Review: Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 Di III RXD (Sony FE)

Spending time with the Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 Di III RXD was a real pleasure

Generally speaking, I’m not one to like zoom lenses; but when I considered what the Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 Di III RXD is then I didn’t mind it all that much. The talk about autofocus issues are, in my opinion, highly over-exaggerated as I personally didn’t see them with my unit. In fact, it didn’t suffer from any real autofocus issues at all. To that end, the Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 Di III RXD focused better on the Sony a7r III than their lenses have focused on Canon DSLRs in my years of testing Tamron’s newest lenses. These lenses have been emphasizing a new philosophy within Tamron that gives each unit a silver ring around the mount, weather sealing, a new finish, and a number of major enhancements. While the world talks of Sigma this and Sigma that, I often like to remind folks that Tamron also isn’t doing a bad job.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Weather sealing
  • Sharp optics
  • Fast focusing in pretty much any situation
  • Nice bokeh
  • Small and lightweight
  • Considerably under $1,000
  • More than good enough for what most photographers will need to do: there is going to be much less measurbation in this review than normal.

Cons

  • Some folks may gawk at the fact that it isn’t a Sony G Master lens and will fetishize the G Master series in the same way Canon shooters put L glass on a pedestal vs many others.

Gear Used

The Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 Di III RXD was used with Godox flashes, Orlit monolights, and the Sony a7r III camera.

Tech Specs

Compatible with main camera-specific features and functions.

Tamron’s new 28-75mm zoom is compatible with many of the advanced features that are specific to certain mirrorless cameras. This includes the following*:
– Fast Hybrid AF
– Eye AF
– Direct Manual Focus (DMF)
– In-camera lens correction (shading, chromatic aberration, distortion)
– Camera-based lens unit firmware updates

SPECIFICATIONS

Model
: A036
Focal Length
: 28-75mm
Maximum Aperture
: F/2.8
Angle of View (diagonal)
: 75°23′-32°11′(for full-frame format)
: 52°58′ -21°05′(for APS-C format)
Optical Construction
: 15 elements in 12 groups
Minimum Object Distance
: 7.5 in (WIDE) / 15.3 in (TELE)
Maximum Magnification Ratio
: 1:2.9 (WIDE) / 1:4 (TELE)
Filter Size
: Ø67mm
Maximum Diameter
: Ø73mm
Length**
:4.6 in
Weight
: 19.4 oz
Aperture Blades
: 9 (circular diaphragm)
Minimum Aperture
: F/2.8-F/22
Standard Accessories
: Lens hood, Lens caps
Compatible Mounts
: Sony E-mount

Ergonomics

The Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 Di III RXD looks like a super plain lens. There is nothing ostentatious about it, and deservedly not. It’s designed to be affordable and put quality where it counts.

Even the front filter thread area doesn’t have any sort of special markings or indicators as to what the lens is. You’ll need to go to the side to see those.

When zoomed all the way in, the Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 Di III RXD still remains pretty small overall. That’s nice for so many photographers who like their lenses small on their smaller cameras.

Build Quality

Here’s a video of us shooting with the Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 Di III RXD out in the rain one day. It was affixed to the Sony a7r III, which has some very good weather sealing all around the camera except on the bottom. New York has had some pretty crazy rain this past spring and even into today, the Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 Di III RXD still works fine. In fact, I didn’t really see degraded performance in the Tamron lens but instead in the Sony a7r III. Why? I’m not exactly sure; it’s the first time that it happened. But considering that the lens survived the rain with no trouble then I’m very confident in how it would perform for most photographers.

Part of this weather sealing can be found at the base of the lens. There is a rubber ring that presses against the mount of the camera to complete the weather sealing.

VS The Sony 24-70mm f2.8 G Master

During our testing with the G Master lens, we found that it was able to stand up to the rain with no problem. That could potentially put both lenses on par with one another, b ut we wouldn’t know for sure unless we took the lenses apart.

Ease of Use

Using the Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 Di III RXD is pretty simple. You attach it to the camera, focus, shoot and that’s it. There is nothing more to it. The lens itself doesn’t have controls on it to really speak to. Much of that control will need to be done through the camera’s interface instead. Most photographers will be perfectly fine with this as they’re bound to mostly use autofocus and only switch to manual focus in rare occasions. So by that logic, why even bother putting a switch on it?

Autofocus

The Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 Di III RXD has very solid autofocus. Autofocus on the Sony a7r III, in contrast to what other lenses are doing on the Canon 6D Mk II that I’m currently using for other reviews, is significantly better and faster. With the Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 Di III RXD there were barely any misses on focusing and the output was always consistent in most lighting. Were there ever times where the focusing didn’t work? There was one situation I ran into where I tried doing street photography with it; and it didn’t quite keep up. But to be fair, I’m not sure that Sony’s G Master lenses could either.

VS The Sony 24-70mm f2.8 G Master

In a blind test, the only situation where I could see the Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 Di III RXD losing to the G Master is with Eye AF target acquisition. In video mode, I didn’t have any issues with autofocusing that have been going around the internet. And to be honest, any issues that arise I believe to be over exaggerated. I’ve been testing the Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 Di III RXD for months now with no problems.

Image Quality

One of the things that makes the Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 Di III RXD so appealing is just how good the image quality is. Not only is the lens capable of delivering sharp images, but the colors are very vibrant and the bokeh is smooth and beautiful. Add onto that the fact that you can also go to 75mm instead of 70 and you’ve got yourself a bit more of a bokeh advantage due to having a slightly longer focal length. Overall image quality is really top notch and, considering that you’re all going to process your images anyway, I don’t see a major reason to nitpick.

Bokeh

The bokeh from the Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 Di III RXD is smooth and really nice. Where I think that it could be better is, well, only with a prime lens. You’re not going to get the same bokeh that you can from a prime but you’ll get some pretty beautiful bokeh to tell the story you intend. When it comes to portraiture or documentary style shooting situations, you can have faith shooting at f2.8 and only needing to work with the ISO and shutter to get the exposure you want. 

If you’re doing documentary work I’m sure that you’ll be shooting in aperture priority. But if you’re shooting portraiture there are tons of fantastic arguments to be made for shooting in manual mode. Ideally, you won’t have a problem either way.

VS The Sony 24-70mm f2.8 G Master

Because of the longer focal length, the Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 Di III RXD wins out on bokeh here. It can also focus very closely.

Chromatic Aberration

There is none. Distortion? Maybe a bit. But it can be fixed in post. Let’s move on.

Color Rendition

Here’s where I really like the Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 Di III RXD: the colors are vivid and punchy. When combined with the Clear or Deep color profile on the Sony a7r III, the Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 Di III RXD can deliver super punchy colors that make editing in Capture One Pro after locking your white balance even less of a chore.

VS The Sony 24-70mm f2.8 G Master

Where Sony tends to render their images warmer, the Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 Di III RXD tends to go for more punchiness in the color. If you’re one of those folks who abides by only shooting your images with a super warm tone, then you may want to reach for the Sony. But if you’re shooting landscapes, or cities or something else, Tamron will easily win over your heart.

Sharpness

The best sharpness from the Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 Di III RXD is achieved when using a flash, obviously. It’s very sharp especially with such a high resolution camera. You won’t have much of a reason to complain about it at this point and when combined with the high resolution, your retoucher is going to have an easier time.

VS The Sony 24-70mm f2.8 G Master

From looking at the sample images, the Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 Di III RXD and the Sony G Master lens seem to be on par with one another unless you pixel peep really closely. In that case, the Sony ever so slightly takes the edge. But even so, you can’t tell the difference when you look at the images as a whole and when you print.

Extra Image Samples

Conclusions

Likes

  • Build quality
  • Feel
  • Image quality

Dislikes

  • Nothing really

In the case of the Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 Di III RXD, I want to emphasize to many that ignorance will be bliss. The Sony 24-70mm f2.8 G Master is much more expensive and does what the Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 Di III RXD does slightly better in certain respects. It’s going to focus slightly faster with Eye AF and it’s going to be slightly sharper. The warmer feel of the optics may also appeal more to certain portrait shooters. But the Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 Di III RXD is arguably just as weather sealed, can focus quickly in most situations, and has more vivid colors that will make landscape photographers want to pick it up.

But on top of all this, the Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 Di III RXD is far more affordable even when bundled with a slew of other pieces of gear. For Sony photographers, it’s going to be akin to the debate between Canon photographers using Sigma Art lenses and Canon L glass. In this case, it’s Tamron’s fantastic lens vs the Sony G Master.

Personally speaking, I’d reach for the Tamron. If I’m worried about sharpness, I’ll whip out my flash and do some high speed sync. If I want other things then I’m confident enough in my abilities in Capture One to be able to do anything that the Sony lens can do.

The Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 Di III RXD earns our Editor’s Choice award and Five out of Five stars.