Stacie Errera is VP of Marketing and Communications for Tamron USA.

We met with Tamron's Stacie Errera at Photokina 2018 in Cologne, Germany where we discussed the brand's unique identity, product development prioritization, future lens plans and the importance of user feedback.

How is Tamron different from other lens manufacturers?

Our focus on customer service at all aspects of the users’ experience makes us different. We’re very focused on education - we like keeping our customers up on the latest techniques to create great photography. So whether it’s in-person workshops, working with our local authorized dealer base to bring workshops to stores, our magazine or our newsletter, we’re very focused on education. We’re also focused on support - all of our products have a six-year warranty. We have standard three-business-day turnaround for repairs with no extra charge for every customer - it doesn’t matter who you are. If you have a lens and you need a repair, you send it in and you get it back within three days. That’s the best in the industry.

We have standard three-business-day turnaround for repairs with no extra charge for every customer

Is Tamron’s three-day repair turnaround for US customers only?

It’s worldwide. Almost all markets now have that. Any place we have a subsidiary, it’s three days and anywhere we have a distributor, it’s mostly three days. This policy actually came as a mandate from our president to increase confidence in Tamron lenses and Tamron customer service.

And our overall philosophy or feeling we want customers to have - which extends into the lens design itself - is a ‘human touch quality’. We want that to extend beyond the product. We strive really hard to work closely with our customers. We hear what they have to say and work with them on social media and in person to give them good service. So I think it sets us apart a little bit, how closely we try to listen to and help motivate and mentor our customers.

The Tamron 28-75mm F2.8 Di III RXD is the most compact F2.8 zoom available for Sony E-mount. Also important: It's very sharp.

How do customer needs and feedback play into the design and development of new lenses?

We do a few customer surveys a year where we find out what people are looking for. Also any feedback that my tech team or sales team might get is fed to me and then it goes up through the chain. With our subsidiaries, we sit down several times a year and put together our thoughts and make recommendations - these are based off of what people are asking for, what they feel they need and what they feel might be missing from a current lens line. Sometimes people bring up technologies and maybe you’ll think the idea is crazy, but we still pass it on. So we definitely try to pass all that information up to our headquarters.

Who do you see as Tamron’s user base? Is it pros, enthusiast, or a combo of both?

It’s a combo of both. We do several professional tradeshows a year and have very busy booths and a lot of customers there. As we put together our VIP program we’re seeing all the customers who own multiple lenses, so we do have a lot of pros out there. I’d say we’re maybe 60% enthusiast, 40% pro.

We want to make it affordable so [photographers] can have four, five, or six lenses in their bag without going broke

Our enthusiasts, they run the gamut from first entry-level DSLR / ILC users up to serious enthusiast that have been using cameras for 20+ years, many of whom came out of the film days. We really have a wide range of users. And again, just looking at our database with the VIP program - how many people own multiple lenses - we know our users really are gear-intensive customers. They’re into getting new lenses; many update their cameras, then get new lenses to match.

Tell me more about Tamron’s VIP program.

Any customer that registers their Tamron USA lenses purchased after 2011 are eligible for Tamron USA’s VIP program. If they have four lenses, five lenses or six+ lenses there’s silver, gold and platinum VIP.

We just had all our platinum members out at a VIP summit in Santa Fe for four days of seminars and field workshops. They brought their lenses and it’s amazing to see these customers that have lots of gear but continue to get new lenses to make sure they have the right tool for the job. We want to make it affordable for them so they can have four, five, or six lenses in their bag without going broke.

The new Tamron SP 15-30mm F2.8 Di VC USD G2 is the only stabilized F2.8 wide zoom for full-frame DSLRs. It's also, you guessed it, very sharp.

How important is affordability to your long-term growth and vision for Tamron?

It’s definitely high up there. Our goal is to number one, make sure the lens is high quality. The second goal for us, depending on the category of the lens, is definitely size and weight. So looking at the Sony FE and E-mount, for example, we’re definitely looking at compactness and lightweight designs as key features of those products.

But we also do look to keep the price in an affordable range for the customer. One of the philosophies of the company is we want to make photography accessible for everyone. By having tools that can be more affordable for the photographer, we can expand their bag and make sure they have the right tool for the types of photography they like to do.

One of the philosophies of the company is we want to make photography accessible for everyone

What about for DSLRs, is size and weight still a high consideration?

For both mirrorless and DSLR size and weight are a consideration. For example, the 17-35mm F2.8-4 for DSLRs, it is the lightest and most compact in its class of lenses that are F4 or faster. If you look at the 15-30 F2.8 for DSLR, while it’s definitely a large lens with it’s constant 2.8 aperture, it is still the only lens in the category with stabilization. So it's not compact, but within the category it still has advantages.

How important a consideration is video when Tamron develops lenses?

It’s a high consideration. We are trying to make sure the motors in our lenses are as silent as they can be. However, depending on who the videographer is and what they’re filming, they may be using manual focus anyway. The new 28-75 F2.8 for Sony FE has a rapid extra-silent drive (RXD) and it is definitely geared toward video because we know people are using Sony full-frame to shoot video more so than on some other systems.

A sample photo shot with the Tamron SP 15-30mm F2.8 Di VC USD G2.

The 28-75 F2.8 for Sony FE is one of our favorite lens available for full-frame E-mount. How this lens been received by customers and will we see other full-frame Sony E-mount lenses soon?

That lens has definitely been very well-accepted by Sony shooters worldwide. Right now we’re still in a very heavy demand situation. Supply is catching up, though. I think it’s really the first lens that seems to fit the form factor of the camera itself. That balance and that lightweight design without compromising performance, everything about it fits the form factor and goal for what that system is all about. So definitely, with the acceptance of this, we’ll see more from Tamron for Sony mirrorless cameras.

We’ll see more from Tamron for Sony mirrorless cameras

Tamron now makes lenses for Sony FE, E, A, Nikon F, Canon EF, M, Micro Four Thirds, Pentax K-mounts. With all these mounts, how does Tamron prioritize what lenses they are going to make?

We look at the market and see where there are gaps - what’s moving, what’s not moving.

Really the past few years have been dedicated to analyzing the mirrorless portion of the market. With all the recent introductions to mirrorless I think it’s very evident that the market is swiftly moving toward mirrorless dominance. But that’s not to say full-frame DSLRs are not still strong. My opinion is that people will continue, for at least the next few years, using multiple formats. I have my DSLR I use for some situations and I have my mirrorless I use for other situations - I have my smartphone that I use still for others. So I think we’re in a place where each consumer is a multi-format user. Obviously there are people that are mirrorless-only, DSLR-only. And obviously there are pros not ready to make the jump to mirrorless yet. But overall, it’s a fun time to be making lenses.

Really the past few years have been dedicated to analyzing the mirrorless portion of the market

Do you have any prediction for how much of your business will be represented by mirrorless lenses rather than SLR lenses?

Right now we have a couple of mirrorless lenses plus the recent introduction of the full-frame Sony mirrorless. I think we’ll move along with the market. The US market is swiftly catching up to some other markets in the world. And I think we’ll see some changes worldwide for Tamron over the next few years. But it’s hard for me to attach a number or percentage to that at this point. But we’re definitely moving with the market.

All-in-one zooms for DSLRs are still a crucial part of Tamron's portfolio. The Tamron 100-400mm F4.5-6.3 Di VC USD for APS-C - which this photo was shot with - offers a good balance of quality and affordability.

We now have two new full frame mounts, Canon R and Nikon Z, as well as the announcement of the Panasonic/Leica/Sigma L-mount alliance. Is there talk about making lenses for these mounts?

I think we need to get those cameras into our engineers’ hands and analyze them and see what they’re all about and make determinations from there. I think that we’re keenly looking at all these different mounts and I think it’s an important part of the market today. I’m not involved in the talks over in Japan, but I would assume there is definitely a strong interest in these.

I think we’ll see some changes worldwide for Tamron over the next few years

Sigma, Panasonic and Leica announced their L-mount partnership at Photokina. Has Tamron considered making partnerships with other brands in similar fashion?

At this point in time, there’s none I’m aware of. That doesn’t mean there won’t be partnerships in the future.

What’s the immediate future hold for Tamron?

I think we’ll continue expanding our lineup. We'll be continuing our G2-series, the 15-30 F2.8 G2 now completes the SP (Superior Performance) trio of fast, image-stabilized zooms. It was very important for us to complete that trio. We’ll also be filling in the full-frame arena and raising the bar for all-in-ones, an area of the market where we are the leader. It’s just a progression of filling and finding areas of need as the market changes.

Editors' note: Dan Bracaglia

Tamron is a brand increasingly putting out lenses I want to get my hands on, from their outstanding, stabilized SP 15-30mm F2.8 Di G2 to their perfectly sized 28-75mm F2.8 Di III RXD - my favorite lens for Sony FE without question. Both of these lenses represent unique designs within their chosen mounts.

2018 is an exciting time for third-party lens brands

2018 is an exciting time for third-party lens brands, but with the number of mirrorless mounts growing, it's as important as ever for these companies to carefully consider what they prioritize. Tamron seems to understand this though - lens development boils down to a careful mix of user feedback and market analysis.

Though all-in-one zooms for DSLRs have long been the brand's bread-and-butter, here's hoping we'll even see other well-sized, constant-aperture mirrorless zooms in the near future given the market success of the 28-75mm F2.8 Di III RXD and Stacie's mention of 'changes worldwide for Tamron over the next few years.'

...with Tamron's new commitment to three-day repair turnarounds, their lenses are looking more desirable than ever

Speaking of mirrorless, Stacie wouldn't give me any indication what plans the company has for the new Nikon Z and Canon RF-mounts. This isn't terribly surprising given how new they are, but it will be interesting to see whether existing mirrorless models eventually become available for these new mirrorless mounts.

At the end of the day, I'm thankful that brands like Tamron and Sigma exist. Though they take very different approaches to lens development, both are going to great lengths to ensure that there are a lot of cool lens choices on the market. And with Tamron's new commitment to three-day repair turnarounds, their lenses are looking more desirable than ever.