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Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 Di III RXD G2 review

The new and improved Tamron 28-75mm G2 is the polar opposite of a ‘dumb’ lens

5 Star Rating
Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 Di III RXD G2
(Image: © Matthew Richards)

Digital Camera World Verdict

We were thoroughly impressed by the original edition of this Tamron lens, which rewrote the rule book for ‘trinity’ standard zooms with a fast and constant f/2.8 aperture. The G2 edition is similarly compact, lightweight and affordable, yet delivers even better image quality and autofocus performance, while adding a USB C socket and a host of smart features, which you can customize with Tamron’s free Lens Utility software. It’s simply a fabulous lens that’s now even more versatile.

Pros

  • +

    Smart feature set

  • +

    Outstanding performance

  • +

    Refined build and handling

Cons

  • -

    Less ‘wide-angle’ than a 24-70mm zoom

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    No optical stabilization

The Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 Di III RXD G2 is something of a modern classic, reinvented. The original edition (opens in new tab) was excellent in every way, shoehorning a useful ‘standard’ zoom range and fast, constant f/2.8 aperture rating into a compact yet high-quality construction. Nikon has since followed suit with its Z 28-75mm f/2.8 (opens in new tab). Naturally, these lenses lack the wider viewing angle of 24-70mm zooms but gain a few extra millimeters at the long end. Tamron’s ‘Generation 2’ lens adds new thrills and frills, making it an even more desirable option for Sony full-frame E-mount cameras (opens in new tab), although it still lacks optical stabilization, which owners of early A7 cameras and most APS-C format Sony bodies might feel is a drawback.

Specifications

Mount: Sony E (FE)
Full-frame: Yes
Autofocus: Yes
Stabilization: No
Lens construction: 15 elements in 15 groups
Angle of view: 75-32 degrees
Diaphragm blades: 9
Minimum aperture: f/22
Minimum focusing distance: 0.18m (W) 0.38m (T)
Maximum magnification ratio: 0.37x (W) 0.24x (T)
Filter size: 67mm
Dimensions: 76x118mm
Weight: 540g

Key features

First up in the features list is a redesigned optical layout, aiming to increase resolution and all-round image quality. LD (Low Dispersion) and GM (Glass Molded aspherical) elements are featured, along with high-tech coatings. The autofocus system is also revamped, now based on a VXD (Voice-coil eXtreme-torque Drive) linear stepping motor that’s twice as fast as in the original lens. As you’d expect, the lens is compatible with Fast Hybrid AF and Eye AF where featured in Sony camera bodies. The G2 can also focus marginally closer, giving a slightly greater maximum magnification ratio.

The G2 gains a USB socket that enables customization and firmware updates to be applied, using Tamron’s Lens Utility software. (Image credit: Matthew Richards)

Another new feature in the G2 is that it includes a USB C socket and smart functions which you can customize by using the Tamron Lens Utility software, available as a free download for Mac and PC. This enables you to reverse the direction of the focus ring and set its overall travel to 90, 180, 270 or 360 degrees. You can also assign the lens’s function button to operations like focus preset, selection of AF/MF modes and a crafty A-B Focus mode. This allows you to store two separate focus distances and switch between them with subsequent presses of the button, complete with a range of transition speeds. You can also assign alternative functions to the focus control ring, like stepless aperture adjustment, and apply firmware updates as and when they become available.

The Tamron Lens Utility software is available as a free download for PC and Mac, enabling extensive customization options and different focus modes to be set up. (Image credit: Matthew Richards)

Build and handling

The build quality and handling of the original lens were very good indeed, especially considering the modest asking price. Again, the G2 brings improvements with a redesigned, more ergonomic barrel, a more scratch-resistant finish and a more tactile feel to the zoom and focus control rings. It still incorporates multiple weather-seals with the addition of a fluorine coating on the front element to repel moisture and grease, and ease cleaning.

Handling is improved in the G2 lens, with better torque, precision and feel for the zoom and focus control rings, a more ergonomic shape and a higher-quality finish. (Image credit: Matthew Richards)

Performance

True to its promise, the G2 proved sharper than the original lens in our lab-tests. Center-sharpness is better at most combinations of zoom and aperture settings, and there’s a considerable enhancement in mid/edge-sharpness, all the way out to the extreme corners. Minimal levels of chromatic aberrations and distortions are retained in the new lens, which can be further reduced by the option of using in-camera auto corrections.

Along with impeccable sharpness, contrast and color quality, the G2 boasts very pleasing bokeh for an f/2.8 lens, both wide-open and when stopping down a little.

Sample images

EXIF: Sony A7R III + Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 Di III RXD G2 (28mm, 1/160 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200) (Image credit: Matthew Richards)

EXIF: Sony A7R III + Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 Di III RXD G2 (75mm 1/160 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200) (Image credit: Matthew Richards)

EXIF: Sony A7R III + Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 Di III RXD G2 (29mm, 1/200 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200) (Image credit: Matthew Richards)

EXIF: Sony A7R III + Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 Di III RXD G2 (28mm, 1/160 sec, f/8, ISO 200) Barrel distortion at 28mm can be quite noticeable with in-camera correction disabled. (Image credit: Matthew Richards)

EXIF: Sony A7R III + Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 Di III RXD G2 (73mm, 1/25 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200) Longitudinal/axial chromatic aberration in defocused areas can be slightly noticeable when shooting wide-open at f/2.8, but it’s of a very low order. (Image credit: Matthew Richards)

Lab results

We run a range of lab tests under controlled conditions, using the Imatest Master testing suite. Photos of test charts are taken across the range of apertures and zooms (where available), then analyzed for sharpness, distortion and chromatic aberrations.

We use Imatest SFR (spatial frequency response) charts and analysis software to plot lens resolution at the center of the image frame, corners and mid-point distances, across the range of aperture settings and, with zoom lenses, at four different focal lengths. The tests also measure distortion and color fringing (chromatic aberration).

Sharpness:

(Image credit: Future)
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(Image credit: Future)
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Compared with the original lens, the G2 delivers greater center-sharpness, with exceptional scores throughout the zoom range. Edge-corner sharpness is very much improved in the 28-35mm sector, with a more modest improvement at longer zoom settings.

Fringing:

(Image credit: Future)
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At both ends of the zoom range, the G2 produced marginally more lateral chromatic aberration towards the corners of the image frame than the original lens, but it remains very minimal even without using in-camera auto corrections.

Distortion:

(Image credit: Future)
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There’s a slight increase in barrel distortion at 28mm, along with more noticeable pincushion in the 35-75mm sector of the zoom range. As with many lenses designed for mirrorless cameras, the G2 benefits from automatic in-camera corrections to reduce distortion.

Verdict

We were thoroughly impressed by the original edition of this Tamron lens, which rewrote the rule book for ‘trinity’ standard zooms with a fast and constant f/2.8 aperture. The G2 edition is similarly compact, lightweight and affordable, yet delivers even better image quality and autofocus performance, while adding a USB C socket and a host of smart features, which you can customize with Tamron’s free Lens Utility software. It’s simply a fabulous lens that’s now even more versatile.

Read more:

• Best camera lenses (opens in new tab) to get
• Best Canon lenses (opens in new tab)
• Best Nikon lenses (opens in new tab)
• Best Sony lenses (opens in new tab)

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Matthew Richards is a photographer and journalist who has spent years using and reviewing all manner of photo gear. He is Digital Camera World's principal lens reviewer – and has tested more primes and zooms than most people have had hot dinners! 


His expertise with equipment doesn’t end there, though. He is also an encyclopedia  when it comes to all manner of cameras, camera holsters and bags, flashguns, tripods and heads, printers, papers and inks, and just about anything imaging-related. 


In an earlier life he was a broadcast engineer at the BBC, as well as a former editor of PC Guide.