Reviews of the Tamron SP 35mm and 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD full frame lenses

The first reviews of the two new 35mm and 45mm f/1.8 full frame Tamron lenses with Vibration Compensation are now available online (both priced at $599, shipping starts on September 29th):

"I used Imatest to check the sharpness of the lens when paired with the full-frame Nikon D810$2,996.95 at Dell. At f/1.8 the lens exhibits excellent sharpness, scoring 2,848 lines per picture height on a center-weighted test. That's better than the 1,800 lines we like to see in an image. Sharpness does drop as you move away from the center of the frame; at the edges the lens shows 2,420 lines, which is a 15 percent decrease, but details are still crisp to my eye. You can comfortably frame subjects at the edge without worrying about clarity." (PCmag on the Tamron 35mm f/1.8 lens)

"I used Imatest to check the sharpness of the lens when paired with the full-frame Nikon D810$2,996.95 at Dell. At f/1.8 the lens scores 2,822 lines per picture height on our standard center-weighted sharpness test—that's much better than the 1,800 lines we like to see in a photo. There is a drop in clarity at the edges of the frame, but they're still decently crisp at 2,143 lines. There's not much improvement at f/2, but the score improves to 3,189 lines at f/2.8, with edges still lagging behind the razor-sharp center and mid parts of the frame." (PCmag on the Tamron 45mm f/1.8 lens)

"Tamron SP 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD verdict: Tamron has created an excellent lens which is certainly more than capable of delivering excellent results in a wide range of conditions. It sports premium features such as weather sealing, exotic optical coatings and Vibration Compensation in a reasonably lightweight body. In time, as the price drops away from the initial launch RRP, this lens may start to represent better value for money. At the moment, this is the only thing that blots an otherwise clean copy-book. Travellers, in particular, will appreciate the relative light weight for its size, Vibration Compensation, weather sealing and robust build. Whether that is worth paying, will be down to the individual." (Ephotozine)

"The Tamron SP 35mm f/1.8 Di VC USD is a more affordable alternative to the OEM offerings from Nikon and Canon and the class-leading Sigma 35mm Art lens, with the added benefits of an effective image stabilisation system and weather-sealing. It can't quite match the Sigma lens for outright image quality, though, and the f/1.8 maximum aperture isn't as fast as its main rivals, so you need to decide which features are most important and just how much money you're prepared to spend on a premium 35mm lens." (Photographyblog on the Tamron 35mm f/1.8 lens)

"Eventually it all depends on the price tag. Tamron surely scores off the competition a little bit with their two new lenses. Of course we are talking about bits and bobs at a high quality level. Nevertheless Tamron has succeeded in setting a whole new dimension regarding the quality standard of camera lenses. Both new lenses are absolutely high-end and provide outstanding quality even for megapixel-monster cameras." (krolop-gerst)

"Overall, I've found the lenses to be rather impressive, especially when you consider the $600 price tag. That puts it right at the same price point as the Nikon 35mm F/1.8 (which lacks image stabilization) and the Canon 35mm F/2 IS, which is a little bit slower and lacks the close-focusing capabilities of the new Tamrons." (Popphoto)

"To suppress ghosting and flare, Tamron has applied both eBAND (extended bandwidth and angular-dependency) and BBAR (broad-band anti-reflection) coatings to critical elements to reduce reflections and provide maximum light transmission. This reduces internal reflections that can cause ghosting and flare to a minimum." (layersmagazine)

"Finally, and probably most importantly, Tamron included what I consider to be the best optical stabilization available, Vibration Compensation, in both the 35mm and the 45mm. This is a big deal, as getting super-reliable image stabilization allows you 3.5 additional stops of light when shooting hand held. Shakey hands or minute vibrations to a tripoded camera are nothing to worry about with these new Tamron SP lenses." (resourcemagonline)

"Taking a page out of Sigma's book, Tamron is revamping their higher-end 'SP' line of premium lenses, starting with a pair of fast, ƒ/1.8 image stabilized prime lenses. The longer 45mm ƒ/1.8 VC prime offers an excellent balance of affordable price and image quality. Furthermore, the Tamron 45mm ƒ/1.8 VC, maintain this low price while including lots of high-end features only seen on pro lenses at double the price, such as weather sealing, all-metal barrel construction and fluorine-coated lenses. Add in the as-yet unmatched image stabilization and you have a very compelling lens." (SLRgear)

Check also this interview with the designers of the new Tamron lenses.

Hands-on video and VC test of the new Tamron lenses:

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  • doge

    Wow. What a pointless VC test video.

    • transferase

      Oh I disagree – it perfectly demonstrated that, as predicted, VC is pretty useless at 35mm.

      • Aldo

        I disagree… for video at least… but this guy failed to keep the camera steady to notice any sort of difference.

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      • ss

        pretty useless for who? you? it must be for everyone then?

        • transferase

          Perhaps useless is too strong, but I’m not making a point of preference. 35mm is quite wide on FF and thus observable camera shake is a much larger change of angle than at more telephoto focal lengths – so much so that VC isn’t terribly helpful.

          • Mike

            Bunk. Utter bunk.

    • Hardcore_Fanboy

      video is as pointless as VC for sub 50mmm lenses – yes it is there, yes fanboys root for it – no noone (even not the fan boys) uses or need it

      • preston

        The VR on my 16-35 comes in handy all the time. Example – low light interiors where tripods are not allowed (like in museums).

        • Stan Chung

          especially when we don’t have one handy

      • ss

        this is absurd haha

    • Aldo

      To be honest it seems that the tester doesn’t even make any sort of effort to keep the camera steady…

  • “Travellers will apreciate its relative light weight, size”? I dont think so! This is why I dont use the sigma 35 1.4 while traveling. I believe the voigtlander 40mm f2 is best for that: nearly 3x lighter and 3x smaller. The duo 40mm & 20mm from CV is excellent.

    • fanboy fagz

      yea voigtlander are legendary. shame no Af though but I know many videographers who love using their lenses.

      • Eric Calabros

        Just give me a optimized-for-manual-focusing viewfinder and I’ll be fine. Nikon should change its mind about that. Manual, is not lack of something, its freedom.

        • fanboy fagz

          theres something to that. for video manual focus is the only way, but on the dance floor on weddings, it gets very dark and I have to have AF. I gave up my 85 1.4 AIS for an 85 1.8D just for having that.

  • Ryan

    Much better to have a video just standing in one spot, aiming at something then switch between VC on and off for a few seconds on each setting. Would’ve been great to see a few sample shots at 1.8 as well!

  • ValenzTa

    Any new Nikon Dslr’s in the horizon?

    • fanboy fagz

      the big boss Peter spoke of the D5. nothing on DX though. possibly mirrorless next year. you dont visit often? what we have great arguments here 😉 really entertaining.

      • We especially like to gang up on fagboy…

  • fanboy fagz

    impressive lenses but price is a bit high I think. $450 for each and its GTG.

  • El Aura

    SLRgear has also tested the 45 mm already.

  • I’m not sure who Tamron thinks are going to buy these lenses. The Nikon 50mm f/1.8G is a very nice lens and it’s a little over $200. The Nikon 35mm f/1.8G is also a good lens for the same price as the Tamron. These lenses should either be faster, focus closer or something else to warrant the kind of money they are asking. As an aside, I’ve never been too keen on Tamron after having purchased a 90mm macro many years back that had residue from cleaning fluid on most of the lens surfaces inside the lens. They replaced it, no problem, but the condition was so blatant I couldn’t imagine how it got through QC (or if it even went in the first place). It was MANY moons ago, so I probably shouldn’t even bring it up, but it does show how long you suffer when you make a mistake in a competitive market like camera equipment.

    • harvey

      And how many of those Nikon lenses have VR? What are the Canon versions with IS selling for?

      • Well, OK, but honestly, I don’t really find myself needing image stabilization on these focal lengths that much. I just shot an event where I was hand holding my 50mm f/1.8 set at f/2.8. The shutter speeds were dancing around 1/40 to 1/80 and the images looked excellent at 100%. I’ll admit they weren’t perfect, but the stuff I delivered to the client looked good at normal magnification. I just don’t see image stabilization all that necessary on lenses of this focal length given the excellent high ISO performance of today’s cameras. I sure wouldn’t pay an extra $400 for an f/1.8 lens just to have it.

    • Will

      have you completely neglected stabilisation?

      I would take these over the Nikkors anyday, but I wouldn’t pick these over sigma art

      • I guess if image stabilization is THAT important, then go for it. But given the issues of auto focus performance and overall compatibility I’m not sure I’d be swayed with lenses this short.

    • KnightPhoto

      I’ll pile on too on why I would buy this: a sharp, fast, reasonably compact prime, with VC being a big factor for me, nice looking build, weather sealing, and from what I’ve seen so far nice looking bokeh, and toss in the bonus close focussing feature, and the DLSLRGEAR review showing stunning sharpness stopped down and very good wide-open. I have some reservations about the Art’s bokeh so I haven’t thought about where my shooting would benefit from those, whereas these Tammy’s would make a nice addition to a prime kit I intend to build that is mostly Nikkors for travel, portrait, night street, and just plain fun of shooting primes.

    • Neither of the Nikon lenses is stabilized, weather sealed, or as good in the corners either I suspect.

      These lenses, IMO, are more of a budget Sigma Art option, for folks who are willing to drop 2/3 of a stop in aperture in exchange for those things I mentioned.

  • Carleton Foxx

    Am I correct in assuming that we’re trading slightly lesser resolution for the image-sharpening benefits of vibration reduction?

    For me that would be a perfectly reasonable tradeoff because I find it hard to get exquisitely sharp images unless i use a pretty hefty tripod.

    Even at fast shutter speeds handheld I’m finding that the pixel density of the D810 is so high that the slightest movement degrades the photo.

    Will these lenses let me leave my tripod at home when I have to shoot an indoor event?

    • preston

      No, I wouldn’t assume that these are any less sharp than the Nikons. The Nikons are not sharp at all at max aperture.

    • Jim Leahy

      No, your assumption is incorrect. It has been my experience that VR lenses do not lessen the resolution of the lens. They correct for camera movement to the point that in most cases a tripod is unnecessary. Inspecting the photos at 100% or better rarely reveals any camera shake, however there are limits and sweet spots. Conversely most of my lenses especially the primes are older non VR. I always make it a practice to brace myself someway during shooting and always follow the shutter speed vs focal length rules. My non VR pictures are also sharp at 100%. VR and good technique equal sharp photos and actually get me 3 stops better results in low light. I find that most people who are getting unsharp pictures while handholding are not correctly holding the camera, are punching the shutter button or are shooting beyond the capabilities of the shutter speed to freeze movement. The 800/810 test your techniques and will punish you with poor results for bad techniques. Tripod use helps reduce camera shake and mirror up helps more, but it becomes a crutch for bad technique. I’ll bet you are holding your camera with the overhand grip and using to low of an ISO. My favorite photo challenge is shooting wedding receptions in low light. I refrain from using flash and don’t use VR lenses. I use 20, 35, 85 & 135DC lenses mostly wide open. Many photos are taken braced on a table and/or panning with the subject. I get some unusable images and I expect that, but the good ones are incredible.

      • Good answer, and what you mentioned about “limits and sweet spots” is exactly right. These new Tamron’s are not “I’m gonna buy just one lens and use it everywhere” kind of lenses. They (like most lenses) have a couple of things they’re going to do better than others. I’m looking forward to putting the 45mm through it’s paces. And please, Tamron… if you’re listening… we want a 135mm f/2 with VR and weather sealing.

      • Carleton Foxx

        Sorry, I didn’t mean VR was less sharp. I just assume that third-party lenses trade performance for price and I figured that a Tamron would not be as awesome as a Nikon but would offer the compensating feature of VR. And no, I use a normal grip, but I probably drink a lot more coffee than you do. My hit rate is about 1 in 5 truly sharp pix when handheld.

        • Jim Leahy

          I use Nikon products and have since 1976. The third party lenses have greatly improved especially with the introduction of the art type lenses. They are on par with the best that the major camera manufacturers produce and are much cheaper. Your hit rate for sharp images suggest to me that the problem is bad technique. I don’t know under what circumstances, lighting conditions or settings lens combination you are using but something is very wrong. As an experiment use auto ISO, AF-S and shutter priority mode. Set the shutter speed to twice the focal length of your lens or if you use a zoom the highest focal length. Take a variety of photos in different lighting conditions. You should see no camera shake induced softness in your photos. You may see motion blur but the rest of the frame should be sharp.

          • Carleton Foxx

            Yes, they’re pretty sharp that way but I suffer from a mild case of geekitis and my benchmark is pictures taken at a moderate aperture, using a speedlight or two, at 1/320 sec with mirror lockup and a real tripod. So I’m up for whatever gets me closer to that when I’m out shooting my normal assignments.

  • TL,DR; what about the coma and field curvature?

  • Jim Leahy

    VC or whatever acronym you use does not a steadycam make. It helps slightly but is designed for still photography rather than video. In video the internals are moving in response to the cameras movements, a process that does not stop therefore individual frames may be sharper but the overall movement of the camera continues to be shaky. Also anyone experienced in video knows that panning at the speed shown in this video is poor technique. Obviously the writer of this piece was in a hurry to review the lenses and did not have much time for a proper test. What is groundbreaking is the competition behind the independent lens makers to improve their product and sell same at a reasonable price, far less than the major companies price fixed gouging. I predict that Nikon will counter with a new series of economy lenses.

  • vorios

    At Ephotozine we can compare Nikon’s 35mm 1:1,8g with Tamron’s 35mm. Unfortunately (for Tamron) Nikon’s MTF charts look clearly better and CAs are slightly less also. At Photographyblog Tamron looks better when it comes to CAs (of cource photos are not directly comparable). For the same price I would prefer Nikon even without VR.

    For the 45mm my only comment is that it is closer to “normal” (~43mm), but Nikon’s offerings at 50mm leave very little space for other manufacturers.

  • Duncan Dimanche

    VR aside there aren’t many weather sealed prime lens at this price range… so that’s a HUGE plus and good job Tamron I’m exited for some real side by side testing. I hope that the AF is fast and accurate

  • Captain Megaton

    That 45/1.8 is HUGE. Dwarfs the 5DSR even, as seen in the photographyblog review. The 35/1.8 is only slightly smaller.

    Performance is fine. The axial CA is visible and, perhaps the biggest worry, doesn’t seem to dry up as the lens is stopped down — but it’s barely noticeable.

    I guess its just not my cup of tea: these lenses trade size and performance* for VC and close focus, my preference is for small size, no frills, low cost.

    *wide open performance is seemingly optimized at the expense of better results stopped down. I’ll happily take soft and dull wide open if the lens improves naturally over its aperture range.

  • Alexandr Darius Maximilian Rad

    Please, does any of these reviews actually asses the precision of auto-focus of the 35mm Tamron lens? Especially compared to the Nikon model.
    Yeah, some of us lazy people still use auto-focusing, even with off-centre focus points 😀

  • nikrum

    useful on a nikon F6 with 50 iso film (velvia, cinestill)

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