28-75mm F2.8 Di III RXD

28-75mm F2.8 Di III RXD

Tamron 28-75mm F/2.8 Di III RXD Review

By

UPDATED: This review has been revised after we re-tested this lens with the newer Version 2 Firmware that eliminates the AF issue some experienced on Version 1. If you need to update your Tamron lens' firmware, we have instructions for your HERE. Cheers!

  tamron-28-75mms-small.jpg
The Good. Don't underestimate the new Tamron 28-75mm F/2.8 E-Mount lens. It may come in a basic, unassuming package, so much so we thought we must have gotten a cheap third-party lens by mistake, but this is an incredible and versatile lens you'll start to appreciate as soon as you take your first photos with it. This zoom lens takes crisp, beautiful images, whether you're shooting portraits, street scenes or architecture, with lovely bokeh at F/2.8 and vibrant color rendition. Plus, among its several great features are moisture-sealing, dust and fingerprint-resistant fluorine coating, high-speed and fairly quiet autofocus, and the 0.19m Minimum Object Distance for close-up wide-angle action. For $800, it's a damn fantastic alternative to some of Sony's pricey lenses including the Sony's $2K+ FE 24-70mm F/2.8 GM.

The Bad. Unless you are pointing away from the sun or a strong light source, ghosting and flare are difficult to avoid with this glass, probably because it's using Tamron's older BBAR coating. These are easily reduced with a hood and filters, or removed in post, so we won't stress out about that... especially considering the price. 

The Bottom Line. This is an excellent, versatile lens with an affordable price. It takes impressively sharp images and yields beautiful bokeh. When it's working, the AF works remarkably fast and accurate so you can use it for slow action shots. Plus, it's got moisture sealing to ensure it performs well in the field come rain or shine.

Pick This Up If... you're looking for a fairly lightweight and compact lens to use for portrait, street, architecture, close-up and some travel photography without spending an arm and a leg.

INTRO

Tamron28-75mm2.8_SampleImage_01.jpg
(F11, 1/160, ISO 100, 41mm)

It's hard to come back down to Earth when you've been to the lens heaven that is Sony's G Master collection. Sony did such a good job with this line that you want to invest in a couple of them despite their high cost and even if you don't need them or you know there are cheaper alternatives.

Tamron's new E-mount zoom lens, the Tamron 28-75mm F/2.8 Di III RXD, is changing all that. Though Sony's budget lenses and Samyang's E-mounts never really felt like good enough substitutes, at least not completely, this Tamron glass actually feels like an equal.

Possibly to keep the cost down, several concessions had to be made including the use of an older lens coating that is not as effective and a plastic barrel. But those don't take away from its impressive performance. This is saying something considering it's almost a third of the cost of its GM counterpart, it handles better with its more compact size and lighter weight, and it supports several in-camera features like eye AF.

Tamron28-75mm2.8_SampleImage_02.jpg
(F2.8, 1/320, ISO 100, 51mm)

GEAR USED

Tamron 28-75mm F/2.8 Product Image
We tested the Tamron 28-75mm F/2.8 Di III RXD with a loaner of the new Sony a7 III, alongside the Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM and Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS lenses. Reviews of the camera and these lenses to follow, so keep an eye out.
Tamron 28-75mm F/2.8 Product Image

FEATURES

  • Model: A036
  • Fits: E-mount system
  • Focal Length: 28-75mm
  • Maximum Aperture: F2.8
  • Minimum Aperture: F22
  • Angle of View (diagonal): 75° to 32° (full-frame), 52° to 21° (APS-C)
  • Lens Construction: 15 elements in 12 groups
  • Minimum Focus Distance: 0.19m (7.5 in) (28 mm), 0.39m (15.3 in) (75mm)
  • Maximum Magnification Ratio: 1:2.9 (28mm), 1:4 (75mm)
  • Filter Size: Φ67mm
  • Maximum Diameter: Φ73mm
  • Length: 117.8mm (4.6 in)
  • Weight: 550g (19.4 oz)
  • Diaphragm Blade Number: 9 (circular)
  • Image Stabilization Performance: none
  • Standard Accessories: front cap, lens hood

BUILD QUALITY

Tamron28-75mm2.8_SampleImage_03.jpg
(F11, 1/100, ISO 100, 28mm)

At first glance, the 28-75mm F/2.8 Di III RXD would probably have you scratching your head. It looks almost totally non-descript--there's no writing around the front element, and besides the thin white markings on the barrel (ie focal length indicators) and the silver ring around the rear, it's completely matte black. This made us think that we got a cheap, third-party lens instead of a Tamron by mistake.

But here is a case of first impressions that don't last. As soon as we got our hands on this lens and tested it on the field, we came to love it. As far as its build, though it isn't a spare-no-expense kind of deal, it feels sturdy and well built.

The manual focus and zoom rings, made of rubber, have enough resistance on them so that they're easy to handle when you're purposely turning them, but not too much you end up accidentally doing it. The barrel is fluorine coated, which keeps dust, fingerprints, and oil well at bay. The mount fits and locks into the camera with a satisfying, if muted, click. And the weather sealing points allow it to withstand light showers and dusty situations.

ERGONOMICS

Tamron28-75mm2.8_SampleImage_04.jpg
(F5.6, 1/400, ISO 100, 75mm)

The Tamron 28-75mm F/2.8 also feels good in your hands. First of all, that matte finish gave us that sense of peace, knowing we won't be tainting it with our gross, oily hands. The rubber rings seem to be impervious to dust, or at least it's more resistant than some of the Sony lenses we've tested so far.

Most importantly, it's more compact and lightweight at 4.6 inches (length) and 19.4 ounces (compared to FE 24-70mm F/2.8 GM's 5.35 inches and 31.25 oz).

One thing we've never been able to get used to is the fact that the zoom and focus rings are in a different order than the Sony lenses. The zoom ring is located at the front of the barrel while the focus is trailing behind near the rear. It's not a big thing and we assume it's something you'll get used to overtime, but it can be confusing when you're used to Sony lenses or when you're using it alongside one.

SPEED & FOCUS

Tamron28-75mm2.8_SampleImage_05.jpg
(F2.8, 1/3200, ISO 100, 45mm)

When the 28-75mm F/2.8 Di III RXD's autofocus actually works, it works beautifully. If you're experiencing trouble with your 28-75mm F/2.8, make sure your lens have the latest firmware (Version 2 or higher). Tamron promised a high-speed, precise and quiet AF, and thanks to its RXD (Rapid eXtra-silent stepping Drive) motor unit, the autofocus on this lens does exactly that. It's not only fast and smooth; it's also satisfyingly accurate. More importantly, it works extremely well with Sony a7 III's Eye AF, which helps yield even better portraits.

Tamron28-75mm2.8_SampleImage_06.jpg
(F2.8, 1/50, ISO 100, 64mm)

Our testing ultimately revealed the Tamron 28-75mm F/2.8 to be just as fast and accurate and quiet as Sony's G Master glass. Interestingly enough, there are some situations where the Tamron was faster, and others where the Sony was better. From a practical standpoint when both are operating flawlessly, they're close enough for professional work.

BOKEH

Tamron28-75mm2.8_SampleImage_08.jpg
(F2.8, 1/320, ISO 100, 72mm)

The lens yields beautifully rounded bokeh at F2.8, thanks to its 9 rounded aperture blades, which make your close-ups and portraits even more appealing. It doesn't, of course, compare to Sony's 85mm F1.4 G Master prime whose bokeh is simply exquisite, but it's still pretty good. It's pleasing at 28mm, and it's smooth as butter at 70-75mm.

Tamron28-75mm2.8_SampleImage_09.jpg
(F2.8, 1/800, ISO 100, 49mm)

IMAGE QUALITY

Tamron28-75mm2.8_SampleImage_10.jpg
(F2.8, 1/2500, ISO 100, 41mm)

Tamron28-75mm2.8_SampleImage_10a.jpg
(F2.8, 1/640, ISO 100, 62mm)

One of the most impressive things about the Tamron 28-75mm F/2.8 Di III RXD is its ability to capture incredible images. Its performance when it comes to image quality is so strong it was hard to switch to a different lens when we were shooting with it in the field.

In fact, the images we captured with this lens far outweigh the ones we took with the more expensive FE 24-70mm F/2.8 GM, at least in our opinion. The shots were super sharp, the colors it rendered were vivid, and it kept chromatic aberration well at bay. With enough light and proper exposure, you hardly need to do post work with this lens.

Tamron28-75mm2.8_SampleImage_11.jpg
(F11, 1/200, ISO 100, 70mm)

Though fair warning, this is not a high-end lens, which means compromises have to be made, which in turn means that it has its faults. The lens did show signs of vignetting at both the wide and long end even at F11, but they're not so obvious that they ruin the shot. Additionally, there were some signs of distortion--especially when we got really close to our subjects.

Tamron28-75mm2.8_SampleImage_12.jpg
(F22, 1/80, ISO 100, 28mm)

The one major image quality flaw, though, is that there are considerable manifestations of ghosting and flare. The BBAR (Broad-Band Anti-Reflection) Coating is supposed to reduce all that, but it's just not enough. If this is a deal breaker, you're probably better off shelling out a few more bucks with better ghosting and flare reduction. Though know that these can be avoided by using a hood, slapping on a filter or just pointing away from the light source altogether.

PROS & CONS

Pros
  • Sharp, beautiful images
  • Great color rendering
  • Fast and precise focusing
  • Nice bokeh
  • Little to zero chromatic aberration
  • Zoom/focus rings have enough resistance
  • Weather sealing
  • Compact
  • Lightweight
  • Affordable price
Cons
  • Zoom and focus rings are in a different order
  • Signs of ghosting and flare
  • Some distortion
FINAL THOUGHTS

Tamron28-75mm2.8_SampleImage_14.jpg
(F2.8, 1/60, ISO 100, 64mm)

For only $800, Tamron's 28-75mm f/2.8 Di III RXD is everything we could hope for in an E-mount lens that is within most hobbyists' budget. It takes incredible images, with the sharpness and color rendition that rivals its higher-end counterparts. And it boasts moisture and dust resistance to withstand typical outdoor shooting challenges. Combined with the fact that it feels great in our hands, thanks to its compact body, lightweight, and well-built rings, makes us want to keep using it instead of switching to a different lens.

Tamron28-75mm2.8_SampleImage_15.jpg
(F10, 1/200, ISO 100, 65mm)

Is it as great as the G Master lens? No, but it's fast and precise and quiet and has the potential to be one of the best E-mount lenses on the market in 2018... 

Everyone is going to want one.

Visitors of Steves can visit the stores below for real-time pricing and availability. You can also find hot, soon to expire online offers on a variety of cameras and accessories at our very own Camera Deals page.