Review: Tamron 35mm f1.8 Di VC (Canon EF)

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 35mm f1.8 Di VC review product photos (1 of 2)ISO 4001-125 sec at f - 2.8

Very recently, Tamron announced two new prime lens updates to their SP lineup. One of these lenses is the Tamron 35mm f1.8 Di VC, and with vibration compensation built-in, it shows loads of promise. Beyond this feature, the lens has a very close focusing distance, weather sealing, and a beautiful texture on the outside that is pleasing to the touch.

But it isn’t without its problems.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Great texture on the outside
  • Weather sealing
  • Pretty good image quality, though it requires more post-production than that or other lenses to get it that way
  • Fast focusing, though it can be inaccurate.

Cons

  • Images need more post-production than we’d like
  • Focusing with the outer focusing points when using the Canon 6D isn’t always tack sharp

Gear Used

We tested the Tamron 35mm f1.8 Di VC with the Canon 6D and Adorama Flashpoint Zoom Li-Ion flash.

Tech Specs

Specs taken from the B&H Photo listing of the lens.

Performance
Focal Length 35mm
Aperture Maximum: f/1.8
Minimum: f/16
Camera Mount Type Canon EF
Format Compatibility 35mm Film / Full-Frame Digital Sensor
Canon (APS-C)
Angle of View 63° 26′
Minimum Focus Distance 7.87″ (20 cm)
Maximum Reproduction Ratio 1:2.5
Elements/Groups 10/9
Diaphragm Blades 9, Rounded
Features
Image Stabilization Yes
Autofocus Yes
Physical
Filter Thread Front: 67 mm
Dimensions (DxL) Approx. 3.17 x 3.20″ (80.4 x 81.3 mm)
Weight 16.9 oz (479.12 g)

Ergonomics

Taken from our first impressions post

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 35mm f1.8 Di VC product images (2 of 5)ISO 1001-320 sec at f - 2.0

The new Tamron 35mm f1.8 Di VC is a lens designed for every single photographer but aimed a bit more squarely at the advanced amateur and enthusiast. And it brings with it a wealth of features for those folks. We begin our ergonomics tour with the front of the lens. Here you’ll see the Tamron branding–which the company said they worked a very long time on choosing carefully. Additionally, you’ll see a distance scale but not a depth of field scale.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 35mm f1.8 Di VC product images (1 of 5)ISO 2001-320 sec at f - 4.0

Turn to the side and you’ll find switches for controls like image stabilization and autofocus capabilities. These areas are raised up quite a bit more than what we’re used to–and we like that.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 35mm f1.8 Di VC product images (4 of 5)ISO 1001-800 sec at f - 2.0

Then you’ll see more Tamron branding/badges. They have the SP logo there but a bit more raised as well. What you’ll also notice is the silver-colored ring near the bottom–which the company is used to brand itself and distinguish itself from the rest.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 35mm f1.8 Di VC product images (3 of 5)ISO 1001-160 sec at f - 2.0

Finally, there is the front of the lens–which uses a 67mm sized filter.

Build Quality

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 35mm f1.8 Di VC cutaway (1 of 1)ISO 2001-100 sec at f - 3.2

This lens has weather sealing at the base and within the lens around the focusing ring. During our tests, we took it out during a rainfall in NYC attached to the Canon 6D. The lens wasn’t phased at all by the rain, which is nice to know.

At such an affordable price point, you’re getting a lens with weather sealing. This is still amazing to us.

Autofocus

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 35mm f1.8 Di VC review photos (27 of 29)ISO 2001-1000 sec at f - 2.5

 

We encountered only a couple of problems when it came to focusing–and all of them happened with the Canon 6D and the outer focusing points. The cause of this? When a photographer has their own batch of lenses, the camera and the lens pretty much get used to talking to one another but sometimes they need to be AF fine tuned or Micro Adjusted. When new lenses are used, the problems with focusing become more frequent especially at the outer points. To prevent this from happening, you should clean the contacts with something like Isopropyl alcohol. Even the companies recommend it!

When we cleaned the contacts of both the camera and the lens, the focusing issues still occurred. But when using the center focusing point, we didn’t see any issues, which means that there is no need to micro-adjust the lens but instead there are just problems.

In a typical situation like this, I’d ask for a better copy of the lens, but pretty much every journalist I’ve talked to is having some sort of issues with it. Some are having more fringing issues than others, some are experiencing super slow AF, and others have other problems.

But for the most part, when using the center focusing point this lens focuses just as quick as a Sigma lens or a Canon lens no matter what the lighting situation is.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 35mm f1.8 Di VC first impressions images (7 of 24)ISO 1001-1000 sec at f - 1.8

What Tamron should be praised for though is the lens’s close focusing abilities of about 7 to 8 inches. It’s not quite macro, but it’s still enjoyable all the same.

Ease of Use

Using this lens is simple: mount it, turn on the AF via the switch, point, focus and shoot. You’ll enjoy it. For the life of us though, we don’t know why Tamron or most other lens manufacturers that make autofocusing DSLR lenses don’t have a working depth of field scale. It would be so much faster for street photography.

Image Quality

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 35mm f1.8 Di VC review photos (13 of 29)ISO 1001-640 sec at f - 4.0

We recently compared this lens to the Sigma 35mm f1.4 DG HSM and found that the Sigma offers much better image quality–so don’t ask on that front. If you fix the focusing issues (or use the center point of your camera) what you’ll end up overall is really solid image quality if you don’t sit there and pixel peep your images. Once you get in that close at 100% you’ll notice fringing that is much worse than what we’ve come to expect with modern lenses.

But otherwise, the overall image quality is very nice.

Sharpness

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 35mm f1.8 Di VC review photos (28 of 29)ISO 2001-1600 sec at f - 1.8

This isn’t one of the sharpest lenses out there, and indeed this isn’t one of the lenses strongest points. Of all the 35mm lenses that we’ve tested, this is one of the softest, but again that isn’t saying a lot considering how good modern lenses are. If we had to number some of the best 35mm lenses for DSLR cameras we would say the order from best to worst would be:

  • Sigma 35mm f1.4 DG HSM
  • Zeiss Milvus 35mm f2
  • Canon 35mm f2 IS USM
  • Nikon 35mm f1.8
  • Tamron 35mm f1.8 Di VC
  • Rokinon 35mm f1.4

If you still want this lens, then consider doing tweaks in Adobe Lightroom before you put the files online or print them. When stopped down, it’s about on par with the rest though still a bit lower.

Bokeh

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 35mm f1.8 Di VC review photos (1 of 29)ISO 4001-800 sec at f - 1.8

One of the strongest points of this lens is the bokeh. The Tamron 35mm f1.8 Di VC is designed with 9 aperture blades and has a very close focusing distance. It can seriously render better bokeh than almost everything we’ve seen except for the Sigma 35mm f1.4 and Sony’s 35mm f1.4.

Bokeh fiends will really appreciate not only the affordable price and the weather sealing, but also the bokeh that they’ll get. It’s easy to get mesmerized and awestruck in what this lens can do when it comes to out of focus areas.

Color Rendition

What we’re also a big fan of is the color rendition. The lens tends to give us warmer images than what we’re used to–and actually we like that. It’s great when it comes to skin tones and sunsets. The lens doesn’t have a very high level of contrast like Sigma and Zeiss do, and to that end the colors won’t appear deeper than they normally do. Beyond this, there is little to no vignetting when shooting wide open–so you won’t have that perception when shooting.

Color Fringing

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 35mm f1.8 Di VC review photos (2 of 29)ISO 64001-100 sec at f - 1.8

Errrrrr, purples and greens. Yup, it happens.

Extra Image Samples

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 35mm f1.8 Di VC review photos (23 of 29)ISO 4001-125 sec at f - 5.6

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 35mm f1.8 Di VC review photos (4 of 29)ISO 1001-1000 sec at f - 4.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 35mm f1.8 Di VC review photos (14 of 29)ISO 1001-50 sec at f - 1.8

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 35mm f1.8 Di VC review photos (25 of 29)ISO 4001-100 sec at f - 5.6

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 35mm f1.8 Di VC review photos (7 of 29)ISO 2001-1600 sec at f - 2.8

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 35mm f1.8 Di VC review photos (8 of 29)ISO 2001-2000 sec at f - 2.8

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 35mm f1.8 Di VC review photos (9 of 29)ISO 2001-3200 sec at f - 2.8

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 35mm f1.8 Di VC review photos (26 of 29)ISO 4001-60 sec at f - 5.6

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 35mm f1.8 Di VC review photos (5 of 29)ISO 2001-640 sec at f - 4.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 35mm f1.8 Di VC review photos (10 of 29)ISO 2001-2000 sec at f - 2.8

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 35mm f1.8 Di VC review photos (11 of 29)ISO 2001-640 sec at f - 1.8

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 35mm f1.8 Di VC review photos (12 of 29)ISO 2001-4000 sec at f - 1.8

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 35mm f1.8 Di VC review photos (15 of 29)ISO 1001-200 sec at f - 11

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 35mm f1.8 Di VC review photos (16 of 29)ISO 2001-400 sec at f - 6.3

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 35mm f1.8 Di VC review photos (17 of 29)ISO 1001-1600 sec at f - 5.6

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 35mm f1.8 Di VC review photos (18 of 29)ISO 2001-1000 sec at f - 8.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 35mm f1.8 Di VC review photos (19 of 29)ISO 2001-800 sec at f - 8.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 35mm f1.8 Di VC review photos (20 of 29)ISO 2001-4000 sec at f - 2.8

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 35mm f1.8 Di VC review photos (22 of 29)ISO 4001-160 sec at f - 5.6

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 35mm f1.8 Di VC review photos (24 of 29)ISO 4001-250 sec at f - 5.6

 

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 35mm f1.8 Di VC first impressions images (2 of 24)ISO 1001-1600 sec at f - 1.8

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 35mm f1.8 Di VC first impressions images (8 of 24)ISO 1001-100 sec at f - 1.8

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 35mm f1.8 Di VC first impressions images (11 of 24)ISO 1001-160 sec at f - 2.8

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 35mm f1.8 Di VC first impressions images (13 of 24)ISO 1001-1000 sec at f - 3.5

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 35mm f1.8 Di VC first impressions images (15 of 24)ISO 1001-160 sec at f - 5.6

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 35mm f1.8 Di VC first impressions images (20 of 24)ISO 1001-3200 sec at f - 1.8

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 35mm f1.8 Di VC first impressions images (21 of 24)ISO 1001-160 sec at f - 5.6

Conclusions

Likes

  • Nice colors
  • Great bokeh
  • Weather sealing

Dislikes

  • Focusing issues
  • Fringing issues

Oh Tamron, you had so much potential here to really compete with Sigma on a much higher level. But the sharpness, fringing and focusing issues are just too much here. That, combined with the fact that lots of journalists received problematic copies is another stab in the heart.

And now for the good things. This lens has the absolute best exterior texture I’ve ever felt. Zeiss, Fujifilm, Olympus, Panasonic, Sigma–nothing can compare to this. It just feels so soft and elegant, yet I know for a fact that it can take a beating. This lens has weather sealing and at a $599 price point, who can beat that for a DSLR lens? Beyond this, the lens has incredible color quality, beautiful bokeh that will make you want to shoot wide open all day; until you realize that the lens is softer than most wide open and you’ll have fringing issues that you’ll need to eliminate in post. I don’t usually complain about stuff like this as I always de-fringe my images anyway, but it’s not something that we’ve come to expect in this day and age.

four-star-Phoblographer-Star-rating

The Tamron 35mm f1.8 Di VC receives four out of five stars. Get your quality control problems fixed, Tamron. Then we’ll happily award you five out of five. The latest price can be checked at B&H Photo.

Recommended Cameras

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 35mm f1.8 Di VC review product photos (2 of 2)ISO 4001-125 sec at f - 2.8

Canon 6D: This lens is very much aimed at the entry-level full frame camera owner.

Nikon D610: See above.