Howdy folks, today we’re going to be looking a budget-friendly wide angle that’s pretty popular in the Sony full-frame community: the Tamron 20mm F2.8 Di III OSD M1:2 (why is the name so long!?).
This little wide angle comes in usually around $250 (although I’ve seen the price fluctuate a little bit) so you’re definitely saving a LOT of money over Sony’s 20mm offering, for example.
Why You Can Trust Us
Chance (that’s me) has been practicing photography for 10 years and has been a paid professional for most of it. I bought my first Sony camera in 2018 so this site is a culmination, so to speak, of 5 years of Sony experience (full site history). For this lens in particular, I rented it for a week and took it out every day (read how I review/test gear).
Anywho, I wanted to get my hands on this lens myself to see if it was really as good as it’s cracked up to be (spoiler alert: it’s good but has some flaws). So, in this review, I’ll be sharing my impressions along with plenty of sample photos.
Let’s dive in!
- Respectable image quality & sharpness
- Decently quick and reliable autofocus
- Fairly robust and well-built
- Incredibly compact and light
- .50x magnification & close focus distance
- Extremely loud autofocus (bad for video)
- Crazy focus breathing (also bad for video)
Terrible for video shooters, but a fantastic value for photographers. You'll get: sharp images and fast (if noisy) autofocus in a fairly robust and compact build. A great budget wide angle option.
Size & Weight
So, the first thing I want to cover is the size and weight of this little thing. The Tamron 20mm F2.8 only weighs about 8.5oz (241g) and measures a length of roughly 2.7in (6.8cm) without caps.
While it is obviously meant to be a full-frame lens (it almost makes my a7iii a pocket camera!), I actually found myself often using it on my ZV-E10 since it fit the compact body so well.
Lightweight and compact doesn’t always mean poor build quality though. While the Tamron certainly doesn’t feel luxurious by any means (definitely not a GM lens), it still feels pretty well-built in the hand.
The barrel is chunky and doesn’t feel like cheap plastic. The lens caps are surprisingly high-quality (a dumb thing to highlight, I know). The front cap especially is massive and makes a nice satisfying click when locking into place.
As for “build quality”, however, the biggest thing that surprised me is that this little lens is actually fully weather sealed! During my testing, I was wandering the city taking pictures when a storm blew in over the lake. I (along with the camera/lens) got soaked, and it held up just fine!
Seeing weather sealing on a $250 lens is incredibly rare, so that alone really pushes up my appreciation of the Tamron. This makes it feel more like a high-end rugged landscape lens than an ultra-budget option.
So it’s well-built, has weather sealing, and is extremely tiny, but how does image quality hold up? Not bad, actually. I’m not much of an extreme pixel peeper, so from what I can see quality overall looks pretty decent.
As with most lenses, shooting at F2.8 creates razor sharp centers with minor/moderate fall-off near the corners.
Stopping down just a bit sharpens up the entire frame and actually creates some pretty great results.
Given that this is a 20mm (wide-angle) lens, you’ll probably be stopped down most of the time anyways, so I don’t see the slight corner softness at F2.8 to be a problem.
With that being said, however, the lens does a few optical flaws and drawbacks. Namely: distortion.
Distortion is fairly strong on most wide lenses, but it’s definitely a bit more pronounced here. It’s not horrific, but you’ll definitely need to correct it in post if you’re shooting any sort of straight lines (example: it’s quite noticeable in architecture).
I’ll drop a before/after correction sample below so you can see for yourself.
Vignette is also quite pronounced, but really only when shooting at F2.8. It’s minor enough to where pushing up the corners in post-processing isn’t a problem. You won’t introduce any digital noise or anything by correcting those edge shadows.
And frankly, like I mentioned earlier, you’re likely not going to be shooting this thing wide open that often anyway, so I don’t see it as much of an issue.
I tend to not notice chromatic aberrations much (maybe I use good CA-resistant lenses often or maybe I’m just blind) and I didn’t notice much here either.
One of my typical tests is to photograph tree branches against a sunny sky. Generally, this, along with photographing cars under harsh light, is a great way to test for CA. I’ll include a visual below, but I found CA to be very minor and easily correctable in post.
Finally: flare resistance. It’s not bad, but it’s definitely not perfect either. With some lenses, you can shoot directly into streetlights without issues, this one not so much.
You’ll see moderate ghosting (although not any loss of contrast, interestingly) when shooting directly into the sun or bright artificial lights. I’ll include a visual below of the absolute worst flaring I was able to capture during my testing.
Oh, I should mention, stopping down quite a bit actually produces a decent sunstar effect!
Next up, let’s talk about macro. “Wait, macro… on a 20mm lens?” you may ask. Yep!
Surprisingly, the lens has a magnification of about .50x (that’s where the “M1:2” comes from in the lens’s name) and has a minimum focusing distance of roughly 4in. The minimum focus distance is so close that I often found I would get shadows on the subject.
I don’t do much macro, but I’ll include a couple examples below. This most certainly isn’t a dedicated macro lens, but it’s great that it provides that options for those looking to experiment.
As for autofocus, the Tamron 20mm F2.8 focuses quickly and accurately like most modern lenses. No complaints there. But unfortunately, it’s not all sunshine and roses…
First up, this lens has INSANE focus breathing. When focusing on close objects, you’ll see a massive shift of perspective. This is pretty bad.
The second issue, and the one I personally think is more severe, is the crazy loud autofocus noise. Now I don’t care about loud autofocus if I’m doing photography, but for video my on-camera shotgun mic picked up literally everything.
I’ll re-embed my review video below (skip to timestamp 5:09) so you can see (and hear) these two flaws in action.
So, in case it isn’t obvious, don’t buy this lens if you’re interested in shooting video (and are using an on-camera mic). If you’re looking to do video and are on a tight budget, consider the Samyang 18mm F2.8 instead.
In any case, if your goal is photography and you’re on a tight budget, then you literally can’t get any better than the Tamron 20mm F2.8.
Seriously, this lens hits all the right points: fast autofocus (besides the noise), excellent image quality and a robust yet compact build. All for about $250 (on average, I’ve seen it on sale).
If reading my 1500 words of random rambling has convinced you that this lens is in fact great, I’ll leave a link below for your purchase (it supports the site at no extra cost to you). Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy your soon-to-be new lens!
Additional Tamron 20mm F2.8 Sample Photos
And then here’s a dump of more sample photos that didn’t fit into the rest of the article.
That wraps it up! If you are planning to buy this lens for yourself, please consider using my affiliate link. It supports the site at no extra cost to you, which allows me to make more of these honest/hands-on reviews. Thank you! 🙂