Tamron 17-28mm F2.8 Di III RXD Lens Review
What We Love. The Tamron 17-28mm F/2.8 Di III RXD is very affordable without compromising performance. This wide-angle zoom for Sony E-mount cameras delivers sharp, clean images, fast and accurate autofocusing, and extensive weather sealing. On top of that, it’s slim and lightweight and touts a minimum focusing distance of 7.5 in (19cm) at 17mm, which, it turns out, is pretty nifty when you want to get fun shots of your pets. And, with it, Tamron, of course, continues its new tradition of designing minimalist lenses that look sleek and modern yet also modest while offering an extensive warranty.
What We’d Change. It's hard to complain about the Tamron 17-28mm F2.8 Di III RXD, especially at this price. Still, we'd love to have seen this lens with built-in image stabilization and better handling of chromatic aberration. Testing this lens in the middle of the desert in the middle of summer, we definitely stumbled upon that pesky purple fringing in many of our photos.
Pick This Up If… you’re a Sony E-mount shooter on a budget, especially if you’re in need of a wide-angle lens with a large maximum aperture. You’ll love this lens for landscape, filmmaking/vlogging, travel, street, and even up close and personal pet photography.
| Aperture Priority | 17mm | F/2.8 | 1/1000 | ISO 100 |
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It’s hard to get something wrong when you blend performance with affordability, which is perhaps why Tamron has been many photographers’ go-to brand for camera lenses. And in the case of the Tamron 17-28mm F2.8 Di III RXD, the manufacturer also added portability to the mix, delivering a lens that takes incredibly sharp and very clean images without breaking the bank or your back.
The second lens Tamron designed for Sony’s FE family, this wide-angle zoom is great news for Sony users who simply cannot afford to invest in Sony G Master glass. This new 17-28mm inherits the best features from the Tamron 28-75mm F/2.8 Di III RXD, -- moisture-sealing, fast and quiet autofocus, and a short Minimum Object Distance -- only it's more compact and with wider focal lengths.
The Tamron 17-28mm F2.8 Di III RXD quickly earned our seal of approval, but, of course, we still vetted the lens for you, taking it out for a spin in Nevada and in Monument Valley on the Navajo Reservation. Bottom line? We’re thrilled with the results and we think a lot of Sony shooters will be picking up their own copy (if they can find one).
We mounted our loaner Tamron 17-28mm F2.8 Di III RXD to our personal Sony a7R III. For the Milky Way shot, we mounted the camera on a JOBY GorillaPod 3K Compact Tripod. To capture the sunrise shots of Monument Valley, we mounted it on a Manfrotto BeFree Tripod.
- Model: A046
- Fits: E-mount system
- Focal Length: 17-28mm
- Maximum Aperture: F2.8
- Minimum Aperture: F22
- Angle of View (diagonal): 103°41' to 75°23' (full-frame)
- Lens Construction: 13 elements in 11 groups
- Minimum Focus Distance: 0.19m (7.5 in) (WIDE) / 0.26m (10.2 in) (TELE)
- Maximum Magnification Ratio: 1:5.2 (WIDE) / 1:6 (TELE)
- Filter Size: Φ67mm
- Maximum Diameter: Φ73mm
- Length: 99mm (3.9 in)
- Weight: 420g (14.8 oz)
- Diaphragm Blade Number: 9 (circular)
- Image Stabilization Performance: none
- Standard Accessories: front cap, lens hood
The 17-28mm F/2.8 Di III RXD looks like a smaller, more compact 28-75mm F/2.8 Di III RXD, observing Tamron’s modern sleek, minimalist design with a matte finish, only a focus ring and zoom ring, and no switch for AF/MF. If you haven’t used a Tamron lens donning this new design, it might seem cheap-looking. It is a plastic lens, after all. Still, the lens feels durable and well constructed overall. In our opinion, I'd avoid dropping one on hard surfaces, but a few accidental bangs shouldn't be the end of one.
Thanks to the weather seals fitted around the front element, zoom and focus rings, and mount, you can expect this lens to shine in all sorts of inclement weather. While we didn't see any rain in our testing, the 17-28mm F/2.8 survived the dusty winds and smothering heat of Nevada and Arizona. Helping matters, Tamron's fluorine coating shielded the front element from water, oil, dust, and fingerprints. Even when our tent was powdered in red sand, the Tamron 17-28 didn’t get any scratches or dust particles inside.
The Tamron 17-28mm F/2.8 Di III RXD, as we mentioned, is smaller than its standard zoom counterpart at 3.9 inches in length. This actually makes it the perfect size when mounted on the Sony a7R III’s compact form. Combined with its 14.8-ounce weight and in-barrel zooming, the whole set-up feels compressed and easy to carry.
In fact, compared to a Tamron SP 35mm F/1.4 Di USD mounted on a Nikon Z6, we appreciated how the Sony-Tamron combo was much lighter and more compact. Considering how wide-angle lenses are best for landscapes and travel, know you can take this lens with you while you’re hiking, backpacking or exploring a new city, and it won’t feel like a burden on your back or around your neck.
The rubberized focus and zoom rings are easy to turn, yet have enough tension on them to thwart accidental turns. Unfortunately, the rubber material attracts dust and dirt that might be a source of annoyance if you’re borderline obsessive-compulsive. But that doesn’t really affect the lens’ performance. What’s more important here is that that fluorine-coated front element not only effectively keeps dust away, but is also very easy to clean.
SPEED & FOCUS
| Aperture Priority | 28mm | F/18 | 1/6 | ISO 100 |
Like the 28-75mm F/2.8 Di III RXD, this wide-angle wonder bears the RXD moniker, which means that it boasts Tamron’s Rapid eXtra-silent stepping Drive motor unit. What does this mean for you as a shooter? An extra quiet yet incredibly fast, smooth, and accurate autofocusing system. One that works beautifully with Sony’s already capable Animal Eye AF.
| Aperture Priority | 28mm | F/2.8 | 1/250 | ISO 800 |
| Aperture Priority | 17mm | F/2.8 | 1/50 | ISO 800 |
The Tamron 17-28mm F/2.8 Di III RXD also performs well with Sony’s impressive Eye and Face tracking, which makes shooting human and animal portraits a breeze. The only catch is that your subject must be well-lit, a limitation of the camera, not the lens. With enough light on your subject, the tracking immediate catches and sticks to your subject’s eye like a bug on a windshield. With Eye-Tracking off, the lens performs swimmingly in low light, which we experienced locking focus on the monoliths of Monument Valley during and after sunset.
Another plus is the 7.5" (19cm) minimum focusing distance at 17mm, which is helpful when photographing your pets – that is, if they’re okay with you practically shoving a camera to their faces – and capturing the smaller details while still getting its environment in the frame. And, of course, super quiet focusing is just cherry on top. In fact, we don’t think we ever heard this lens make a noise as it shifts focus, as other lenses do.
| Aperture Priority | 24mm | F/2.8 | 1/1600 | ISO 100 |
Because of its focal range and the fact that it only has 9 diaphragm blades, it's naturally harder to get those buttery backgrounds and foregrounds with the Tamron 17-28mm F2.8 Di III RXD.
| Aperture Priority | 27mm | F/2.8 | 1/100 | ISO 800 |
However, if you’re a fan of bokeh balls, you’ll still get the fairly circular ones at its widest aperture of F/2.8, although ou won’t see a lot of polygonal shapes here. Plus, with that minimum focusing distance, you should be able to get close to your subjects so you can isolate them and reproduce those soft, blending backgrounds, as we have with this reviewer’s cats.
Tamron promised "magnificent image quality without compromise," and we can honestly say that the Tamron 17-28mm F/2.8 Di III RXD produces incredibly sharp, colorful, and contrasty images. If you can't tell already, we love this lens overall for its image quality, and we were impressed by the quality found in our sample images (especially at $900).
However, there are a few compromises that come with buying this lens. Are they unforgivable? We don't think so, but still, you should know this lens isn't some magical unicorn fairy of perfection.
| Aperture Priority | 17mm | F/6.3 | 1/320 | ISO 100 |
There’s a lot of center sharpness here. In fact, you will be impressed by the incredible crispness at all focal lengths and apertures, even in low light situations. We found this lens is at its sharpest from edge to edge around F/5.6 to F/6.3.
Tamron minimizes unflattering distortion at all focal lengths, with only minute signs of barrel and pincushion distortion – so much so that any distortion you might come across, you won’t even want to correct it in post. Then the manufacturer wraps it all nicely by also minimizing unappealing ghosting and flare. In fact, Tamron coated its lens surfaces in its own BBAR coating so that it’s very effective in reducing ghosting and flare while also maintaining your images’ vibrancy and contrast.
| Aperture Priority | 26mm | F/22 | 1/6 | ISO 100 |
However, if you’re looking for constant edge-to-edge sharpness, you might work a tad harder to achieve that. There’s still noticeable softness around the edges, and you don’t even have to look close enough to notice. We were sad to see that at F/22 at the long end, there’s a lot of corner softness.
| Aperture Priority | 17mm | F/2.8 | 1/2000 | ISO 100 |
We also found a considerable amount of chromatic aberration in the photos shot in the Nevada desert at midday. Unfortunately, you might find yourself spending some time removing purple fringing in post, especially if you enjoy shooting in high-contrast situations at wide apertures.
Lastly, expect some vignetting as well, even at the smallest apertures. However, any vignetting we have found in our photos is subtle and, in fact, actually only heighten those photos’ appeal. Much like with the purple fringing, we wouldn’t even bother removing it in post.
In all, it’s really only the lack of edge-to-edge sharpness that we can complain about here. Other than that, we’re sold on the Tamron 17-28mm F2.8 Di III RXD.
PROS & CONS
| Aperture Priority | 17mm | F/8 | 1/800 | ISO 100 |
- Compact and lightweight
- Beautiful center-sharp imagery
- Weather sealing really works
- Fast, quiet and accurate AF
- Short minimum focusing distance
- Could be better at minimizing purple fringing
- Lacks edge-to-edge sharpness
- No built-in image stabilization
| Aperture Priority | 28mm | F/2.8 | 1/6400 | ISO 400 |
It’s hard not to love the Tamron 17-28mm F/2.8 Di III RXD. This is an excellent wide-angle zoom lens for Sony shooters who don’t have the budget for a pricey Sony alternative. In fact, you could get this lens and its 28-75mm sibling for less than one G Master lens, all while getting most of the same performance.
Sure, the Tamron 17-28mm F/2.8 Di III RXD could be better at reducing purple fringing and vignetting, as well as delivering edge-to-edge performance at every focal range and aperture. And built-in image stabilization would have been a welcome bonus. However, for only $899, you’re getting most of the wide-angle essentials as well as some of the trimmings.
As far as affordable wide-angle zoom lenses go, the Tamron 17-28mm F/2.8 Di III RXD delivers stunning performance, excellent value, and rugged weather sealing. If you shoot with Sony and need a wide-angle lens, check out one of these as soon as you can.
is spot on and at the very least, worth checking out even if you haven’t really thought about adding one to your photography kit.
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