Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Tamron 17-35mm F2.8-4 Di OSD Review: The Lil Secret Wide Angle Lens

Tamron 17-35mm F2.8-4 Di OSD Review
August 2020, Carl Garrard

This lens is a rare fantastic zoom. It so closely rivals prime lens performance offerings in the focal range it covers, that it made me reconsider keeping a couple of my prime lenses. Tamron nailed this one. Optically, good luck to you finding any other UWA lens that performs as well as this one for any where near it's price. Almost indistinguishable when compared to my highly regarded and optically excellent 24mm f/1.8G Nikkor at the same focal length, and its the best 17mm wide angle performance I've seen from any zoom lens yet. I'd pit it against any 17mm prime lens for edge to edge sharpness too. Clearly, this is a "modern optics" lens capable of handling the newer higher resolution sensors. A few test shots in, I knew it was a find immediately. Read on or visit it here:
Tamron 17-35mm F/2.8-4 Di OSD Seriously only $599.99?

A few test shots in, and near instantly I knew that I bought a great lens here. This is the zoom I've been looking for to bring with me into backcountry, but it's perfect for all outdoor work. It fits all the criteria I needed, optically excellent, compact and light, well built, weather sealed. A perfect lens for backpacking photographers like myself who desire wide angle.

It's a beautiful compliment to the D810 too, the resolving power is just there to pick up all that extra detail the D810 is designed to capture. I just can't say enough about it. For the price, this is the UWA (ultra wide angle) to get. More below.

A very handsome lens. That rear ring is actually platinum/silver color, not off white. Ergonomics are simple and quite nice too, a pleasure to hold and use in every way.
Highlights are as follows:
  • Size and weight are perfect, compact and light without sacrificing optical quality.
  • Beautiful styling and ergonomic design, a real pleasure to hold and operate.
  • Added benefit of  full weather sealing, not just at the mount!
  • Great close focusing (11inches at all focal lengths from front element to sensor), especially for a UWA.
  • Bright enough aperture, especially considering its compact size.
  • Zoom barely extends through the range, maybe 3/8" of an inch at 17mm, and 1/4" at 35mm.

Because of its inherent wide angle design, I don't miss not having VR at all, nor do I miss a focus scale. Both are unnecessary on a UWA and adding those would only would have increased cost, and weight. Tamron knew this, and still hit a home run with this lens.

Full weather sealing, added peace of mind, less dust on your sensor too. That rear seal for the lens mount is tough, and large.

It's ideally designed as it is a compromise without leaving out what is most important: optical performance, build, weather sealing, and ergonomics. All this keeps the cost lower and the value very high indeed. Compared to the newer 24-70mm f/2.8 G Tamron, this is much better optically, which surprised me based on the price, plus it is much smaller and lighter, much less expensive, yet more versatile on the wide end.

Build quality wise, you'll love the finish, tough but super smooth and classy like all modern Tamrons. High grade composites give the impression of mid level prosumer quality, although keeping it real this is no full metal built lens here.

The focus ring is operated by a quiet internal OSD focus motor (you can hear it some), which gives it compatibility with all Nikon and Canon DSLR's. The focus ring does rotate during operation, but keeping your fingers off the focus ring is easy enough, there's plenty of room. Manual focusing is buttery smooth, and the focus throw is only about 45 degrees- all you need for a UWA anyways.

The only switch on this lens is the Af/Mf switch. There's no depth of field scale, but so what, we are talking UWA here so that feature is near irrelevant anyways. Again, no VR, distance window or scale at all, nor a clutch mechanism for the focus ring.

Optically, out of the box, this lens performed flawlessly on my D810, needing no micro adjustment at all at 17mm. It was sharp edge to edge at every focal length from f4 upwards. This is a huge surprise for a lens of this price, normally you get what you pay for, but in this case believe it or not, you get much more than you pay for optically.

On an APS-C DSLR the zoom range equates to 25.5-52.5mm which makes it completely usable on APS-C cameras as well, two lenses for the price of one. And it's much better than any Nikon kit lens, or many of its prosumer lenses optically. 

If you own cameras with both full frame and APS-C formats, this lens is a no brainer.

Got it where it counts, in the optics! Molded glass spherical element and a low dispersion element to combat CA's on the exit element. I was surprised to find so little CA.

You'll see some vignetting wide open (what lens doesn't?), but easily fixed in camera or in post. CA is near nada. Corner to corner sharpness is so good at f.5.6-f8 at 17mm. Finally you won't have to make all those compromises we were used too in the past with UWA lenses. I know at least as though I found buried treasure- really good zoom lenses are hard to find.

17mm f/8 unedited from raw. Sharp sharp and sharp. f5.6 looks near identical, only wide open will you see some vignetting but easily correctable.

I've decided to send back my 24mm f/1.8G Nikkor, as this lens performs so close to it at 24mm, but, with the added benefit of having a zoom and more composition options. What you give up in a brighter aperture in comparison to brighter primes really aren't missed much since modern DSLR's have such good high ISO performance. And since we are talking wide angle, you aren't going to gain much subject isolation with a large aperture lens anyways. Again, a great design compromise that keeps size, weight, and price all down.

I shot this image a bit later in the day than the one above, so that's why it looks a bit different in color etc (less sunlight). 20mm f/5.6 here, awesome performance. A bit underexposed to show the light sky vignetting. Easy to correct if you wish to do so, in camera or in post.

The Tamron 17-35mm f/2.8-4 Di OSD is a perfect example of well thought out product planning and practical design compromises that make sense to working photographers. It's a pleasure to use in nearly every way. If you don't require VC, or pro level metal build quality, you've found the UWA you've been hoping to find. It's a stunning value for the dollar.

I'd absolutely highly recommend it for Nikon and Canon shooters wanting a versatile, small, sharp, weather sealed option for both APS-C and full frame.

Stay focused.


Direct link for your convenience: Tamron 17-35mm F/2.8-4 Di OSD Seriously only $599.99?

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