Lens Rentals Declares the Tamron 35mm f/1.4 Lens the Most Optically Superior Ever Tested

Lens Rentals Declares the Tamron 35mm f/1.4 Lens the Most Optically Superior Ever Tested

The 35mm focal length is one of the most commonly used by photographers, and it is a crowded space for manufacturers. Lens Rentals recently completed optical tests on Tamron's SP 35mm f/1.4 Di USD lens, and perhaps surprisingly, it has beaten out all of the competition.

35mm lenses are highly versatile and popular for many genres of photography, and there are numerous choices out there. In the past few years, Tamron has really jumped to the forefront of manufacturing, creating numerous high-quality lenses with quite competitive prices, though generally, the most expensive lenses tend to still hold the honors for top optical quality. However, perhaps surprisingly, the tide may be beginning to turn. Lens Rentals' Roger Cicala recently did MTF testing on the Tamron SP 35mm f/1.4 Di USD lens, and he calls it "for the moment, optically the best 35mm lens you can get, and at a price that should make you want to get it." While there are still other issues for photographers in practice, such as autofocus performance and bokeh quality, it's certainly a ringing endorsement for the lens and for Tamron. Head on over to the Lens Rental blog to read Cicala's full thoughts and test results.

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44 Comments

vegatecgroup's picture

It would be interesting to see the Field Curvature, Distortion, Spectral Range, and Transmission charts for each lens. Maybe I can get them tested to EMVA 1288?

The MTF of the Tamron lens is good for a commercial lens. Not good compared to an industrial, scientific, or military grade lens.

Another item with lens use is again the sensor or should I say the Grade of the sensor. Canon, Sony, Nikon make good sensors. However, Sony sells their Grade 1 and Scientific/Industrial Grade sensors to OEM's making cameras and instruments for these markets.

michaeljinphoto's picture

Considering that we're not buying industrial, scientific, or military grade lenses when we look for a 35mm prime to attach to our DSLR's or MILC's, who cares how it compares to optics that it's not actually competing against?

vegatecgroup's picture

That's where you are wrong. They do compete and more often than you may think. I know several people that use Military & Scientific grade lenses and cameras for their imaging.

Yes the equipment is designed for data, but more importantly to the photography, they provide an opportunity to go beyond the typical. Look at the images I have as my headers. Black & White? No, actually they were taken with a SWIR camera using an InGaAs sensor and a special lens I designed and had manufactured as a wearable system for Firefighters.

Want the unusual, look beyond the usual.

michaeljinphoto's picture

No they don't because most photographers aren't even CONSIDERING military or scientific lenses when they go shopping for a new lens. That you happen to know "several people" that do is insignificant. I also happen to know "several people" who adapt lenses from the 1950's onto their cameras. When you talk about 50mm lenses, though, nobody is going to consider vintage 50mm lenses from the 50's to be realistic competition to 50mm lenses that you can walk into B&H and pick up new off the shelf. They are two completely different markets and nobody is realistically considering such vastly different optics at the same time. If you want a "vintage look", then you're not even considering a modern lens and if you want a modern look, your'e not even considering a vintage lens.

Note here that I'm not suggesting that they PERFORM better or worse. By "compete", I mean that they are being marketed for the same purpose to the same group of people. To say that military lenses compete with consumer lenses is like saying that F16's compete for the same clients as Gulfstreams because they both happen to fly in the air. The reality is that they serve two completely different functions and go about their jobs in totally different ways, so they are not competing with each other.

To bring it a little bit closer, I would also say that for this reason, manual focus lenses like the Zeiss Milvus 50mm f/1.4 don't directly compete with autofocus lenses like the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 ART either.

vegatecgroup's picture

We have opposing views on this. Can a Gulf Stream become a combat fighter, yes, many combat planes over the years were converted to commercial use and vise versa.

But you make a good point in performance. An F16 will outperform a commercial jet. The same goes with a consumer lens versus a Scientific/Military grade lens. You can buy Scientific/Military grade lenses and cameras off the shelf. They are not all custom.

I will start posting images shortly.

michaeljinphoto's picture

I realize that you can buy scientific and military grade lenses "off the shelf", but this also happens to not be the same shelf that you pick up a Nikon 50mm f/1.4 off of. We're approaching the idea of competition from two different standpoints. I'm talking about competition in the marketplace.

I can buy a Ford Mustang and a Ford Expedition off the same dealership floor. They are both 4-wheel automobiles with combustion engines. That doesn't mean that they are competitors in the marketplace. They are in completely different classes and aimed at completely different customers. Nobody is realistically trying to decide whether to go with one or the other (unless they're looking to piss off their wife or not). In a similar vein, nobody is realistically trying to decide whether to go with a Dodge Charger or a Porsche 911. Again, they are marketed toward completely different customers and as such, are not in competition with each other even though they are both supposed to be performance vehicles. By contrast, the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry are very much in competition because of their similar pricing, similar marketing, similar performance, and similar consumer demographic.

Whether two products on the market are in competition has nothing to do with the performance of the products, but how they are priced, how they are marketed, and their intended use.

vegatecgroup's picture

Yet people buy SUV's and pickup trucks that technically they do not need. They buy them for reasons that fit their desires, their lifestyle in many cases, not because they off-road or need it for work.

I get calls every week from Postdocs and researchers that buy a Nikon lens off eBay for $50 and have no idea why they are not getting the data and images they need.

I get them a lens that performs to their requirements.

Getting a lens that performs to a specific requirement does not mean you must spend $10K for it.

Even the SWIR lenses I recommend, many are under $5K.

The lens that took the SWIR image in my profile was designed to cover 400-1700nm. The lens was mated to an extended SWIR InGaAs sensor camera(600-1700nm) to take the images. I sold them to fire departments for their firefighters body worn SWIR cameras. The lens sold for under $800.

I am advocating looking outside the box. Every one in this forum knows the consumer/commercial equipment. Why not take your photography to another level, an alternative to what every one else has. There is nothing wrong with being different.

michaeljinphoto's picture

No, but again. A person that WANTS a pickup truck is not looking at the sports cars in that parking lot to meet that particular desire (for a pickup truck). If they look at a sports car, it's in order to meet a completely different desire.

If you're getting calls from people who need scientific lenses and are purchasing consumer lenses instead, you're talking about people who are looking at inappropriate products for their particular needs. The notion of competition would imply that both products could meet their needs. This is not an example of these lenses competing against each other. It's an example of an uninformed consumer.

I'm not advocating for one thing or another. I'm just pointing out that it's a fallacy to believe that a lens designed for scientific research is competing against your run-of-the-mill Nikon lens. It's not. There is no situation where you would consider both equally for a certain task. They are different types of lenses, designed for different purposes, and marketed toward different consumers.

As for the notion that "there is nothing wrong with being different", that would also be false. There can be a lot wrong with being different depending on HOW you're being different. Adapting a large format lens on bellows to a DSLR would be different, but a terrible idea if your intent is to be a sports journalist on the sideline of an NFL game. Shooting headshots with a 12mm lens would be different, but a similarly horrible idea if your objective is to do corporate headshot work. If you purchase an Abrams tank to use as a pizza delivery vehicle, you're doing something wrong.

For any given task, there are appropriate and inappropriate tools. Yes, you can get creative within reason, but the "WITHIN REASON" part is the key here. You're not going to take a 800mm lens with an IR-modded sensor to go be a wedding photographer. Doing something like that isn't "taking your photography to another level", it's being ignorant of your purpose and tools. This is essentially the case for the postdocs and researchers that you describe.

If you're looking for gear, ask yourself what you're trying to accomplish and then look for the tools to get your there. For one task, it might be a $50 Nikon lens off of eBay. For another, it might be the Kepler Space Telescope. There's no universe in which both of those options are equally valid for the same task.

vegatecgroup's picture

Let's leave it at you disagree. I have another opinion for those that want to do something out of main stays. Every one knows the equipment posted in these forums. Want something different, look beyond the average. To me, Photography has always been about exploration. I want to see where it takes me, without constraints. Others feel differently about where they want to go.

Rk K's picture

Different doesn't mean better. The photo you posted is different enough, even though you could replicate the style with a cheap infrared filter, but it's not actually any good.

vegatecgroup's picture

No you can't replicate the images in my profile picture with a cheap infrared filter. The sensor used was InGaAs, specifically made for SWIR imaging(700-1700nm). The QE of a CMOS or CCD sensor would drop out completely by 950-1000nm.

Visit: www.sensorsinc.com

Rk K's picture

I'm sure that's true, but it still looks like just another flat infrared photo, doesn't it? The artistry comes from the photographer and the subject, not the equipment used. Composition, lighting, processing, all way more important.

vegatecgroup's picture

The image was take as a proof of concept for the lens I developed. The InGaAs SWIR camera was from Sensors Unlimited(www.sensorsinc.com).

The sensor in the camera covered from 600-1700nm(Extended SWIR), however the lens was developed to cover from 400-1700nm. The lens is fixed focal, f4, 1m to infinity. f4 because it was intended for firefighters with body worn cameras in firefighting situations.

With SWIR anything warm looks like a flare. A cigarette looks like a road flare, so you have to back off optics f#. Also what is unique is in the SWIR, smoke and fog are invisible.

My profile image was taken in the early morning, it was very foggy.
In the same situation, a CMOS or CCD sensor with a filter would have just seen fog. That's why you would never get the same image with a cheap filter on a Visible camera.

michaeljinphoto's picture

You're clearly a very technical guy, but if you have to give a lecture about the capabilities of the equipment your using in order to explain what makes your photograph special, I think you've lost something critical in your photography.

Yeah, I know. It's my own opinion. I'm all for experimenting with new technology, techniques, and processes to keep the mind open to possibilities, but I'm against the photography being ABOUT those technologies, techniques, and processes. When it comes to esoteric gear, it seems to almost always go down that road. Even something as simple as a lens that happens to have swirly bokeh will lead to a discussion where one would think that the bokeh is the subject of the photograph. Tools are an important part of realizing accomplishing your vision, but when you vision becomes ABOUT the tools, then I think you need to look in the mirror and ask what's creating that hold for the tool to fill.

I can tell you why the military or first responders might need to be able to see through smoke or fog, but how often is it important for a photographer? Fog rolls in? Just come back on a non-foggy day. Yes, this technology has allowed you to not have to do that, but it has also come off with its own trade-off in terms of the quality of image that you got so what was your intention and did you accomplish it? If so, then great. If you got through the fog, but you didn't come away the the actual image that you would have wanted because that lens and sensor doesn't capture the other aspects of the scene in the way that you want, then the ability to look through the fog would be a bit pointless...

The core of our craft is the "why". A lot of us haven't found it and that's why we go from product to product, gimmick to gimmick, hoping that the next thing that we buy will fulfill the promise of making us stand out from the crowd. All of the best photographers, however, stand out because of what's already inside of them, not the novelty of the tool in their hand.

vegatecgroup's picture

It's what I do, technical imaging.

michaeljinphoto's picture

So you're probably not standing out at all since you're likely just doing the same stuff others in your industry are. What's with the "look beyond the average" and "photography is about exploration" schtick that you're trying to push off onto photographers in other fields, then? Trying to make a few sales?

vegatecgroup's picture

I don't sell products, I am a consultant and design engineer.

Schtick? I have been an Electronics Engineer(BS & MS Degrees) for 38 years, 20 years in Digital Imaging designing, building, testing, integrating.

As an engineer it's about exploration and looking beyond average, not settling for the same thing every one else is doing.

Every news article posted in this forum is about discovery and what is new. You can not say it is not.

michaeljinphoto's picture

"As an engineer it's about exploration and looking beyond average, not settling for the same thing every one else is doing."

Oh, sorry. I was under the impression that being an engineer was about finding solutions for specific problems. My bad. Let me go tell my engineering buddies that they're doing it wrong.

vegatecgroup's picture

Exploration is finding a solution to a problem. Have you ever heard "Think outside the box"?

You have no clue what an engineer is or does. I do suggest you ask your buddies.

michaeljinphoto's picture

What you're advocating for is not "problem solving". It's exploration for exploration's sake. That is not engineering. "Think outside of the box" refers to finding creative solutions when there's a problem that you're looking to solve. What is the precise problem that needs to be solved for which an exotic lens is the solution? If you're conducting research, then yes, but most photographers are not conducting research nor are they looking to capture information beyond the visible spectrum. The vast majority of photographers are looking to capture images of what they see and for the professionals, they're getting paid to meet certain expectations.

I think you're just reaching for a justification for hipster lens selections. Your arguments about "looking beyond the average" or "being different" are essentially no different from all of the fans of Lensbaby, Lomography, and every other gimmick that gets marketed to photographers. But whatever, you do you. You won't have me to argue against you anymore because the past few days have convinced me that I was right the first time that I decided to delete my account and step away from participating in any of this. I was much happier for a while there so I'm just going to go back to that.

Peace.

Arthur Morgan's picture

Please will you write an article on the uses and specifications needed for lens ( and cameras ) applicable to the various specialist fields.

vegatecgroup's picture

At some time I will write up articles per industry.

David Penner's picture

I refuse to buy a lens and camera that can't be used to spy on foreign govt's. My last shoot I rolled up with a $100 million drone. The shoot didn't turn out so great but after using my super computer to process the shot I realized the model had a skin condition that needed to be dealt with.

vegatecgroup's picture

Then you would be interested in my latest project, crash and burn drones using MWIR cameras.

I’m waiting for the FE version. After using the 28-75mm f/2.8 I’m sold.

Tamron is just rolling since G2

Spy Black's picture

Even some G1, the 85mm f/1.8 is killer.

70-200 f2.8 g2 its stunning for the price. Insane VC, build quality close to military grade armor, ultra fast focus and as sharp or even sharper then Nikkor vr 3 70 -200( wich cost 1200$ more ). Tamron G2 lenses are my go to lenses atm.

yep, same goes for 24-70 G2 .. I`m almost sad I have all lenses I really need .:)

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