“But what about the Tamron 17-28mm f2.8?” I asked our rep at Tamron. Apparently, the Tamron 20-40mm f2.8 Di III VXD lens isn’t replacing the older optic. Instead, they’re kind of, sort of, complementary to one another. At that moment, My head cocked to the side like a confused dog staring trying to understand what you’re saying. Except in this case, I stared in bewilderment at my computer screen. The Tamron 20-40mm f2.8 indeed doesn’t replace the Tamron 17-28mm f2.8. But for all accounts and purposes, it probably should.
I own the Tamron 17-28mm f2.8. I purchased it because I wanted a wide-angle zoom for my Sony camera system for when I needed. And indeed, there are moments when I needed it. But the Tamron 20-40mm f2.8 does this and more while providing new features. All the older Tamron 17-28mm f2.8 lens gives me is a few millimeters on the wider end. Realistically, I could just step a foot or two back to compensate.
Despite all this, the Tamron 20-40mm f2.8 is a great lens. And we think photographers are going to adore it.
Table of Contents
The Big Picture
The Tamron 20-40mm f2.8 Di III VXD is incredibly capable of doing everything its predecessor could and more. The company offers a fairly robust set of wide-angle lenses at incredibly affordable costs. While the 17-28mm gives a wide to semi-wide field of view, the Tamron 20-40mm f2.8 goes from wide to normalish. This could accompany the Tamron 35-150mm f2-2.8 to tackle pretty much all your needs. On top of that, it’s got weather resistance and it’s not at all heavy. In fact, it’s so light that you’d easily want to take it everywhere with you.
To boot, it sports innovative features like the built-in USB-C port that lets you update the firmware easily. While it’s a great lens for documentary shooting and it boasts great image quality, I think it’s competing pretty hard with a lot of other products. For starters, there’s the Tamron 17-28mm f2.8. Then Sigma has variants, and so too does Sony.
Make no mistake, this is a good lens. But something is left to be desired. I truly wish tTamron did something like Sigma did years ago and make this lens an f2 zoom or even an f2.5. It would really stand out from the rest of the pack then.
The Tamron 20-40mm f2.8 receives five out of five stars. Want one? They’re insanely affordable at Amazon.
- Fast autofocus
- Weather resistance is class leading
- Beautiful colors
- Very nice bokeh
- Fantastic for food photography
- Lightweight and small
- Very affordable
- Subdued onion bokeh
- It kind of makes their 17-28mm f2.8 useless
We tested the Tamron 20-40mm f2.8 with our own Sony a7r III. The lens is a loaner provided by Tamron.
What makes this lens innovative is a few things. Over Sigma’s variants, this lens is fully weather resistant. It also incorporates a USB-C port in the side to give it the ability to update the firmware with ease. A few of Tamron’s lenses have this feature already, though.
Here’s a look at the Tamron 20-40mm f2.8 Di III VXD. It’s characterized by a lightweight plastic body with a smoother texture on it than I’ve seen from other Tamron lenses. In the photos, it makes the lens look more sleek. In practice, it’s a bit more slippery while being counteracted by the rubber rings. Towards the front is the focusing ring. Towards the back is the zoom ring.
The front of the Tamron 20-40mm f2.8 Di III VXD has a 67mm filter thread. If you use a lot of Tamron glass, then you know that this is pretty much a favorite filter thread of theirs. Most of their lenses have this thread, so you can easily share filters between all of them. It’s an aesthetic that’s not discussed enough.
On the side of the lens is this USB port. You can use this to update the firmware of the lens.
The Tamron 20-40mm f2.8 is insanely well built. Of course, it can survive a heavy rainfall in NYC. If you’re afraid about the USB-C port, we’re told by Tamron that it’s sealed in a similar manner to various phones. So if you’d trust your phone in the rain, this is comparable. When coupled with some of the best Sony cameras, the sensor will remain perfectly clean and dust-free. In fact, we couldn’t find any dust on the sensor when working with this lens.
Besides the durability, though, this is a small and lightweight lens. It’s very balanced and lightweight. If anything, holding it feels akin to holding a piece of stonefruit in front of your camera because of its size and weight.
Ease of Use
This lens isn’t all that difficult to use no matter what experience level you have as a photographer. Mount it onto your camera, point, focus and shoot. That’s it! When you’re ready to update the firmware of the lens, make sure to have a USB-C cable and plug it right into the lens. Otherwise, there are the standard controls that every photographer needs and uses.
I used the Tamron 20-40mm f2.8 with my Sony a7r III. This, in my mind, is a camera more suited to what I want than the newer iterations. One day I might consider the Sony a1; but in terms of autofocus, all their cameras are more or less the same when it comes to focusing speed. It’s only that the AI detection gets more advanced.
With all that out of the way, the Tamron 20-40mm f2.8 does a great job with autofocus in good light and low light alike. The scene detection also does a fantastic job overall. But where I think the system really does well is when you manually control the focusing points. This is when it gets really accurate to capture better photos of things like food and all.
But in candid situations, the Tamron 20-40mm f2.8 never failed me. In fact, I maybe missed one or two shots of the hundreds that I took.
Here’s where things truly do take a step forward. Tamron’s colors have always been my favorite when working with Sony lenses. And this is no exception. Photographers of all sorts will really like the colors that this lens delivers, combined with just how attractive the bokeh is. It’s not as insanely sharp and clinical as Sony’s lenses. That’s critical for me!
The bokeh from this lens is something pretty special. First off, it focuses incredibly close. Combine that with the fact that there is surely onion bokeh, but it’s subdued. And overall, it looks wonderful. The other day I was watching Unsolved Mysteries and looked at the gorgeous shots done on vintage lenses that had onion bokeh. And I wonder why our industry ever thought that it was a problem they needed to eliminate. But truly, it’s not.
With that said, the Tamron 20-40mm f2.8 delivers a very modern look while mixing in a bit of vintage.
Tamron’s color rendition is some of my favorite for Sony cameras. It’s always vivid and the images come out looking sharp but not too pumped with clarity. It’s kind of like shooting with Canon L lenses on Sony camera bodies.
Some of you may gawk at the onion bokeh in disgust. But I like it. And overall, I didn’t find many huge problems with issues like distortion or fringing.
Make no mistake, the Tamron 20-40mm f2.8 is a very sharp lens that shows its truest colors when you add flash output to the scene. But it can’t perform with the same sharpness that Sony G Master lenses do.
Extra Image Samples
From day one, The Phoblographer has been huge on transparency with our audience. Nothing from this review is sponsored. Further, lots of folks will post reviews and show lots of editing in the photos. The problem then becomes that anyone and everyone can do the same thing. They’re not showing what the lens can do. So we have a section in our Extra Image Samples area to show edited and unedited photos. From this, you can make a decision for yourself.
Who Should Buy the Tamron 20-40mm f2.8?
The Tamron 20-40mm f2.8 is a lens that’s very capable of delivering great photos. However, compared to its 35-150mm f2-2.8 sibling, it can’t take the conversation away from Sony G Master lenses. And for some of us, that’s fine. I prefer smaller, lighter, innovative lenses that don’t try to nerf the character of photography into the ground. This lens boasts beautiful color, close focusing, weather resistance, an easy way to update the firmware, and a whole lot of versatility.
Would I buy it? If I didn’t already own the 17-28mm f2.8, then I’d seriously consider it. It’s a nearly perfect walkaround lens; but I surely do wish that they did something just a bit extra to push it that much further ahead.
Considering all of this, I think that photographers that don’t already have the 17-28mm f2.8 should grab this lens. And anyone that finds themselves using the wider side of a 24-70mm f2.8 more often than not should grab this. So I belive that anyone that wants a walkaround lens with a bit more reach on the telephoto end and doesn’t need 17mm should get it.
Want one? They’re available on Amazon.
These specs are taken from LensRentals
|Angle of View||94.5 to 56.8°|
|Aperture Blades||9, Rounded|
|Lens Type||Wide Angle and Normal Range|
|Macro Reproduction Ratio||1:3.8|
|Mfr. Model Number||A062|
|Minimum Focusing Distance||0.6feet|
|Optical Design||Groups/Elements11/10421Low-Dispersion ElementsGlass-Molded Aspherical ElementsHybrid Aspherical Elements|
|Physical||Diameter (o x L)3.0 × 2.9″0.8 lb.Weight|