Tamron SP AF 17-50mm f/2.8 XR LD Aspherical (IF) Di11

This fast standard zoom lens from Tamron is their entry into the superior performance, standard zoom built for cropped sensor category. With an aperture that opens to f/2.8 and an image circle that is suitable only for APS-C ‘cropped’ sensors, we take a look at how it performs.

Tamron SP AF 17-50mm F2.8 XR Di ll LD Aspherical (IF)Specifications

  • Focal Length 17-50mm
  • Max aperture f/2.8
  • Min aperture f/32
  • Construction 16/13 elements/groups
  • Min focus 0.27m
  • Filter size 67mm
  • Size 74x81.7mm
  • Weight 0.434kg
  • Mount Available Canon, Nikon, Sony
  • Price (SRP) £349.99

Build and handling
This lens is well built and specified for its ilk although it lacks the silent smoothness of autofocus by sonic motor. The bulk of the main barrel is taken up with the zoom ring, which is quite nicely torqued in its operation. The travel from the 17mm mark to the 50mm one is almost exactly a quarter of a turn and that extends the front element by some 30mm, although it does not rotate the front element. A zoom lock is provided to stop this extension during transport, although it was not needed with the lens being new. Forward of the zoom ring is a manual focus ring that has a distance guide marked on it. The (IF) in the long-winded title means internal focus, overcoming any physical change in the lens during the focussing operation.

The AF mechanism is a little whiny, although not obtrusively so, and accurate although it takes a couple of small jerks to get there in low light. The finish is a good standard and not as plasticy as some of Tamron’s older offerings.

Optical quality
With modern lenses, standards are rising all the time and this lens has managed to keep up. The resolution is quite good, especially when closed down by a stop and it is fairly consistent across the frame and, surprisingly, throughout the zoom range with neither one end or the other being noticeably better than the other.

The control of CA is exceptionally good with even Imatest struggling to find any at most apertures and focal lengths. There were measurably incidences at the widest apertures, but they were well below the threshold where they might become visible to the eye.

The only place where the lens lets itself down is in the control of distortion. At the longer 50mm end it is within the parameters of acceptability with a pincushion reading of 0.62% but at the wide end of 17mm it has jumped to a rather noticeable 4.39% barrel which is very noticeable. Fortunately it is one of the easier problems to solve in software.

f/2.8 and 23mm were the settings for this image, shot on a Canon 20D

At the 50mm end the lens, fitted on the cropped sensor cameras it is designed for, makes a passable portrait lens.

This time a setting of 30mm at f/5.6 keeps everything sharp. Canon 20D

Click on each comparision photo below to view full size versions

17-50mm set at 17mm and f/8

17-50mm set at 50mm and f/8

17-50mm set at 17mm and f/2.8

17-50mm set at 50mm and f/2.8

Below is our lens test data. To find out how to use these graphs look at this article: How we test lenses

With the exception of the distortion at the wide end, this is a very competent lens and a considerable jump up from the general standard of kit lens that it would replace. There is little else that lets it down and good resolution across the frame that is acceptable even when the lens is used wide open commend it. The only other place it could be improved is in the autofocus system where Tamron really do need to get a sonic motor.

In summary, the positive points of the SP AF 17-50mm f/2.8 XR Di11 are:
Good resolution and control of CA
Nice build, an improvement for Tamron
Consistent through the focal range

The negative points are:
Distortion at the wide end.
No supplied case or pouch.

Check the latest price for the Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 Di11 here

Discuss this lens and other related lens subjects here

Test by Ian Andrews www.wildaboutkent.com

By: GlennW 5498 days ago
Given the realtively good MTF50 numbers for this lens, it would seem that the photos of the Meritime Museum are quite soft... I wondering what the explination for this is???
By: vista200 5491 days ago
I agree with the previous writer and think all pics are quite soft. The imgae quality seems rather poor.
By: anamesa 5369 days ago
The aperture of the pics at the Maritime Museum is 2.8, so this explains the softness, since at F2.8 the lens is wide open. The reviewer says it: "The resolution is good, especially when stopped down by a stop...". I have the lens and it beats down most canon consumer primes at the equivalent focal distance in sharpness, with the exception (possibly) of 35mm F2. It's better than 24mm F2.8 and much better than 28mm F2.8. I don't own a 50mm F1.8 for the time being.
By: harrappete 5364 days ago
Most downloaded review pictures I ignore because they have been so oversharpened anyway that you cant tell. The reviewer should record with sharpening turned off and leave it to us to sharpen ourselves.

What bugs me most is that searching around I cant find ANY test shots of the museum door that ARE sharp edge to edge from any lens.
Thats really scary. I often cannot read the notices in the middle and often the big letters become more blurred towards the edges. And the corners of this stone building are almost never sharp. We're not talking the hairs on someones chin, but BIG stones and mortar and foot high letters, so I just hold off buying, theres nothing being made worth having!!
By: reu4 5165 days ago
I had this lens when it first came out for my D-200
Sold it few months after.
A true piece of garbage as far as optics go.
It was so soft that even when stoped down to f5.6 the images seemed as they were shot with soft focus filter #4
At f2.8 there were simply all blurry unusable pictures
Buy the Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 (much better lens)if you don't have much money and need to have constant f2.8
But your best bet is to get Nikkor or Canon glass
If you shoot Nikon than I would get the 35-70mm f2.8 which is tack sharp even wide open for about the same price used
And use your kit lens for your wide shots.
By: JakeLi 5155 days ago
I think my Tamorn is much sharper than these images here show it to be , I mean my Tmaorn is much sharper than my 17-40L and almost as sharp as my EF-S17-55IS.

I think this is a little pretty lens if you do not need the Canon IS, though I need the IS and so I have both the EF-S17-55IS and this Tamorn.

I mostly use this Tmaorn for travel light or day time , after getting this , I sold the EF50 f1.4 since my Tmaorn is as sharp as the prime if not sharper.

So highly recommended.
By: RobA 5009 days ago
There are two manufacturing sites for the Tamron 17-50, one in Japan and one in Taiwan I believe. The latter's lenses have been known to front focus. I am interested in this Tamron model, though, because I've seen on several other web sites numerous sample photos taken with it which show it to have excellent sharpness. This is the only site that I have found which has presented soft samples from this lens. Maybe the one tested here is a Taiwan product. If I do decide to buy the Tamron 17-50, then I will be sure to ask if they have one made in Japan before buying. I won't buy the Taiwan version based on what I have read on the internet about it.

The dilemma for me is that it appears the only way to get excellent photos from Canon and Nikon is to spend big bucks on their high-end lenses. I was/am hoping this Tamron model offers some potential for obtaining a quality lense that doesn't break one's bank account.

I may opt out on Canon and Nikon as options for developing an affordable, decent system because they both are more expensive than I will afford. I will probably go with the Olympus E-510 which has better kit lenses than Nikon or Canon and for a whole lot less money.

I am concerned about some of the idiosynchrasies of the E-510, but am willing to try to work around them just because of the high cost of Canon and Nikon glass. Part of the problem is that the zoom ranges for quality lenses from Canon and Nikon make it difficult to cover a breadth of focal lengths unless you buy a minimum of three lenses. For instance, if I had the bucks, I'd buy the Canon 16-35, 24-70 and 70-200 L/F4 IS, but that's not going to happen.

As it is now, I'm probably going to go with Olympus's 14-54 (28-108 equiv.), which is not much more expensive than the Tamron model, the 40-150 kit lens (80-300 equiv.), and get their 50mm F2 macro to round it out. All of that for about $1800 versus $2800 to $3000 for Canon or Nikon systems that would incorporate, say, a Canon 30D or a Nikon D80, and a mix of their respective, better than average lenses.

If I could find one of the good Japanese Tamron 17-50 lenses for a 30D body, I might then pony up the bucks for the Canon 70-200 L/F4 IS and also their prime 60mm macro. I could get away with that system for about $2700, but that's still about a grand more than the Olympus entry level system described above.

Olympus eventually will come out with an improved model of the E-500--E-410--E510 series, superceding the E-510. I'd keep the E-510 for a second body and pick up the new model for my primary system.

Whatever . . . decisions, decisions . . . trade-off after trade-off . . .
By: dec11ad 4940 days ago
ouch!! this one is a lemon...anyways i hope it is.
Cause i was planning on getting one of those but now my hopes are all turned around, the sample pictures do indeed look rather soft!! :S
By: deafbeaver 4697 days ago
The ratings for this lens seem to be all over the place, so whatever it is worth, here is one more. I had this lens for a little over a month (mine is "made in Japan") and IMHO this is the best value for money there is in this focal length range for cropped sensor cameras. As this lens projects a little over 32mm image circle, it is no surprise that at 17mm vignetting, distortion and edge CA are noticeable by naked eye. However, what may have been a killer in the film era, is easily correctable these days in post-processing of images. If Tamron could sell a "correction plugin" along with the lens, nobody would even notice these defects. As for sharpness, I disagree with those reviewers that say it is soft wide open. At least from shooting ISO 12233 target at short distances I can attest that this lens has commendable center field sharpness wide open at all 17,24,35 and 50mm. Peripheral sharpness is good, too, but looks slightly better at the ends of the zoom range than at intermediate settings. I think this lens is quite an achievement, if you get a good copy.
By: vsiniak 4589 days ago
I absolutely agree with deafbeaver! I own the Japanese made copy for about 6 months now and disagree with anyone who says it's soft. It gets very sharp at F/5.6, but at F/2.8 is very good even compared with canon primes I own. Very good deal!
By: jmtrevino 4415 days ago
I got one about three years ago as standard lens for my D200. Used it extensively as travel set and found it a solid performer from f/4 to f/11 across the focal range. Some distortion at the ends but that's to be expected in this kind of wide-to-tele zoom and, anyway, easily corrected in fotochop. At about 1/2 the price of the Nikon version -the only alternative with a constant aperture and beyond my budget at the time- I find it a great value. It's got me hundreds of technically perfect images that, if not better, that's my fault, not the lens.
By: kpburd 4215 days ago
I have had this lens for a month now and love it! I am not a techno geek or a pixel peeper, but I know a sharp photo when I see one and this lens produces very sharp results.
I do a lot of close up photography as well as landscapes and this lens on my T1i is awesome.
I see many complaints about build quality which puzzles me. What do you expect for a $400 lens. If they put this glass in a tin can, I would buy it.
By: SirDon 3982 days ago
I agree with deafbeaver, most certainly the best zoom lens in this focal range, especially taking into consideration cost. On my 50D while looking for something with a wider angle I've tried & reviewed Canon's 20mm f2.8, 24mm f2.8 and 28mm f2.8. Of these I found the 24mm f2.8 the best and the 28mm f2.8 the worst. I decided against committing to any of these after unexpectedly trying the 17-50mm f2.8 Tamron (which I new nothing about before) and finding that it is mostly as sharp, if not sharper, than these Canon lenses in the centre of the image, but perhaps more importantly, was consistently sharper than any of these three Canon lenses towards the edges of the photo. On top of that I bought one second hand for next to nothing. If you work on a limited budget like me and want to get the best quality for your money, get this lens.

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