Tamron SP 35mm F1.4 Di USD Lens Review

Click HERE to read our Tamron SP 35mm F/1.4 inspired blog post:
The Most Versatile Focal Length:
Why You Need a 35mm Prime in Your Kit

What We Love. The Tamron SP 35mm F/1.4 Di USD is excellent glass and there’s a lot to love. It’s solidly built, beautifully balanced and weather-sealed for shooting in the field. It’s also elegantly designed, with a modern look flourished with a matte finish. And, performance-wise, it takes superbly sharp and very clean images with nice contrast and vibrant colors. It also boasts quiet, lightning-fast, and precise autofocus with creamy bokeh and even a full-time manual focus override system so you can use manual focusing without switching from AF mode.

What We’d Change. We would love to have seen built-in stabilization (though having that feature would probably kick up the $899 price) and more effective chromatic aberration minimization. We still found some signs of color fringing in high contrast situations shot at the widest aperture. Also at this widest F/1.4 aperture, light vignetting is apparent, though this one’s an easy fix in post.

Pick This Up If… you’re a Canon or Nikon shooter who needs a versatile lens that delivers superb performance. And, believe us, you do. Whatever type of photography you’re into – landscape, street, portrait, night sky… – the Tamron SP 35mm F/1.4 Di USD has you covered.

Click HERE to buy a Tamron SP 35mm F/1.4 Di USD at B&H Photo-Video!

INTRO

Tamron SP 35mm F1.4 Sample Image

| Aperture Priority | 35mm | F/1.4 | 1/8000 | ISO 100 |

Click on any sample image in this review to see a full-sized file
OR Click HERE to check out our Sample Image Gallery

To help commemorate the 40th anniversary of its SP Series lenses, Tamron released what they are touting as their "ultimate lens," with the ultimate part pertaining to the fact that it’s supposed to "balance advanced optical performance with ergonomic, maneuverable bodies." Yet, in a way, one could say that this lofty moniker also applies to a few other things about this lens, including the fact that it’s one of the most versatile lenses we’ve ever had the pleasure of shooting. And, mind you, that’s not just because of its 35mm focal length, which does inherently make it versatile to begin with.

The Tamron SP 35mm F/1.4 Di USD is pretty incredible at many things, from its plethora of applications and impressive autofocus to how it manages sharpness, aberrations, ghosting, and flare. In our opinion, we might not call it perfect or call it ultimate, but it's so very close and clearly one of the best 35mm prime lenses available for Canon and Nikon camera systems.

GEAR USED

Tamron SP 35mm F1.4 Sample Image

We tested the Tamron SP 35mm F/1.4 Di USD on a loaner Nikon Z6. While not a native Z-mount lens, the 35mm F/1.4 worked flawlessly with the Z6 via Nikon's FTZ Adapter. While we did test this lens in low light situations, all the low light shots in this review were shot handheld, not mounted on a tripod.

FEATURES

Tamron SP 35mm F1.4 Sample Image

  • Fits: Canon EF mount & Nikon F mount native (Canon RF mount & Nikon Z mount compatible with optional adapters)
  • Focal Length: 35mm
  • Maximum Aperture: f/1.4
  • Minimum Aperture: f/16
  • Angle of View (diagonal): 63°26′
  • Lens Construction: 14 elements in 10 groups
  • Minimum Focus Distance: 0.3m (11.8 in)
  • Filter Size: 72mm
  • Max Length: 104.8mm (4.1 in) Canon, 102.3mm (4 in) Nikon
  • Weight: 815g (28.7 oz) Canon, 805g (28.4 oz) Nikon
  • Aperture Blades: 9
  • Standard Accessories: Flower-shaped hood, Lens caps, Lens pouch

BUILD QUALITY

Tamron SP 35mm F1.4 Sample Image

From the moment you get your hands on the Tamron SP 35mm F/1.4 Di USD, you’ll know that Tamron didn’t cut corners designing and building it. This lens has a solid build and is guaranteed to see you through tough weather conditions.

Whether you find yourself in dusty conditions, a bit of rain or extreme heat, this lens will more than persist. And Tamron has made it that way, weather-sealing it around the metal lens mount, around the front element and on both ends of the focus ring (though not at the AF/MF switch). In addition, Tamron coated the front element with a Fluorine compound that makes it dust, water, and oil repellant.

While we didn’t get to test the Tamron SP 35mm F/1.4 Di USD in wet conditions – summer in Los Angeles, y'all – we tested our sample in the blistering Nevada heat where pavement temperatures reached 115-degree F. And, we can attest to this lens’ endurance. In fact, it performed without a hitch and kept on doing so long after we had to rush indoors for some climate-controlled cover.

Tamron SP 35mm F1.4 Product Image

It’s just as good aesthetically, with a smooth matte finish and a minimalist look. It is big for a 35mm prime, but that had no impact at all in usage and transport. The rubberized focus ring, however, is a bit of a bane as it tracked dust and dirt easily, though if you’re not borderline obsessive-compulsive like us, this shouldn’t bother you.

ERGONOMICS

While bigger and heavier than many of its competitors, the Tamron SP 35mm F/1.4 Di USD doesn’t feel like it. We had this lens mounted on a Nikon Z6 and adapter clipped to our backpack strap so that it was resting just off of our shoulder, and it didn’t feel like a burden even after a couple of uphill hikes that lasted a few hours each.

Tamron SP 35mm F1.4 Sample Image

It doesn’t feel heavy, bulky or fatiguing in our hands either, though it is slightly wider than the Nikon NIKKOR Z 35mm f/1.8 S we tested a few weeks before. That only attests to how well-balanced this lens is, making it very comfortable to lug around with you for hours, whether you’re climbing a mountain or exploring a city.

While the rubberized focus ring does, in fact, tend to attract dust particles, the front element again is coated with Fluorine, which really did make it easy to clean. Trust us; we took this on hikes and in the dusty desert, and that front element was effortless to clean. Unfortunately, we cannot say the same for the focus ring.

Tamron SP 35mm F1.4 Product Image

On the upside, the focus ring is easy to control, and it boasts on-the-fly manual focusing while still in AF mode, giving you the best of both worlds and making your shooting experience all the more seamless. The AF/MF switch, easily accessible using your left fingers, has some resistance to it to prevent accidental toggling.

We only wish this lens has an extra control ring that’s customizable, or an aperture ring, for even more seamless shooting – especially considering the length of that barrel.

SPEED & FOCUS

Tamron SP 35mm F1.4 Sample Image

| Aperture Priority | 35mm | F/5.6 | 1/80 | ISO 3200 |

Tamron equipped this lens with its own proprietary Ultrasonic Silent Drive, the largest Focus Element it ever released, and its newly-developed mechanism called Dynamic Rolling-cam that’s supposed to help stabilize AF performance and improve its reliability even in extreme temperatures. Altogether, these things are supposed to juice up the Tamron SP 35mm F/1.4 Di USD’s autofocusing system, making it faster, more accurate and even quieter.

To round it all out, Tamron also slapped on a Full-Time Manual Focus override to allow on-the-fly manual focus tweaks without leaving AF mode.

Tamron SP 35mm F1.4 Sample Image

| Aperture Priority | 35mm | F/1.8 | 1/8000 | ISO 100 |

The result is basically a lens with a powerful AF drive, and it shows. During our testing, the Tamron SP 35mm F/1.4 Di USD’s focus speed is lightning fast, which is staggeringly refreshing, and its mechanism very quiet, which videographers will love. So much so that, on continuous servo, we hardly felt this lens try and focus; it just did it… Even in extreme heat in which our own organs were practically failing, it did so without so much as batting an eyelash.

Tamron SP 35mm F1.4 Sample Image

| Aperture Priority | 35mm | F/2.8 | 1/2000 | ISO 3200 |

As far as precision, it’s right on the money. During our tests, we did find the AF to falter every now and then – one good example is when we were shooting portraits. Switching to single-point AF, since Nikon Z6’s Eye AF proved a little unreliable, we found a couple of portraits in which the autofocus missed its mark, even though we had the AF point right over the subject’s eye.

And that’s also where this Full-Time Manual Focus override can potentially come in handy. When your camera just isn’t getting that right focus, turning the Tamron SP 35mm F/1.4 Di USD’s focus ring to make pinpoint adjustments (without you having to switch from AF to MF) can be essential.

In all, shooting with this lens is a pleasurable and seamless experience because of its impressive AF system.

BOKEH

Tamron SP 35mm F1.4 Sample Image

| Aperture Priority | 35mm | F/1.4 | 1/8000 | ISO 100 |

Click HERE to check out our Sample Image Gallery

Thanks to its large maximum aperture of F/1.4 and its 9 aperture blades, you will definitely yield some really nice, creamy and beautiful bokeh with the Tamron SP 35mm F/1.4 Di USD. It’s akin to the Nikon NIKKOR Z 35mm f/1.8 S, except perhaps just more appealing somehow owing to the fact that it is smoother and more buttery.

Tamron SP 35mm F1.4 Sample Image

| Aperture Priority | 35mm | F/1.4 | 1/640 | ISO 100 |

Tamron SP 35mm F/1.4 Di USD Bokeh Samples

| Click on the above image to see a larger 6000x3000 file |

The bokeh balls are just as buttery smooth, unsurprising with 9 aperture blades, and you won’t see any polygonal shapes in your images. The only thing is that you won’t always get the rounded balls at F/1.4. If you’re all about the perfectly round bokeh balls, try stopping down to F/2.8.

IMAGE QUALITY

Tamron SP 35mm F1.4 Sample Image

| Aperture Priority | 35mm | F/1.4 | 1/8000 | ISO 100 |

While Tamron promises "consummate image quality across the entire frame from edge to edge," you will notice that there’s a bit of softness around the edges at its widest aperture if you look close enough.

Don’t get us wrong. There's no doubt that the Tamron SP 35mm F/1.4 Di USD produces incredibly sharp images, especially around F/3.5 – F/5.6. We also love how sharp it is even in low light situations and at night. The images this lens yield are so sharp, in fact, that even the tiniest details like a grain of sand or a strand of stray hair are noticeable.

That, coupled with the fact that its AF is breathtakingly fast and accurate, pretty much guarantees the best results. You'll be hard pressed to take a bad photograph with this lens. Add in the fact that this lens is designed to minimize aberration, ghosting and flare to the mix, and you’re not only getting very sharp images, but ones that are nice and clean as well.

And to be fair, this corner softening is neither obvious nor distracting – only those who peep pixels will notice. Stop down to F/2.8, and those corners should sharpen right up. And, of course, at every stop, the center is crisp and sharp as a tack.

Tamron SP 35mm F1.4 Sample Image

| Aperture Priority | 35mm | F/2.8 | 1/2500 | ISO 100 |

Tamron SP 35mm F1.4 Sample Image

| Aperture Priority | 35mm | F/4.5 | 1/1000 | ISO 100 |

Tamron SP 35mm F1.4 Sample Image

| Aperture Priority | 35mm | F/16 | 1/80 | ISO 100 |

It's worth noting is that there is some vignetting – not to mention, the occassional purple and green fringing – when shooting at that wide F/1.4 aperture, especially when you’re shooting in bright, high contrast situations.

Tamron SP 35mm F1.4 Sample Image

| Aperture Priority | 35mm | F/1.4 | 1/8000 | ISO 100 |

However, the vignetting is not at all bad, and you can easily do away with it in post or when you stop down. The chromatic aberration is also very minimal – we’ve only noticed it in a couple of the hundred or so shots we took – so it is definitely well-controlled. In fact, these are hardly worth a mention, but we thought we should in case you only have time to shoot in the middle of the day during which you’re more likely to deal with lots of bright highlights and dark shadows.

Tamron SP 35mm F1.4 Sample Image

| Aperture Priority | 35mm | F/2.8 | 1/500 | ISO 100 |

One thing that the Tamron SP 35mm F/1.4 Di USD does a really good job in controlling is ghosting and flare. Thanks to Tamron’s next-generation BBAR-G2 Coating with which the lens elements are treated, this glass is excellent at minimizing ghosting and flare while maintaining incredible contrast and color vibrancy. Once in a blue moon, you might come across a small amount of flare or ghosting, but they’re definitely largely kept at bay, even when you have the lens pointing directly at the sun.

Tamron SP 35mm F1.4 Sample Image

| Aperture Priority | 35mm | F/16 | 1/1600 | ISO 1600 |

Tamron SP 35mm F1.4 Sample Image

| Aperture Priority | 35mm | F/16 | 1/60 | ISO 100 |

Finally, as is expected of a 35mm lens, the amount of distortion is close to negligible, which makes it excellent for landscape and architecture shooting situations where the least amount of distortion is imperative. Of course, there’s still a small amount there that you could use to your advantage, as we did whilst photographing a ghost town in Nevada.

PROS & CONS

Tamron SP 35mm F1.4 Sample Image

| Aperture Priority | 35mm | F/1.8 | 1/8000 | ISO 100 |

Click HERE to check out our Sample Image Gallery

Pros

  • Solid build and design
  • Affordable
  • Superb image quality

Cons

  • Still signs of chromatic aberration
  • Some softness and vignetting at widest aperture
  • No built-in stabilization

FINAL THOUGHTS

Tamron SP 35mm F1.4 Sample Image

| Aperture Priority | 35mm | F/1.4 | 1/100 | ISO 200 |

Is the SP 35mm F/1.4 Di USD Tamron's ultimate lens? In our humble one, there are certainly many reasons why it deserves that title. It's extremely versatile and beautifully balanced, producing super sharp images that are clean and boast wonderful colors, great contrast, and creamy bokeh. It's one of the best 35mm primes we've tested in the last two years.

Is it perfect and worth what some would consider a premium price over the SP 35mm F/1.8? That will largely depend on your budget and needs. We would have loved to see built-in stabilization and a better handle on chromatic aberration. Then again, adding stabilization would probably increase the price, and $900, as it is, is already a lot of money. Plus, if you've jumped on new Canon or Nikon mirrorless camera bandwagon, the older F/1.8 version won't work with those newer systems (as of summer 2019).

In other words, this is an incredible lens worthy of consideration in any Nikon or Canon shooter's camera bag.

Click HERE to buy a Tamron SP 35mm F/1.4 Di USD at B&H Photo-Video!

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