The Best! Tamron 17-70mm F2.8 Di III-A VC RXD Review

The Tamron 17-70mm F2.8 Di III-A VC RXD could be the best lens for APS-C cameras ever made.

When the Tamron 17-70mm F2.8 Di III-A VC RXD was announced, I immediately questioned the name. Why would you have such a long name? No one will remember it! And it’s terrible for SEO! But that aside, it proved to be a fantastic lens. I’m inclined to call it the best lens Tamron or anyone has made for APS-C cameras. Inspired by their old 24-105mm f2.8 for DSLRs, this lens takes things further. In fact, I’d argue that it’s the only lens you need for APS-C Sony E mount cameras. And I really, really hope that can bring it to Fujifilm and others. Before you go on, know that this is the best lens you can get for APS-C cameras.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Small
  • Weather sealed
  • Under $1,000
  • Image stabilized
  • Basically a 24-105mm at f2.8
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Tamron is a beautiful diamond being wasted on the sad Ringpop that is the Sony APS-C camera system.

What’s Innovative About This?

The Tamron 17-70mm F2.8 Di III-A VC RXD is the full-frame equivalent of a 26-105mm f2.8 lens. The depth of field will be around f4.2 in full-frame too. But the light gathering and true aperture will still be f2.8. This is the first time we’ve ever gotten a lens like this. Add onto all this the vibration compensation, sharp optics, and weather sealing features. Then realize that it’s under $1,000. To me, this sounds like a no-brainer.

It’s a truly usable large range that photographers can use with confidence every day. Sigma has their 18-35mm f1.8 lens, but it’s not as useable a range as this Tamron offering. For what it’s worth, I think this lens is wasted on E Mount. Everyone fawns over the company’s full-frame cameras. It would be much better suited to the Fujifilm X series. It could also even make the Nikon Z50 seem more useful. 

Gear Used

We tested the Tamron 17-70mm F2.8 Di III-A VC RXD on the Sony a6600. We also used it with Profoto lighting.

Tech Specs

Specs are taken from AlphaShooters

Lens construction: 16 elements in 12 groups
Angle of view (APS-C): 79゜55′-23゜00′
Number of diaphragm blades: 9(Rounded diaphragm)
Minimum aperture: F22
Minimum focusing distance: 0.19m (7.5 in) (WIDE) / 0.39m (15.4 in) (TELE)
Maximum magnification ratio: 1:4.8 (WIDE) / 1:5.2 (TELE)
Filter size: φ67mm
Diameter: 74.6mm
Length: 119.3mm (4.7 in)
Weight: 525g (18.5oz)
Accessories: Flower-shaped hood, Lens caps included

Ergonomics

The Tamron 17-70mm F2.8 Di III-A VC RXD is a moderately sized lens. I say this because it depends a lot on the situation you’re in. But overall, it’s simple to use thanks to the construction. You can see above that the only controls are a large zoom ring and a small focusing ring.

The exterior is made of plastic. However, the lens doesn’t feel like a bad, plasticky lens. It’s a ways better than anything Rokinon has made.

When fully zoomed in, the lens also doesn’t become much larger than it is. And that’s really great for real-life use. Of course, that also means that it isn’t an internally zooming lens.

Build Quality

Make no mistake; the Tamron 17-70mm F2.8 Di III-A VC RXD is a massive lens for an APS-C camera. But overall, it’s still smaller than a Canon 50mm f1.2 RF prime lens. It’s also far lighter. The lens is built solidly. It’s a plastic body that doesn’t feel cheap at all. Tamron is a specialist at constructing lenses like this. There are also nice rubber rings for grip. 

Of course, this lens is also weather-resistant. We’re confident that it will outlast the Sony bodies it was designed for. Overall, this lens is built to be the only one you need. It’s lightweight and fairly small. Stuff it into a camera bag slot, and you’ll be good to go. 

Again, Tamron has built one of the most perfect lenses for APS-C cameras. It’s again a shame it’s being wasted on a format that I don’t think sees its future in APS-C. 

Ease of Use

Slap the lens on the camera, point, focus, and shoot. That’s all there is to it. The lens has vibration compensation built-in, which translates into better hand-holding at slower shutter speeds. And if you’re like me, you like creating painterly style images at slower speeds. All the other controls you’d need are in Sony’s camera bodies. Again, this is pretty much the only lens you need for your Sony APS-C camera.

The following images are done with an experimental method I do. You can read more about it here.

Autofocus

Luckily, there’s nothing to complain about here. Sony has taken the autofocus from the A9 and put it into the Sony a6600. And since Sony owns part of Tamron, the communication is solid. This combo is faster than any lens and zoom combo Fujifilm has as of January 2021. It’s even a bit faster than what the Fujifilm XT4 can give you. You’ll find the Tamron 17-70mm f2.8 Di III-A VC RXD very useful.

Image Quality

As always, it’s hard to complain about Tamron’s image quality. They’re not always the sharpest lenses on the market. But they provide massive value. And the Tamron 17-70mm f2.8 Di III-A VC RXD is no exception. You’re getting a generally solid lens with a bit of character to it. In fact, this lens made me a bit nostalgic. When shooting with it and the a6600, the images looked familiar. On further inspection, I knew I’d seen this somewhere. The images look a whole lot like the output from old Sony cameras. Remember when they had more of a purple tone to them? I’m talking about way back in the NEX days. That’s the case here. And it’s awesome!

Bokeh

This is a constant aperture lens. Of course, the best bokeh comes when shooting wide open, focusing closely and at the telephoto end. It has 9 aperture blades. That’s not bad. But it’s also not Sony’s 11 aperture blades. That said, the bokeh is really nice still.

Color Rendition

As stated earlier, the Tamron 17-70mm f2.8 Di III-A VC RXD gave me nostalgia. The colors look like old school Sony–which I really miss. 

Lens Characteristics

I think we can argue that the color is part of the lens character. But otherwise, the distortion is manageable with the Tamron 17-70mm f2.8 Di III-A VC RXD. We also found no fringing worth speaking about.

Sharpness

We shot our Leica 75mm f2 SL lens product images with this lens. Of course, it’s sharpest when using an off-camera flash.

Extra Image Samples

Conclusions

Likes

  • Fairly small for what it is, but large for an APS-C lens
  • Lens character
  • Lens quality
  • The color from the lens
  • Weather sealing
  • Fast autofocus

Dislikes

  • This deserves to be on another camera system.

The Tamron 17-70mm f2.8 Di III-A VC RXD is a fantastic lens overall. You’re getting old-school Sony image quality, lens character, weather sealing, fast autofocus, and a lightweight body. How could you complain? My absolute favorite thing about this lens is the nostalgic feel I get working with it. The look of the images delivers me back to the Sony NEX days. And that puts me back on the streets of Manhattan enjoying the image quality I get. In these troubling times, it’s the best you can ask for.

My only complaint: I wish it came for the Fujifilm X Mount.

The Tamron 17-70mm f2.8 Di III-A VC RXD receives our Editor’s Choice Award and five out of five stars. Want one? Check Amazon for the latest pricing.

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.