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Tamron 11-20mm F/2.8 Di III-A RXD Lens Review

John Riley has been putting the Tamron 11-20mm f/2.8 Di III-A RXD lens to the test on the Sony A5100 to find out how it performs.


|  Tamron 11-20mm f/2.8 Di III-A VC RXD in Interchangeable Lenses
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Tamron 11-20mm f/2.8 Di III-A VC RXD
Claimed as a first in its class to sport a constant f/2.8 aperture, Tamron introduce a new wide-angle zoom lens for Sony APS-C format cameras, a "35mm-equivalent" field of view of 16.5-30mm. This makes for a very useful ultra-wide to wide standard lens that partners well with the matching 17-70mm lens already released. We now have a close look at how the new lens handles and performs, coupling it up with the 24MP Sony A5100 body and see whether it could be the ideal travelling companion.

 

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Tamron 11-20mm F/2.8 Di III-A RXD Handling and Features

Tamron 11-20mm f/2.8 Di III-A VC RXD
 

We might expect an f/2.8 wide-angle zoom to be quite bulky and heavy, but in fact, the new lens weighs in at a surprisingly light 335g. Clearly, there is extensive use of plastics, but this is not a negative observation and the lens appears to be nicely put together.

There is a provided petal lens hood and this bayonets positively onto the front of the lens. Within this bayonet, fit is a conventional 67mm filter thread, the same size as Tamron's matching 17-70mm lens. The objective here has been to produce a set of light lenses for those who wish to travel light. The front element has a Fluorine coating to repel dust, grease and moisture and the lens is weather-sealed, a boon for the travel photographer.

The manual focusing ring is electronic and, as usual, impeccably smooth in operation. It supports the usual Sony focusing methods, including AF, DMF (Direct Manual Focusing) and MF. DMF enables manual focus tweaks to be made to the focus position whilst AF is still active. All focusing options are controlled from the camera body.

 

Tamron 11-20mm f/2.8 Di III-A VC RXD
 

AF is driven by a stepping motor, the RXD designation deriving from “Rapid eXtra silent stepping Drive”. This results in fast and accurate AF that is virtually silent. The system is compatible with Sony's Fast Hybrid AF and Eye AF.

Focusing is down to a MOD (Minimum Object Distance) as follows:

  • Wide 0.15m, 5.9 inches, maximum magnification 1:4
  • Tele 0.24m, 9.4 inches, maximum magnification 1:7.6

This is really the opposite of the ideal, as a closer focus with the tele setting rather than the wide one would give a better working distance. The closest wide setting also shows quite a bit of field curvature, so the edges fall out of the sharp plane of focus. This will work much better with 3D subjects rather than flat documents or test targets.

Optical construction is 12 elements in 10 groups, including 2 glass moulded aspherical, 2 LD (Low Dispersion) and 1 XLD (Extra-Low Dispersion). The diaphragm comprises 7 blades.

Tamron 11-20mm f/2.8 Di III-A VC RXD
 

The zoom ring is the only other control on the lens and this does extend the length as we zoom towards 11mm. There are clear and accurate indications at 11mm, 14mm, 16mm, 18mm and 20mm. The action of the zoom ring is just right, not too loose and not too firm.

Mounted on the A5100 the lens is chunky, but not out of place in that it is light and handles well. The combination would need a large jacket pocket but in any event, the lens is certainly unobtrusive to handle. It can also be mounted on full-frame Sony cameras, but will not cover the full-frame area so will need to be used in crop mode.

Either with or without the matching 17-70mm lens this is potentially an excellent travel option - light and fast to use. It has no OSS (Optical SteadyShot) which is a shame, but the saving grace may be that this is less critical with ultra-wide lenses rather than with longer telephotos.

Let's have a close look now at the performance.

 


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