The Contenders

Here are the two lenses under consideration. On the left, the Tamron AF 28-75mm f/2.8. On the right, the Nikon 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6. They’re about the same size, though the Tamron weighs a few more ounces (12 v. 9.6). Considering the Nikon looks a little bulkier, where does the weight come from?

One word. Plastics. This Nikon lens is plastic and glass, where the Tamron has metal, too. Here’s a look at the docking ring of these lenses. The plastic on the Nikon lens makes it lighter… and less rugged, too. Worse, there’s an electrical connection that takes place in the ring, and for this lens, that’s the tiny spot at about 5:00 on the image below. That tiny brass spot replaces the full metal ring on the Tamron. This is known to create issues for some Nikon owners, as it produces an intermittent connectivity issue that will cause the camera to malfunction. My first lens starting having problems within a week. I exchanged it, and the second one started having problems a few weeks later. In the end, I had to send it in for repairs.

The other telling part of this is how much smaller the back element is on the Nikon lens. The Tamron lens can open up to f/2.8 (the smaller the number the bigger the shutter opening). The Nikon lens only opens to f/5.6 when it is zoomed in, which is a smaller opening, and allows 1/2 the light to pass through. What does this mean to you as a photographer?

The f/5.6 aperture on Nikon means that to get the same amount of light through the lens, the shutter has to be open twice as long. Sometimes that doesn’t matter. If you’re at the beach on a sunny day, you might want to close the aperture even more. A lot of amature photographers like to shoot at f/8 or higher. But if you’re in lower light (anything indoors, for example), you’re going to want to open your shutter up wider, and the Nikon lens can’t do it. In my experience, this means blurry shots because the camera moved a little while you took the picture, or because you’re photographing a human (tip: people move). Some of the worst pictures I ever took were indoors on Christmas morning. My subject blinked, and half the exposure was with her eye open, the other half with it closed. She looked like she had cataracts… or was a zombie. Either way, not pretty.

The Nikon lens has dropped to $329 in price, and that’s a better price than the $400 I paid. Still, if you want the longer zoom range of 18-105, and you don’t care about aperture, drop me a line here, and I’ll sell you mine for far less than that.

I’d be doing Nikon a disservice if I didn’t mention that they do have a medium range zoom that reaches f/2.8. It’s the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G ED AF-S. This is serious glass… you literally cannot buy a better lens… but it will cost you a little over $1,700 US. Worth every penny? Yes… if you sell your photos. Me, I give ‘em away, so the Tamron is my lens for now.


  1. Philip says:

    James, you mentioned in the post that you don’t sell your photographs at the moment. Forgive me if you have already covered this elsewhere, but have you considered setting up an account with a site like and selling through them?
    Philip recently posted The Whitsunday Islands

  2. Wow, you’re just giving all these photos away? All along I thought, you’re getting some bucks out of these cool photos.

    Me, I do have a collection of photos now, but I too am not selling or even thinking of selling them. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a hobby, and besides, I’m still so newbie at this game.
    James Moralde recently posted Moon Shots With Canon 18-200 IS Lens

  3. hey James

    I have just came back from a short trip to Wroclaw, where my mother bought her camera- Nikon D90 with the lenses 60-85. she is quite excited, as you may imagine.
    If you were buying a camera, what brand, type, would it be? What about the lenses?

    Martyna Bizdra recently posted News- Live Facebook Chat with Kim Kiyosaki- March 15- 2011

    • James Lee says:

      I’m a Nikon guy. That doesn’t mean that Canon doesn’t put out a good product – they do – but I can’t give advice there.

      Like your mother, I shoot a D90. It’s an amazing camera, and now that Nikon has announced that it will be discontinued this year, the price has dropped quite a bit. It’s a lovely camera in almost every way.

      That said, if I were buying a camera today, I’d save up for Nikon’s exceptional D7000. Here are some of the reasons why:

      – Longer video capability
      – Auto-focus in video mode
      – Larger sensor / more pixels
      – Faster burst mode (takes 6 shots a second!)
      – Higher ISO range / less noise in lower light situations (i.e., anything indoors)
      – Significantly more auto-focus sensors (39 v. 11) means faster, more accurate focusing

      I’ve never used the D7000, and I’m already in love with it!

      That said, I don’t know your budget. If the price tag is too high, the D3100 is a VERY capable entry-level DSLR.

      Stay away from Nikon kit lenses. I’m really enjoying my new Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 lens, Anyone that wants the longer zoom from the Nikon 18-105 can buy mine for less than you can get it new. I’ll include the UV filter, and charge a lot less than Nikon does. :)

  4. From my experience, Tamron Lens are good for the budget conscious. Not that they are bad, but their AF speed leaves something to be desired. If you’re an event photographer(i.e. weddings), fast focusing lenses like Nikon’s 24-70 is almost a must.

    Of course, if you’re a serious hobbyist, use any lens you can afford and take pictures everyday! :)

    P.S. Yah, you should consider putting some of your work on microstock websites for some pocket change—buy more lenses FTW!

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