Tamron 17-35mm f/2.8-4 Di SP AF

Lens Reviews / Tamron Lenses i Lab tested
17-35mm $385
average price
image of Tamron 17-35mm f/2.8-4 Di SP AF

Lab Test Results

  • Blur
  • Chromatic Aberration
  • Vignetting
  • Geometric Distortion
  • Blur
  • Chromatic Aberration
  • Vignetting
  • Geometric Distortion

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(From Tamron lens literature) Advent of an ideal Ultra wide-angle zoom lens well balanced in all aspects. With its superb image quality, compact size and excellent operational ease, this ultra wide-angle zoom lens lets you enjoy dynamic image composition by exaggerating your main subject against a wide background.

Tamron's new ultra wide-angle zoom lens starts at 17mm when used with a conventional 35mm SLR camera. When mounted on an APS-size digital SLR camera, it provides a focal length coverage equivalent to a 28-55mm (on a 35mm format camera), covering the desirable wide-angle to standard range.

Test Notes

On a sub-frame (APS-C sized sensor) camera like the Canon EOS-20D we use as a test platform in our lab, the Tamron 17-35mm f/2.8-4 SP is a really excellent lens at a very affordable price. It suffers from soft corners wide open at maximum wide angle (somewhat less so at longer focal lengths), but closing the aperture just one f-stop dramatically improves sharpness, making it a very f/4-5.6 wide zoom. Close down one stop more, and sharpness is excellent by any standard.

The one downside of shooting this lens at smaller apertures is that its chromatic aberration increases quite noticeably with decreasing aperture at all but the shortest focal length. The good news though, is that the average CA figures are much lower than the maximum ones, indicating that the CA is worst in the corners, covering a relatively small percentage of the overall image area.

Light falloff (aka "vignetting") and geometric distortion are also lower than one would normally expect from such a wide-angle lens. Maximum light falloff on the 20D was about 1/3 EV wide open at 17mm, decreasing to 1/4 EV or less at smaller apertures and/or longer focal lengths. At 17mm, maximum barrel distortion was about 0.75% (high, but not unreasonable for a wide-angle zoom), decreasing to nearly zero somewhere around 30mm, and progressing to very minimal pincushion distortion at 35mm.

With a street price hovering in the mid-$400s as of this writing in early April, 2006, the Tamron 17-35mm f/2.8-4 SP represents an excellent bargain for sub-frame shooters. Wide open it'll be a little soft in the corners, but just one stop down, it turns into a real jewel of a lens at a very affordable price. (See our separate notes about its full-frame performance on the "Full-Frame Results" tab above though: We don't recommend it for full-frame usage.)

Full-Frame Test Notes:

The Tamron 17-35mm f/2.8-4 wide angle zoom is practically a textbook illustration of why full-frame cameras demand the highest quality lenses. As noted in the sub-frame test results report, this lens is a really excellent choice for cameras with APS-C size sensors. When we put it on the EOS-5D in our test lab though, the moderately soft corners we saw on the EOS-20D turned into some of the worst corner performance we've seen in a lens to date. (This is being written in early April, 2006.) Wide open at wide angle, the corners of the frame are just unusably soft, unless you're looking for extreme softness to use as a special effect. The corner softness does improve as you zoom towards the 35mm end of its range, but is still very pronounced. The sharpness also does improve as you stop down, but you have to stop down three full f-stops to get reasonably sharp corners, and even then the results won't win any prizes. Chromatic aberration at the edges of the frame remains high regardless of focal length, but curiously is better at wide apertures than small ones.

Geometric distortion follows a by-now familiar characteristic curve that we've seen on several wide-angle zooms, namely moderate to high barrel distortion at wide angle focal lengths, gradually decreasing until about the middle of the zoom range, then transitioning fairly abruptly to moderate pincushion, which gradually increases as you move toward the maximum 35mm focal length. Vignetting is very high at maximum wide angle and maximum aperture, actually slightly off the top of our vignetting graph, which tops-out at 1.25 EV maximum falloff. (A check of the raw DxO data shows a maximum falloff or 1.39 EV, the highest we've measured so far.) Light falloff does decrease at both smaller apertures and longer focal lengths, but doesn't really drop to what we'd consider as acceptable levels until you hit about 27mm and f/5.6.

Bottom line, while it's a truly excellent lens for sub-frame digital SLRs, we really can't recommend the Tamron 17-35mm f/2.8-4 SP for use on a full-frame camera. It's severe corner softness does improve to acceptable levels when you close it down a full 3 f-stops, but that's a heavy price to pay for what still ends up being only modest sharpness. Full-frame camera owners would be well-advised to look elsewhere and/or save their pennies for a lens like the excellent Canon 17-40mm F4L optic, if they're on the Canon platform.

Tamron 17-35mm f/2.8-4 Di SP AF

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Buy the Tamron 17-35mm f/2.8-4 Di SP AF

Tamron 17-35mm f/2.8-4 Di SP AF User Reviews

8.4/10 average of 10 review(s) Build Quality 8.1/10 Image Quality 8.5/10
  • 8 out of 10 points and recommended by lacount (1 reviews)
    Sharp image, great construction, cheap to buy nowadays
    Slight vignetting on full frame at 17mm, hard to find now

    I originally paid $500 new around 2006 when I first started learning DSLR with Canon 20D after getting recommendation by a pro with Tamron lens. All the way up to the time I had Canon 6D in 2014 this lens served me very well. It was only in 2014 the rubber grip started to peel off. The construction needless to say is amazing for what it feels a bit more plastic than other high end lens.

    I used this lens for astro, real estate and landscape mainly. Sure, the 35mm only shoots at f/4 but for what I did, it was the perfect lens. Stopping down did improve in overall sharpness although I never had an issue shooting wide open at 17mm either. If there was a problem having a body with AF microadjust should definitely help if anything.

    This is probably one of the better ultra wide angle lens to get for any full frame these days even if it's used. I've seen new go for around $450 still but recently went back to Canon and purchased another for $250 so it was a steal.

    If you're doing portraits and want shallow DoF of course I would get a better prime or zoom. Otherwise if you're stopping down for landscapes and other work like real estate, I recommend it. Sure, there's some distortion wider than 24mm but we're talking real estate. Nothing that can't be corrected in post.

    reviewed February 4th, 2016 (purchased for $500)
  • 8 out of 10 points and recommended by kaci (10 reviews)
    sharpness, general IQ, AF, price
    CA, distortion at 17mm

    I am using this Tamron on 5D for a 6 months. Bought used, I am very satisfied. I dont think I would get better results with Canon 17-40 f4 L.

    Excellent/Amazing sharpness in the centre, corners are really sharpt at 5.6 and higher. At 17mm there is lot of distortion, but at 35mm it is less distorted than my Canon EF 35/2.0. At f5.6 and higher the Tamron is also sharper! Colours and contrast are absolutely fine, AF is quick and accurate. CA is a problem, but mainly only in corners.

    reviewed April 15th, 2011 (purchased for $350)
  • 5 out of 10 points and not recommended by HighSierra (13 reviews)
    Light, low CA
    Cheap construction, soft until well stopped down

    Even after having my copy adjusted by Tamron, the corners were still extremely soft, until at least f/11, where they became more tolerable. I'd never use this lens wide-open, as the region of sharpness was restricted only to the very middle of the frame. CA was pretty low for an FX wide zoom.

    I am not a fan of the construction of this lens. The focus ring rotates very freely, even with the AF motor of my D700 engaged. As a result, it was easy to inadvertantly turn the focus ring against the AF motor, which I can't imagine is good for the camera.

    Furthermore, this lens is made from the cheapest, flimisiest feeling plastic I've ever seen on a lens. Noticeably worse than the other Tamrons I've owned, and worse than Nikon kit zooms. The hood is overly wide, making it difficult to fit the lens in a bag when mounted.

    In the end, there are better FX wide zooms out there. The Tokina 20-35 is far better built, sharper, and constant f/2.8. It often sells for less than this inferior Tamron.

    reviewed June 30th, 2010 (purchased for $250)
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by JPMuller (9 reviews)
    Excellent Lens... As good or better than Canon 16-35 2.8 II at a fraction of cost.
    Slower autofocus, CA.

    I was having a tough time trying to find an ultra wide for my full frame Canon. At first, I was hoping not to spend a lot of money, so I tried the Canon 20-35 2.8... Good lens and worth the money, but I really wanted something wider and it was a bit soft at the corners.

    I continued to do extensive research on alternatives... I considered the 17 - 40 but wanted something with a wider aperture for low light work... I considered the first version of the Canon 16-35, but after reading reviews, bit the bullet and bought the newer version.

    I was disappointed with the Canon 16-35 2.8 II... for $1500, I expected more from a lens.... I realized that wide angles are often soft in the corners and edge of the frame, but I was hoping a Canon L would help solve that problem - but it didn't. So I started to look for alternatives, since I figured, if a Canon L wide angle is going to be soft, then I shouldn't have to pay that much.

    I came across this lens... SLR gave it a poor review for full frame... I suggest they test another copy. It was sharper than the Canon 16-35 2.8 MKII... I could barely believe it.... This is an amazing lens, forget about the fact that you can get one for under $400... It is sharper all across the frame except at 17mm - where in the corners, the Canon was a wee bit sharper. From 20mm up, this lens is noticeably sharper - especially at 24-35mm... At 35mm, the Canon MKII is horrible.



    I returned the Canon and this Tamron is the one I kept.

    Autofocus is not as good as the Canon... The Canon is blazing fast, but I find this lens fast enough... I lost 1 mm - big deal... CA is also very good on the Canon...

    Buy this lens if you are looking for an ultra wide for Full Frame... you won't regret it, unless you need blazing speed and are willing to compromise Image Quality - Then get the Canon.

    If you want it sharp right to the corner, then forget getting a zoom and get a prime.

    reviewed June 27th, 2010 (purchased for $350)
  • 8 out of 10 points and recommended by davidkilpatrick (1 reviews)
    Minimal distortion, good stopped-down sharpness, low cost for full frame DSLRs
    Soft and dark corners wide open at 17mm

    The Tamron 17-35mm has been much maligned; test chart results never work with such lenses, as the targets are always too close when trying to measure distortion or field flatness at 17mm. In practice, with interiors, architecture and general scenes (distant subjects, relative to a 17mm focal length) the Tamron proves to have first-class orthographic geometry across its whole zoom range. This means your seascape won't have a curved horizon, your buildings will have parallel straight walls if you get the camera trued up to vertical, and you will not need software correction for many subjects.

    I have been used the 17-35mm in its Konica Minolta form (the same lens in a different skin) on the new full frame Alpha 900 and you can see some test shots at:


    i have included an example showing the vignetting and strong corner softening at 17mm wide open, but also results showing that f22 can be used on this 25.6 megapixel sensor for maximum depth of field without losing too much sharpness by diffraction; and that apertures like f8 and f11, in typical situations where a 17mm is used (105° angle of view), will give professionally usable results.

    reviewed September 21st, 2008 (purchased for $300)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by ghamden (6 reviews)
    Excellent IQ Good Contrast

    I purchased this lens used and all i can say it is a Gem

    If you can find one do so it is worth the price puts High end lens to same

    Nikon Mount

    reviewed July 3rd, 2008 (purchased for $180)
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by zooomlenz (6 reviews)
    Cost, Focus Speed, Contrast, Sharpness
    A little distortion....

    For the price what can I say. The lens exhibits a little distortion at 17mm wide open but hey it's not a Nikon ED or a Canon L. Construction is good and overall image quality is outstanding. Recommend this lens?...totally.

    reviewed December 11th, 2006 (purchased for $450)
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by sivrajbm (12 reviews)
    sharp, fast, smooth
    not 2.8 thru range

    The best that under 5 bills can buy.
    I recently had an opportunity to buy a 16-35L.
    I took it back, this little Tamron more than held it's own against the "L". I jsut can't see enough of a difference to justify paying another 12 bills for such a marginal improvement. The "L" was slighty faster, but not sharper @2.8 so what's the use.
    This lens is still the bomb in my book. I couldn't replace it and I tried.

    reviewed November 4th, 2005 (purchased for $469)
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by softreq (5 reviews)
    Sharp, useful focal range
    Max aperture changes from F2.8 to F4 in a fairly narrow zoom range.

    The 17-35 lets you get in close to the action while achieving a wide framing of your shot.

    The lens is very sharp at F5.6 or greater.

    Some lens distortion at 17mm.

    The curved lens surface makes you wonder if you will scratch it.

    For the money, this is an excellent lens.

    reviewed October 28th, 2005 (purchased for $500)
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by Don (2 reviews)
    See review
    Outer rings turns when autofocusing, can't override the autofocus.

    Have this lense and the 17-40L Canon lense. We prefer this lense for most interior and landscape shots. It's clean and sharp from f4 to f16 and from 17 to 35mm. At wider aperatures it's still very usable, just not as crisp. Colors are a little cooler than the 17-40L and not quite as contrasty, but very accurate. Very fast and accurate auto focus. It does take some getting used to after using Canon lenses --- the focus ring near the front of the lense turns when auto focusing; and cannot be overriden, you have to turn off the auto focus to manually focus the lense. This is a snall inconvenience that's easy to adjust too considering the quality of the images from it. Highly recommend it -- sharp....

    reviewed October 20th, 2005 (purchased for $500)