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Tamron 20mm f/2.8 review: Landscape photographers have to give this compact prime a look


Tamron’s workhorse 20mm f/2.8 lens for Sony E mount cameras offers something that most wide-angle primes don’t — a super light, compact footprint that’s easy to throw in a bag when you’re on-the-go. Whether you’re traveling cross country or just going to your local beach, this lens will capture those wide scenes beautifully.

Tamron’s prime lineup of 20, 24 and 35mm are reliable, “get-the-job-done” type of lenses. Picture quality is great, autofocus is accurate and all in all, these are great lenses to use. And on the 20mm side of things, it’s a great lens for landscapes, cityscapes and everything in-between.

Pros

  • Compact and lightweight; perfect for traveling
  • Fully weather sealed, surprising for a lens in this range
  • Superior sharpness
  • Incredibly affordable

Cons

  • Autofocus can be a bit slow, but is accurate
  • Some barrel distortion present

Tamron 20mm f/2.8 — Technical specifications

Photo by Kris Kinsey

All technical specifications for the Tamron 20mm f/2.8 have been taken from B&H Photo:

  • Aperture range: f/2.8–f/22
  • Angle of view: 94° 30′
  • Minimum focus distance: 4.3″ / 10.92 cm
  • Maximum magnification: 0.5x
  • Macro reproduction ratio: 1:2
  • Optical design: 10 Elements in 9 Groups
  • Diaphragm blades: 7, Rounded
  • Image stabilization: No
  • Filter size: 67mm (front)
  • Dimensions: 2.87 x 2.5″ / 73 x 63.5 mm
  • Weight: 7.8 oz / 221 g

Tamron 20mm f/2.8 — Ergonomics and build quality

The Tamron 20mm will feel right at home to anyone who’s used Tamron’s mirrorless lenses before. The plastic exterior and lightweight design feels premium, and looks very slick.

The lens is dust and splash proof, which is surprising given its price point. The exterior features no buttons or dials, just a small manual focusing ring. Tamron goes for a minimal look on the exterior of its lenses, and that’s a welcome sight given that other manufacturers seem to be taking a different approach.

The lens cap is Tamron’s standard cap for all of its mirrorless mount lenses. The hood can be difficult to screw on at times, one of the things I’ve always called out on Tamron lenses, as the hood isn’t quite as forgiving as other makes.

Given its small size, this lens is great for travel photographers looking for a lightweight landscape or cityscape lens. It takes up hardly any room in a bag, and it’s super lightweight. For videographers, its size matches that of its 24mm and 35mm cousins, making it easy to swap out on a gimbal.

Tamron 20mm f/2.8 — In the field

The Tamron 20mm is a great wide-angle prime, and it’s very approachable given its size and weight. While the lens doesn’t have image stabilization, that should be no problem, especially on modern Sony bodies with IBIS.

Autofocus performance

Autofocus on the Tamron 20mm is accurate but can be a bit slow and noisy. Despite that, it was able to keep up with my shooting no problem, and locked on to subjects easily.

What really sets this lens apart is its 4.3-inch minimum focus distance. This makes it perfect for getting creative photos, or using the lens’ macro capabilities. Compared to Tamron’s main competitor with this lens — the Sigma 20mm f/2 Contemporary lens — you can capture objects two times closer. That’s super impressive.

Tamron 20mm f/2.8 — Image quality

The Tamron 20mm is certainly a workhorse, and gets the job done no matter what you throw at it. While it won’t have the beautiful optics of, say, a Sony G Master or Sigma Art lens, what you get for the price is simply stunning.

Distortion control and vignetting

Compared to the Tamron 35mm, there is some barrel distortion (as well as a slight vignette) with the Tamron 20mm. That said, this is expected from a wide-angle lens, and is easily correctable in post-processing.

Ghosting, flaring and chromatic aberrations

Chromatic aberrations are no issue for the Tamron 20mm, nor was flaring. There is some very, very slight ghosting present when shooting into the sun, but it’s hardly noticeable.

Sharpness

Like its 35mm counterpart, the Tamron 20mm eludes sharpness. Corners can be a bit soft, but improve at f/8. Tamron has done a real nice job with this, providing sharpness that I’d expect from a $1000-plus lens … not one that costs a few hundred bucks.

Bokeh

You’re not going to buy a 20mm wide-angle lens for bokeh. That said, it does produce some nice background separation with a beautiful falloff.

The lens also has macro capabilities, meaning you can get up close to subjects up to 4.3 inches away. It’s a nice feature in a pinch, and this definitely accentuates the depth of field you get with the lens.

Color rendition

Colors lean slightly warm, but are very pleasing. This is similar to other Tamron lenses for Sony E mount.



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Rafael Jones

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