Nikon Looks to be Rehousing Tamron Lenses for its Mirrorless Cameras

Nikon and Tamron lenses side by side

Nikon’s first-party lens support for its Z-mount mirrorless cameras has been growing rapidly over the last few years to nearly 30 optics. But to support that rapid growth, the company appears to be purchasing Tamron designs and rehousing them to appear as Nikon originals.

Last night, Nikon announced a new 17-28mm f/2.8 lens for its full-frame Z-mount cameras. However, some have noticed that this lens bears a striking resemblance to the Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8 for Sony E-mount cameras that was originally launched in 2019.

On the outside, the lenses look to be about the same size and shape but have clearly different branding. Since the Tamron lens was originally made for E-mount, the dimensions and weight do differ from Nikon’s new lens. For example, the Tamron original weighs 420 grams while the Nikon version weighs 450 grams.

Nikon and Tamron lenses side by side

While some exterior changes are to be expected, the interior appears to be unchanged. Comparing the optical arrangement of the interior arrangement of glass optics, the two lenses look identical.

Optical Arrangement of the Tamron 17-28mm F/2.8 Di III RXD, via Tamron
Optical arrangment of the Nikon 17-28mm f/2.8 lens, via Nikon Japan

The similarities are further exemplified after examining the MTF charts, which also appear to be extremely similar, if not identical:

Wide MTF chart for the Nikon 17-28mm f/2.8 lens, via Nikon Japan
Wide MTF chart for the Tamron 17-28mm F/2.8 Di III RXD, via Tamron
Telephoto MTF chart for the Nikon 17-28mm f/2.8 lens, via Nikon Japan
Telephoto MTF chart for the Tamron 17-28mm F/2.8 Di III RXD, via Tamron

This isn’t the first time that Nikon has been accused of rehousing what was originally a Tamron lens. Last year, Nikon released a 28-75mm f/2.8 that, like the latest 17-28mm f/2.8, bore striking resemblance to a Tamron lens that was released just a few months prior, the 28-75mm f/2.8 Di III VXD G2.

Nikon and Tamron lenses side by side

Nikon had not provided a response to PetaPixel’s request for comment by the time of publication, which is not all that surprising; it is unlikely that the company will say anything publicly given the sensitive nature of this topic. At this time, all anyone can do is speculate that these lenses from two different companies are in fact the same lens.

It’s not necessarily a problem that Nikon is doing this, since these two Tamron lenses are not being made available in Z-mount, so it’s not like Nikon is charging more for a lens that could be purchased for cheaper (like a name-brand medication versus the generic on the shelf at Target). That said, it is pretty unusual to see a major camera and lens manufacturer lean on what amounts to a competitor in order to build out a robust first-party lens lineup.

Tamron and Nikon clearly have a pretty cozy relationship, illustrated not only by this arrangement where Nikon will simply rehouse a Tamron-developed optic but also in Nikon’s willingness to work with Tamron as an official licensee to its Z-mount, a fact that PetaPixel confirmed earlier this month.

This also isn’t a situation that makes up a majority of Nikon’s new Z-mount lenses — quite the opposite, actually. Nikon is still producing the vast majority of its first-party lenses in-house, leaning on Tamron in only a select couple of circumstances. That said, it’s unlikely this will be the last time this situation comes up.