Finding the right lens for shooting video can be tough. The requirements of video capture often translate poorly to most photo lenses. This typically means needing to stick with primes or very expensive zooms.
I was recently surprised by a very capable lens from Tamron that may earn a spot in my regular kit. Keep reading to see what makes the new 17-70mm zoom from Tamron such a standout. While I’ll focus on the video workflow in this review, the lens performed admirably for stills.
The testing environment
After putting the lens through its paces in a controlled studio shoot, I took it out into the field. And when I say field … I mean just that. I put the lens into a variety of outdoor conditions shooting footage at a local summer camp, going to festivals, carried it hiking and onto a farm. Dust, dirt, rain, mud and a hot summer sun. This lens held up well. I attached it to the Sony Alpha a7 III mirrorless body, and while it’s a full-frame camera, video works in APS-C mode.
I also shot photos in the cropped mode as well. My colleague Kevin Ames also shared his thoughts from a photo perspective in this review.
A fast, consistent f/2.8 aperture across the zoom range
For many zoom lenses, the maximum aperture often changes as you zoom. This can lead to an unwanted shift in exposure or the need to constantly adjust camera settings as you change focal length.
Plus the large aperture means a few other perks.
- The ability to shoot in lower-light settings
- Very attractive bokeh or background blur
While shooting video, it’s common to need different shot compositions. After all, most scenes are a collection of shots ranging from wide to close-ups. If shooting on prime lenses, these means swapping lenses (which can get time consuming and can introduce sensor dust). But with a versatile 17–70mm focal range, it’s quite easy to get a wide variety of coverage. This makes the lens ideal for shooting in many situations like corporate video and sports where variety of coverage is essential. After all, you can’t really crop video.
Do keep in mind that when shooting on an APS-C sensor you will see a magnification factor. The lens effectively performs as a 25.5-105mm focal length if expressed in a full-frame equivalent.
This lens is quick to autofocus. This is useful for setting up the shot or for a continuous autofocus on a moving subject. Tamron uses a Rapid eXtra-silent stepping Drive (RXD) motor. This is a direct drive motor which allows for high-speed and accurate autofocus. I was impressed on how quickly the lens could autofocus. It was also virtually silent so it won’t get picked up by an on-camera or attached microphone.
The Minimum Object Distance (MOD) for focus is really solid:
- 0.19m (7.5 in) at the wide-angle end
- 0.39m (15.4 in) at the telephoto end
Very good for handheld shooting
I found the lens very easy to walk around with. It’s very light weighing just over a pound (18.5 oz). It’s also compact so the camera doesn’t become front heavy or tilt. At 4.7 inches, it’s easy to pack and easy to operate. In this reviewer’s perspective, the lens felt solid, yet never heavy.
I also found that it was very good at Vibration Compensation. This is useful to remove shakiness with handheld video or when walking with the camera. The VC image stabilization system can handle a good deal of camera shake. When shooting video the lens uses AI technology to help it stabilize.
The bottom line
This lens is a great addition for any Sony shooters. Its wide range of coverage as well as minimum focus distance make this a real workhorse. Tamron lenses are also usually more affordable than the ones from Sony.
After a month of shooting, I have to say this one held up amazingly well. It offers a moisture-resistant construction for protection and leak-resistant seals throughout the lens barrel so its able to run in most outdoor settings. If you can’t tell from the review … I am impressed.
Tech specs for the Tamron 17-70mm f/2.8
- Angle of view: 79° 55′-23° 00′ (for APS-C)
- Aperture: f/2.8 – f/22
- Lens construction: 16 elements in 12 groups
- Minimum object distance: 7.5 inches (wide); 15.4 inches (telephoto)
- Maximum magnification ratio: 1:4.8 (wide); 1:5.2 (telephoto)
- Filter size: 67mm
- Maximum diameter: 74.6mm
- Length: 4.7 inches
- Weight: 18.5 ounces
- Diaphragm blades: 9, rounded
Tamron 17-70mm f/2.8 Di III-A VC RXD Lens for Sony E
Spanning a versatile zoom range and characterized by its bright design, the Tamron 17-70mm f/2.8 Di III-A VC RXD is a 25.5-105mm-equivalent lens for APS-C-format Sony E-mount mirrorless cameras. The wide to short-tele range is ideal for everyday shooting and the fast f/2.8 constant maximum aperture suits working in difficult lighting conditions and offers improved control over depth of field.