Review: Tamron 17-70mm f/2.8 Di III-A VC RXD lens (Fujifilm mount)
Japanese lens manufacturer Tamron has been in the photographic optics business since 1950, making the company one of Japan’s oldest third-party lens producers. Tamron was the first to manufacture an ultra-wide and autofocus-capable zoom lens in 1992, and the company today sells a series of professional lenses for Canon, Sony, and Nikon mounts.
However, until this year, Tamron didn’t make any lenses for Fujifilm mount. That’s all changed with the release of the 17-70mm f2.8 Di III-A VC RXD, a lens which is most likely built off the Sony E-Mount version released back in 2020. That said, this is no bad thing as that lens offered excellent performance at a competitive price.
Standout features of the 17-70mm f2.8 Di III-A VC RXD include a versatile focal length (25.5-105mm equiv.) and an f/2.8 constant aperture. That's fast for a lens with such a wide zoom range, making the 17-70mm an appealing ‘general purpose’ focal length suitable for a wide range of photographic subjects.
The lens also includes optical image stabilisation, weather-resistance, and a sturdy build, all combined with a very competitive price. So how does it perform? Let’s find out.
If you’ve used a modern Tamron lens before, the 17-70mm will feel right at home. It has a relatively clean, simple look in sticking with the brand’s typical design style. However, in an era of lenses commonly adorned with buttons and switches, it’s somewhat of a surprise to see that the Tamron doesn’t have any switches at all.
For some users this won’t be a problem, however, if you do prefer a dedicated AF/MF switch or a customisable switch for example, you’re out of luck, and it also means you can’t turn on and off the lenses’ vibration control with the flick of a switch. That said, there is a traditional focal length adjustment ring and manual focus ring, both of which are nicely dampened.
In addition, the lens barrel is made of a rigid polycarbonate material and has a nice matte finish, which gives it a luxury feel, despite being a largely plastic build. The benefit of this material is it doesn’t seem to collect fingerprints like some of the Fujifilm lenses with their satin/gloss finishes.
Tamron don’t class the 17-70mm as weatherproof, instead calling it weather resistant. There is a rubber seal along the edge of the metal lens mount, so there is obviously some weather proofing, however I didn’t get to test the lens in any extreme weather. Interestingly, Tamron also make no mention of minimum or maximum operating temperatures – something to keep in mind.
And finally, the front element, which has a 67mm filter thread, features a fluorine coating to help repeal fingerprints and oils. The lens ships with a lens hood, as well as caps for the front and rear.
Instead of sophisticated linear motors, the Tamron 17-70mm Fujifilm Z Mount is built around Tamron’s simpler Rapid eXtra-silent stepping Drive (RXD) autofocus motor. In my testing in both photo and video, the RXD motor delivered quick, smooth, and precise focusing.
In addition, the lens will serve at a pinch for some macro photography purposes thanks to its minimum focus distance of just 19cm and a maximum magnification ratio of 0.21x.
It’s worth mentioning that there are a few quirks with the Tamron, especially when you first connect it to your camera body. Doing this switches the camera from whatever setting you’re in (Manual, Aperture Priority etc) into Program mode. To solve this, you’ll need to go into Set-Up Menu > Button/Dial Setting > Aperture Setting > Manual to change which of the cameras physical buttons adjusts the aperture. It’s a little fiddly.
The image quality produced by the 17-70mm is excellent throughout its aperture range and in particular wide open at f/2.8. I found edge-to-edge sharpness is consistent wide open, with about f/5.6 providing the best sharpness and detail.
However, I did notice the Tamron has obvious barrel distortion at 17mm and some pin-cushioning at 70mm, so it's worth keeping this in mind if you’re shooting at the extreme ends of the focal lengths. Chromatic aberration is generally well-managed, but in high contrast situations you’ll want to ensure it is corrected in post-production.
In regard to bokeh, the nine-blade diaphragm produces nice looking bokeh balls making it suitable for shallow depth of field portraiture and still life photography.
In addition, since there’s no switch on the lens to turn the Vibration Compensation (VC) on or off, it’s hard to tell whether the camera is taking advantage of it or not. You’ll likely just need to assume it’s always on. I will say it is obviously quite effective as I was able to shoot at speeds as low as 1/30s at 70mm.
Overall, the performance of the Tamron 17-70mm is good. At this price-point you’re not going to get the level of image quality you’d expect from pricier optics, but most photographers should be happy with the performance of the 17-70mm.
Handling ★ ★ ★
I liked the modern and simple design, although it’s a fairly large lens. The material of the barrel is comfortable to hold.
Features ★ ★ ★
Excellent, although it’s hard not to see the lack of physical buttons on the lens as a bit of a missed opportunity.
Autofocus ★ ★ ★ ★ 1/2
Excellent. Accurate, silent, and fast focusing.
Image Quality ★ ★ ★ ★
Excellent image quality despite the slight barrel distortion at 17mm and pin-cushioning.
Value For Money ★ ★ ★ ★
Overall, I consider the Tamron 17-70mm f/2.8 as reasonably priced for a high-quality third-party zoom lens.
The wrap up
My experience with the Tamron 17-70mm f/2.8 revealed a lens with a clean and simple design, a versatile focal length and fast aperture while still being light enough (just under 250g) to carry around all day without discomfort.
The Tamron’s most obvious competitor is Fujifilm’s native XF 16-80mm F4 R OIS WR lens, although this is a stop slower at a maximum aperture of f4. The Fujifilm lens also retails for around $1,200, a similar price to the Tamron, so there’s little advantage one way or the other. It is worth mentioning the Fujifilm lens is considerably heavier at 440g, although it does gain some physical advantages being shorter at 88mm when closed down vs 119mm for the Tamron.
Ultimately, the decision probably comes down to how badly you need the faster aperture and whether you prefer to shoot native or third-party glass. Diehard Fujifilm shooters will likely opt for native glass, but if you want the faster aperture and impressive minimum focus distance that only the Tamron can offer, you’ll likely be very happy with this lens.