Which Tamron Lenses Should Nikon Z Prioritize?

Tips & Techniques

The recent, unexpected announcement of the Nikon Z 28-75mm f/2.8 – with identical optics as the Tamron G1 28-75mm f/2.8 – makes me wonder what’s next. Will Nikon and Tamron work together on any more Z-series lenses? If so, these are the lenses they should prioritize.

Before going through the list, I should emphasize that we don’t yet know what agreement Nikon and Tamron have behind the scenes. The 28-75mm f/2.8 may simply be a one-time trial balloon floated to see how much interest there is in budget Z-series lenses. Or, it could represent a more substantial partnership where Tamron can ease some of Nikon’s manufacturing pressures and create a larger lineup of lenses.

In any case, it seems plausible that we’ll see more Nikon Z lenses with Tamron DNA in the future. Some photographers might feel divided about that if it’s true, but I think it’s almost always good to have more choices. So, let’s take a look at the existing catalog of Tamron lenses and which ones would be the most useful for the Nikon Z system.

Three Tamron Mirrorless Lenses

Table of Contents

Current Tamron Mirrorless Lenses

Here’s the current list of Tamron mirrorless lenses for aps-c sensors and larger:

  • Tamron 11-20mm f/2.8 (aps-c lens)
  • Tamron 17-70mm f/2.8 (aps-c lens)
  • Tamron 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 (aps-c lens)
  • Tamron 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 (aps-c lens)
  • Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8
  • Tamron 20mm f/2.8
  • Tamron 24mm f/2.8
  • Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8
  • Tamron 28-200mm f/2.8-5.6
  • Tamron 35-150mm f/2-2.8
  • Tamron 35mm f/2.8
  • Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8
  • Tamron 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3
  • Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7

The soon-to-be-adapted 28-75mm f/2.8 is originally a native design for mirrorless cameras, specifically the Sony E mount. It makes sense that the next Nikon/Tamron lenses will be as well. So, the lenses above are what I consider the most likely to appear in the near future if this partnership holds.

Note that some of the Tamron lenses above have an older G1 version and a newer G2 version. This is true of the 28-75mm f/2.8 that Nikon is adapting. The G2 versions of Tamron’s lenses are better on balance, but some of them are very similar to the G1 versions. Nikon chose to adapt the earlier G1 lens for the 28-75mm but may not always do so.

Current Tamron DSLR Lenses

There’s a huge lineup of Tamron lenses if you include all lens mounts and especially older lens designs. Below, to simplify things, I’m only going to mention the lenses currently listed on Tamron’s website, and only for aps-c sensors and larger.

  • Tamron 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 (aps-c lens)
  • Tamron 16-300mm f/3.5-6.3 (aps-c lens)
  • Tamron 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 (aps-c lens)
  • Tamron 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 (aps-c lens)
  • Tamron 18-400mm f/3.5-6.3 (aps-c lens)
  • Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8
  • Tamron 17-35mm f/2.8-4
  • Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8
  • Tamron 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3
  • Tamron 35mm f/1.4
  • Tamron 35mm f/1.8
  • Tamron 35-150mm f/2.8-4
  • Tamron 45mm f/1.8
  • Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8
  • Tamron 70-210mm f/4
  • Tamron 100-400mm f/4.5-6.3
  • Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3

As before, some of the lenses on this list have G1 and G2 versions, such as the 15-30mm f/2.8.

Warm and Cool Colors in Aspen Trees
NIKON D810 + TAMRON 15-30mm F2.8 G1 @ 15mm, ISO 64, 1/60, f/16.0

What Lenses Should They Make for Nikon Z?

To me, the most important releases for Nikon and Tamron to prioritize are lenses that don’t currently exist for the Nikon Z system. In other words, rather than a lens like the 28-75mm f/2.8 (basically duplicated by the Nikon Z 24-70mm f/2.8), the two companies should focus on lenses that have no Nikon Z equivalent at the moment.

Since it’s likely that the first Tamron/Nikon lenses will be from Tamron’s mirrorless lineup (rather than their DSLR set), let’s go through those lenses below. I’ll start with the four aps-c mirrorless lenses:

  • Tamron 11-20mm f/2.8: Could be very useful. Nikon already has a 12-28mm DX lens on their roadmap, but it’s unknown whether that lens will be an f/2.8 or a lightweight variable aperture zoom. (Knowing Nikon, it will probably be a variable aperture zoom.) The Tamron lens could keep Nikon DX competitive.
  • Tamron 17-70mm f/2.8: Unless Nikon deviates from the roadmap, it will be a while before we see an f/2.8 DX midrange zoom. This 17-70mm f/2.8 would be a great stopgap and pair nicely with a hypothetical Nikon Z90.
  • Tamron 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 (aps-c lens): There’s already a Nikon Z 18-140mm f/3.5-6.3 DX lens. I don’t think the extra reach to 200mm would be especially useful, so this lens can be safely skipped.
  • Tamron 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 (aps-c lens): Eventually, Nikon is bound to produce an 18-300mm DX superzoom, or something similar like 16-300mm or 18-250mm. I don’t care if they partner with Tamron when they do.

Next are the full-frame Tamron mirrorless lenses:

  • Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8: Nikon already has a world-class Z-series 14-24mm f/2.8. This Tamron lens could be a budget choice (and pair well with the Nikon/Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8) but isn’t critical otherwise.
  • Tamron 20mm f/2.8: I’m always a fan of lightweight f/2.8 primes. This Tamron lens weighs 221 grams / 0.49 pounds and costs just $250, compared to the Nikon Z 20mm f/1.8 that weighs 505 grams / 1.11 pounds and costs $1050. No one is saying that the Tamron has better image quality between the two, but it’s still sharp and would be a great choice if you’re trying to save money or weight. I hope this lens appears in the Nikon Z lineup at some point.
  • Tamron 24mm f/2.8: My thoughts on the Tamron 20mm f/2.8 hold true here. The 24mm f/2.8 is 215 grams and $200, while the Nikon Z 24mm f/1.8 is 450 grams and $900. I don’t think Tamron needs to make both the 20mm and 24mm f/2.8 lenses immediately, but at least one would be excellent. (I’d prefer the 20mm f/2.8 to differentiate from the Nikon Z 28mm f/2.8.)
  • Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8: Already adapting! I wouldn’t have considered it a priority, but it’s at least a good option for Nikon Z photographers who need an f/2.8 zoom on a budget.
  • Tamron 28-200mm f/2.8-5.6: Nikon already has the Z 24-200mm f/4-6.3, which is the best superzoom we’ve ever tested. The Tamron version is f/2.8 at the wide end instead of f/4 (at the expense of missing some wider focal lengths) but otherwise doesn’t make much sense for a Nikon Z shooter. I think Tamron and Nikon can skip this adaptation.
  • Tamron 35-150mm f/2-2.8: This is a wild lens and pretty much unprecedented before Tamron announced it in August 2021. I hope we see a Nikon Z adaptation.
  • Tamron 35mm f/2.8: It’s a good lens, but Nikon already has an inexpensive 40mm f/2 compact prime that weighs 40 grams less than The Tamron 35mm f/2.8. I wouldn’t prioritize this one. That said, the Tamron does have good macro capabilities (1:2 magnification), so it may be the preference for some Nikon Z users.
  • Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8: Since Nikon already has a fantastic Z 70-200mm f/2.8, this Tamron lens would be a budget option instead of bringing something new to the table. I don’t think Nikon should prioritize it given the gaps elsewhere in their lineup, unless they’re dead-set on adapting the full 17-28mm, 28-75mm, and 70-180mm f/2.8 trio for photographers on a budget.
  • Tamron 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3: This is one of the top lenses I’d adapt from Tamron for the Nikon Z system. It measures a featherweight 545 grams / 1.20 pounds and costs just $500. Currently, there is a lack of lightweight telephoto options for the Nikon Z system, and the Tamron 70-300mm can fill that gap. (The only full-frame choice right now is the Nikon Z 24-200mm f/4-6.3.)
  • Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7: Nikon is nearly about to ship their Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6, and I suspect it will be a great lens. Unfortunately, it is also a very expensive lens at $2700. The Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 costs $1400 by comparison and frequently goes on sale for less. Nikon definitely needs a budget optic at some point that goes beyond 200-300mm. This lens could be the ticket, or perhaps the unannounced 200-600mm from Nikon’s roadmap could fit the bill instead.

That’s it for the Tamron mirrorless lenses, but what about the company’s DSLR glass? I suspect these lenses are less likely to be adapted. (Even if they were, they’d be bigger than the DSLR versions, since they would need an FTZ-style spacer on the back.) Nevertheless, I’ll briefly cover the top five Tamron DSLR lenses that I’d like to see for Nikon Z mount.

  1. Tamron 70-210mm f/4: This is the DSLR lens I’d most like to see adapted, for obvious reasons. A (roughly) 70-200mm f/4 lens is sorely needed on the Nikon Z system to pair with the excellent 14-30mm f/4 and 24-70mm f/4 lenses. I don’t care if it’s from Tamron, Nikon, or anyone else; it’s a major gap in Nikon’s lineup at the moment.
  2. Tamron 17-35mm f/2.8-4: The Tamron 17-35mm f/2.8-4 is a very interesting ultra-wide lens. It retains the useful f/2.8 aperture at its widest focal length (helpful for astrophotography) but still stays compact because of the narrower f/4 aperture as you zoom in. Nikon doesn’t have a Z-series equivalent and probably won’t any time soon.
  3. Tamron 35mm f/1.4: I like that Nikon has been prioritizing image quality and compactness with their mirrorless lenses, but it does mean that most of the Nikon Z primes have an f/1.8 maximum aperture instead of something wider. Since Nikon doesn’t seem to have plans for a 35mm f/1.2 or f/1.4 any time soon, Tamron could step in instead. An aperture of f/1.4 gains 2/3 stops of light compared to f/1.8. It’s not a massive difference, but there’s a reason why wedding photographers so often love 35mm f/1.4 lenses in low light conditions.
  4. Tamron 35-150mm f/2.8-4: Unlike the unusual mirrorless Tamron 35-150mm f/2-2.8, this DSLR lens has a more standard f/2.8-4 maximum aperture. Still, the focal length range is unusual and potentially useful, such as for event photographers who don’t want to carry too many lenses. It would be an intriguing Nikon Z adaptation.
  5. Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3: I don’t particularly care whether Tamron adapts this lens or the 150-500mm f/5-6.7 mirrorless lens that I covered in the prior section. This would be a better choice for users who want 600mm rather than 500mm in exchange for a bit more weight. Tamron doesn’t need to adapt both, though.

As for the rest of Tamron’s DSLR lenses, I don’t consider any of them critical to adapt to the Nikon Z system. But the five lenses in the list above would make compelling adaptations.

Tamron-17-35mm-f2-8-4-21
NIKON D780 + Tamron 17-35mm f/2.8-4E @ 25mm, ISO 100, 1/400, f/9.0

Conclusion

Nikon created a bit of a stir when their Z 28-75mm f/2.8 was shown to have a Tamron optical design. But I don’t think it’s a bad thing. Nikon clearly knows that they need more lenses if they’re going to be competitive with Canon’s lineup, let alone Sony’s, in a manufacturing environment as strained as this one. Partnering with Tamron should let them sell some less expensive lenses and fill in their gaps more quickly.

I do hope, however, that Nikon’s next adaptations are from the newer G2 versions of these Tamron lenses rather than the G1 generation. That’s a disappointment so far about the upcoming 28-75mm f/2.8. I also hope that our testing at Photography Life confirms the Nikon/Tamron lenses to have focus speed and accuracy equivalent to those of original Nikon Z glass – which I suspect they will, but I’m curious to test.

In the end, there are a lot of Tamron lenses I’d like to see for the Z system. Some lenses (like the Tamron 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3) would fill in a critical gap in Nikon’s lineup, while others (like the Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7) would keep costs down in places that Z-series glass is especially expensive. And perhaps if this whole endeavor is a success, Tamron will start to make entirely new lenses dedicated for the Nikon Z system, rather than just re-using their existing designs.

Whatever the details of this new partnership may be, I’m cautiously optimistic. If Nikon and Tamron keep working together on new lenses, it could speed up their progress and make them more competitive, which is better for everyone.

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