Why the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 Di III RXD Lens for Sony E Is My Favorite Walkaround Lens

Why the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 Di III RXD Lens for Sony E Is My Favorite Walkaround Lens

Generally, photo lenses follow this rule: sharpness, low weight, low cost — pick two. And yet, Tamron seems to have bucked that trend with the 28-75mm F/2.8 Di III RXD, which is sharp, light, and highly affordable. Here's why it has become the lens that spends the most time on my camera. 

In the past five years or so, we have seen a surge of more affordable lenses, often quite sharp, but at the same time, size and weight have exploded. And while it's great that we have more options now, lugging around a heavy lens can be cumbersome and tiring. Personally, I shy away from carrying my camera with me for fun too much if it is too heavy, simply because it becomes uncomfortable, and that's a shame, because photography should be fun, and the last thing that should affect that is the choice of gear. The problem is that if you want a versatile zoom lens with great image quality, you are typically looking at a heavy footprint and a high price.

This is why the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 Di III RXD is such a remarkable lens. It offers a highly useful focal length range, a wide aperture, and great image quality. Even more importantly, it is highly affordable and very portable. It has become a staple in my bag for all sorts of work. 

Image Quality

1/320 s, 61mm, f/2.8, ISO 320
The 28-75mm f/2.8 offers fantastic image quality, with great colors, contrast, and sharpness. In the image above, you can see how crisp details like the tassels and curls are captured, even wide open. Contrast is rich, and colors are natural and saturated. 
1/100 s, 46mm, f/3.5, ISO 800
You can see a similar result above. The sun was just to the right, out of frame, but the lens handled it with no issue, with no loss of contrast or washed out colors. Notice the lack of chromatic aberrations along the smokestack and awning as well, despite the hard edges in a high-contrast environment. This image is a real testament to the lens' prowess: despite the backlit situation, it produces a sharp result while maintaining contrast and color saturation and without any flares, aberrations, or other image quality issues. It's impressive. 
1/500 s, 75mm, f/2.8, ISO 100
Same results here. Sharpness is great, with natural colors and contrast that give a great, natural rendering. And that f/2.8 aperture gives nice subject isolation with pleasing bokeh, something that is important for a lens that will be frequently used in situations where you don't have control of the background.

What Makes the 28-75mm f/2.8 Special 

Sure, it is a great lens, with excellent sharpness, pleasing bokeh, and great control of aberrations. However, there are a lot of lenses out there you can say that about. What makes it special?

Well, think about your typical 24-70mm f/2.8 lens. It is a workhorse lens for tons of photographers across lots of genres, but being a workhorse doesn't mean it's necessarily an exciting lens. These lenses tend to be high quality, but they also tend to be large, heavy, and quite expensive, normally somewhere in the neighborhood of $2,000. They get the job done quite competently, but with their size and weight and relatively middle-of-the-road focal lengths, they might not feel like the sort of lens that you put on your camera for a photo walk to remember why you fell in love with photography in the first place.

On the other hand, the Tamron is that sort of lens. At just a few ounces over a pound, I can throw it on the front of my a7R III and have a very portable setup that still produces fantastic images. And that makes a major difference.

1/125 s, 53mm, f/5.6, ISO 100
I took this photo after about 10 hours of walking around Manhattan and Staten Island. At only a little over two pounds, I did not mind having my camera and lens on my neck all day. At the same time, though, it's not often that I'm in Lower Manhattan, and I would have been disappointed had I not brought along decent equipment. But thanks to the Tamron, I did not feel like I had missed out, and I didn't go home with a sore neck. This is huge, because it makes me more willing to bring my camera along, and I spend more time working on my technique and exploring my creativity. 
1/1,000 s, 54mm, f/2.8, ISO 250
On top of that light weight and small size, the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 has great autofocus, working perfectly with Sony's Eye AF. I found this particularly useful when shooting a graduation ceremony (before the pandemic). With hundreds of families flying by in every direction, using Eye AF with continuous AF made it incredibly easy to snap quick candids and portraits while keeping a wide aperture to help isolate my subjects from the crowd.
1/160 s, 75mm, f/2.8, ISO 320
1/640 s, 75mm, f/10, ISO 64
Would I normally have my camera with me on a random rooftop in Brooklyn? Nope. But given the light weight, I kept my camera on me that day. And the way the sun caught the World Trade Center only lasted for about 45 seconds. It is these kind of fleeting moments that such a setup is ideal for, and having it beside me without compromising on image quality is huge.
1/100 s, 42mm, f/5.6, ISO 100

Living in Cleveland, it often rains or snows on and off during my photo walks, but the Tamron's weather-sealing handles it without issue — crucial for a lens meant to be taken everywhere with you.

1/320 s, 72mm, f/2.8, ISO 100

Price and Conclusion

You have probably noticed that this article has images taken in a huge array of genres and situations: a crowded graduation reception, a sunset photo shoot, cityscapes on the Staten Island Ferry, in the dugout of a professional baseball game, or just on a casual photo walk. And it excels in every one of those situations: with an excellent zoom range and wide maximum aperture, great autofocus, weather-sealing, a light and portable design, and most importantly, fantastic image quality, it checks every box. 

And with that kind of review, you might expect to be paying well north of $2,000 for such a lens, but that's the best part. At just $879, the Tamron 28-75mm F/2.8 Di III RXD significantly undercuts the price of comparable lenses. It has become a nearly permanent fixture on my camera and is easily one of the best values in photography today.

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Deleted Account's picture

Have to agree with you this time, Mr. Cooke. This lens rarely leaves my camera unless I'm shooting real estate - but I mostly run around in nature shooting landscapes for hobby and that may be a factor there.

The only way I could see myself using it less would be if the 28-200 is that amazing (I'd probably still keep it for real estate use, it's great for vignettes and that's originally what I bought it for), or if I switch systems to something that won't melt in a light rain.

Edgar Pereira's picture

I haven't tried the lens out yet, but I've seen lots of follow photographers use it and swear by how great it is!

Peter House's picture

This is the lens I started with in photography and built my initial career on. Really a solid lens at an accessible price.

Nurkan Kahraman's picture

I have the same lens and it has huge Fail on birdeye view. I have made the video about it. Please guys check if your copy has same issue?


Kepano 808's picture

This is a defect from the factory.

Kepano 808's picture

I really do love this lens. I shoot portraits and also have the Sony 35 & 85. But, this is my "go-to" and stays on sometimes I never use my primes during a session. It's especially great when there's bad weather and I don't want to change. I shoot on-location most of the time and just need to change focal lengths fast. I actually just bought the 70-180. It a stellar lens. I think its actually sharpers and definitely faster AF. So if you get the 17-28, too I think Tamron has hit it out of the park. I can't wait for their 70-130/F2.

stefano giovannini's picture

I sold my full frame, i use now the Sony 18-55 f/2.8 on crop frane and i carry tge Sony RX100VII. nor sure if as now i need FF.
the staten island ferry photo could work out with the rx100vii. I use rhe 24mm focal length a lot, so i am not sure if i could get by with the Tamron. Isn't the 28-200 close in quality a d aperture between 28 and 50 mm?

At the end i love tge rx10viias every day camera, unless i have assignments where subject separation is important or are indoors