Fly­ing Start

Tam­ron’s first lens in the Sony FE mirrorless mount is ap­pro­pri­ately a stan­dard zoom, but with the twin at­trac­tions of an f2.8 con­stant aper­ture and an af­ford­able price tag.

Camera - - ON TRIAL - Paul Bur­rows Re­poRt by

Things are hot­ting up in the Sony FE mount world and not just be­cause more third-party lens mak­ers are join­ing the club, but also be­cause Sony it­self is fast-track­ing a pro­gram of new lenses, in­clud­ing more high-end ‘G Mas­ter’ mod­els. And it’s go­ing to get hot­ter now that Sony fi­nally has some com­pe­ti­tion in the full-35mm mirrorless space, al­though it has a very sub­stan­tial head start on Canon and Nikon which you can be sure it’s de­ter­mined to main­tain (start­ing with the prom­ise of 12 more FE lenses within the next year or so). In terms of lens choice, it’s go­ing to re­main the best served ful­l35mm mirrorless sys­tem for a good while yet.

Tam­ron has sen­si­bly kicked off its FE mount pro­gram with a 28-75mm stan­dard zoom which im­me­di­ately pro­vides an in­ter­est­ing al­ter­na­tive to Sony’s own 28-70mm and 24-70mm mod­els. Tam­ron’s new zoom has a con­stant aper­ture of f2.8 so Sony’s 28-70mm – at f3.5-5.6 – is sig­nif­i­cantly slower, but also a lot cheaper too. The 24-70mm also has a con­stant aper­ture of f2.8, but it’s ob­vi­ously not quite as long at the tele­photo end. How­ever, it’s also a ‘G Mas­ter’ model so it’s sig­nif­i­cantly pricier (ac­tu­ally well over twice the price). At around $1300 then, the Tam­ron 28-75mm looks like a good bal­ance of ex­tra per­for­mance at a more af­ford­able price.

On the out­side, the styling is quite sim­i­lar to Sony’s 28-70mm, but not sur­pris­ingly, it’s a lit­tle big­ger over­all and the po­si­tions of the zoom­ing and fo­cus­ing col­lars are re­versed.

 Tam­ron’s first lens for Sony’s FE mount is a 28-75mm zoom with a con­stant aper­ture of f2.8, mak­ing it an in­ter­est­ing al­ter­na­tive to Sony’s own of­fer­ings in this cat­e­gory.

There are no other con­trols, not even an AF/MF switch, and the styling is es­sen­tially ba­sic matte black, save for a cham­pagne gold­coloured ring around the mount.

The Tam­ron zoom’s bar­rel is weather sealed and there’s a flu­o­rine coat­ing on the ex­posed sur­face of the front el­e­ment to help bet­ter re­pel mois­ture and grease. This also makes for eas­ier clean­ing, al­though many users will no doubt fit a pro­tec­tive fil­ter any­way, es­pe­cially as the screwthread fit­ting is 67 mil­lime­tres so these won’t be too ex­pen­sive.

Work­ing glass

On the in­side, the op­ti­cal con­struc­tion uses 15 el­e­ments in 12 groups with a to­tal of five be­ing spe­cial types. These com­prise three with as­pher­i­cal sur­faces – one glass moulded and two hy­brid types – one with ex­tra-low dis­per­sion (‘XLD’) char­ac­ter­is­tics and one with low-dis­per­sion (‘LD’) char­ac­ter­is­tics.

The lat­ter pair of spe­cial el­e­ments prin­ci­pally deal with chro­matic aber­ra­tions while the trio of as­pher­i­cal el­e­ments is de­signed to cor­rect for dis­tor­tion. Glass mould­ing makes the cre­ation of com­plex el­e­ment sur­faces much eas­ier than the tra­di­tional tech­nique of cut­ting and polishing, while the hy­brid de­sign also makes it more eco­nom­i­cal. Hy­brid as­pher­i­cal el­e­ments are cre­ated from a spher­i­cal core with an op­ti­cal resin outer layer used to form the nec­es­sary sur­face shap­ing. This op­ti­cal de­sign plus the use of GRP bar­rel tubes helps keep the to­tal weight down to just 550 grams. Tam­ron’s ‘BBAR’ (Broad­Band Anti-Re­flec­tion) multi-coat­ing is em­ployed to help min­imise flare and ghost­ing.

The 28-75mm zoom em­ploys a new type of aut­o­fo­cus­ing mo­tor which Tam­ron calls ‘RXD’ and this is short for ‘Rapid eX­trasi­lent step­ping Drive. Step­ping mo­tors are start­ing to be used more fre­quently in cam­era lenses pri­mar­ily be­cause they al­low for smoother and quicker op­er­a­tion which has ben­e­fits for sub­ject track­ing when shoot­ing video. Ad­di­tion­ally, they are nearly to­tally silent. Tam­ron has opted for a fo­cus­ing group de­sign which gives a vari­able min­i­mum fo­cus­ing dis­tance, rang­ing from 19 cen­time­tres at 28mm to 39 cen­time­tres at 75mm. How­ever, the tele­photo end still de­liv­ers the max­i­mum re­pro­duc­tion ra­tio which is 1:4 or one-quar­ter life­size. This is ac­tu­ally rep­re­sents pretty handy close-up ca­pa­bil­i­ties for a stan­dard zoom and the di­aphragm em­ploys nine blades which gives a more rounded aper­ture and hence smoother out-of-fo­cus ef­fects.

Han­dling and Per­for­mance

The Tam­ron 28-75mm feels com­fort­ably bal­anced on any Sony A se­ries mirrorless body, and the zoom­ing range is fully tra­versed in a short twist of just un­der 90 de­grees. The fo­cus­ing col­lar is an elec­tronic ‘fly-by-wire’ con­trol, but still feels rea­son­ably well­weighted and re­spon­sive.

Im­por­tantly, Tam­ron’s FE lens sup­ports Sony’s ‘DMF’ (Di­rect Man­ual Fo­cus) func­tion which pro­vides a full-time man­ual over­ride of the aut­o­fo­cus­ing. It also sup­ports Sony’s in-cam­era cor­rec­tions for vi­gnetting, chro­matic aber­ra­tions and dis­tor­tion plus the ‘Eye AF’ and ‘Fast Hy­brid AF’ op­er­a­tions on the later A se­ries mirrorless bod­ies. With no AF/MF switch on the lens, ob­vi­ously fo­cus mode switch­ing is done via the cam­era.

While the Tam­ron doesn’t have op­ti­cal im­age sta­bil­i­sa­tion, cor­rec­tion for cam­era shake is avail­able in the Sony bod­ies with sen­sor-based im­age sta­bil­i­sa­tion which in­cludes the sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion A7 mod­els and the cur­rent A7 III, A7R III and A9. Sony’s five-axis IBIS is very ef­fec­tive and will give up to 5.5 stops of cor­rec­tion on the A7R III.

There was a con­ve­nient over­lap in the test pe­ri­ods of the Tam­ron 28-75mm zoom and Sony’s A7 III so we were able to eval­u­ate the lens on the very lat­est A se­ries body. The Sony’s ex­cel­lent aut­o­fo­cus­ing con­tin­ued to work fast and flaw­lessly with the Tam­ron zoom, in­clud­ing when us­ing the ‘Eye AF’ to track faces mov­ing around the frame. Over­all, the sub­ject track­ing – which is a high­light of the Mark III A7 cam­eras – re­mained very re­li­able even with small or fast-mov­ing sub­jects. The ‘RXD’ fo­cus­ing mo­tor’s op­er­a­tion proved to be vir­tu­ally in­audi­ble in prac­tice and was un­de­tectable on movie sound­tracks recorded with the A7 III’s built-in stereo mi­cro­phones.

Ob­vi­ously hav­ing a con­stant max­i­mum aper­ture of f2.8 is one of the key at­trac­tions of this lens, so how does it per­form wide open?

Over­all, the uni­for­mity of sharp­ness and bright­ness from cen­tre-to-cor­ner is very good across the zoom­ing range, but there is some slight fall-off in both at be­tween 28mm and 35mm. In terms of sharp­ness, it’s not sig­nif­i­cant though, be­cause this lens re­ally is very sharp… sur­pris­ingly so, in fact. At 50mm, the cen­tre-to-cor­ner sharp­ness is ex­cep­tional for a zoom. Vi­gnetting is a lit­tle more pro­nounced at 28mm and f2.8, but sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced by stop­ping down to f4.0 and com­pletely elim­i­nated at f5.6. Al­ter­na­tively, it can be han­dled by the in-cam­era pro­cess­ing which seemed ef­fec­tive enough with the A7 III and there didn’t seem to be a no­tice­able in­crease in noise in the cor­ners as a re­sult.

Dis­tor­tion is very well con­trolled so it’s visu­ally nonex­is­tent at the 28mm end, but very slight pin-cush­ion bend­ing is ev­i­dent at the 75mm fo­cal length in sit­u­a­tions where a straight line is lo­cated im­me­di­ately ad­ja­cent to the frame edge. Oth­er­wise, though, it won’t be no­tice­able at all. Chro­matic aber­ra­tions are also very well man­aged op­ti­cally so over­all sharp­ness isn’t com­pro­mised even be­fore in­cam­era cor­rec­tion does its thing.

We knoW that tam­ron has been kick­ing a lot of goals With neW lenses re­cently, but some­hoW We didn’t ex­pect the fe mount 28-75mm zoom to be as good as it is.”

The Ver­dicT

We know that Tam­ron has been kick­ing a lot of goals with new lenses re­cently, but some­how we didn’t ex­pect the FE mount 2875mm zoom to be as good as it is. Per­haps be­cause it’s an un­pre­pos­sess­ing lens on the out­side and the ba­sic spec is fairly stan­dard fare in these days of ex­otic zooms, but this lens truly de­liv­ers in terms of per­for­mance and, con­se­quently, it proves to be a very com­pe­tent all-rounder for ev­ery­day shoot­ing, in fact, Tam­ron has bal­anced the fo­cal range and max­i­mum aper­ture with the key ob­jec­tive of op­ti­mis­ing per­for­mance – par­tic­u­larly sharp­ness – while main­tain­ing man­age­able di­men­sions and an af­ford­able price tag. It’s ac­tu­ally no mean feat in op­ti­cal terms. There are no frills, but you don’t miss them when a lens per­forms this well in all the key ar­eas of sharp­ness, bright­ness and dis­tor­tion. Com­fort­able han­dling and use­ful close-up ca­pa­bil­i­ties add a bit more spice to the mix. Tam­ron may be a bit late get­ting to the Sony FE mount party, but the 28-75mm f2.8 zoom en­sures that it’s go­ing to make a last­ing first im­pres­sion.

Tam­ron 28-75mm f2.8 Di iii rXD Zoom

 The front el­e­ment’s ex­posed sur­face has a flu­o­rine coat­ing to help bet­ter re­pel mois­ture and grease, and en­able eas­ier clean­ing.

 Man­ual fo­cus­ing col­lar is a fly-by-wire con­trol, but main­tains a well-weighted feel.

 The ex­ter­nal con­struc­tion is weather sealed, which in­cludes a gas­ket

Info Lens tested on Sony A7 III. Test files ex­hibit ex­cel­lent over­all sharp­ness, in­clud­ing cen­tre-to-cor­ner uni­for­mity which, while good at 28mm and f2.8, is truly ex­cep­tional at be­tween 35mm and 50mm. Some vi­gnetting is ev­i­dent when shoot­ing wide-open at 28mm, but it’s ef­fec­tively elim­i­nated by stop­ping down. Both colour and con­trast are very good and the Tam­ron zoom’s op­tics also de­liver ef­fec­tive cor­rec­tion for dis­tor­tion and chro­matic aber­ra­tions.

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