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Indepth review- Tamron 35mm f/1.8 Di VC SP USD Lens

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The pictures used in the article are compressed for easy viewing on the web. Just like our other reviews, For a fair judgement, please request full, high res images by sending an email to- editor.wtl@gmail.com with “Tamron 35mm f/1.8 sample pictures” in the Subject line and I shall be happy to send across a few sample images to help you judge this lens better.


 

The 35 mm focal length is one of the most popular focal lengths in the photography world. This focal length became popular, first with street photographers when Leica camera first started producing the compact Summicron 35mm f/2 in 1979.

Technically, in terms of composing a picture, the 35mm lens is the closest to the focal view of the human eye. That is why it is most often used in cinema because it gives a more realistic point of view to the viewer.

The 35mm focal length is popular with photojournalists, documentary photographers and street photographers. Wedding photographers, both traditional and candid (who often have to work in very bad lighting conditions) also use 35mm lenses for a good number of shots.Those working in corporate and event photography also like it for capturing group shots.

35mm is also popular with videographers, be it for making documentaries or filming weddings.

The use of 35mm focal length is restricted only to the extents of your imagination.

Therefore, when Tamron announced the 35mm f/1.8 Di VC SP USD Lens, a lot of people were eagerly waiting to get their hands on this lens. Especially in our country where Tamron has enjoyed a very strong and reliable reputation as a third party lens manufacturer.

We tested the lens in Canon EF mount. A big Thank you to Tamron India for providing this lens for testing. [UPDATE- Please read the declaration below, as well as our ethics statement. This is not an advertorial]

Build quality and Construction

This is a lens from Tamron’s ‘SP’ or ‘Special Performance’ series. It is Tamron’s high end line of lenses. Keeping that in mind, this is a brand new style of construction that Tamron has used for this new prime lens. I am very impressed by this new style that Tamron has adapted. It gives the lens a very attractive, clean and modern appearance. The lens feels solid, due to the aluminium alloy barrel construction.

In the hand, the lens feels, compact and light weight as it is under 500 grams (479 grams to be exact). This lens is a pleasure to use for extended periods, on both small and light weight bodies like the Canon 6D or Nikon D610 or on heavier bodies like the Canon 1DX or Nikon D800.

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With the hood attached in front you get a slightly more noticeable size with the lens. Yet it is not a obstruction to use.

 

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Hand holding the lens for long is very easy due to its weight.

 

A welcome feature on this lens is the big scale window that distinctly tells you the focus distance in both feet and meters. Unlike other lenses, I find the focus window, unusually big, this is not a bad thing, as it makes it really easy to read the focus distance. This will come in very handy to street and landscape photographers when setting up hyperfocal distance on this lens. (Unfortunately, I did not get enough time with this lens to test and determine the correct hyperfocal distance. I hopefully plan to do that in a later post.) Also, the rubber on the focus ring seems better and more firm than before. This is a big plus point as the rubber getting dirty, becoming loose and then ultimately falling off has been a big complain with Tamron lenses previously. I have personally experienced this. To Tamron India’s credit, they have been very prompt in replacing it in all the cases that I know. The rubber on the focus ring on this lens does not seem to be going any where soon though.

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One of the biggest features on this lens is the weather-proofing. The lens is dust and splash resistant. It has a rubber gasket on the back to protect moisture and dirt from getting inside.

 

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The lens features a rubber gasket on the back to stop moisture, water droplets and dirt from getting inside. Pictured on top with a pen tip for easy identification.

 

Just like on any other lens, it is recommended to use a quality protective filter on the front to complete the weather sealing. Interestingly, this lens features a unique focusing design where the lens elements are tightly mounted onto the center column that moves backwards and forwards while focusing. This is great as the outer barrel, where the filter is mounted remains still, thus it is very easy to use Polarizer and Variable ND filters. However,  there is a big gap between the inner focussing barrel and the outer shell (see below) therefore this area is very prone to picking up dust, hence I highly recommend using a filter in front to block out the dust. Here I will also add, that this lens design also allows for edge to edge cleaning of the front glass element.

 

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Focusing

Moving to the side, this lens had two distinctive switches on the side of the barrel. The first is the Autofocus – Manual Focus shift button. It should be noted that this lens has Fulltime Manual Focus (Autofocus Override/ manual focus fine tune) due to the presence of the USD Autofocus drive. In terms of auto focus speed, the lens is good. It is not the fastest, but it is surely accurate. One feature that video shooters will surely like is the large, almost 180 degree rotation of the focus ring. The focus markings are spread out over the ring therefore you should have no trouble with your shot going out of focus every time you make a small adjustment. The second switch is one of this lens’s biggest features- VC or Vibration Compensation 6

 

Vibration Compensation

At the time of writing this article, this 35mm and its bigger brother the 45mm f/1.8 are the only widest aperture (f/1.8) lenses to feature image stabilization. No other lens has stabilization at f/1.8 in any manufacturer’s line up. Tamron had previously introduced the world’s first image stabilized 24-70mm lens (the 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD) and the world’s widest image stabilized wide-angle lens (15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD), so the introduction of VC to this lens should not come as a surprise. In recent times adding VC to even wide angle lenses has becomes necessary as cameras have become more light sensitive, and more and more people are now taking photos handheld in lighting situations that was not possible before. Candid shooters, be it wedding or street would really love the addition of this feature. VC is also very useful while recording video. It comes in very handy when shooting handheld on any large sensor camera not just a DSLR. On this lens the VC is very quiet with a light clicking sound that you hear when you press the shutter button half way to focus. Here I want to add, if you have a very sensitive microphone mounted on top of your DSLR or video camera while recording video with this lens, you might pick up the audio of the stabilization working. This is the case with almost every lens, not just this lens. As far as effectiveness of the stabilization is concerned, below is an example. This was shot with a shutter speed of 1/15th seconds, wide open at aperture value of f/1.8 at ISO 1600. Tamron VC demo 1 Here is the 100% crop of this picture- Tamron VC demo CROP   The VC works very well on this camera. Interestingly, Tamron does not give a rating to how many stops of stabilization you actually get with this lens. After my experience of shooting with it, I would say this lens gives about 3 stops of stabilization.  

Lens design and optics

This lens features 10 lens elements in 9 groups with one aspherical glass element, one Low Dispersion (LD) Element and one eXtra Low Dispersion Element. Tamron 35mm lens construction According to Tamron, this lens design, apart from giving us enhanced sharpness and detail reproduction, it also gives us 3 things a) Closer focusing distance b) More control over colour fringing and distortion c) Pleasing out of focus ares (OOF area/ “Bokeh”) We tested the lens on all of these 5 parameters-  

Image Quality Tests

Im sure this is a section that most people straight away jumped to. As always, we have a standard testing procedure where we test all parameters of a piece of equipment indepth, both indoors with Test Charts and outdoors in the Real World. Both the test findings and real world samples are published here below.

 

– Sharpness Test

On any lens, not just this one, actual sharpness depends on a combination of many factors such as shutter speed, the set aperture (Depth of Field) and resolution of the camera amongst other things. However, when we talk of Lens Sharpness we mean lens resolution.

On this lens, at wide open aperture, centre of the frame is reasonably sharp at f/1.8. The lens improves significantly when you stop down to just f/2. At  f/2.8 this lens is really sharp. By stopping down lower to f/4 or f/5.6 the lens is sharp through out.

tamron sharpness test

 

This lens has very impressive sharpness, both in centre and in the corners as seen below in 100% crop- tamron sharpness test crop

 

Centre of frame sharpness is extremely impressive-

tamron 35 sharpness

 

100% Crop –

shapness crop

 

 

In terms of detail reproduction, the lens also impresses-

tamron detail

 

100% Crop-

detail crop

 

Real world sample of detail reproduction –


tamron 35 detail real world

 

Incase you missed the day’s news you can read it in a 100% Crop-

detail real world crop

 

 

– Close focusing distance

Impressively, the lens has a minimum focus distance of  7.8 inches. This is a first for any DSLR lens in the world.

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This gives a very impressive results when shooting up close as with this lens you get a reproduction ratio of 1:2.5

close focus ex

 

Apart from showcasing the close focus capabilities of this lens, he above photo is also a great example of the smooth, out of focus (“bokeh”) area that this lens produces.

– Chromatic Distortion

With two dedicated glass elements to combat distortion, you would expect good control over fringing with this lens, but that os something that this lens is lacking. As seen in the 100% crops of the test charts above or in this example below, the lens does have a moderate problem with purple fringing.

fringing

 

 

Conclusion

The Tamron 35mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Lens brings us a lot of great value for its cost. This attractively designed lens also delivers  attractive image sharpness and competes very strongly against the other 35mm lens models from other manufacturers. Tamron India has been quick in making the lens available to Indian customers, that shows the confidence they have in this product. The only negative this lens has is a moderate (not so serious) purple fringing issue. This can be easily rectified in post processing software. Overall this is a very impressive lens, and priced at INR 37,500/- (at the time of writing), if you are looking to add a good 35mm lens to your kit, we highly recommend it.

 


Big thanks to Tamron India for providing the lens for indepth testing

[Ethics Statement] – The above post is NOT and advertorial and is not paid for. The above mentioned information is not an endorsement of any brand either by the author or by Writing Through Light as a publication.

Also, it is made keeping in line with the ethos of this website, of creating an information sharing platform for photography and photographers in India. I, the author or Writing Through Light as a website derive no express commercial benefit in sharing this information with you, the reader.


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