Tamron 24mm f/2.8 Review
Prime lenses tend to come in two flavours: big, fast, heavy and expensive lumps of glass with amazing bokeh, or small, lightweight, walkaround lenses that offer convenience and comparatively dull maximum apertures.
The Tamron 24mm f/2.8 Di III OSD M 1:2 sits towards the latter of these extremes.
That said, this lens for Sony full-frame mount does come with a few bonus features that give it a serious advantage — and one notable disadvantage — when compared with its main competitor, the Rokinon/Samyang AF 24mm f/2.8.
As a fan of small, lightweight lenses, I enjoyed playing with the Tamron 24mm f/2.8 for a month and this is definitely a lens that will take you by surprise.
Let’s take a closer look to see if it’s worthy of your camera bag here in 2021.
Tamron 24mm f/2.8 Specs
- Macro capabilities
- Image quality; sharpness in particular
- Compact size and weight
- Slow and noisy autofocus
- Retails for around $349
- Sony FE full-frame mount
- Aperture Range: f/2.8 to f/22
- 10 elements in 9 groups
- 7 diaphragm blades
- Angle of view: 84° 4′
- Minimum Focus Distance: 4.7″ / 11.94 cm
- Dimensions: 2.87 x 2.5″ / 73 x 63.5 mm
- Filter size: 67mm
- Weight: 7.6 oz / 215 g
Build & Ergonomics
In line with Tamron’s tendency to make lenses that are more affordable when compared to the likes of Sony and Sigma, the Tamron 24mm f/2.8 is primarily of plastic construction – though it does have a more refined feel when compared to similar lenses from Samyang.
Many commentators list these Tamron primes (see also the Tamron 35mm f/2.8) as being lightweight, but this only really applies when you compare them to lenses with much faster maximum apertures.
The Tamron 24mm f/2.8 is compact and easy to carry, but not when compared to lenses from Samyang.
There is no customisable control ring or button as you would find on more expensive FE-mount lenses. This helps to keep costs down, especially when you consider that this lens has weather-sealing.
The focusing ring has a smooth, precise feel typically found on more expensive glass.
Like lots of other Tamron lenses, it has a 67mm front filter thread, making it possible to switch filters easily between lenses if you start amassing a Tamron collection.
The lens was quite stiff the first time I attached it to my Sony a7 III, requiring a little bit more force than I expected to make it slot into place.
I also noticed that the Tamron rear caps are slightly loose when fitted to other lenses.
Once it had been removed and replace a handful of times, the fit loosened up somewhat.
The Tamron 24mm f/2.8 suits the smaller size of the a7 series of Sony mirrorless cameras, giving it a pleasing balance.
Autofocus on the Tamron 24mm f/2.8 is incredibly precise and for good reason: the minimum focusing distance on this lens is a tiny 4.7″ (11.94 cm).
For a 24mm, this lens has an impressive macro reproduction ratio of 1:2.
Because of the tiny adjustments required when focusing this close to the lens, the motors driving the autofocus have to be spot on.
As a result, Tamron opted to fit this lens with an Optical Silent Drive (OSD) motor, rather than the Rapid eXtra-silent Drive (RXD) that’s used on the Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8 and 28-75mm f/2.8 lenses.
However, this means that autofocus is notably slower than you would find on this lens’s direct competitor, the Samyang AF 24mm f/2.8.
Shifting focus between subjects which are a metre away and five metres away from the lens can be sluggish, especially in low light.
Objects are tracked smoothly but subjects that suddenly appear in frame can take a moment to acquire.
Autofocus is also quite noisy, with a noticeable click as images become crisp. This means that the lens is probably not ideal for vlogging, despite its wide angle.
Image quality is exceptional with this lens.
Its slightly longer counterpart, the Tamron 35mm f/2.8, was impressively crisp but the Tamron 24mm f/2.8 is even sharper, offering impressive results even when shooting wide open.
As you’d expect, there is some corner softness at wide apertures which is soon resolved when you stop down.
Shooting into direct sunlight does not faze this lens. Hardly any contrast is lost and chromatic aberrations are well-controlled and very easily corrected in Lightroom.
Typically, I’ve no huge interest in shooting macro images, but being able to get super-close to lichen and pine needles proved to be a lot of fun, especially when sunlight was streaming into the lens.
The lens does suffer from a fair degree of barrel distortion but I would argue that it’s not unexpected from a lens of this size and at this price point.
The transition from sharp to out of focus areas of the image is pleasing, and bokeh, though rarely what you’d look for in a wide-angle prime, is pleasant enough.
Value for Money
Rather than the universal appeal of Tamron’s successful zoom lenses, this 24mm f/2.8 lens has much more limited allure – though it also has very few competitors.
If you need a portable, weather-sealed, wide-angle prime that has some fun macro capabilities and don’t mind the somewhat boring maximum aperture, around $350 is a good price.
The smaller, lighter Samyang 24mm f/2.8 can usually be found a little cheaper, but while it has much faster autofocus, it’s definitely not as sharp and doesn’t include weather sealing.
This is an affordable lens for Sony full-frame cameras, but it’s certainly not a cheap or budget option.
If the autofocus is not a huge concern, there’s a lot of value in terms of convenience and image quality.
Tamron 24mm f/2.8 Review | Conclusion
For me, a walk-around lens of this size and maximum aperture needs to be a solid all-rounder, and while the images are wonderfully sharp, the sluggish autofocus is a bit of a deal-breaker.
For others who are more interested in, say, landscapes rather than street photographer, or playing with the macro capabilities rather than trying to capture rapidly moving subjects that require snappy autofocus, this would make an excellent purchase.
Tamron have developed a reputation for lenses that offer excellent image quality at aggressive prices that have been achieved by making some very smart compromises.
The Tamron 24mm f/2.8 doesn’t quite fall into that category, but this is an impressive lens and you have to respect Tamron for creating something that’s a touch different to everything else on the market.
Disclaimer: All recommendations are impartial and based on user experience, with no bias to the products or the brand. The products in this post may contain affiliate links.