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Sony lenses are notoriously expensive, so it’s a welcome relief that third-party manufacturers have been making solid E-Mount lenses. The Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8 is one such lens. It is the highly anticipated follow-up to the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8, which was announced in 2018 and is almost always on backorder due to its popularity. After testing the Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8, I have no doubt that this lens will be equally popular.
Read on to find out why.
First off, 17-28mm is indeed a niche and unique focal length. No other manufacturer makes a lens with this range. The closest comparison is the 16-35mm f/2.8, a focal length made by Sony, Canon, and Nikon.
If you’re disappointed about having less reach with the Tamron, consider that if you use this lens with a Sony full-frame, you can always shoot in APS-C mode, which gives you more range. This is one of the most useful features on my Sony a7R III.
Why Tamron went for this slightly more limited focal length is puzzling, but it likely explains how they kept the lens to such a small size. In the comparison photo below, you’ll see that the 17-28mm is essentially the same size as the original Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 and the Sony 24-70mm f/4. Weight-wise, the Tamron is the lightest, coming in at 420 g (0.93 lbs). That is quite a bit lighter than Sony’s own 16-35mm f/2.8, which weighs a whopping 680 g (1.5 lbs).
Since we’re on the subject of comparisons, let’s talk price. Sony charges $2,200 USD for their 16-35mm f/2.8 lens. While their lens offers more solid construction and a more flexible focal range, this is still a chunk of change. On the other hand, the Tamron 17-28mm is priced at $899 USD, which is quite reasonable for an f/2.8 lens.
The Tamron 17-28mm lens does not have optical image stabilization (OIS). However, it’s so lightweight that it’s still pretty easy to shoot stable photos and videos handheld. In fact, its size goes well with the Sony a7R III and the Sony a7 III.
The Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8 is equipped with a smooth and quiet autofocus (AF) system. It pairs well with modern Sony mirrorless cameras, and all AF modes are available, including Eye AF. In practice, I found Eye AF to be a bit sluggish and hit or miss. But then again, I don’t consider 17-28mm to be my ideal focal range for portraits anyway, and I would rather reach for a midrange zoom or a standard 50mm lens.
A wide-angle lens like the 17-28mm is ideal for capturing landscapes, interiors, and real estate. Those are the types of photography I focused on while testing this lens. The portraiture I did was minimal, and it was mainly for the purpose of shooting at an aperture other than f/11 to see how the bokeh performed (it did very well).
For my first test shooting with the 17-28mm, I took it on a doors-off helicopter ride. If you’ve ever been on one of these, you know how incredibly windy it can be in the main cabin and how difficult it is to get any shots in focus. This is very much a “spray and pray” kind of photography scenario. To my surprise, the 17-28mm did incredibly well.
From the moment I started shooting with the Tamron 17-28mm, I almost immediately forgot it was a third-party lens. Autofocus was snappy (I wasn’t using Eye AF), there was zero lag or miscommunication between the lens and the camera, and the image quality was stunning. Photos were tack sharp, there was no distortion, and the colors even seemed to pop a little more than usual.
Since this lens is so compact and lightweight, don’t expect all-metal or polycarbonate materials like Sony uses in their GM lenses. However, the build quality of the Tamron 17-28mm still feels very solid in the hands, and I think it would hold up well over time.
Tamron says the 17-28mm is equipped with “moisture-resistant construction” and a hydrophobic fluorine coating to repel dirt and fingerprints. Not much else is said about weather sealing, and I wouldn’t feel comfortable subjecting this lens to extreme weather conditions.
One of the biggest benefits of buying a Tamron lens is their generous 6-year warranty. Effective for six years from the date of purchase (in the USA only), Tamron lenses are “warranted against defective materials or workmanship.” Meanwhile, Sony provides 1 year of warranty on their lenses.
Based purely on specs, this lens pairs beautifully with the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8. In fact, Tamron claims the combined weight of both of those lenses equates to less than 1 kg (2.2 lbs), which is incredibly light for two f/2.8 lenses. Both lenses also take the same filter size of 67mm, making it easy to swap polarizers and ND filters. This feature alone makes it very compelling to invest in both lenses.
During the reigning days of DSLRs, many photographers scoffed at third-party lenses, saying that “you get what you pay for.” Perhaps back then they had a point.
But today, third-party lenses have really stepped up their game, and the Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8 is one of the best examples of superior third-party glass. If you’re in the market for a wide-angle lens for your Sony body, you can’t go wrong with this lens.
For more information on the Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8 lens for Sony, check out this video I filmed, along with some additional sample photos below: