This Is the Only Lens You Absolutely Must Own for Fuji X Mount

This Is the Only Lens You Absolutely Must Own for Fuji X Mount

At the risk of enraging loyal Fuji fanboys and fangirls everywhere, I have decided that the best thing to happen to Fuji shooters in a long while is the release of a third-party lens.

That lens, the Tamron 17-70mm f/2.8 Di III-A VC RXD, has the potential to be a polarizing (as in, divisive, not like a polarizing filter) piece of glass in the Fuji community. The non-native design aesthetics, lack of aperture ring, and the simple fact it's a third-party lens will be enough to make a lot of the most obsessive Fuji X lovers turn up their nose. But for those that can look past those “shortcomings,” the lens is actually a game-changer for us who love Fuji and don’t discriminate against third-party gear.

What Tamron has given us with this lens is a fast, constant f/2.8 general zoom lens with a wider-than-usual 4.1x zoom range; confident, snappy autofocus; optical image stabilization; very good image quality through nearly all of its range and well out to the corners; and the very budget-conscious price of $799. By contrast, Fujifilm’s own heavy but excellent 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR clocks in at $1,199 while lacking image stabilization and 14mm of the Tamron’s zoom range.

From a design and build quality perspective, the Tamron 17-70mm is nearly the same as its sister lens for the system, the Tamron 18-300mm F3.5-6.3 Di III-A VC VXD, a superzoom with no true equivalent from Fuji that I have enjoyed using a great deal for well-lit daytime event coverage and reporting. The new 17-70mm feels a little more solid, but its real advantages lie in its performance and features.

For literally any kind of shooting that can be done within its 4.1x zoom range, this lens excels, making it an awesome all-purpose, one-lens solution, but don't let that statement fool you. Although my sample images are sunset landscape photos, this unit is without a doubt very well-suited to demanding situations with fast-paced action, or poorly lit environments, making things like weddings or indoor gym sports no problem thanks to its quick, accurate autofocus, relatively high-speed aperture of f/2.8 and extremely utilitarian zoom range. 

Pleasing sunstars and good contrast are just a couple of the many things to like about the Tamron 17-70mm f/2.8 for Fuji X-Mount.

The 17-70mm equivalent in 35mm terms, for those who are curious, is 25-105mm, but most full frame lenses in this segment are limited to 24-70mm or 28-75mm for those with a f/2.8 aperture. Also, typically, only the very highest-end and most expensive (think $1,300+) f/2.8 full frame general zoom lenses have image stabilization built in.

Before receiving the lens, I was a little skeptical, thinking Tamron’s flex of squeezing such a wide zoom range together with f/2.8 might create image quality sacrifices. The lens surprised me with great optical characteristics such as very good wide-open performance in many important areas like contrast, chromatic aberration, and flare control. 

It's not flawless, however. From 65-70mm, contrast and sharpness suffers slightly, but stopping down to f/4 or f/5.6 remedies that very well for the pixel-peepers among you. I would still feel fine to shoot wide open at f/2.8 if it meant I could keep my ISO at a lower level. You can make it flare if you put effort into it. The bokeh might even be perceived by some as slightly busy. Even with those relatively minor issues, Tamron should be very proud of what they have achieved with this lens. 

Although optical corrections are well managed with this lens, flares and ghosting can rear their heads if you shoot directly into bright sun. 

While not as pretty, at its heart, this lens is a professional workhorse at a great price. It just does so many things well, and with its excellent versatility and f/2.8 aperture, this is, in my opinion, absolutely the best do-it-all desert island lens if you could pick only one. For weddings, portraits, photojournalism, landscape, street photography, and action sports up close, this lens is a total winner that unlocks beast mode for our Fujifilm APS-C bodies. No lens thus far released for X Mount has checked all these boxes with such an extensive list of features and professional-level image quality.

The killer performance, plentiful feature set, and wonderful value make this lens an especially potent upgrade to older Fuji bodies. Older generation Fuji bodies benefit immensely from the addition of this lens because you will typically receive bolstered autofocus performance and add image stabilization for slower handheld shots. If you are coming from a kit lens, even the well-reviewed Fuji XF 18-55 f/2.8-4, prepare to be blown away. For example, the X-T2, an aging or even completely outdated camera in the eyes of many picky gearheads, becomes an extremely capable and confident performer when paired with this lens. After my experiences using this lens over the past several weeks, I would feel completely comfortable shooting a wedding or commercial photo shoot with the aforementioned combo and nothing else. Normally, I shoot weddings with a pair of bodies with f/1.4 prime lenses, but for anyone whose style is not defined entirely by razor-thin depth of field, transitioning to a single body complimented with the Tamron 17-70mm would offer some immensely satisfying shedding of weight and hassle while allowing a more fluid and confident shoot workflow.

The lens also performs well for video work, helped by its image stabilization and flexibility. Minor focus breathing can be seen if you really look, but it is minimal and forgivable for a capable professional or video enthusiast.

This lens offers the ability to just slap it on your camera, put the strap around your neck, and leave the house with no other lenses or gear except a spare battery or two, comfortable knowing that 17-70mm range is going to give you a lot of room to work with and the f/2.8 and image stabilization will help you deal with low light and offer increased freedom from your tripod. I can walk out my door with only that and nothing else and not have that anxiety that I won’t have what I need to get my shot when the opportunity arrives. If I am really nervous about having a long tele option, I will bring its 18-300mm sister along with me, and between the two, if you can’t get your shot, the gear isn’t the issue. 

Characteristics like excellent resolving of details and micro-contrast sweeten the pot with the Tamron 17-70mm.

I have not even listed all of the benefits of the lens yet, since it also offers a weight advantage over its direct competitor, the Fuji 16-55mm f/2.8. It also has good pseudo-macro capabilities at its wide end, focusing down to 7.5 inches from the sensor, for 1:4.8 life-size reproduction.

With its versatile 4.1x zoom range, the 17mm wide end of the Tamron 17-70mm gives you the 35mm field of view equivalent of a 25mm lens. On the long end, the 70mm max offers reach you would need 105mm to obtain on full frame.

As soon as I had a chance to play with the Tamron 17-70mm f/2.8, I knew immediately we would be the best of friends. Now, when I am out on a print photojournalism assignment, I know this lens will be permanently attached to one of my bodies, sitting on the passenger seat of my vehicle, ready to lock down any photo opportunity that arises. I recommend this lens to literally anyone with a Fuji X-Mount camera body. As much as I love Fuji’s awesome 16-55mm f/2.8, between the two, I would choose Tamron every time and spend the money saved on other gear. These kinds of releases are important to us as consumers, because they serve to drive competition in the market, and when Fuji releases an answer to the Tamron 17-70mm f/2.8 in the form of an upgrade XF 16-55mm f/2.8 or something similar, it will likely be another excellent addition to our options as Fuji X folks. 
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9 Comments
Stuart C's picture

See, id say the same about the 16-55 f2.8:)

Studio 403's picture

I am thinking of the new Fujifilm H2 to buy, Any thoughts about this lens for this body?

Tom Reichner's picture

Robert Stevens wrote,

"I will bring its 18-300mm sister along with me, and between the two, if you can’t get your shot, the gear isn’t the issue."

I disagree, and actually find the inference here a little offensive.

As a photographer who specializes in close-up wildlife and bird portraiture, as well as true macro photography of tiny critters, I would find the 17-70 and 18-300 to fall short of meeting my needs for at lest 50% of the photography I do.

A great deal of the photography I do is done at 800mm, and I still need to crop a bit to frame the images properly.

A great deal of the photography I do is at true macro magnification or 1:1, or greater.

How would either of these lenses get me all of the shots I currently take with my more specialized gear? And do you really think that I am the problem if I can't get the shot I want with either of these lenses? How can you say such a thing, when you have no idea what shots I am wanting to take?

When writing articles, I would not be so presumptive to think that I know what types of photos my readership is taking. You need to use more qualifiers such as "most of", "may", "in many situations", "often", "almost", etc. Using absolutes will mean that you are almost always going to say something that is not accurate in every situation for every reader. See how I used the qualifier, "almost". Pay attention to that, because that is the kind of thing you need to start doing if you want everything you write to be accurate. Qualifiers should be your friend!

Sam Sims's picture

Saying 'This is the only lens you absolutely must own for Fuji X mount’ isn’t a particularly helpful statement. People have very different preferences and tastes (and budgets) when it comes to lenses. There really is no one size fits all.

Penny Fan's picture

Sorry no aperture ring = not my Fuji lens :p

Gary Pardy's picture

This is literally the only thing keeping me from buying the Sigma 16mm F1.4

Jacob H.'s picture

We received an evaluation copy of this lens a few weeks ago and were pleasantly surprised. Depending on your needs it might not be the only lens you want, but as a generic walk-around/travel lens it is superb. The IQ is virtually the same level as the 16-55/2.8 and the OIS is a real bonus esp. since most Fuji cameras don't have IBIS. Next to that the weight is significantly lower. However, many Fuji fans will probably prefer the native 16-55/2.8 because of the aperture ring and the perceived quality of being a 'red badge-lens'. The real comparison should be with the Fuji 16-80/4 and here the Tamron really outperforms the native lens with its faster aperture and its superior IQ. To me this is the best travel lens option for Fuji X so far.

David Udin's picture

While the Fuji 16-80 f4 OIS WR is a stop slower, it would seem to be the lens you should be comparing this one to. It's my favorite all-purpose lens on the X-T3, and I haven't been disappointed in its image quality. At the time I bought the X-T3, the camera and lens were being offered as a kit at a very attractive 'kit' price, and the Tamron didn't exist, but it would be useful to someone considering the Tamron today to compare it to the Fuji most similar to it. And the Fuji does have an aperture ring.

user 65983's picture

Great article and nice example photos. Tamron makes some really great lenses and this lens caught my eye a while ago.