Review 5

Tamron SP 35mm and SP 45mm F/1.8 Prime Lenses Review

I recently traveled to New York City for some Hands On time with Tamron’s newest SP Series prime lenses. After establishing some positive First Look impressions, I spent another two days testing the lenses in multiple shooting scenarios and lighting conditions on a couple different camera bodies. Let’s see how they performed.

Designed for Full Frame as well as APS-C format DSLRs, the SP 35mm F/1.8 Di VC USD (model F012) boasts an F/1.8 maximum aperture, built-in three-axis Vibration Compensation (VC), Ultrasonic Silent Drive technology for near-silent autofocus, a Fluorine lens coating to repel water and fingerprints, and a 7.9-inch MOD (minimum object distance). With a Full Frame DSLR, the focal length is 35mm, while in APS-C, that extends to a 54mm equivalent.

It shoots fast. It shoots wide open. And it shoots close.

The SP 45mm F/1.8 Di VC USD (Model F013) is more of a portrait lens. It too offers Vibration Compensation and Ultrasonic Silent Drive, but its MOD extends to 11.4 inches. Still pretty close. This lens offers a 45mm focal length for Full Frame DSLRs and a 70mm equivalent with APS-C. Apparently, before many lens manufacturers moved to 50mm as the portrait prime, 45mm was more common. Tamron describes making a lens at this focal length as akin to returning to one’s roots.

Versions of each new lens will be built for Canon, Nikon, and Sony mounts. Each lens will set you back about $599.

Tamron SP 35mm and SP 45mm F/1.8 Prime Lenses

Design & Build Quality

Right out of the box, the SP 35mm and SP 45mm are an attractive combination of design and functionality. They are light, but hearty and well balanced, feeling solid and very far from a cheap, entry-level kit lens. These SP series primes are aimed primarily at enthusiast-to-professional level photographers and very much look the part.

The flat black metal housing is accented by a Luminous Gold brand ring. The focus ring is wrapped in a soft, but rugged rubber material — it wracks with precision at the lightest touch. AutoFocus (AF) and Vibration Control (VC) on/off buttons are well placed and feel strong enough to click back and forth for the lens’ lives.

The SP 45mm and SP 35mm are also weather sealed. We weren’t able to test this in person — our two days were dry and hot — but the pros who went off to gather sample images traveled to Iceland where they shot in spray shadow of a frigid waterfall and on a beach covered with iceberg chunks. In all of those cases, the lens simply needed an occasional wipe to clear away moisture (that Fluorine coating at work again). In other words, don’t take it underwater, but Tamron has build a damned tough lens for adventurous photographers.

By the way, if something does manage to break down due to manufacturer’s defect, Tamron offers a six-year warranty with three-business-day repair turn around.

Tamron SP 35mm and SP 45mm F/1.8 Prime Lenses

Tamron SP 35mm F/1.8 Di VC USD on a Canon EOS 6D

Specifications

Tamron SP 35mm F/1.8 Di VC USD (Model F012)

  • Focal Length: 35mm (Full Frame); 54mm (APS-C)
  • Maximum Aperture: F/1.8
  • Angle of View (diagonal): 63°26′ (Full Frame); 43°29′ (APS-C)
  • Optical Construction: 10 elements in 9 groups
  • Minimum Object Distance: 7.9 in
  • Maximum Magnification Ratio: 1:2.5
  • Filter Size: Ø 67mm
  • Maximum Diameter: Ø 80.4mm
  • Length: 3.2 in (Canon); 3.1 in (Nikon)
  • Weight: 16.9 oz (Canon); 15.9 oz (Nikon)
  • Aperture Blades: 9 (circular diaphragm)
  • Minimum Aperture: F/16
  • Standard Accessories: Flower-shaped lens hood, Lens caps
  • Compatible Mounts: Canon & Nikon, Sony

Tamron SP 45mm F/1.8 Di VC USD (Model F013) 

  • Focal Length: 45mm (Full Frame); 70mm (APS-C)
  • Maximum Aperture: F/1.8
  • Angle of View (diagonal): 51°21′ (for full-frame format); 34°28′ (for APS-C format)
  • Optical Construction: 10 elements in 8 groups
  • Minimum Object Distance : 11.4 in
  • Maximum Magnification Ratio: 1:3.4
  • Filter Size: Ø 67mm
  • Maximum Diameter: Ø 80.4mm
  • Length: for Canon 3.6 in (Canon); 3.5 in (Nikon)
  • Weight: 19 oz (Canon); 18.3 oz (Nikon)
  • Aperture Blades: 9 (circular diaphragm)
  • Minimum Aperture: F/16
  • Standard Accessories: Flower-shaped lens hood, Lens caps
  • Compatible Mounts: Canon, Nikon, Sony
Tamron SP 35mm and SP 45mm F/1.8 Prime Lenses

Tamron SP 45mm F/1.8 Di VC USD on a Canon EOS 6D

Performance

Ninety percent of the time, the SP 35mm and SP 45mm offer exceptionally fast and accurate AutoFocus. My test models were Canon mounts and generally worked quite well with the Canon EOS 6D AF system, particularly with centered spot metering engaged.

Then there’s the other five to ten percent of the time, often in more challenging scenarios where there was a great imbalance between bright and dark areas of the frame. In these conditions, with AF on, the SP 35mm and 45mm would bounce back and forth across its focal length looking for a subject. The delay was minor, but frustrating when dealing with moving subjects.

Vibration Compensation (VC) is a nice feature to have, and as long as you’re not expecting Steadicam levels of stabilization, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. In other words, Tamrom’s VC is going to allow you to get shots in darker scenarios with less ISO bump and, for video, you can reduce unwanted jumps and jitters from feet hitting the ground and shaky hand holding. Overall, this feature works as described.

Tamron SP 35mm and SP 45mm F/1.8 Prime Lenses

Tamron SP 35mm F/1.8 Di VC USD on a Canon EOS 6D

Image Quality & Color Reproduction

The Tamron SP 35mm & 45mm F/1.8 di VC USD lenses produce consistently above average still images that improve within the post production process. Fine details are a plenty. Images were sharp from frame center to the edge. The nine-blade aperture results in wonderfully circular bokeh. Colors are clean and accurate as well, even though we were unfortunately testing the lenses in a humid and hazy urban environment that required a little extra fiddling in Lightroom to make colors pop.

The only concern for me was chromatic aberration (mostly purple, though some of the other photographers noted some green too), due to shooting with a lot of back-light. Luckily, this too is easily fixable, but something of which to be aware.

Tamron SP 35mm and SP 45mm F/1.8 Prime Lenses

Tamron SP 45mm F/1.8 Di VC USD on an Olympus OM-D E-M5ii

SP Series vs Micro Four Thirds

Okay, so the SP Series isn’t meant for M4/3s ILC cameras — there’s no mount planned for this format — but that doesn’t mean M4/3s owners aren’t looking for an affordable, quality prime lens.

Enter the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II and the inexpensive Fotasy Canon EOS-M4/3 adapter.

Tucking the 6D in my bag every once in a while, the Fotasy adapter did the trick, transforming 35mm wide angle and 45mm portrait lenses into 70mm and 90mm telephoto equivalents, respectively. Yes, you lose AutoFocus, which is a bit of a bummer with this fast a lens, but with the E-M5ii’s metering, you manual focus while effectively operating in Shutter Priority Mode.

I made more than a few mistakes during this experiment, but if you close the aperture, or leave the focus ring at the infinity mark, you can take some great images with more excellent depth of field and wondrous bokeh. A lot of the time, since I knew my run-and-gun manual focus might not be as precise as the 6D’s AutoFocus, I engaged Olympus’ full range of Art Filters, which lend themselves to more artistic stylization (though, if you shooting in RAW + JPEG, you’ll get a clean filter-free RAW image with each shot).

I don’t know if there’s much of a market for 70mm or 90mm M4/3s prime lenses, but it was pretty handy so, for example, shoot a subject with the wide angle true 35mm on the Full Frame 6D, then grab the E-M5ii sporting the SP 45mm (90mm equivalent) and immediately have access to that telephoto.

Regardless, if you’re wondering if it can be done, yes it can and with fun result, but without AutoFocus or Vibration Compensation.

Tamron SP 35mm and SP 45mm F/1.8 Prime Lenses

Tamron SP 45mm F/1.8 Di VC USD on a Canon EOS 6D

Pros

  • Fast & Sharp
  • Low Light Performance
  • Wonderful Bokeh
  • Crazy shallow depth of field
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Occasional Auto Focus delay
  • Some Chromatic Aberration
  • Vibration Compensation (in video) could be better.
Tamron SP 35mm and SP 45mm F/1.8 Prime Lenses

Tamron SP 35mm F/1.8 Di VC USD on a Canon EOS 6D

Wrap Up

If you’re looking for primes at these focal length that are fast, tough, and produce sharp images for newer higher pixel density image sensors, the new Tamron SP 35mm and SP 45mm F/1.8 prime lenses offer an excellent value for those using Full Frame or APS-C Canon, Nikon, and Sony DSLRs. The 35mm lens was great for wide angle shots like landscape and cityscape, while the 45mm lens worked better as a portrait lens. Even on an Olympus OM-D E-M5ii, where they became 70mm and 90mm equivalents, the Tamron SP series held its own (when I wasn’t bungling manual focus).

However, just know, in certain lighting conditions, the AutoFocus system occasionally hiccuped, and you will likely need to turn to third party programs like Adobe Light room to enhance the final image and remove minor flaws like Chromatic Aberration.

Thanks again to everyone from Tamron for giving us time to test out their new lenses. And special extra thanks to photographer Erik Valind, model Jordan Hathaway, and make up artist Clelia Bergonzoli for all their time in helping us take some great shots. If you’re ever in New York, make sure to look them up.

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Tamron SP 35mm F/1.8 Di VC USD Lens

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Tamron SP 45mm F/1.8 Di VC USD Lens

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Canon EOS 6D DLSR

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Olympus OM-D E-M5 MKII

More Samples

Tamron SP 45mm F/1.8 Di VC USD on a Canon EOS 6D

Tamron SP 45mm F/1.8 Di VC USD on a Canon EOS 6D

Tamron SP 35mm F/1.8 Di VC USD on a Canon EOS 6D

Tamron SP 35mm F/1.8 Di VC USD on a Canon EOS 6D

Tamron SP 35mm F/1.8 Di VC USD on a Canon EOS 6D

Tamron SP 35mm F/1.8 Di VC USD on a Canon EOS 6D

Tamron SP 35mm F/1.8 Di VC USD on a Canon EOS 6D

Tamron SP 35mm F/1.8 Di VC USD on a Canon EOS 6D

Tamron SP 35mm F/1.8 Di VC USD on a Canon EOS 6D

Tamron SP 35mm F/1.8 Di VC USD on a Canon EOS 6D

Tamron SP 35mm F/1.8 Di VC USD on a Canon EOS 6D

Tamron SP 35mm F/1.8 Di VC USD on a Canon EOS 6D

Tamron SP 35mm F/1.8 Di VC USD on a Canon EOS 6D

Tamron SP 35mm F/1.8 Di VC USD on a Canon EOS 6D

Tamron SP 45mm F/1.8 Di VC USD on a Canon EOS 6D

Tamron SP 45mm F/1.8 Di VC USD on a Canon EOS 6D

Tamron SP 45mm F/1.8 Di VC USD on a Canon EOS 6D

Tamron SP 45mm F/1.8 Di VC USD on a Canon EOS 6D

Tamron SP 45mm F/1.8 Di VC USD on an Olympus OM-D E-M5ii

Tamron SP 45mm F/1.8 Di VC USD on an Olympus OM-D E-M5ii

Tamron SP 45mm F/1.8 Di VC USD on an Olympus OM-D E-M5ii

Tamron SP 45mm F/1.8 Di VC USD on an Olympus OM-D E-M5ii

Tamron SP 45mm F/1.8 Di VC USD on an Olympus OM-D E-M5ii

Tamron SP 45mm F/1.8 Di VC USD on an Olympus OM-D E-M5ii

Tamron SP 45mm F/1.8 Di VC USD on an Olympus OM-D E-M5ii

Tamron SP 45mm F/1.8 Di VC USD on an Olympus OM-D E-M5ii

Tamron SP 45mm F/1.8 Di VC USD on an Olympus OM-D E-M5ii

Tamron SP 45mm F/1.8 Di VC USD on an Olympus OM-D E-M5ii

Tamron SP 45mm F/1.8 Di VC USD on an Olympus OM-D E-M5ii

Tamron SP 45mm F/1.8 Di VC USD on an Olympus OM-D E-M5ii

Tamron SP 45mm F/1.8 Di VC USD on an Olympus OM-D E-M5ii

Tamron SP 45mm F/1.8 Di VC USD on an Olympus OM-D E-M5ii

Tamron SP 35mm and SP 45mm F/1.8 Prime Lenses Review
September 24, 2015
8.5/10
8.5 Overall Score
Excellent Value for a Good Lens

Design & Build Quality
9.5
Performance
8
Image Quality
8.5
Color Reproduction
8

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  • Mike says: October 25, 2015 at 10:34 pm

    I am fairly disappointed with this lens. The chromatic aberration I experienced was severe.

  • Malou says: November 19, 2015 at 1:48 pm

    Good review. I rather have the Nikkor lens. Altough the price is like 3x as high quality comes first

  • […] Tamron SP 35mm and SP 45mm F/1.8 Prime Lenses Review […]

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