You don’t always need to go ultra, ultra wide for real estate photography


As tempting as it may be to get an ultra-wide lens that zooms to 14mm, 12mm or even 10mm, sometimes something narrower like the Tamron 17-28 f/2.8 Di III RXD can be just as effective.

For starters, Ultra, Ultra Wides are usually heavy beasts

Compact, lightweight and weatherproof – a rare combination for an ultra wide-angle lens.

If you’ve ever worked with an ultra-wide, fast lens like the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 S, you know it’s a gorgeous lens – but it weighs a ton! Carrying it around all day can definitely cause excessive pain. The same applies to the Sony 12-24mm. As great and wide as this lens is, it tips the scales at a whopping 1.86 pounds. Wide-angle, large-aperture lenses are usually rugged, rugged lenses. But it doesn’t have to be like that…

My first impression of the Tamron 17-28mm was, “Is that an f/2.8 ultra wide?” It just doesn’t look like it – it’s far too small and far too light to be taken seriously as an ultra wide. Even the front filter thread, given its meager size of only 67mm, would of course raise the question of whether the Tammy is suitable for its intended task.

At a featherweight – for its class – 14.82 ounces (420 g), the Tamron is a breeze to carry around all day. Particularly striking for someone like me who goes for ultra wide angles is the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 S mounted on a Z 6II. In comparison, the a7 IV with the Tamron 17-28mm feels like a featherweight compared to a doorstop.

Contributing to its compact design, the 17-28mm features a front filter thread that measures just 67mm

The zoom ring is firm and tactile with a nice, comfortable resistance. The lens zooms internally, meaning the lens does not extend past the limits of the lens barrel. The focus ring, on the other hand, hardly offers any resistance. It’s fly-by-wire – like so many E-mount lenses – meaning we don’t have a focus distance scale. While focus works well enough, I prefer a focus ring that is physically attached to the lens elements.

The big advantage of the Tamron is actually its low weight. It’s just great to carry around all day. The lens is also dust and moisture resistant, meaning we don’t have to worry about exposing it to the elements.

My arms and back don’t hurt like they do after a long day with my other wide angle lenses.

Ultra, ultra wides can suffer from Alice in Wonderland-like distortion

A lot of us in the real estate photography industry tend to get really addicted to super wide angle glass. There are many downsides to this way of thinking, as previously mentioned, the bigger, faster and wider a lens is, the more it generally weighs. The second big issue is distortion – when a lens gets wider than 15mm, there’s almost no way to avoid some weird distortion in your images. It’s just a physical reality.

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For the Tamron 17-28mm, our starting point is a wide 17mm, but at that end of the millimeter spectrum, a percentage difference of 2 or 3mm is significantly larger. This can make the images much more prone to distortion, causing Alice in Wonderland-like distortion if you’re not careful.

The Tamron, because it starts at 17mm, means my images – while not as wide – tend to be less distorted with straighter vertical lines. This is especially noticeable at the frame edges, where distortion is an ugly head for many real estate photographers.

The fast autofocus is nice, but not a deal breaker

When we take wide-angle shots, the subjects are mostly static. That means we’re out and about taking pictures of real estate, architecture and landscapes. In these situations, the scene generally does not move. Ultra-fast AF is nice, but it certainly won’t be a deal-breaker if the lens doesn’t have it.

Also, we usually shoot with a narrower aperture to get the whole scene sharp. Speaking for myself I’m mostly at f/8 with an ultra wide angle and as long as I focus on something in the center of the scene the entire scene is rendered crisp.

I can think of many situations where fast AF would definitely come in handy. Maybe you spin fast action sports – think winter sports and skateboarding. I’m happy to report that the Tamron’s AF is fast and decisive, and most importantly, accurate and extra wide open! Tamron uses a stepper motor that is almost noiseless and very fast. Here are some photo examples of the AF set at f/2.8. As you can see in this example, very decisively and very quickly with just the slightest “jackhammer”.

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While AF is very, very good on photos, video AF is a bit inconsistent. I selected continuous AF with animal and human AF. On the first two attempts, the camera/lens didn’t detect any eyes at all. In fact, it didn’t even recognize motives. Then suddenly it started working – and it worked well. I’m still not sure what happened there; here are a few examples of the video AF once I got it working;

Overall, AF performance is solid for photos and seems to work with video once it gets going.

Ultimately, what counts are the results

For me as a working professional and for my clients – what counts are results. At the end of the day, image quality matters. I’m happy to say that the Tamron 17-28mm is a gem of a lens for the way and style I shoot! Several other photographers have commented on the image quality of some of the images I have posted.

If you’re a working professional, just expect things to work. The 17-28 by by and large gets the job done in the image quality department. Below are some examples.

sharpness

Images are sharp and clean from corner to corner without much image degradation – this is very impressive.

bokeh

Wide open and very close to the minimum focus distance, the 17-28mm lens is able to render a nice if not remarkable out of focus blur. By the way, I love hot cholula sauce – just saying.

Like any wide-angle lens, we don’t buy the Tamron for its stunning bokeh capabilities. Because of the crazy wide field of view, it’s difficult to get a decent bokeh shot unless the lens is close or at the minimum focus distance and wide open. This is about the only time it’s possible to render the background out of focus. Even then, we’re still not raving about stellar bokeh—smooth? Secure. But remarkable? Mmm, not really.

Chromatic aberration

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems to me that most lens manufacturers have engineered chromatic aberration out of lenses – at least in the latest iteration of lenses. These days, some lens manufacturers actually seem to be trying to intentionally introduce bugs into their optics. You call it character, I just call it bad optics. With maybe the tiniest bit of magenta in the high contrast areas, but nothing to ruin an image. Bottom line, chromatic aberrations are essentially irrelevant on the 17-28mm.

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flicker

As with most wide-angle lenses, flare can ruin an image when a bright ray of light – like the sun or a flashlight – hits the right spot. Overall it’s well controlled, but at the right angle, beware, it can ruin your image. Here’s an example of a flashlight moving around the edges and if caught in the right spot it’s a torch tsunami!

The Tamron 17-28mm lets you go far with the benefits of a standard zoom

When you need to go far, not ultra, ultra wide, but wide angle. Then the Tamron 17-28mm should definitely be on your short list of lenses. Especially if you are on a tight budget. For what it is and what it can do, the 17-28mm lens is a remarkable achievement. Stunningly sharp optics – especially in the corners which is impressive, well-controlled chromatic aberrations, good bokeh and fast, precise AF. All wrapped up in a lightweight, affordable, high-quality package.

There’s a lot to love about the 17-28mm. As a pro using Nikon’s 14-24mm, I’m more than a little jealous that I can get these kinds of results for a third of the price!

When it comes to defects, there are a few important considerations. At the wide end, we’re just a tad short at 17mm. I wish Tamron would have expanded it to 15 or 16. My favorite focal length in real estate is 14mm. I understand that would affect the cost, weight and image quality. However, there’s been more than one occasion where I’ve wished for something just a tad wider than what the Tamron has to offer. The other side of the equation is that we are limited to 28mm. I assume a shorter focal length range is a bit easier to manufacture, but I wish Tamron had given us 15-25mm or 14-24mm instead.

For what it is, the 17-28 is an all-round exceptional lens, especially at its price. It’s a great real estate option.



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