Review: Tamron 17-28mm F2.8 Di III RXD (Almost G Master Sharpness)

The Tamron 17-28mm F2.8 Di III RXD is a lens that wide-angle shooters may not want to remove from their Sony cameras.

When I was testing the Tamron 17-28mm f2.8 Di III RXD lens, I almost never wanted to take it off of my camera. Believe it or not, it wasn’t because of the image quality (although it’s good in and of itself), but it’s size. It felt like a lightweight prime that wasn’t overly mammoth. It was a nice reminder of what mirrorless cameras are supposed to be: smaller and lighter with the lenses to suit them. With an $899 price point, I think the photographers who go for the Tamron 17-28mm f2.8 Di III RXD are going to be very happy. Pros and enthusiasts alike will appreciate the fact that it can survive heavy rainfall and continue to pump out great images. Couple this with how quickly it focuses and how reliable the lens can be, and you’ve got a winner. If I’m getting your hopes up though, you should note that this isn’t a G Master lens.

Editor’s Note: Some images in this review were shot while on an all-expenses paid press junket with Sony. Other images were shot during Sony Kando, where again, all of our expenses were paid. But, the majority of the images in this review were shot on our own bill. Phoblographer’s editors are trained to resist temptation in the industry, and as such, the opinions in this review are our own. The Tamron 17-28mm f2.8 Di III RXD is really that good of a lens. Truth be told, we still like primes and this lens isn’t a G Master. In regards to our build quality test, well, who the hell else takes a lens into the pouring rain? We stand by our words, and transparency is the key here.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Weather sealed
  • Sharp image quality
  • Fast autofocus – nearly on the same level as Sony’s
  • Compact
  • Lightweight
  • Overall pretty useful

Cons

  • My qualms aren’t as much with this lens as they are with Tamron’s f2.8 zoom trinity.

Gear Used

We tested the Tamron 17-28mm f2.8 Di III RXD with the:

  • Sony a7r III
  • Sony a7r VI
  • Profoto B10

Tech Specs

Tech specs are taken from the Adorama listing:

  • Lens Mount: Lens Mount: Sony E Mount
  • Lens Format: Lens Format: Full-Frame
  • Lens Type: Wide Angle Zoom Lens
  • Maximum Aperture: Maximum Aperture: f/2.8
  • Mirrorless: Zoom: 17-28mm
  • Special Features: Aspherical, Bokeh Effect, Weather Resistant

Ergonomics

Overall, the Tamron 17-28mm f2.8 Di III RXD is a pretty small lens. In some ways, it reminds me of a prime. It’s a lens you always want mated to your camera.

The front filter thread is a 67mm size. In addition to this, the front element doesn’t tend to jut out or extend a lot when zooming. This is great for most photographers who want a small profile to their gear.

There are two rings on the Tamron 17-28mm f2.8 Di III RXD. The front ring is for zooming and the rear ring is for focusing. Other than that, there are no switches on the lens. The lens is really that simple.

Build Quality

Well, we did some pretty crazy things with the Tamron 17-28mm f2.8 Di III RXD in the rain. During our testing period, it survived heavy rainfall in NYC during the summer. In fact, we purposely took it into the rain more than once. It continued to work without issue.

We stated in our previous report:

What’s working for the Tamron 17-28mm f2.8 Di III RXD is the fact that it is not only a weather-sealed lens, but also internally zooming. Because it zooms internally, there are fewer places for moisture and dust to get inside and disrupt the way it works. The lens also has sealing around the mount: a very important feature as the seal keeps moisture out. This also prevents you from having to clean the contacts on the camera and the lens, which results in a higher success rate with autofocus performance.

Of course, our video shows just how effectively it’s sealed. If the lens can survive this kind of torture and abuse, just imagine what the average photographer will put it through. Realistically speaking, they will likely be less abusive. Since that’s the case, you can rest assured that the Tamron 17-28mm f2.8 Di III RXD is going to do well. Couple this with its lightweight design, the internal zoom, and the latest weather sealing Sony has on the Sony a7r VI, and you’ve got a great lens.

Ease of Use

When the Tamron 17-28mm f2.8 Di III RXD is attached to your camera, you’ll be at ease with just how simple it is for anyone to use. There’s a big honking zoom ring towards the front while the focusing ring is towards the back. Part of this design is because the lens is just not very large. There are no switches or other buttons to speak of, so overall it works quite nicely. From shooting with the Sony a7 III in auto mode to using it for serious work, photographers will have a blast and an easy time just pointing and shooting with the Tamron 17-28mm f2.8 Di III RXD.

Autofocus

The autofocus on the Tamron 17-28mm f2.8 Di III RXD is mostly what surprised me. Of course, it’s going to be fast to focus because this is a wide angle lens. But then I remembered that Sony owns part of Tamron. And so I’m pretty sure the two are probably talking and working together in some ways. Photographers using the AF-C function with face detection and AF-Lock tracking will have a lot of joy using the Tamron 17-28mm f2.8 Di III RXD. Not only is it fast, but it’s also accurate most of the time. We had very few misses and mostly a lot of hits. Tamron should be thoroughly praised for this. In our tests, it even worked for wide angle street photography. It surely works for travel work and leisurely shooting. Even better, it also didn’t suffer when working with the Sony a7r III in low lighting. Lots of third party lenses do, but this lens’ performance was still right up to par!

A quick note about the Tamron 17-28mm f2.8 Di III RXD and the Sony cameras we used: we ensured our contacts were clean on both products. Throughout our time using them, we probably cleaned the contacts twice. This ensures that the autofocus and exposure information is being channeled perfectly. It’s always been a problem with Sony due to the build quality. But with more recent cameras, it’s become less of an issue. What that translates into is better autofocusing capability.

Image Quality

The Tamron 17-28mm f2.8 Di III RXD is a fantastic lens when it comes to image quality. This overall makes it a stellar performer. I’m positive that if photographers weren’t specifically pixel peeping that they’d be incredibly happy with the sharpness results the Tamron 17-28mm f2.8 Di III RXD offers. They wouldn’t be able to tell it apart from the Sony 16-35mm f2.8 G Master. However, this lens isn’t directly aimed against the G Master. With that said, photographers should take note not only of the sharpness this lens exhibits but also the bokeh that it’s capable of producing. Sure, there’s going to be distortion but even that’s kept down a fair amount. And better yet, we didn’t see any issues when it came to fringing.

Bokeh

The Tamron 17-28mm f2.8 Di III RXD is surely not going to win any awards when it comes to bokeh. It’s a wide angle lens with an f2.8 aperture. That’s fairly standard or slow by today’s standards. There are better lenses for bokeh. Or better yet, the bokeh can be further emphasized by using a flash to make the color pop and whatever is in focus even sharper. If you’re buying this lens for the bokeh, then know it’s not the lens’ strong point. Tamron has better lenses for that.

Chromatic Aberration

There is surely distortion with the Tamron 17-28mm f2.8 Di III RXD, but it’s well tamed. Photographers using this lens for both landscapes and portraiture alike will be happy with this. Granted, you’re not going to be shooting headshots with the Tamron 17-28mm f2.8 Di III RXD, but you can get away with environmental portraits and full-body shots pretty easily. If Tamron wanted even less distortion, then they would have had to design this lens for a medium format camera, and then the size would have been massive. Part of using the Tamron 17-28mm f2.8 Di III RXD is all about successful placement of your subjects in the frame. Still, I think most photographers wouldn’t complain about what this lens does. Otherwise, they just wouldn’t use it.

Color Rendition

Here at the Phoblographer, we tend to shoot in Daylight or Tungsten white balances. The images tend to give us a more cinematic and film-like look that we strive for straight out of the camera. We’re very happy to say that, when it comes to colors, the Tamron 17-28mm f2.8 Di III RXD really excels. Most types of photographers will appreciate the colors, but those who don’t like Sony’s super-saturated look will perhaps be happiest. Instead, Tamron mutes it just a little bit. Of course, a photographer can always edit this in post-production, but we opt to not do that. If it can be perfect in camera, why not go for it?

Sharpness

The sharpness of the Tamron 17-28mm f2.8 Di III RXD is accentuated and truly realized when the camera you’re using also is firing a flash. In this case, we’re displaying the Tamron 17-28mm f2.8 Di III RXD’s sharpness with a flash fired from the Profoto B10. The specular highlights really showcase how sharp this lens can be. In my experience, this is almost G Master level of sharpness. It’s better than G series for sure! That sharpness with a flash will matter most to the photographers who need to use a flash for studio-style work. But if you’re shooting landscapes, travel work, or other types of work then you’re going to be adequately satisfied.

I think the key with using the Tamron 17-28mm f2.8 Di III RXD is you have to know that getting the most sharpness from the lens will depend on having a higher resolution sensor behind the lens. If you’re using it for photojournalism, then you’re not going to get the most from a landscape. Instead, your trade-off will be for autofocus. But f11 on the Sony a7r series of cameras will consistently give you super sharp images. And there’s no way you can complain about them.

Extra Image Samples

Conclusions

Likes

  • Small size
  • Image quality
  • Weather sealing

Dislikes

  • I wish the range was a bit wider or that it provided even more innovation. But I can’t complain.

The Tamron 17-28mm f2.8 Di III RXD is a lens both professionals and enthusiasts will enjoy. If you’re not in love with the size, you’ll be seduced by the image quality. You’ll then stay for the autofocus performance. But most of all, you’ll appreciate how reliable this lens is due to the build quality. Photographers who want a trinity of f2.8 zooms can get it from Tamron. Both their 17-28mm and their 28-75mm lenses are great. However, I’m still scratching my head about the 70-180mm f2.8. They claim to have made it smaller and lightweight, but at what cost? 200mm is still important to photographers. I was truthfully expecting a 75-210mm lens, but we’re not getting that. However, you should note that there are great options on the market either way. If you need and mostly shoot at the under 100mm range, then this lens and the 28-75mm f2.8 will be perfect for you.

The Tamron 17-28mm f2.8 Di III RXD wins five out of five stars. Want one? Check out Amazon’s prices.