For as great of a lens as the Tamron 17-50mm f4 is, it’s quite an odd entry. It doesn’t even need to be said: it’s a Tamron lens. It’s going to be good — and the image quality isn’t going to be sterile, while the autofocus will be impeccable. Wrapping up that shell will be the lightweight design and weather-resistant build quality. Indeed, for what this lens is, it’s a marvel that any documentary photographer would easily find themselves liking. But as it sits in Tamron’s lineup, any photographer is bound to be very confused as to whether they should get it or not.
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The Big Picture
As an actual product, the Tamron 17-50mm f4 is a pretty solid lens. But so is every other lens on the market. What makes it stand out is the unconventional focal length. It goes wider than most kit lenses and cuts right off at the 50mm normal mark. By all means, this could’ve made for an incredible kit lens for lots of cameras. Where it truly makes sense is as an alternative to a 16-35mm f4 lens. This lens doesn’t go as wide, but it gets longer and offers a more useful range. However, within Tamron’s lineup, it’s a bit confusing. Tamron already has a very good 20-40mm f2.8 and a 17-28mm f2.8 lens. Both of those are more affordable and better than any 16-35mm f4 lens currently available. So overall, I’m still trying to understand who’d go for a lens like this.
Regardless of where the Tamron 17-50mm f4 stands in the market, it’s an exemplary lens in many ways. The image quality is great and brings with it the character that we’ve come to love in Tamron lenses. Truly, they make the Sony E mount system a whole lot more fun. The lens also boasts great weather resistance, reliable autofocus, and a lightweight build. Truly, if you don’t want to use a faster lens, the Tamron 17-50mm f4 could simply just live on your camera because it’s so incredibly useful. You’d only ever need to switch out to fast primes when you need them.
At the same time, I truly wonder what lenses I’d use alongside it. Tamron’s lineup doesn’t really have anything that answers that call. And overall, the company feels like an adult doing a career change and looking to take on a new part of their identity.
I’m all for that. But at the end of the day, they’re a company that’s delivering products to photographers. Nothing had quite been able to measure up to the 35-150mm f2-2.8 that they made. And that’s what I want more of.
The Tamron 17-50mm f4 receives four out of five stars from us. Want one? Check them out on Amazon.
- Weather resistant
- Easy to update the firmware
- Fast autofocus even in challenging lighting
- Lens character that makes the image quality sometimes feel cinematic
- I’m trying to understand where it sits in Tamron’s lineup, as there are so many similar lenses.
We tested the Tamron 17-50mm f4 with the Sony a7 IV and the Sony a7r III. We also used it with ThinkLite TT685s. The Tamron lens is a loaner unit provided to us by the company. The Sony a7 IV was provided to loan for us by Sony. The rest of the products are our own.
There is, and isn’t anything innovative about this lens. First off, it’s a first of its kind. It arguably takes on the standard 16-35mm f4 lens, and beats it in almost every single way. It also gives weather resistance, fast autofocus, and good image quality. But so too does every single Tamron lens. We don’t see other brands necessarily wanting to copy this lens or make this own variant of it. But it adds more versatility beyond both the standard kit lens and the 16-35mm f4 lenses on the market. It’s quite hard to beat it.
The Tamron 17-50mm f4 is a pretty standard zoom from the company. Unlike a few other brands, they don’t put features like an aperture ring on their lenses — though I truly wish that Tamron would do that at this point and perhaps make it match their silver ring at the mount. This lens has two rubber rings for grip and controls. Additionally, it has mappable buttons for extra controls. But most importantly, there’s a very well-weather-sealed USB port on the side of the lens. We’re specifically saying sealed because it’s to the same standard as a phone is. It’s hard to not like the ergonomics on this lens — it’s just nice to hold.
Like pretty much everything that Tamron makes, this lens is weather resistant. The plastic exterior doesn’t really feel cheap at all — but this lens surely doesn’t have the metal architecture of some of the company’s higher end lenses. The plastic build makes it lightweight though while keeping it durable. It’s the best of both worlds in so many ways.
Ease of Use
This is a pretty simple lens to use. You put it on the camera, point, focus, and shoot. We can’t complain about it all that much. More importantly, it works so incredibly simply. Personally, I wish that Tamron added an aperture ring to it as its got a constant aperture through the zoom range. But they haven’t done that for any of their lenses. And one could argue that it doesn’t stand in line with their brand philosphy.
Still, I dream of the day where Tamron brands their higher end lenses as Bronica, and adds aperture rings with metal and all.
Focusing with the Tamron 17-50mm f4 isn’t even worth talking about. Of course it’s good. Of couse it’s accurate. And most of all, it can track people even in the relative dark. No one will be able to tell the difference between the autofocus on this and Sony’s own G-Master lenses. And that’s incredible.
If anything, it makes us wonder about Sony’s own motors.
Then again, this is a wide-angle lens. It’s not difficult for a lens this wide with an f4 aperture to focus in 2023.
The Tamron 17-50mm f4 is a bit of a masterpiece when it comes to image quality. The colors are some of the nicest that I’ve seen from a Tamron lens –with the major exception being the 35-150mm f2-2.8. The bokeh, on the other hand, is only alright. But I don’t think that you’ll be buying this lens for the bokeh.
Perhaps the only real weak-point of this lens is the bokeh. But that’s because it’s a wide-to-normal lens that is a consistent f4 throughout the range. While other Japanese brands might like to talk about how beautiful their bokeh is, it’s truly not worth talking about with this lens. Instead, documentary-style shooters will apprecaite that there is so much in focus. That’s a major part of story-telling.
My favorite thing about the Tamron 17-50mm f4 is the color. Walk around during the period of the day where the sun is starting to go down and you’ll see colors that you’re bound to fall in love with. Seriously, they don’t need any editing.
As far as any of the traditional issues with lenses go, we didn’t find very much. The only consideration might be that at 17mm, there is distortion. But even that distortion is easily fixed and worth being embraced for its ability to tell a story.
Tamron’s lenses aren’t the sharpest on the market, and that’s why we like them. For documentary shooting, people will simply just look their best. And when you add the effects of a flash to the scene, they’ll have a beautiful glow to them that a retoucher will dream of.
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 17-50mm f4?
The Tamron 17-50mm f4 is for anyone that wants to move up from their 16-35mm f4 lens while wanting more reach. This photographer also cares more about color than absolute sharpness. It’s fantastic for both landscape and photojournalistic shooters.
Here are the tech specs of the Tamron 17-50mm F4 straight from the company’s press release.
|Angle of View (diagonal)
|103°41′- 46°48′ (for full-frame mirrorless format)
|15 elements in 13 groups
|Minimum Object Distance
|0.19m / 7.5in (WIDE) / 0.3m / 11.8in (TELE)
|Maximum Magnification Ratio
|1:4.6 (WIDE) / 1:3.8 (TELE)
|: 460g (16.2oz)
|: 9 (circular diaphragm)
|: Flower-shaped hood, Lens caps
|: Sony E-mount
* Length is the distance from the front end of the lens to the lens mount face.
** The circular diaphragm stays almost perfectly circular up to two stops down from maximum aperture.
Specifications, appearance, functionality, etc. are subject to change without prior notice.