So many people have reviewed this lens, I guess it’s time for me to jump on the bandwagon. For such a well-reviewed lens, it can also be somewhat (if you pardon the pun…) polarizing. In my travails around the internet, I have seen a lot of positive and negative comments about this lens—people singing its praises, and people getting tired of people singing its praises. That asks the question: are those praises deserved?
I personally think they are, with a few small caveats.
As a Sony shooter on a relatively low-budget, until the Tamron 28-75 was released, the only options I had were:
Sony/Zeiss 24-70mm f/4
One of the first lenses released with the a7 series. From everything I have read this lens is very poor and was not worth the Zeiss badge.
Sony 24-105 f/4 G
I seriously considered this lens before the Tamron. However, I do shoot some astrophotography and I just couldn’t pull the trigger on this one because of the relatively slow aperture. Also, in my opinion, a tad expensive for what it is. I think it could be $200 cheaper.
Sony 24-70 f/2.8 GM
I’m sure it’s a spectacular lens, but at over $2,000, I find that a comically expensive price and it just was not feasible. Nope.
Sony 28-70 f/3.5-5.6 OSS
Surprisingly, quite a fine lens as far as kit lenses go. However, again, it was much too slow for my needs.
Minolta MD 28-85 f/3.5-4.5 Macro
I actually own this lens. And for what it is, it’s a great lens. The macro mode was nice—though at 1:2 it wasn’t as impressive as I had hoped. It was also pretty sharp, and really fun to use. Again, though, I needed something faster and a lens with Autofocus would be nice.
Sony/Zeiss 16-35 f/4 + Various primes to bridge the 35-70mm gap
This was another option I considered. Use this lens in conjunction with some primes to bridge me to 70mm of my telephoto zooms. Just like the 24-105, however, it just kept nagging at me that I wanted a 2.8 aperture.
So out of all those choices, despite my reservations over the price, I resigned myself to just save my cash and eventually get the 24-70 GM lens. It would do everything I wanted it to. Then by happenstance, I was out shooting with my uncle and borrowing his 16-35 GM lens, and had mentioned I was thinking of getting its longer brother. He asked me why not try the Tamron 28-75? I hadn’t even thought of it up til that point. It was made for FE Mount, but I was worried it would be like the Sigma ART lenses and merely be a DSLR lens with a built-in adapter, rather than a true native lens. I was also worried about the quality since, let’s be honest, it was a third party lens. My uncle reassured me that Sony is an owner of Tamron, and that as a GMaster shooter, every review he read about it he said it was almost as good, if not just as good as the 24-70GM.
So I did my research and I found a lot of great reviews and decided to pull the trigger on it for my birthday. A good tax return this year didn’t hurt either. I picked it up brand new on B&H for under $900 which is, obviously, significantly less expensive than the GM.
|Aperture Blades||9 Circular|
|Minimum Focusing Distance||7.5in/0.19m (Wide)
Construction and Build Quality
Let’s get this out of the way, this isn’t a G/GM lens. It’s not going to feel as well put together. I understand that, but to read reviews of it, you’d think it was made of papier-mâché, and was held together with spit and bailing wire. Far from it. It’s solid, and feels quite nice in the hand. Is it all metal construction? No. It feels like high-impact plastic, with easy to feel rubber grips that have nice “give” and play. There is a seam where the plastic was molded–oh the humanity!—but it’s barely noticeable and it certainly doesn’t feel like it’s a breaking point. I have no qualms about treating this lens the way I would treat any of my other lenses.
The focus and zoom rings are reversed from what is standard, but for me that’s not an issue, because my Sony 70-300G lens behaves in the same way. Though, I wish it had a programmable focus hold button on it like my 70-300, I understand why Tamron did what they did, and at this price point, I’m OK with it.
The elephant in the room is that the lens is 28-75mm, instead of the more standard 24-70mm range. You may be fine with this, or you may hate this. The difference between 24-28mm is much more noticeable than 70-75mm, so I can understand why this would be a deal breaker for some photographers, especially professionals who could afford the GM lens anyway, but this lens wasn’t made for them.
Low Light Performance
This is why I bought this lens over the others mentioned. Since it’s a 2.8, it works great in low light. I have been able to take completely usable pictures at ISO6400 and even pushed my limits to 10000 on the a7RII. I’m really happy I took this lens over the slower, yet more expensive options. I haven’t had a chance to do much astrophotography yet, thanks to being in the suburbs, but what little I have done I really like the results.
This lens is sharp! I’m sure if you pixel peep, you can find things to quibble about, but you won’t find that here. I can’t compare it to the 28-70GM which, let’s be honest, is probably the lens this one is most comparable to, so I can’t comment on that, but from what I’ve seen and read, at the very least it’s comparable. At over $1,000 cheaper, one shouldn’t have much to complain about. On the other end of the spectrum, it’s WORLDS better than the Sony/Zeiss 24-70 f/4 and the 24-70 kit lens.
Pretty much across the board wide open to f/11 the center and midframe are going to be nice and sharp. The corners will start off a little soft and will improve as you stop down. I find myself usually shooting at around f/4.5-f/8 usually, anyway, so this isn’t a huge issue for me.
Vignetting at f/2.8 is pretty harsh across the entire focal range—a tradeoff due to the small size of the lens no doubt, and can be corrected in post. Once you stop down though, the vignetting is much better.
Based on other reviews, Bokeh seems to be a mixed bag with this lens, either you love it or you don’t. For me, I’m in the former—I love the bokeh this lens produces for the most part. I’ve had a few times where, depending on the background, it can be a little busy, but not enough for me to be dissatisfied or anything. Overall I’d say this lens can blur OOF quite nicely.
There is no stabilization built into this lens, which shouldn’t be a problem with newer a7-series bodies. If you’re still rocking the mk1 series, though, this may be an issue depending your shooting needs. The Tamron 28-75mm also has a nice close-focusing distance and I have been able to get some wonderful shots up close. Giving me almost pseudo-macro flexibility is a nice plus.
The lens coating leaves a little to be desired. The older BBAR, as opposed to eBAND, coating was to keep the cost down, I’m sure, but I would have paid a little extra to not have to think as much about how to compose my shots at sunset. So far I haven’t had any show-stopper ghosting or flares, but it would’ve been nice if Tamron would’ve used the better coating.
In my opinion, the Tamron 28-75 f/2.8 Di III RXD is a special lens. It’s a total beast, and at this price-point, it’s just too good to pass up. It has quickly become my most-used lens, and practically lives on my camera. I rarely shoot prime lenses in its focal-range anymore, because the sharpness and image quality are at such a level that I don’t feel like I need to.
Despite a few flaws, I still would recommend this lens to anyone without reservation. Color me impressed. This is a great lens.
I’m now super-excited about its little bother (17-28mm f/2.8) due out later this year. Good work, Tamron, I’m a fan!