Fstoppers Reviews The Tamron 35mm and 45mm 1.8 VC Lenses

Both Tamron and Sigma have been shaking up the photography industry by releasing one premium lens after another. Many of these lenses are actually better than the Nikon or Canon equivalents. Tamron's 35mm and 45mm 1.8 lenses have created a new segment; wide angle primes with VC (vibration compensation). But does anyone really need this?

Lens stabilization started showing up years ago in telephoto lenses. The longer your lens, the more pronounced camera shake will appear. Most lens manufacturers left stabilization out of wide angle lenses and fast primes because camera shake wasn't as big of an issue. 
 
Tamron seems to believe that VC can help in any lens because they added it to their ultra wide 15-30mm 2.8 lens. They then created a 35mm and 45mm 1.8 lens and added VC to them as well. 
 

Build quality

The build quality of both lenses is fantastic. They are both a bit bigger than my Nikon 50mm 1.4 and feel much more robust. The focus ring spins very smoothly and feels similar to current Sony lenses (which I think are some of the best on the market). The VC and AF switches on the side snap back and forth in a very pleasing and sturdy way. 
 

Image Quality

I'm not a pixel peeper, and I think most photographers are way too concerned with imperceptible details, rather than actually creating art, but I digress. The 45mm lens seemed very comparable in my tests to my 50mm lens. Obviously the lens will get sharper at f/4 than at f/1.8 but the shots look great to me at any aperture. The VC will help you stabilize pictures at slow shutter speeds, but I personally like the VC more for hand held video shooting than stills and premium lens quality isn't noticeable when it comes to video. 
 

Should You Buy Either Of These Lenses?

To be perfectly honest, the average photographer probably doesn't have much of a need for a lens like this, and I can't think of any reason to buy both of them since they are so close in length.  How often are you shooting at 1/5 of a second at f/1.8 without a tripod? If you're shooting video, won't you have a tripod? Wouldn't you prefer a zoom lens? 
 
This lens is going to be a luxury item for most photographers and a useful tool to a very few. Wedding photographers who are constantly shooting in dim natural light and who prefer primes will love these lenses. Videographers who don't care about zooming will also love the ability to shoot in extreme low light without a tripod. 
 
If you don't constantly find yourself shooting hand held in the dark these lenses probably aren't for you but I'm still excited that Tamron is creating such specialized lenses. Tamron has created a new niche in the market and the photographers who could use this type of lens are really going to love them. 
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26 Comments

Sean Shimmel's picture

Lee, I enjoy your practical, non pixel-peeping simplicity.

Each photographer sees life through his own ideal focal length and mine is always 85mm. But I did stretch myself to pull out my dusty 50mm last Sunday and was unexpectedly pleased (most from the Nikon 50 1.8 and the others from the Nikon 85 1.4):

http://lifeascinema.blogspot.com/2016/02/gracefully.html

Norbert Tukora's picture

The VC won't help you shooting a wedding because at 1/5 people (at least the live ones) tend to move, breath etc. :D :D

I should have mentioned this. The VC will still help around 1/60 - 1/30 as well and I do find myself shooting around that speed a lot at weddings.

Norbert Tukora's picture

I did a night shoot with a pro model, only light from the city lamps and about third of the photos had a little motion blur from her. That's why I'm saying that VR doesn't help much when shooting people who tend to jump and dance at a wedding. :D
Anyway I would prefer if all the primes had VC/VR.

Anonymous's picture

Can't follow the Arguments in this review. How can those Lenses be a niche product? They are reasonably priced and the VC will help you to shoot faster. Some Cameras have built in stabilization and everyone is happy to have that at every focal length and for all the others you are lucky to have VC build into your lense. Do you need it, no, is it an advantage, yes...in every situation. Those aren't niche Products, 35mm is very popular and 45mm just tries to be more of a normal Focal length than 50mm is. Since the average Person has a Focal length arround 41mm, not 50mm.

Kyle Medina's picture

Nice review, straight to the point. I will not be buying these, but what I can say is that their VC is damn good! I have the 70-300 VC and it was a dream to use with still wildlife.

Prefer a zoom? Not really, the have their uses, but they get big quickly or they're slow, or both.

Shooting in dim light? All the time, I live in the UK, it's always dim!

Jason Lorette's picture

Nikon and Canon better wake up...Tamron and Sigma (with their ART lenses) and stepping up their game with arguably better lenses and at a hugely improved price point over their big brothers. I never thought I'd buy a non-Nikon lens, but after buying the Sigma 18-35mm 1.8 ART I'm already considering my next art lens.

Tom Lim's picture

I was exactly the same way. Was going to stick with Nikon only lenses until I got the 18-35 Art. When out of the studio, 18-35 is on my camera 90% of the time. Plus my 70-200 is the Tamron VC version. LOL

Jason Lorette's picture

The 18-35mm ART is a sweet lens and it's hardly off my camera, sometimes I wish it had vibration control, but most of the time it's fine. I honestly haven't looked at a Nikon lens since I got this. Your move Nikon.

Tom Lim's picture

Yes, the 18-35mm Art would be amazing for video if it had VR (I think Sigma calls it OS).

Chris Adval's picture

Thanks Lee for your thoughts!

As for me I plan to rent and see about the 35mm 1.8. I know I could use it for both photography and video work. And as a starter lens too, then move up to more quality glass like zeiss for video and sigma for photography.

But I wonder what videographer uses the zooms, other than for the ones whom are shooting action/motion scenes? Not many. I love primes with IS/VC or any image stabilization. Saves me a from buying video image stabilization rigs honestly, even though sooner or later I'll need one of those.

Luke Barrett's picture

Something Lee didn't get into here is that the Tamron also has outstanding glass, judging by reviews from dxomark etc: 29 px vs 30 px resolution. I think the only reason to spend the extra money for a Sigma for stills would be for a f/1.4 max aperture...
http://www.dxomark.com/Lenses/Tamron/Tamron-SP-35mm-F18-Di-VC-USD-Model-...
http://www.dxomark.com/Lenses/Sigma/Sigma-35mm-F14-DG-HSM-A-Nikon-mounte...

"Tamron seems to be the only company putting vibration compensation in its wide angle primes"
What about the Canon 35 f:2 IS, 28 f:2.8 IS and 24 f:2.8 IS.
Not exactly brand new lenses.
I suppose if you are in Nikon then you are having a harder time though. They don't seem to have any medium wide primes with VC.

Norbert Tukora's picture

Canon doesn't have vibration compensation! :P
It's called Image Stabilization... XD :D :D
(So the quoted sentence holds true.)

Someone's in a cheeky mood...

Patrick Hall's picture

I guess I (and prob Lee too) come from a place where a prime needs to have a faster aperture than 2.8 otherwise why not just get the zoom? The image quality isn't THAT much better in a prime that is only 2.8.

So I see what he is saying, there aren't any other primes really on the market with IS/VR/VC with a "fast" aperture

Patrick Hall's picture

That's one of the few and apparently people love it (I've never shot with it). Even at 2.0 though it's really not that much faster than a 2.8 zoom or prime. I wonder how massive a lens like these Tamrons would have to be to have a 1.4 or 1.2 aperture. I guess at some point the lenses would either be so big or so expensive that it wouldn't make sense.

"Even at 2.0 though it's really not that much faster than a 2.8 zoom or prime."

f/2 is a full stop faster than f/2.8; that's pretty significant. More significant than the 1/3rd stop difference between the Canon f/2 and the Tamron f/1.8

Luc Szczepanski's picture

Not to be a sony fanboy or anything, but IBIS is pretty dope when none of your current lenses are stabilised.

Spy Black's picture

Focus-assist light on? Isn't that a D4? ;-) These lenses are certainly interesting, not only in what they have to offer themselves, but as Lee mentioned, they are the tip of an iceberg of lenses coming from Tamron. It may well spur Sigma to add stabilization to their lenses as well. My hat's off to both Tamron and Sigma for creating quality, high-end lenses that people can actually afford.

I wish Tamron and Sigma made some lenses for Fuji X. Possibly cheaper than Fuji's..

Bernd Stoeckl's picture

I have all 3 new Tamrons 35/45/85 since about half a year using it on my D800 and D810.
The image quality is exceptional so is the color rendition and contrast but one thing is a big let down - that is the focus.
The lenses have been at Tamron for updating the firmware, I own the TAP in console and I tried to adjust them with various methods and targets very seriously for precise focus on various distances.
Yet, the 35 and the 45 produce a high number of shots that are completely off the target once the light gets dimmer.
I focus on the eyeball and the shots end up with focus on the pullover about a feet forth or back absolutely random.
For whatever reason AF-C in 3D mode seems to deliver better results, maybe because blue eyes differentiate from skin more clear than a simple contrast measure.

Once the batteries goes below 40% it is getting absolutely worse then the trash peaks up to 80%.
I am kind of torn because I love the lenses optically but the focus drives me mad - on both bodies.

Actually what I've disliked in the past about primes was a lack of VC/IS/VR. I mostly shoot people or objects sitting still and haven't had an issue especially above 1/8 to 1/10 second. It's a huge difference 4000 Vs 1000 ISO sometimes.

"the average photographer probably doesn't have much of a need for a lens like this"

I'm only a hobbyist, in the search for my personal "holy trinity" for full frame (Canon), to take family and travel pictures. I believe that a 35mm with IS/VC will fit perfectly and will actually make a good general purpose lens. Not a niche product at all.

Thanks for a great review by the way! I appreciate that it's filmed at night, and that you've done so using the lenses that you review (I assume). It made it easier to determine how noticable that onion bokeh is, which made it easier for me to decide to go with this lens over the Canon f2 IS.