Hands-On With the New Tamron 11-20mm f/2.8

Ultra wide-angle zoom lenses are tricky to manufacture, with a lot of difficulties to overcome. One of Tamron's newest lenses, however, has been getting strong reviews. So, how does it hold up?

The Tamron 11-20mm f/2.8 Di III-A RXD is an APS-C lens for Sony E mount cameras. It is equivalent to 17-30mm on a 35mm sensor, which puts it as a highly versatile piece of equipment. Typically, lenses this wide rarely have a quick widest aperture, but as you can see, this Tamron boasts f/2.8. To make matters even more impressive, it is compact in form, and lightweight at just 335 g.

This appealing spec sheet puts it on the map for a number of genres. As with most UWA zoom lenses, it fits nicely into the genres of landscape, street, and architectural. However, with such a wide minimum aperture, it also potentially lends itself to astrophotography too. Tamron has also added a lot to the lens to overcome some common problems, which are somewhat lost under the many initialisms. The lens has XLD, LD, GM, and BBAR-G2, which I won't spell out, but I will give an overview of what they provide: there ought to be very little color fringing, chromatic aberrations, and image distortion. There is also said to be better clarity and color accuracy as a result. Finally, the coating applied to the lens elements suppresses internal reflections, flare, ghosting, and other visual artefacts that can either ruin images by appearing, or negatively affect contrast and colors.

What do you make of Tamron's new UWA?

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Tom Reichner's picture

I am starting to get interest in wide angle photography. This is because of my newfound passion for photographing small reptiles and amphibians.

I have a desire to create environmental portraits of these small critters in their natural habitat. Typical macro lenses don't work well for this, because the focal lengths do not allow me to get enough of the overall scene in. The couple of wide angle lenses I have tried do not work because they do not have a close enough minimum focus distance, and therefore don't provide the degree of magnification that I need. Adding extension tubes doesn't work because they reduce the angle of view.

So, what I need is a true wide angle lens that has a very close minimum focus distance that provides very good subject magnification. I'll have to do some research on this new Tamron 11-20mm to see what the MFD is, and whether or not that would meet my unique needs.

David B's picture

How big are the reptiles you're shooting? Some lenses might be too wide for your taste or distort features of your subject. This particular lens might not suit your individual needs.

Tom Reichner's picture

The reptiles and amphibians I am shooting vary greatly in size. The ones I struggle to shoot the way I want are the very small ones. One example would be the Spadefoot Toad, which is about as big as a Bing cherry. To fill the frame the way I want, I need 1:2 magnification at the least.

As far as what is too wide for my taste, I have some experience shooting reptiles and amphibians with my 24-105mm lens at 24mm, and have been wishing that I could shoot much closer and much wider.

I am learning that 24mm is nowhere near wide enough for what I want to do, and that the MFD of the 24-105 doesn't provide anywhere near enough magnification, especially at the wide end that I want to be shooting at.

Scott Nichols's picture

If you are shooting Sony APS-C, I would seriously look into the Sigma 16mm f1.4. It can actually focus quite close, and if you got an electronic extension tube, you could probably get even closer. I had that lens for a while and it has excellent sharpness/contrast/color. Shoots way over its price point.

Tom Reichner's picture

I appreciate the suggestion, but I don't have any Sony cameras. I shoot Canon DSLRs with the EF mount, and would have to adapt any lens with a different mount.

I just looked up the lens that you recommended. The main spec that I am looking for is maximum magnification; a.k.a. macro/close focusing ability. Unfortunately, the Sony 16mm falls far short of what I need. I need a maximum magnification of at least 0.5x ... but the Sigma 16mm only yields 0,1x magnification. Not even in the ballpark.

I'm starting to wonder if what I need is even optically possible. 16mm or 18mm focal length, with 0.5x magnification. That means that the lens would need to be able to focus on something about a half inch away. I know that the Canon 24 mm tilt / shift can almost do this, but am starting to doubt that anything much wider is able to do so.

David B's picture

The size of your subject will make a big difference for MFD needs. Looks like you have a variety of sizes meaning you need magnification for smaller subjects. A longer lens would help but you wanted wide.

Mirrorless cameras generally have closer minimum focus so you'll need a specialized lens. Your best option is probably a Laowa 15mm. They make some funky designs that are perfect for your needs. Hope it helps!