Fujifilm X Series cameras do have a reasonably usable selection of wide angle lenses available, but there is still a missing a piece. Tamron is here to fill that gap with its new 11-20mm f/2.8 Di III-A RXD lens. Is it good enough? Is it worth considering instead of the Fujifilm originals?
If you’re a Fujifilm shooter and you want to use a wide angle lens, you do have some options. For example, the original XF 10-24mm f/4 R OIS wasn’t half bad, and you can currently get it used for a nice price. The upgraded (WR) version offers weather resistance and a properly marked aperture ring instead of the endless scroll of the first generation. If the aperture is not bright enough for you or if 10 millimeters is not wide enough for you, you can consider getting the XF 8-16mm f/2.8 R LM WR. This is truly a brilliant piece of kit, but compared to the previous mention, it comes at almost twice the price and in a considerably heavier and larger package. Plus, it lacks a filter thread due to the large, protruding front element. Samyang (or Rokinon depending on where you are reading this from) has a neat little 12mm f/2 lens for a super-low price, but today, we are talking about zooms.
It is a Tamron lens, so of course, the body is going to be plastic. The unit I’ve been using for this review is a loaner from Tamron, which meant I had to be doubly careful not to scratch it in any way. It doesn’t feel cheap, though. Both of the rings feel nice and smooth, and the lens feels solid. A rubber gasket around the mount indicates weather-resistance, which is a must-have for any landscape lens.
The barrel does extend a bit. Collapsed at the 20mm focal length, it measures 86 millimeters, but once you zoom to the widest 11mm, you add a few centimeters. The weight is a very manageable 335 grams. It sat on my X-T5 perfectly.
There was one thing I was missing, though. As a Fujifilm user, I’ve gotten used to having an aperture ring on the camera. And the lack of it here is slightly disappointing. It’s not a deal-breaker, as the front wheel of the camera substitutes the function pretty well, but still, it is something to consider.
As the name suggests, the lens uses the older RXD instead of the newer VXD. So, instead of an ultrasonic drive, we get a stepping motor. It’s decent, though. The autofocus is quiet, smooth, and fairly fast. I did miss a few shots due to the focusing group not getting to the desired position fast enough, but generally, nothing to be too worried about. Those occasions happened only when I tried capturing a crowd of tourists walking towards me while I myself was walking towards them. It was a terrible shot anyway, so no harm done.
The f/2.8 aperture does unlock some low-light potential. You get decent-looking out-of-focus areas, and if you get close enough, even great background separation. There is a noticeable cat-eye effect in the out-of-focus lights though. Once you stop the lens down, you notice one of the cost-saving measures taken. The aperture is only seven-bladed, which makes bokeh rather disappointing. I would either leave it wide open or avoid rendering out-of-focus lights in the background when stopped down.
The Optical Performance
As I have already mentioned, I have been testing the lens on my Fujifilm X-T5. The 40-megapixel sensor in this camera won’t leave any optical flaw hidden. And they are most definitely here. Don’t get me wrong. For the price and the size, it performs okay. The image has decent contrast, and for a lower-resolution sensor like the X-Trans 4 or the stacked X-Trans 5 HS, I can imagine it fits well, but I could not get it sharp enough to utilize the 40 megapixels of the X-T5, regardless of the focal length, the focusing distance, or the aperture.
The focusing distance is impressive. Once zoomed all the way to 11 millimeters, you can almost touch the subject with the hood and still be able to focus. It gave me some interesting results. However, once you focus this closely, chromatic aberrations do become apparent. Some portions of the image started looking like an old-school 3D movie. The issue was mostly gone once I focused on a subject much farther away from me.
Vignetting was a non-issue. Sure, there was a little bit of it when shooting at the maximum aperture, but nothing major or unfixable. And once the aperture is closed at least a bit, it is pretty much gone.
Comparison of the vignetting between f/2.8 and f/8, shot at 11 mm.
What I Liked
The compact size as well as the low weight are a great match to the X Series bodies. That, combined with the weather-sealing and a decent price, make the lens a good contender. The autofocus was fast, silent, and fairly reliable.
What I Didn’t Like
The numerous color issues when focusing at the closest ranges do drag the lens down quite a bit. However, they are not an issue once you focus on subjects farther out. The resolving capabilities of the glass are decent, but unfortunately, I was unable to get the lens to give me a sharp image on the 40-megapixel X-Trans 5 HS sensor.
Considering the price and the performance, I’d give it a shot if I were planning on using it on one of the 24- or 26-megapixel bodies. On the higher end X-H2 or the X-T5, though, I’d still most likely opt for the XF 8-16mm f/2.8 R LM WR. The chromatic aberrations do really stand out on the high-res sensor. Now, if I wanted to get this lens as my black and white documentary and street photography lens, due to the size and f/2.8 aperture, I’d be much more willing to overlook the aforementioned issues. It is a perfect bit of glass for those uses.
Even if it performed better optically, it is extremely overpriced. Should be a good €200 cheaper. And who knows, in 6 months it may well be. Was the same story with the 17-70: unrealistic launch price followed by a necessary large drop.
I’d argue if Fujifilm didn’t have the 40 megapixel sensor out it would be a perfectly capable lens for most uses, but the high resolution does leave very little room for imperfections.
The price is not terrible for the focal range, the aperture and weather sealing. But yeah, dropping it a little a bit would make the lens much more attractive.