Tamron has a new, lightweight, water-resistant compact 17-70mm f/2.8 lens for APS-C cameras. Great news: It works on full frames too.

I’ll start by saying this lens is light, weighing in at a svelt one-pound two and a half ounces. Next, it’s fast with a maximum aperture of f/2.8 throughout its zoom range and it is compact at only 7.5 inches in length at wide-angle and not quite 15.5 inches zoomed out to telephoto. It uses a 67mm filter. The real question I know you want answered is how does its image quality stack up?

17-70mm goes everywhere

As soon as I received this lens from Tamron for me to use for this review, I put it on my old but dependable APS-C Sony NEX-7. This is the camera I carry every day when I don’t want the workout provided by my  1Dx Mark III (translation: The Canon is really heavy!) This Tamron offering is a joy to carry.

At 17mm it is quite wide. Normal on APS-C sensor cameras is 28mm. I can get everything I want in the frame. 70mm is a nice medium telephoto lens in this format. I carried the NEX-7/Tamron lens combo everywhere. I photographed in a forest, at a COVID-19 drive-in vaccination center, at a car service center and more. The images are sharp with excellent contrast and color rendition.

Tamron's 17-70 f/2.8 Di III-A VC RXD review
Tamron’s 17-70mm f/2.8 captures great color with very little distortion.

VC: Vibration compensation

The 17-70mm has vibration compensation when it’s mounted on cameras with in-body stabilization (IBS.) The NEX-7 does not have this feature so I could not review it. Tamron says that users may experience a brief blur as the compensation is applied. The lens may also rattle when removed from the camera. Both of these effects are normal.

Tamron also recommends powering the camera off before removing or mounting this lens.

APS-C lens for full-frame formats

Sony cameras like the a7R IV have APS-C/Super-35 format settings. If this lens is on a full-frame camera be sure to change the format to avoid vignetting. The a7R IV delivers 26 megapixels when it’s set to APS-C/Super 35. The NEX-7 is a 24-megapixel chip.

Think of the 17-70mm as a 24-105 for cropped sensor cameras and formats. I love that it focuses on subjects as close as 7.5 inches.

Tamron's 17-70 f/2.8 Di III-A VC RXD review
Glasses on a curb close up. Look at the detail of the dirt on the lenses.

No buttons or switches

When I pulled the 17-70mm f/2.8 out of the box, I was struck by how sleek and uncluttered it is. It took me a couple of minutes to realize there are no buttons or switches to control autofocus or vibration compensation. A bit of research led me to discover that these functions can be addressed from the camera’s menu system. Not exactly ideal for someone like me who does not like the infinite menus on my Sony.

That said, the lens feels good. The focus and zoom rings are smooth. It seems to be a pretty good build quality, too.

The lens uses rapid extra silent stepping motors to drive the focusing instead of the ultrasonic motors found in other manufacturer’s lenses. This is the RXD part of the lens’s name (Rapid eXtra silent Drive). The focus system is quick and definitive. When it focuses on something, it does not hunt for focus. It feels fast and smooth. This means the lens is ready for any situation.

The aperture is made of nine blades which ought to bring out lovely round bokeh.

Tamron's 17-70 f/2.8 Di III-A VC RXD review
A woman receives a COVID vaccine in an Atlanta parking lot. The 17-70mm is perfect for candids.

Final thoughts

I like this lens. I like that it is moisture resistant. The opening photograph of the lens was in a forest at the beginning of a rain shower, and you can see there were droplets on the lens. I was happy that I didn’t have to worry about a little rain causing problems.

The Tamron 17-70mm f/2.8 lens comes with front and back caps, instruction sheet in multiple languages and is packaged solidly in cardboard. Sadly no case is provided which I imagine it could be said not to need one since it will spend most of its life on your camra. I’ll be sad when it goes back.

Parting shot

Here’s the forest in its winter glory. There’s lots of detail to record and the Tamron 17-70mm f/2.8 did it justice.

Tamron's 17-70 f/2.8 Di III-A VC RXD review
Forest in winter