the rest of the lines are out of focus. With really severe bokeh you can get a person’s eye in sharp focus, yet have other features of their face blurred out. You can still get the bokeh with smaller apertures than f/2.8, but personally I think f/2.8 is where it starts to get real good.
When I set out shopping for a new lens, I was only looking for a wider maximum aperture – a faster lens – and the Tamron is that plus more. More what? Well it is also a macro lens to boot. The Tamron has a minimum focusing distance of 10.5 inches throughout the focal range, allowing you to get a fair amount of detail, especially when zoomed in to 50mm. By comparison, my Sony 18-250mm lens has a minimum focusing distance of a foot and a half (18″), so to be able to get my lens less than a foot (12″) away from the subject is really exciting to me.
I have always been pleased with my Sony SAL18250 lens, particularly with its versatility and how much it has allowed me to capture, all with just a single lens. I still think the SAL18250 is a fantastic lens and I still think it will be mounted on my camera a lot of the time, but now it may be sharing equal time with the Tamron A16S. The Tamron A16S will let me keep shooting in certain situations where the SAL18250 could not, and hopefully I will be able to capture a greater variety of images than I could before. It was a big decision for me to add another lens to my photo bag, but I think the Tamron A16S is worth any and all of the hassle and inconvenience that comes along with toting more hardware. I already have taken a few shots with the Tamron and am happy with the results; I can’t wait to see what else it can do. I will post some of the photos soon.