An amazing lens: Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 Di III RXD

Disclaimer/Backstory: I have quite a bit of seat time with this lens’ predecessor. My favorite all time lens is the many DSLR’d mount version Tamron 28-75mm. Why? Yes.

It did everything well as far as my use case goes (last of many posts on it here). No matter the mount, no matter whether APS-C or Full Frame, it rendered primes that fell within this lens’ focal range obsolete.

Wide Angle:

Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8

Low Light:

11/17/2015

Wide Angle and Low Light:

Small Town NC

Subject Isolation:

11/17/2015

Great Colors:

Pentax K-1

Full Length and Head Shot Portraits of my Better Half:

Pentax K-1

Pentax K-1

Freezing Motion Even Indoors:

UNC Healthcare Multicultural Festival

UNC Healthcare Multicultural Festival

You get the point. Good at everything you want in a lens. Price was an advantage. New these lenses were reasonable. Used even better. Another thing I liked was the size and weight. Easily used as an everyday walkabout lens. Despite the constant f/2.8 aperture, it was more the size and weight of a kit zoom.

Bought each previous mount variant used (Nikon, Pentax, and Sony A) for low to mid 200s. With premium f/2.8 lenses in this range going for as much as 10 times as much it was easy to forgive the two downsides:

  • While not horrible the build quality was less than premium and no weather sealing.
    • More of a limiting factor on the weather sealed Pentax bodies.
  • Old school screw drive lenses are not as quiet and quick as the latest tech.

Why have I spent so much time on the previous lens when this post is about the newer lens? Easy. I always knew that if Tamron made an updated variant for the full frame Sony E mount my existing primes and zooms in the focal range would fly.

Tamron did. And lenses flew to the shop on trade (as documented in my previous review). Not just the Lanthar, but the Rokinon 35mm f/2.8 and Sony FE 50mm f/1.8 also.

I actually tried to fight it. Saw the reviews, but I was going to wait it out until one came up used. Then one showed up local and I took it for a test drive. And that was it. First I will mention the similarities and advantages compared to the former that I already loved. Then I will compare it to the three I personally traded once I had it.

Note: Have heard talk of focusing issues. Personally I received the lens with v1.0 software and saw no issues. As a precaution, I uploaded firmware v2.0 (using the Tamron provided through the body app like native Sony lenses) and all is well in focus town.

Similarities:

  • Everything listed above and in the review linked above. Thank you.

Advantages:

  • Prior Issue 1: Much better build quality including weather sealing. Feels very good in hand and is also a great aesthetic match for the camera. These things matter also.

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    Much nicer build than the Sony 28-70mm kit lens (which I also really like by the way), and in the ballpark of the Sony Zeiss 24-70mm f/4 (which I also really like by the way). Of course, the 24-70mm f/2.8 G Master has the better build quality and for just shy of three times the price it had better.
  • Prior Issue 2: Latest tech swift and silent AF. As fast to focus and as silent as the best of the native Sony E Mount lenses I have used and owned. Well done.
  • Specific to the Sony A Mount lens variant I had used previously with the LA-EA4 adapter…
    …it is quite a bit more compact.Unlike the recent Sigma Art lenses E Mount lenses this is no simple inbuilt adapter job yielding an adapted DSLR lens size, but a purpose-built mirrorless lens barely larger than the Zeiss f/4 I had used.
  • Losing 4mm at the wide end may be a deal breaker for some, but I gladly give that up for the tiny added long end stretch to 75mm and the smaller size and weight it allows.
  • Awesome for video. Quick smooth focus transitions and completely silent.
  • Close focus distance at the wide end is quite amazing. Much closer than any of the Sony’s including the f/2.8 G Master (7.48″/19mm vs 1.24’/38mm or 1:2.9 reproduction ratio vs 1:4.17). Near macro performance can be replicated._DSC7244

Lens comparisons: Bottom line the new Tamron was so good at all focal lengths day 1 I knew they would never see the front of my camera again. Here are my thoughts lens by lens.

Compared to the Rokinon/Samyang 35mm f/2.8:

  • Whatever is lost in compactness is gained in versatility and slightly even better image quality in my opinion.
  • Same aperture.

Compared to the Sony FE 50mm f/1.8:

  • The Tamron has far faster and completely silent focusing.
  • With the A7iii’s fantastic ISO performance the f/1.8 aperture is easily traded for the added flexibility.

Compared to the Voigtlander APO-Lanthar 65mm f/2:

  • The Tamron has AF. As great as the chipped Lanthar performs with the A7iii the solid AF of the Tamron is better.
  • While the Lanthar has very serviceable macro, the Tamron has surprisingly good near macro capabilities at the 28mm wide end (Tamron 1:2.9 reproduction ratio vs Lanthar’s 1:2). For my purposes this is as good.
  • By my seat of the pants evaluation the Tamron is as or near as sharp as the Lanthar to the point that it makes no sense to have both.
  • Size and weight are similar which is not good for the Lanthar.

Now I kept the Sony FE 85mm f/1.8, but:

  • If you were so inclined the Tamron is so good at portraits you could use it at the 75mm end instead as I found out in a dimly lit restaurant when taking this portrait of my father._DSC7325Already owning the precious, which itself is an amazing bargain when compared to the other AF 85mms, I will be holding on to it.

So with that this is the first time a lens has not only saved me money, but on trade has put money back in my pocket.

Given the many upsides of this lens it has led me to a somewhat brash conclusion. This lens with an A7iii is the best lens/camera combination I have ever owned since my multi-brand interchangeable lens camera odyssey began at any price. Not even close.

It meets 90% of my photography needs and both items in isolation are a stellar value. When combined it is currently the exact combination I would recommend to anyone for near any type of photography with no caveats.

There are full frame camera bodies on the market right now that do not offer many, if any, advantages over the A7iii that alone cost more than the price of an A7iii and this Tamron combined. And no full frame combination I know of would offer weather sealing, fast, silent, accurate focusing with f/2.8 and an all around great feature set would be near as compact.

It decluttered my camera bag immediately. Kept one long zoom, the previously mentioned 85mm precious, and a wide angle prime. What’s more for the first time I am good. Digital lens fever squashed. Thought it was a fluke at first, but days later I am still good. Have not removed it from the camera since purchase. That has never happened before.

Even if I had the money I would not buy the G Master because, even though it is a great lens, for me there is not enough advantage there to make up for the extra weight, size, and cost. My opinion. Your mileage may vary.

So I like it. A lot. If you ask me I will say buy it. If you don’t ask me I will say buy it lower, under my breath.

As per usual here are some samples below and here is a link to the ongoing gallery.

Happy shooting.

-ELW