Of Nikon and Tamron lenses

A while ago, a reader of j.ronald.lee asked me for some camera and lens recommendations. Being a Nikon shooter, if you ask me for my opinion, you’re going to hear about Nikon. What you might be surprised to hear is that I did not recommend a Nikon lens for someone getting started in the world of DSLR photography.

I own two “kit” lenses… these are lenses that Nikon sometimes packages with the D90. First I own the AF-S VR Zoom-NIKKOR 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED (shown above). It’s a long range zoom lens, and for the money, a decent piece of glass. The other one I own is the AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, which lists for $399.95. This is a standard zoom lens. Everyone needs a good standard zoom lens.

Unfortunately, this is not a good standard zoom lens.

Don’t get me wrong, a lot of the photos you’ve seen on this site have been taken with that glass, but while it’s range makes it the most versatile, the lousy aperture makes it the least photo-friendly. So when Sonya asked me for a recommendation, I told her to spend a hundred bucks more and get the Tamron lens instead. Here’s a link:

Tamron AF 28-75mm f/2.8 SP XR ZL Di LD Aspherical

At one point, this glass listed for about a thousand bucks, but it’s seen recent discounts so it’s now around $500, and there’s a $25 rebate available in the U.S. right now. I recommend this lens because of its larger aperture at 2.8, and its ability to get in close. Really close. Take, for example, the shot above. It’s a photo of Nikon glass – that I took with the Tamron lens at the camera store while I was still thinking about buying it.

I don’t own a macro lens, so to get in close I’ve used Quantaray close-up filters. They produce some great shots, but the depth of focus is severely shortened when you do this, making focus very tricky. I usually use a tripod to avoid any extra movement.

This shot, however, was no filters, just pop the lens on, zoom in all the way, and press the shutter (awful store lighting, too, I might add). Here’s a closer look:

Even at full magnification, this lens holds up very well. Aaaand… since it’s my birthday… and my family loves me… and the jar that holds my extra coins was getting full… I bought it. Yes, it lacks the image stabilization of my 18-105. Yes, it’s a shorter zoom range.

Oh, and yes, it takes much better photos. I’ll share some over the coming days so we can see if I made a good call together.


  1. That’s pretty good – what was the shutter speed for that shot? It’s not quite as sharp as you’d want it, but really close. Nothing you’d be able to tell unless you printed larger than an 8×10, at least.

  2. I’ve always found that keeping a glass lenses clean and scratch-free to be difficult. Without Lens Cleaning Tissues, you’re S.O.L. I have an old camera, (which I can’t remember the brand) sitting on a shelf at home, that I haven’t used in years; partially because I’ve scratched the lens moderately bad. Since we’re on the topic of lenses, what is the best way to go about fixing the scratches without compromising it?

    • I’m not aware of a way to unscratch a lens, unfortunately. I keep a UV filter on all of my lenses, so if I do scratch the surface, it’s a relatively inexpensive fix. Throw away the UV filter, install a new one.

      Maybe one of the pros who visits here will have an idea. (hope!)

      • Well, it was worth asking! Since it’s an oldie but a goodie, I thought I’d give it a shot. Maybe I’ll pray to the Easter Bunny or Camera Gods for a solution :)

      • Is it the front or the back of the lens that is scratched? If it’s the front, it’s surprising how little it can impact your photos. Check out this article on lens damage.

        • It’s the front of the lens; my guess is from wear and tears over the years. Reading that and looking at the photos, there really isn’t as big of a problem that I thought there would be. Thanks!

  3. Tamron makes really good lenses, just it has less reputation.

  4. Tamron’s quality is good, if you can pay a little bit more you can get the lens that will hepl you getting better pictures

  5. I totally concur that maintaining lenses can be pretty tricky, it really doesn’t matter which side of the lens is vulnerable to scratching, the bottom line is that care should be exercised. thank you for this informative piece.

  6. I’m so glad I stumbled across this article. I’ve been debating between the two for months. Looks like I’ve made my decision…

  7. Do you have any examples of the photos you took using the lens? I would love to see them.

  8. Very good information on lenses i loved to read the article. I will definitely share the link with my friends.


  9. Liewilyn Baynosa says:

    Thanks for the ideas very useful. Specially for who just started photography. Thanks

  10. Dean Russer says:

    Great pics! I love Nikon because it has a great feature in capturing photos, I love everything about Nikon Cameras and of course it’s lenses..

  11. Good information for beginners. :)

  12. I’ve become increasingly frustrated with my Nikon Kit Lens, but never thought I’d be able to afford, or justify, buying an f2.8 lens with some decent focal length. That Tamron sounds almost too good to be true at $500. Thanks so much for sharing this. Might have to buy myself a late Christmas present ;-)


    • It’s been a long time since I wrote this post. Here’s my update.

      I sold the Nikon kit lens as part of my fundraising for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. I loaned it to a friend over a year ago, and invited her to keep it in exchange for a donation. She takes pretty good shots with it, but I still think the Tamron does better. That said, one day, there will be a Nikon 2.8 in the bag. I hope. :)

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