More and more lens companies are starting to realize that mirrorless cameras are here to stay. So, I was excited to try out one of the first prime lenses from Tamron that were specifically designed for Sony.
When I first opened the box, I was pleasantly surprised by just how small and light the 20mm lens from Tamron was. Unfortunately, I got the lens right as COVID-19 stay-at-home orders were starting. So ,while I would normally test things out at a wedding or engagement shoot, I was instead stuck at home. So, paired with my Sony a9, I turned the camera toward my son.
I’ll go ahead and mention this before we get too deep into the review: I’m not a technical lens reviewer. So, you won't find pixel-peeping or any images of charts. I’m more interested in real-world use. And with that, the lens did great. I loved the close focusing ability. It has a focus distance of 4.3 inches, so the only time I ran into any limitations is when I was actually trying to. One thing you need to think about when using this lens at its closest focus distance is just how close to the subject you are. I found that it was sometimes hard to get an image where the camera and lens where not blocking light from hitting the subject
In good lighting conditions, the focus was quick and snappy. It also worked seamlessly with the different focusing functions found on the newer Sony cameras, such as Real-Time AF and Eye-AF. I could simply place the focus box on a subject, and everything just worked.
In low-light was where things got a little slower. This is probably due to the f/2.8 aspect of the lens, but the focus was slower to lock and things were not as “sticky” once they acquired focus. In low light, the lens focus also seemed a little jumpy. So, instead of smoothly tracking forward and back, it would jump or step into focus. The lens also makes a low clicking noise when focusing in low light while at closer distances. Nothing really worth being concerned about unless you are shooting video and need the audio from the camera.
As for distortion, things are very well controlled. I found that even at closer distances, subjects didn't really show any amount of bending and bowing that was worth fixing. The only time I resorted to using the lens correction ability of Lightroom was for when straight lines showed a bow. Even then, a simple check of the box corrected things without the need for fine-tuning any of the adjustments.
Another great feature of this lens is the weather-sealing. It has special seals where the lens is attached to the camera to block water from coming inside. It also has a special coating on the glass that helps repel water so you don't need to constantly wipe the lens free of water drops. When shooting in the rain, I found this coating to work pretty great and had no issues shooting in a medium rainfall.
What I Liked
Super affordable (listed on B&H right now for $299)
Great size and weight combination for mirrorless
Handles wide-angle distortion well
Close focus distance
What I Didn't Like
- Slower focus speeds in low light
- Low-light focus locking wasn’t as “sticky” as other lenses
At the end of the day, this lens is an amazing bang for your buck purchase. Its wide-angle view is a great addition to any camera bag, and the size and weight of the lens will let you forget you even have it packed. The lens handles distortion well, and where it doesn't, Lightroom lens profiles do any of the needed work for you. The weather-sealing gives you peace of mind when shooting in the rain and you get it all for a super affordable price.