Although in recent years it seems like Sony has been largely neglecting it’s APS-C lineup in favor of it’s full-frame a7 series, some manufacturers have been stepping up and producing excellent lenses for all of us still holding onto our Sony a6000 series cameras.
The Tamron 17-70mm F2.8 is one of those lenses, releasing in late 2020, it shows that not all manufacturers have forgotten about APS-C. Is this third party lens worth the hefty pricetag? Read on.
Looking for just a quick summary before jumping in?
- Blazing fast AF
- Versatile zoom range
- Well built w/ image stabilization
- Cheaper than Sony alternatives
Size & Weight: chunky but not too big.
To start, let me just say that the Tamron 17-70mm F2.8, like many wide aperture zooms, is fairly large. Weighing 18.5oz (525g) and stretching to a length of 4.7 inches (11.9cm), it does admittedly feel a little bit front heavy on a Sony a6000.
Build Quality: big but high quality.
Heftiness aside, I found that the quality of materials is rather good. The lens is made of a nice polycarbonate mix with an unassuming, matte finish. The zoom ring is large and ribbed, allowing for very easy operation. I actually really like the aesthetics and build quality, it’s almost on par with a most higher end Sony lenses in my opinion.
The Tamron 17-70mm F2.8 also has dust and splash protection, making for a great rugged setup when combined with one of the newer Sony a6000 series bodies that actually has weather-sealing. The only thing I wasn’t a fan of with the ergonomics and build of this lens was that there are no physical switches or buttons. Unlike most zooms, this one doesn’t feature switches for AF/MF or image stabilization, instead you’ll have to dig through camera menus.
As someone who uses manual focus quite a bit, this was a bit annoying but not a dealbreaker. For what it’s worth, I think the lack of physical buttons/switches allows for both the zoom & focus rings to be larger and more heavy duty, so it’s a worthy trade off in my opinion.
Image Quality: mostly great sharpness.
I’ll cut right to the chase for this section. The Tamron 17-70mm F2.8 is very sharp across the entire zoom range… except for at its widest. At 17mm, centers are quite sharp but there’s some moderate falloff around the corners. Zooming in just a bit remedies this and allows for excellent edge-to-edge sharpness.
Impressively, the lens holds its sharpness even wide open at F2.8, though it seems to peak when stopped down to F5.6. Diffraction will start to set in at F16, and images fall apart at F22.
As stated prior, the Tamron 17-70mm F2.8 showed consistent sharpness throughout pretty much the entire zoom range (with the exception of 17mm). Overall quite a good performance for a zoom in my opinion.
As for bokeh, the short telephoto focal length combined with the bright F2.8 aperture makes for some decent bokeh. I honestly won’t say it’s exceptional, but it’s decidedly average.
Focusing System: blazing fast and reliable.
The Tamron 17-70mm F2.8, being such a new lens, delivers exceptional and fast autofocus performance. It rarely hunts and works extremely well with EyeAF. I imagine on a newer Sony a6000 series body it’s likely even better.
As an additional bonus, it has an extremely quiet focusing motor, which Tamron calls their “rapid eXtra-silent stepping drive”. That’s a mouthful.
Image stabilization works very well, nothing much more to say there. Finally, for my fellow manual focus fans, the MF experience is lackluster as it is with most modern lenses.
The manual focus ring isn’t very responsive, and, as I mentioned earlier, the lens lacks a physical AF/MF switch. Either way, most people buying this lens are going to be using AF only, so it’s a somewhat inconsequential point.
My Final Thoughts
As usual, before we wrap up this article, I’d like to offer some alternatives.
First: the Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 is my personal favorite APS-C zoom. It offers great sharpness and an incredibly compact build. More importantly, it’s substantially cheaper.
Second: the Sony 16-55mm F2.8, while being $400 more, is fairly compact but with better image quality than this Tamron. Just two alternatives to consider.
In any case, I found the Tamron 17-70mm F2.8 to be a lens that combines great sharpness, blazing fast AF, and lovely build quality into a relatively compact (for a zoom at least) package. I particularly think this could be a good lens for video with the quiet autofocus and great image stabilization.
Regardless, given the good image quality and versatile zoom range, this could be a great lens for anything looking for a catch-all walk-around lens. I’ve included purchase links below if you’re interested in checking it out yourself. Thanks for reading! 🙂
This lens earned a spot on one of my best lens lists.
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