Review of the Tamron SP 35mm f1.8 Di VC USD Lens

The Tamron “SP” series of high performance lenses for hobby and pro photographers is quickly becoming an undeniable heavy hitter in terms of just how much optical performance can be squeezed into a camera lens.

After all, the SP designation does indeed stand for superior performance. In the past I have had the pleasure of reviewing the 85mm and 45mm flavors of Tamrons newly revitalized lenses in the SP lineup.

Recently I had the welcomed opportunity to evaluate a third lens in the SP family, the 35mm f/1.8 Di VC USD, to find out how it measured up with its longer focal length cousins.

More and more, the swing of the photography optic curves seems to be sweeping to the side of prime lenses. Prime (non-zooming) lenses are generally faster and offer better sharpness with less distortion and aberrations when compared to zoom lenses. Tamron’s 35mm f/1.8 aims to fit in as a normal focal length prime which verges on wide-angle while offering great low light capabilities. Much like Tamron’s other SP offerings, the 35mm hits it out of the park.

Build Quality

The sturdiness of the 35mm f/1.8 is apparent right out of the box. The weight is very manageable at 480g (16.9 oz) for Canon, while Nikon users enjoy an ounce of shed body fat at 450g (15.9 oz).

The lines of the lens are all very well done and the entire lens exudes a well-made feel. Each lens I’ve evaluated in the SP line up have been beautifully made.

They all look very sleek and artfully understated when mounted to their respective camera bodies. And who doesn’t like a lens whose form comes in only second to it’s function.

Here’s the full specifications sheet courtesy of Tamron…

Information Values
Model F012
Focal Length 35mm
Angle of View 63°26’ for full-frame format, 43°29’ for APS-C format
Diaphragm Blade Number 9 (circular diaphragm)
Minimum Aperture f/16
Minimum Focus Distance 0.2m (7.9 in)
Maximum Magnification Ratio 1:2.5
Filter Diameter Φ67mm
Weight 480g (16.9 oz) Canon, 450g (15.9 oz) Nikon
Length 80.8mm (3.2 in) Canon, 78.3mm (3.1 in) Nikon
Full Length 80.8mm (3.2 in) Canon, 78.3mm (3.1 in) Nikon
Diameter Φ80.4mm
Accessory Flower-shaped lens hood, Lens caps
Mount Canon, Nikon, Sony (without VC)

The focusing ring and selector switches are all very smooth in their operation and are well placed for easy no-look control.

The markings of the lens look sharp and are very easy to discern when working in lower lighting. Also included with lens is an equally well made petal-type lens hood.

Weather Sealing

One of the most impressive and welcomed improvements to come along with Tamron’s revamped SP family of glass is their enhanced weather sealing at all areas where moisture tends attack. The selector switches, front element joints, focusing ring, and bayonet (mount) all have increased weather seals to help keep the unwanted moisture encroachments at bay.

The hefty rubber seal around the rear mount of the lens adds an extra measure of confidence when the weather turns sour. As a photog who spends the majority of my shooting time in the great outdoors, the extra attention Tamron has shown to this area of lens protection really goes along way.

Image Quality

The image performance from the 35mm comes in as expected but never the less very much impressively on par with the quality of the other new SP lenses from Tamron. The image sharpness is superb throughout the frame with very little falloff at the corners even when shooting wide open at f/1.8. Sharpness tended to reach it’s peak from f/2.8 to around f/8. No perceivable distortion was noted even at the minimum focusing distance of around eight inches (20.32cm) which as of July 2015 was the shortest minimum focusing distance for a lens in this class.

As always, here are a series of images made at common apertures to test overall sharpness.

And that bokeh though… that bokeh. Don’t get me wrong, I like using the word “bokehlicious” in conversation just as much as the next person but it’s just not a descriptor that I always feel comfortable assigning just any lens unless it’s truly earned the moniker. The 35mm happens to be one of those lenses that… wait for it… is absolutely bokehlicious.

The background blurring is truly beautiful. The 9 circular aperture blades do an excellent job of making even this relatively short focal length lens produce dreamy bokeh that begs for early morning or afternoon gold.

Chromatic aberrations were very slight with this lens. Still, some purple fringing was noticeable especially when shooting in high contrast settings with brightly lit backgrounds. This was especially evident at apertures of f/1.8 to around f/2.2 which is not uncommon. The fringing was virtually non-existent after stopping down past f/2.8. It should also be noted that even at its worst the chromatic aberrations were easily removed in post processing.

Vibration Control

Tamron’s vibration compensation (VC) technology in the SP line remains one of the most impressive I’ve encountered. There’s just no denying how far the technology of shake reduction has advanced in recent years and the 35mm displays this miraculous achievement quite well. Shooting at shutter speeds well below what would be expected now produces extremely passable images. Here’s an example of the high level of vibration control offered by the 35mm f/1.8 I evaluated. Both of these images were shot at 1/6th of a second at f/8.

The first was imaged with the VC turned “off”…

…and this next photo was shot with the VC turned “on”…

The effects of the image stabilization are significant to say the least.

Final Thoughts

It’s often difficult to find too many good things to say about any type of product… especially camera gear. That hasn’t seemed to be the case with Tamron’s new SP line of lenses and the 35mm f/1.8 is no different. Every aspect of the lens, from its build to its bokeh scream absolute quality. Not only does it perform wonderfully in virtually every aspect, but it also doesn’t deal out such a harsh hit to your wallet.

Falling around $599 USD (at the time of writing), Tamron has placed this lens well within the reach of those who don’t have infinite funds to funnel into our gear. The world of prime lenses is becoming a very wide place and the new 35mm f/1.8 SP certainly finds a very welcomed place close to the front.

The following are few more photos made with the Tamron SP 35mm f/1.8.

You can find the Tamron Tamron SP 35mm f1.8 Di VC USD on B&H Photo and Amazon.