DA* 16-50mm vs. Sigma and Tamron 17-50mm F2.8 Comparison
The Bottom Line
| "Ambitious |
| "Simply |
| "A Superb |
Going into this review, we knew that all three leses were highly regarded by owners. We also knew that they offered different levels of features and construction quality. In those respects, there were no surprises. The Pentax and Sigma lenses are far more fully-featured than the Tamron. They're also larger and heavier, by quite a large degree.
What we weren't so sure about was their relative optical performance. Given their prices, one could be forgiven for assuming that the Pentax and Sigma offerings would beat the pants off the Tamron. However, particularly for the Pentax, this simply wasn't the case. Though the Tamron ranks second overall in the final scoring, it earned that competitiveness almost solely on the merits of the image quality it can produce. While we'd hesitate to say it's a definitively better lens than the Sigma optically, it does at times exceed the Sigma in sharpness, and roundly bests it flare resistance while edging slightly ahead in other categories as well.
The Pentax was the biggest surprise, and the biggest disappointment. Though its construction and features are a thing of beauty, it clearly brings up the rear in the overall optics race. Poor wide open sharpness, atrocious flare resistance, and heavy distortion at 16mm make it hard to justify its sky-high price, even given its headlining features like full-time manual focus, weather resistance, and truly gorgeous build.
In the end, however, we're mostly splitting hairs here. In the hands of a capable photographer, any of these lenses could produce great results, and each will find a home with a different subset of buyers. For those who shoot in challenging conditions, the image quality issues that affect the Pentax at f/2.8 will probably be outweighed by its ruggedness and weather sealing. For those looking for the best across-the-frame image quality at f/2.8, the Sigma will easily be the best choice. And bargain hunters will strike gold with the Tamron, which offers a truly unbeatable value proposition.
*A note to potential buyers: As mentioned previously in this review, the Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 XR Di II lens is currently eligible for a $25.00 rebate. This rebate is in effect until the end of the year, and brings the total price to $434.00 at B&H Photo (down from the list price of $459).
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