Tamron had great success with their first full-frame Sony E-mount lens, the 28-75mm f/2.8. The lens was affordable, had very good image quality, a solid yet lightweight build and made for a very nice alternative to the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM. Now they are targeting the ultra-wide zoom segment with the new Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8 Di III RXD. The 17-28mm is even more compact than the 28-75mm, though at the expense of a bit of range compared to other ultra-wide zooms. At a retail price of $899, the 17-28mm is $400 less expensive than the Sony/Zeiss 16-35mm f/4 and $1,300 less expensive than Sony’s 16-35mm f/2.8 GM. Let’s dive in and see if Tamron has created another winner, or if there are too many compromises to reach that affordable price point.
If you haven’t read my reviews before, I take a real-world approach to reviewing cameras and lenses. I evaluate a lens on how it works for me as a photographic tool.
Construction and Handling
The Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8 looks like a shorter version of their 28-75mm. The lens features a fully polycarbonate shell with a metal mount. While extremely lightweight, the overall impression is still that of good quality. The 17-28mm is tightly assembled and has no creaks or wobbles anywhere. Tamron’s 17-28mm f/2.8 is very compact for a fast ultra-wide zoom, and is roughly the same size as Sony’s 1-stop slower 16-35mm f/4 ZA when set to its most compact focal length of 35mm. The Tamron is slightly slimmer in diameter and a bit lighter, despite being a full stop faster. Compared to the 16-35mm f/2.8, with which it shares the same fast f/2.8 aperture, the Tamron is considerably smaller and lighter. The Tamron weighs in at just 420g, compared to 518g for the Sony 16-35mm f/4 and 680g for the Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 GM. The 17-28mm also uses much smaller filters despite the same maximum aperture as the Sony GM, with 67mm filters compared to the GM’s 82mm filters. Along with the 28-75mm f/2.8, the two lenses are a nice lightweight and compact pair to cover 17-75mm at constant f/2.8.
The broad zoom ring is covered in ribbed rubber, and moves smoothly. Unlike the 28-75mm, the 17-28mm f/2.8 does not extend while zooming. The element movement happens entirely within the outer barrel, so the length of the lens stays constant regardless of focal length. The manual focus ring is approximately a half-inch thick and sits behind the zoom ring. The focus ring turns smoothly with a small amount of damping. Like many focus-by-wire lenses, the rate of focus change is not linear on the 17-28mm, but rather varies with how fast you turn the focus ring.
The lens includes a plastic petal lens hood that mounts via bayonet at the front of the lens. The hood is sturdy, but there’s nothing particularly special about it. It will provide a bit of shading from stray light and some protection for the front element. Overall, due to the extremely light weight and compact nature, the lens handles beautifully on my A7 III, and should handle well on essentially any E-mount camera.
When Tamron first released the 28-75mm f/2.8, that lens had a few issues with misfocused shots, which were quickly remedied by a firmware update. Thankfully, out of the gate, the 17-28mm f/2.8 suffers no major focus accuracy issues. I found focus to be quick and accurate, especially in single-shot mode. I did notice that when shooting at small apertures on distant subjects with AF-C enabled, it could occasionally move the focus point a bit too close, which would move the edges of the frame out of focus a bit. However, there’s no real reason to be shooting in AF-C with an ultra-wide at f/8 near infinity. I think the camera just has an inability to distinguish any real difference in focus in these situations due to the deep depth of field, and so will sometimes try to adjust focus and end up catching a shot during this adjustment. When tracking objects closer up at wide apertures, I had no issues in AF-C.
It’s worth noting that the Tamron 17-28mm focuses wide open, even outdoors, which is a bit of a change from a lot of Sony lenses. As a result, if your camera has the “Setting Effect ON” to preview your exposure, you’ll notice what appears to be a rapid flicker in the viewfinder when shooting stopped down. This is because the lens diaphragm is stopped down to preview the shot, then rapidly opens the aperture, focuses, then stops down again to working aperture. This happens very quickly, so you’ll see the brightness changes as a flicker during focusing.
13 thoughts on “Review: Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8 Di III RXD”
Thanks, Jordan. Ponderated review as always.
As you have reviewed the Loxia 21, could you describe how does this zoom fares comparatively with it?
More so the CV Color Skopar 21 3,5 that you reviewed earlier and wrote was a good alternative to the Loxia. One thing both of those have that this Tamron doesn’t is nice sunstars.
The Loxia 21mm is the best wide angle lens I’ve reviewed. It would definitely have an edge over the zoom, though stopped down for landscape work, the difference isn’t enormous. The Loxia is definitely still a bit better stopped down, but the difference is mostly an increase in resolution at the edges. As noted in the other reply, sunstars are far better on the Loxia and the Voigtlander 21’s, if that is important to you.
Not sure what other reply you are referring to but about sunstars: it’s funny, I thought they seemed a bit misplaced initially but something made me try the Voigt 21 3,5, in part thanks to your review, and I find that they are actually pretty fun to attempt to lure out and can make a positive impact on a photo. Depending on where you read on the internets they can either be not mentioned or absolutely critical for landscape photography. Your reviews have consistently marked nice sunstars as a plus but not as a minus when they’re missing, which can be considered fair.
You also always produce rather attractive photos for your reviews.
Also, Jordan, how do the Tamron zooms compare at 28 mm? Which is better at that FL?
With both at 28mm, I’d give the edge to the 28-75mm. The 28-75mm is best at the wide end, and the 28mm end is the weakest end of the 17-28mm. However, the edge is fairly slight stopped down. Wide open, the edge to the 28-75 is a bit more pronounced.
I just tested my version of the Tamron yesterday and I had to report some serious problems with the autofocus. On several wideangle shots with subject not to near to the camera I had s mysterious focusproblem. Some picture of a variety of shots where perfect in focus and some had a bad misfocus. There where no changes to the focus and the settings between the shots. First time I had the error I had to turn off the camera and turn it on again to get the focus back to work. In the other cases the error was gone after one or two shots. But it´s very difficult to see the misfocus on the camera display. When zooming in it is visible. Camera model was the Sony A7R iii with the latest firmware.
Hmmm….That’s interesting. I did not experience any issues like you describe. The only issues I found were with continuous AF when shooting distant subjects stopped down, where some small amount of front focus could occur that would leave the edges soft. In single AF, it has been fine for me, as well as both single and continuous closer up.
Yeah, I got see behaivor when I tried to shot the first pictures with the Tamron and I was wondering about the blurred pictures. So I again focused on a text written on a sign in the scenery and the a7 shows it green as correct focused but the result was a blurred picture. That continues until I turn off the camera. I could not say anymore if I was in continuous or single focus mode. I will have to examine the exif data to check that. After that the camera works fine for a while but as I see in Lightroom I mostly shot nearby objects the next few pictures. Then as I was a little bit confused by the first results I shot a series (not in burst mode, pressing trigger again and again) of five pictures without changing any settings in continues focus and I got three pictures correct in focus and two with no sharp results at all. The whole pictures are blurry, so it looks like there is nothing focused at all. But I know for sure that the focus indicator was green and focused the same object every time I pull the trigger. Therefore it seems to be a problem with the Tamron. I will do more testshots and also try it with another lense and also the Tamron with another camera I have (Sony A 6400). Maybe I can get further information under which circumstances this error will occur.
Thanks for the review. I wonder how this lens would work for astro photography, ie Milky Way? Was there much coma in the corners?
I have not tried it for astrophotography yet, but I have done some night photography that included some point light sources, and coma is very low from what I have seen with this lens. I will really get to stretch its astrophotography legs later this fall, as I’ll be taking a short trip to Death Valley and will definitely do some night photography while there.
Well this settles it. Tamron 17-28mm for me. (Putting up my 12-24G on sale today). I also have a friend nearby who lends me his 16-35gm whenever I want it…. 🙂
What was your experience (if any) with the weather sealing (or lack thereof) on the 16-35 f4? It seems Sony was playing it pretty fast and loose with what they claimed was weather sealed back then, hard to imagine how well sealed the extending 16-35 was if it didn’t even have a gasket at the mount.
I’m thinking of jumping into E-mount and I really prefer that reach at the longer end based on the two different UWAs I’ve had with my other system (18-36 & 16-36 EFL)… But with the Tamron being faster, a little sharper, cheaper, lighter, and seemingly better sealed I’m having a hard time ignoring it.
My only reservation is I’d end up missing the 35mm end that I’m used to and would end up cropping 28mm a bit too often… I guess it’s only a 1.25x crop to 35mm, and I don’t even have to crop exactly that much every time, hrm.