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Tamron SP 35mm & 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD review

At last, it’s prime time for Tamron as the lensmaker enters the fray with a brand new pair of fast, up-market lenses. Find out how they perform in our Tamron SP 35mm and 45mm f/1.8 review.

Tamron 35mm lens

They’re a bit like buses – you wait ages for a Tamron prime lens to turn up (macro optics aside), then two arrive at once.

The new 35mm and 45mm lenses have essentially the same design criteria and look incredibly similar, apart from the 45mm lens being physically longer by 11mm, and 60g heavier. Here’s what they have in common.

Both have pro-grade build quality which includes metal lens barrels, weather-seals and a wonderfully refined and well-engineered feel to the two lenses. Switches are large and easy to operate, even with icy winter fingers, while the manual focus rings are silky-smooth and very precise. Overall, handling is a complete joy.

Tamron 45mm

Unlike the pricier Sigma f/1.4 Art series of prime lenses, the Tamron duo are two-thirds of a stop slower with a widest available aperture of f/1.8. It’s worth noting, however, that the Sigma lenses don’t have weather-seals and lack optical stabilization.

Both additions are welcome in the Tamron lenses, especially VC (Vibration Compensation), which gives a benefit equivalent to about four stops.

On full-frame cameras, the 35mm lens has a classic, moderately wide viewing angle of 63 degrees, whereas the 51 degrees of the 45mm lens makes it a ‘standard’ prime, to all intents and purposes.

Further attractions include close minimum focus distances, and USD (Ultrasonic Silent Drive) autofocus, which is fairly fast, ultra-quiet and has the usual full-time manual override.

High-tech, top-quality glass includes moulded aspherical elements and LD (Low Dispersion) elements, while the 35mm lens also adds an XLD (eXtra Low Dispersion) element.

Both lenses use eBAND and BBAR nano-technology coatings to reduce ghosting and flare, and both have additional fluorine coatings to repel muck and help make the front element easier to clean.

Tamron 35mm

Performance
Throughout our lab tests, the Tamron lenses didn’t exactly blow us away with sharpness scores. Instead, results indicated levels of sharpness that are slightly below average for this class of lens.

In real-world testing, however, we were really impressed at the ability of both lenses to deliver images with real bite and great contrast, even under dull lighting conditions at their widest f/1.8 aperture.

Stopping down a little, the nine-blade diaphragms maintain well-rounded apertures which help to keep a smooth appearance for defocused areas.

Tamron 45mm

Naturally, it’s easier to get a tight depth of field with the 45mm lens, compared with the wider-angle 35mm lens.

Even so, the close focusing abilities of both lenses make it possible to blur out the background if you can shoot from close to the main subject.

Tamron 35mm

Colour fringing and distortions are minimal, and vignetting is also well controlled, even when using the widest available f/1.8 aperture.

Overall performance is very impressive and image quality is a good match for the up-market design and precision build of these new Tamron lenses.

Lab Results

Lab Results

Click to see the larger version.

Specifications

Full-frame compatible
Yes

Effective focal lengths 
56mm/72mm (APS-C)

Image Stabilizer
Yes

Minimum focus distances 
0.2m/0.29m

Max magnification factors 
0.4x/0.29x

Manual focus override
Full-time

Focus limit switches
No

Internal zoom
N/A

Internal focus
Yes

Filter size
67mm

Iris blades
9

Weather seals
Yes

Supplied accessories
Lens hood, caps

Dimensions (dia x length)
80.4×80.8mm/80.4×91.7mm

Weights
480g/540g

Price
£550/$600 (each)

Tamron 35mm VERDICT

A step up from the Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM, this new Tamron inspires confidence with its excellent build quality, clever design and great handling. Even so, it could be a little sharper at f/1.8.

Features: 5/5
Build & handling: 5/5
Image quality: 4.5/5
Value: 4.5/5
Overall: 4.5/5

Tamron 45mm VERDICT

Marginally wider than a 50mm lens, this 45mm optic is nevertheless a great choice as a fairly fast standard lens for full-frame cameras or as a portrait lens for APS-C format bodies.

Features: 5/5
Build & handling: 5/5
Image quality: 4.5/5
Value: 4.5/5
Overall: 4.5/5

READ MORE

10 things to look for when upgrading your standard lens
6 ways to cope with only a prime lens
Best superzoom lens for travel: 8 lightweight optics tested and rated
6 most popular lenses of Digital Camera World readers (plus 6 more you’d love to own)


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