The Tamron 17-35mm f2.8-4 is the company’s latest ultra-wide zoom for full-frame DSLRs and represents a more compact and affordable option to the higher-end SP 15-30mm f2.8 VC. Compared to that model, the 17-35mm gives up 2mm at the short end (reducing the field of view by 7 degrees), lacks the constant f2.8 focal ratio, and forfeits the image stabilization but on the plus side, it’s much smaller, lighter and cheaper, while also offering more reach with its 35mm focal length – which can be considered a “short normal” lens. The new Tamron 17-35mm also features customizing AF via the TAP-in USB-console and takes filters with a standard 77mm thread. Plus it is hardened well against the elements including a fluorine coating against moist and dust at the front element.
Optically the new Tamron is very sharp at the center, good to very good at the APS-C/DX-corner and produces quite respectable FF/FX-corners. It has no longitudinal CAs to speak of and is very resistant against flare, glare, and ghosting. It might not have the lowest distortions or light fall-off in this class but that is easily corrected in post-processing. And what is equally important to get sharp shots: It focuses well and reliably.
What’s not to like? Well, I personally would have preferred to have the zoom ring at the front of the lens and not the focus ring – which also has the nasty habit of turning when focusing. Optically I found that the reduction in sharpness towards the APS-C/DX-corner especially at the wide end leaves me wanting. Would have been nice if the resolution stayed on the very good levels the lens exhibits in and around the center of the image. But it is really the only optical flaw I can find with this lens.
Let’s see how the new lens compares to some alternatives.
Compared to Tamron 15-30mm f2.8 VC
When Tamron’s stabilized 15-30mm zoom came out in 2015 it was the first to beat the venerable Nikon 14-24mm f2.8G from 2007 in image quality and price. And it was the first ultra-wide angle zoom that offers optical image stabilization. At 15mm it starts 2mm wider than the new Tamron 17-35mm which gives it an additional 7 degrees angle of view something which you might well notice in close quarters where there is no chance to step back. Giving up 5mm at the long end gives the 15-30mm 14% less reach which can be compensated by cropping from say 46MP to 33MP. This might not be ideal but is certainly doable. With its constant f2.8 focal ratio and the image stabilization the Tamron 15-30mm has 2-4 stops more light gathering power than the new 17-35mm. But this comes at a price: Not only is the Tamron 15-30mm more expensive than the new 17-35mm but is is also much bigger and heavier and does not offer a standard filter thread. Optically the Tamron 15-30mm f2.8VC may not be as sharp as the new Tamron 17-35mm in the center but it is on a par or better in the APS-C/DX-corner and clearly better in the FF/FX-corner thus delivering a more even performance over the entire full-frame sensor. Thus the Tamron 15-30mm f2.8VC remains a very good and versatile lens for ultra-wide angle photography and deservedly got a Highly Recommended.
For more details see my Tamron 15-30mm f2.8 VC review.
Compared to Tokina 17-35mm f4.0
The Tokina AT-X 17-35mm f4.0 FX zoom is the cheapest current wide-angle zoom on offer. It might produce very sharp shots on an APS-C/DX-body but it has the weakest performance outside the APS-C/DX image-circle. It also produced some colorful aberrations in my test-shots, is very sensitive against contra-light, and showed the weakest AF-performance of the lenses tested here with strong variations and the risk of totally mis-focused shots. All-in-all I would not recommend getting the Tokina.
Compared to Nikon 18-35mm f3.5-4.5G
The Nikon 18-35mm f3.5-4.5G ED is the lightest of the lenses tested here, compact in size, and reasonably priced. Although its design is from 2013 it still performs quite well on a 46MP D850: It is just a tad behind the new Tamron 17-35mm in optical performance. Although it lacks the f2.8 focal ratio at the short end and also starts at 18mm instead of 17mm the Nikon is a worthy compact wide-angle-zoom on FX bodies or for those who want to keep their options open for a future upgrade to a full-frame body. Good points: Good image quality in the DX image-circle; weather sealing at the lens-mount; quiet AF operation; small package; reasonably priced. Bad points: Needs stopping down to f8 to produce good FX-corners; barrel-distortions at 18mm hard to correct; slow AF. Still it earns a Recommended and for prospective buyers it being an original Nikon lens might be an additional bonus.
For more details see my Nikon 18-35mm f3.5-4.5G review.
Tamron 17-35mm f2.8-4 final verdict
The Tamron 17-35mm f2.8-4 is a very compelling small and light wide-angle zoom lens. It is very sharp in the center throughout the zoom-range. The APS-C/DX-corner is sharpest at 21mm and softens a bit towards the long-end, while the FF/FX-corner is sharpest at the long end and softens up a bit below 24mm focal length. It performs well in contra-light and focuses reliably plus it has extensive weather sealing. So the Tamron 17-35mm f2.8-4 deservedly earns a Recommended rating.
- Small and light.
- f2.8 focal ratio at the short end.
- Very high center sharpness.
- Very little longitudinal color aberrations.
- Extensive weather sealing plus fluorine coating against moist and dust.
- Reliable AF operation.
- Very good resistance against flare, glare, and ghosting.
- Field curvature at the short end.
- Focus ring turns while focusing.
Check prices on the Tamron 17-35mm f2.8-f4 at Amazon, B&H, Adorama, or Wex. Alternatively get yourself a copy of my In Camera book or treat me to a coffee! Thanks!