Out of all the third-party lenses released for Sony’s FE mount over the years, the Tamron 28-75mm F2.8 has gone down as one of the most legendary.
Releasing back in 2018, it filled a niche in the space: an affordable and versatile zoom lens (as opposed to the ultra-expensive Sony 24-70 GM).
However, since then, other manufacturers have stepped in with their own takes on the “affordable and versatile” zoom lens, so how does the Tamron 28-75mm F2.8 stack up these days?
Personally, it was the first lens I paired with my Sony a7iii, using it primarily as a travel/catch-all lens. So, in this review, we’re going to dive in and take a deep look at what makes this lens (still) so great.
Looking for a quick summary before jumping in?
- Versatile zoom range w/ F2.8
- Blazing fast autofocus
- A robust and long-lasting build
- A fabulous do-it-all kind of lens
Size & Weight
First up, let’s talk about size and weight. As you might expect out of a 28-75mm full frame lens, it certainly isn’t going to win any competitions for small size.
However, when you compare it to some of its competitors, the 19oz (540g) weight doesn’t seem all that bad. Yes, it’s fairly heavy, but you’re also getting a lens with fabulous specs.
Size-wise, we get a length measurement of around 4.6 inches (11.7cm). Despite traditionally being a fan of small kits, I’ve actually come to appreciate the heft and weightiness that this lens adds to my camera (a7iii).
Heck, it even fits vertically (attached to the camera) in my Peak Design sling, something a lot of other zoom lenses can’t accomplish. So yeah, it’s big, but not comically or annoyingly so.
Is the lens well built?
Materials & Longevity
So, it’s big and heavy, so that must mean it’s well-built, yeah? Well yes, actually, that’s precisely the case.
While not comparable to a decked-out GM lens, the Tamron 28-75mm F2.8 does offer a pretty nice build. The barrel is mostly metal, and the grips, while minimalist, feel nice and durable.
The zoom ring spins smoothly and accurately and, despite the barrel extending when the lens is zoomed, it all feels quite high quality (doesn’t give me kit lens vibes).
When it comes to accessories, my lens didn’t come with a lens hood. As far as I can tell, judging by product listings on Amazon and B&H, I don’t believe it was supposed to.
Either way, the flare resistance on this lens is pretty strong (more on that later), so it’s not a huge deal. However, a lens hood is always a nice addition for protecting the front element.
As for caps, the lens ships with two bog-standard lens caps.
On the front, you’ll get a pretty typical pinch cap (67mm filter thread, by the way). On the rear, you’ll get a pretty typical plastic screw-on cap that you’ve probably seen on literally every other lens in existence.
As for weather sealing, the Tamron 28-75mm F2.8 actually has a gasket around the lens mount.
Sure, this isn’t full weather sealing, but we’re also talking about a lens that’s designed to be a budget option when compared to an OEM Sony lens, so I can excuse it.
I’ve personally brought the lens (on my not-fully-sealed a7iii) into many light showers of rain and even on a windy (and very splashy) boat ride. Zero issues whatsoever, just don’t immerse it under a waterfall or in the ocean.
Built to last?
So is the lens built to last? Like most modern lenses, I’d say yes.
The build quality, while not incredibly top-tier, is still quite nice. I’ve bashed it against rocks and walls a few times and it’s no worse for the wear.
Despite not having full weather sealing, the gasket around the lens mount still gives me a lot of confidence. Like I said, I’ve subjected this thing to a few bits of nasty weather and it (plus the camera) have came out fine. I have no worries about testing it further.
As for ergonomics, I find the large (but not too large) size of the lens to actually lend itself incredibly well to feeling balanced in my hand. Despite being heavy, it fits my a7iii quite well, and the “center of gravity” seems to be near the lens mount where the barrel curves inward.
When I’m shooting a picture, I’ll have one hand on my camera and the other supporting the lens by the zoom ring (speaking of which, the zoom ring is well dampened so that it won’t rotate on accident, plus it’s grippy!).
When I’m just walking around and holding the camera, I’ll wrap my hand around the part near the lens mount.
Once again, the setup is fairly heavy, but due to the great balance between camera/lens, I find it pretty comfortable to lug around for the day. And, of course, you always have the option of just tossing it into your camera bag.
As far as aesthetics go, the lens is a bit boring. I do realize that beauty is subjective, but the Tamron 28-75mm F2.8 doesn’t offer a particularly striking design.
That fact doesn’t diminish this (incredible) lens in any way, but just figured I’d note it. You definitely won’t look like some sort of vintage photographer (like using a Voigtlander for example) or some ultra-epic professional.
And to be honest, that’s ok. As I primarily use this as a travel lens, I would, frankly, rather it look a little ugly and unimpressive to make myself less of a target to thieves and hustlers.
Next up, we’re going to talk about what everyone actually cares about: sharpness and image quality.
Just a quick note: I don’t tend to get very scientific in my reviews. I don’t study MTF charts or any other complicated graphs. I typically just shoot and pixel-peep at various F-stops and focal lengths.
28mm (Wide End)
Anywho, let’s start off at the widest end of the focal range: 28mm.
Without any sort of stopping down (F2.8), we see some noticeable corner softness at the far edge of images. It’s really not particularly noticeable unless you zoom, but it’s definitely there. Centers, however, are razor sharp.
Stopping down just a bit (F4) sharpens up the entire frame, even the extreme edges. So, even at this aperture, we’re already looking at a lens that can produce excellent ultra-sharp landscapes or any other sort of wide-angle subject.
75mm (Telephoto End)
On the complete opposite side of the range: 75mm.
At 75mm, we see pretty much fabulous sharpness all across the frame irregardless of aperture. Seriously, F2.8 looks almost identical to F8 unless you REALLY zoom in (I’m talking like, being able to count the individual pixels).
I have found, in my personal uses, that this thing takes excellent portraiture for that reason (more on that in a bit). Images are razor sharp, even down to F2.8.
Really good stuff, and I’m incredibly impressed to see a lens that holds its performance all the way through its entire focal range.
Optical Quirks & Flaws
Next up, let’s look at optical flaws: distortion, vignette, and that sort of thing. Spoiler alert: the Tamron 28-75mm F2.8 is relatively free of issues.
First: distortion. Typically, many zooms suffer from some serious distortion at the wide end of their range, but that’s not so much the case with this one.
Thanks to the widest part of the range being 28mm, this lens avoids a lot of the distortion issues that plague its 24mm counterparts.
I found that, typically, a single click in Lightroom (there’s an included lens profile) fixed any issues I had at any focal length. You can swipe between the picture below to see the uncorrected vs corrected distortion at 28mm (like I said, it’s barely noticeable).
As for vignette, we see a little bit of moderate darkening around the corners (particularly noticeable when you’re capturing a lot of the sky).
However, it’s fairly linear (consistent) so a single click, once again, in post-processing can do the job of fixing it up. Thus far, I haven’t had any issues with noise or anything when fixing the darkened corners, even in low-light images.
As for chromatic aberrations, I have had very few issues.
One of my “extreme” tests is shooting tree branches against a sunlit sky, and even then I could barely notice anything.
Sometimes, when shooting a bright, reflective object (a car, for example), you’ll get a little bit of purple fringing (if you crop in a lot), but it’s nothing a quick click in post couldn’t fix. Good stuff.
Finally: flaring. I’ve found it to be very well controlled, although I have had a bit of ghosting in extreme circumstances.
Shooting artificial light rarely causes any issues, and the lens also manages the sun pretty well, but it can trip up sometimes.
Really the only times I’ve been able to reproduce bad flaring is when shooting directly, literally, into the sun at mid-day on blue-sky days.
Really impressive performance overall given that this thing didn’t even ship with a lens hood.
Bokeh & Macro
Bokeh (at Various Apertures)
Alright, so the Tamron 28-75mm F2.8 is sharp as a razor, but does it produce decent bokeh?
Well, despite being locked at F2.8 aperture, images end up looking pretty bokehlicious when zoomed into the telephoto end.
Pictures are worth a thousand words, as they say, so I’ll just let you check out these bokeh samples (swipe gallery) below.
Tamron 28-75mm F2.8 Portrait Samples
Speaking of bokeh, this lens actually takes some pretty nice portraits.
Bokeh, as we’ve established, looks great and the lens’s strong contrast creates some really decent subject isolation.
Is it comparable to a dedicated portrait lens? Of course not, but I’ve been pretty happy with what I’ve been able to put out.
Once again, I’ll just drop a few portrait samples below so you can judge how they look yourself.
Macro & Minimum Focus
Minimum Focus Distance
For those who are considering casually dabbling in macro, this lens probably won’t get you great results, but it’ll get you… something decent, at the very least.
The minimum focusing distance is roughly 7.1in (18cm) which, while it isn’t great, can still get the job done if you’re shooting macro casually.
As for the magnification ratio, you’re still not getting anything spectacular: just 0.37x.
Once again, this lens wasn’t designed for macro in mind at all, but like most lenses, it can do “good enough”. I’ll drop some examples below that were taken at (or near, rather) minimum focusing distance. (they’re not very good, I just took them really quickly on my balcony)
Overall Optical Performance
So yeah, wow. The Tamron 28-75mm F2.8 is a real optical beast, offering impressive sharpness without, frankly, many caveats at all.
It’s not often that we see a zoom lens that stays razor-sharp throughout its entire zoom range. Nor is it often that we see a zoom lens that crushes distortion, vignette, CA, and flaring so well.
I know I’ve been singing the lens’s praises a lot so far, but I’m really just impressed with how well it performs.
Already interested in picking one up for yourself?
Alright, so everything else has been pretty amazing so far, but how’s the autofocus? Also pretty good, actually!
While it maybe is perhaps not comparable to a high-end OEM lens, I’ve found the Tamron 28-75mm F2.8 to deliver reliable and quick focus 99.9% of the time.
It works fabulously with features like EyeAF and typically works pretty well with subject tracking (AF-C). No complaints from me in terms of stills autofocus.
For video shooters, autofocus is dead silent and buttery smooth. You’ll never hear it, even if you use your camera’s (likely poor) onboard mic.
A quick note, however: you may have read elsewhere that autofocus in video is spotty, but that’s actually due to old firmware. See, when this lens first came out, video AF was absolutely dreadful, but Tamron quickly fixed it with an update.
The best part? Firmware updates can go through the camera. You don’t have to buy an external docking station or anything weird like that like you’d have to do with some other third-party brands.
By the way, here’s an awesome video I found that shows off both the autofocus and low-light capabilities of this lens!
As for manual focus: it works well enough.
Like a lot of modern lenses, the Tamron is focus-by-wire. The focus ring is dampened well, and I’ve found it to be quite accurate.
That being said, I’ve used other modern lenses that just absolutely nail the autofocus experience: perfect dampening, hard stops (rare but fantastic), and big, chunky rings.
This lens, on the other hand, just feels pretty average (that’s okay). The focusing ring is actually tucked closer to the lens mount which, to be frank, can make it a bit awkward to use.
But hey, you probably weren’t buying this thing too exclusively manual focus anyway, so it’s not a big deal.
My Final Thoughts
Alrighty, before I round out my reviews I always like to present a few alternatives.
As I said, there wasn’t much competition when this lens came out, but other manufacturers have caught up since then. So, here are a few other pieces of glass for your consideration.
Sony GM 24-70mm F2.8
The first alternative is the big daddy in the space: the excellent Sony GM 24-70mm F2.8.
The GM lens is, simply, spectacular in every way. It is, however, almost double the price.
To be completely blunt, unless you’re mega-rich, just go with the Tamron. The value per money is way better.
Sigma 28-70mm F2.8
Now, in terms of similar competition, the Sigma 28-70mm F2.8 is arguably the most on-par lens with the Tamron.
The major advantage of the Sigma is that it’s smaller, both in size and weight. If shaving off half an inch and a couple of ounces matters to you, consider the Sigma.
However, I’d argue the Tamron still holds the cake for image quality and autofocus performance (not to mention the partial weather sealing).
So, after sitting through almost 2500 words of me rambling, have you been convinced that the Tamron 28-75mm F2.8 is a great lens yet?
I’ve been rocking this beast as my primary travel/life-documenting/do-it-all lens for a while now and I couldn’t be happier with it. Razor-sharp images, buttery bokeh (at 75mm), blazing-fast autofocus, and a pretty robust build all come together to make one heck of a lens.
If you’re interested in picking it up for yourself, I’ll include purchase links below. Thanks a lot for reading (and by the way, keep scrolling for more sample photos!).
Additional Tamron 28-75mm F2.8 Sample Photos
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