Review: Tamron 45mm f1.8 Di VC (Canon EF)

Chris Gampat The Phoblogrpaher Tamron 45mm f1.8 product highlight images (1 of 2)ISO 3201-250 sec at f - 2.8

When we first went about testing the Tamron 45mm f1.8 Di VC, we ran into some problems. There were autofocus issues, color fringing, and more. A lens that from a marketing standpoint had so much promise to us was being shot in the foot by the most important thing–image quality. Then the unit went back to Tamron and we called in the 35mm f1.8. After we sent the 35mm f1.8 back, we called in the 45mm for a second chance.

With nine aperture blades, a metal build, a nice feel in the hands and weather sealing, this lens has a lot going for it–especially for only $599.

That’s an affordable price point for sure, but it’s also a lens for those of us not reaching for higher fruit.

Pros and Cons

Chris Gampat The Phoblogrpaher Tamron 45mm f1.8 other review images (2 of 4)ISO 4001-1250 sec at f - 4.0

Pros

  • When it’s accurate and it’s sharp, it’s incredibly so.
  • Nice bokeh
  • Weather sealing for an affordable price point
  • Nice handling of backlit situations.

Cons

  • There seems to be quality control issues
  • AF performance with outer focusing points isn’t that great
  • Not incredibly sharp wide open, nowhere as sharp as the 35mm lens.

Gear Used

We tested the Tamron 45mm f1.8 Di VC with the Canon 6D and the Adorama Flashpoint Zoom LiOn flash.

Tech Specs

Model : F013

Focal Length : 45mm

Maximum Aperture : F/1.8

Angle of View (diagonal) : 51°21′ (for full-frame format)

: 34°28′ (for APS-C format)

Optical Construction : 10 elements in 8 groups

Minimum Object Distance : 11.4 in

Maximum Magnification Ratio : 1:3.4

Filter Size : Ø67mm

Maximum Diameter : Ø 80.4mm

Length[1] : for Canon 3.6 in

: for Nikon 3.5 in

Weight : for Canon 19 oz

: for Nikon 18.3 oz

Aperture Blades     : 9 (circular diaphragm[2])

Minimum Aperture : F/16

Standard Accessories : Flower-shaped lens hood, Lens caps

Compatible Mounts : Canon, Nikon, Sony[3]

Specifications, appearance, functionality, etc. are subject to change without prior notice.

[1] Length is the distance from the front tip of the lens to the lens mount face. [2] The circular diaphragm stays almost perfectly circular up to two stops down from maximum aperture. [3] The Sony mount model does not include VC, since the bodies of Sony DSLR cameras include built-in image stabilization functionality.

Ergonomics

Taken from our First Impressions post

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 45mm f1.8 Di VC product photos (1 of 4)ISO 1001-100 sec at f - 4.0

The Tamron 45mm f1.8 Di VC is a lens with a very matte finish and made of metal. Here we see the distance scale, focusing ring and a bit of Tamron branding. Near the side, you can spot focusing controls that are raised up from the lens body much more than those from other manufacturers.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 45mm f1.8 Di VC product photos (4 of 4)ISO 1001-250 sec at f - 3.5

On the side, you’ll find a bit of new branding. This is an SP lens and so you’ll see the SP badge pop up a bit.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 45mm f1.8 Di VC product photos (2 of 4)ISO 1001-250 sec at f - 2.2

On the front, you’ll find a 67mm filter thread; and of course the lens hood is removable.

Build Quality

We didn’t end up taking this lens out into the rain during our testing, but the weather sealing ring around the mount and the internal weather sealing lets us know that it can handle lots of rain and dust. Beyond that, the texture of the lens just feels really nice in the hand.

Ease of Use

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 45mm f1.8 review photos (3 of 6)ISO 64001-160 sec at f - 1.8

Essentially what we’re doing here is mounting the lens to the camera, pointing at a subject, letting it autofocus and shooting. It’s really straightforward. For those of us who love doing street photography though, I can’t figure out why this lens didn’t include a depth of field scale. Many manufacturers don’t have them, but it’s really about time that we have one.

If you’re shooting handheld, be sure to enable the VC switch to compensate for shaking hands.

Autofocus

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 45mm f1.8 review photos (6 of 6)ISO 64001-10 sec at f - 1.8

Here’s the thing about the autofocus here. During our tests, we needed to clean the contacts on the Canon 6D often. Why? To be quite frank, focusing using the outer focusing points with this camera really sucks when the Tamron is connected. We’re legitimately not trying to toot Sigma’s horn here, but Sigma surely takes the cake here in terms of outer AF point performance and even bests the focus confirmation that Zeiss offers.

However, when using the center focusing point this lens not only focuses quickly but very accurately even in the lowest of lighting conditions. For that it should be praised. To clarify this, the lens will always focus quickly but it won’t always be accurate.

I thought that the lens needed micro-adjustment, and then I later reasoned that if the center focusing point was giving me sharp results, the rest should and by changing the adjustment, I’m tampering with the focusing overall. For the most part, I just focused and carefully recomposed using the center point.

To ensure that nothing was wrong with my camera, I just took it out again and had no real issues with my Sigma 50mm f1.4 (the original version.)

Image Quality

ALL IMAGES HAVE EXIF DATA IN TACT. CLICK THE IMAGE AND YOU’LL GET THE FILE NAME IN THE URL.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 45mm f1.8 other review images extras (2 of 2)ISO 1001-800 sec at f - 1.8

We said it at the start of this review: when it’s good, it’s really incredibly good. It’s not going to touch the best Sigma and Zeiss lenses, but it’s also not too far off. Again, we also always say that modern photo editors like Adobe Lightroom can also eliminate pretty much every problem you could think of when it comes to image quality. Seriously, it just makes sense at this point and everyone that shoots in RAW understands that they’re going to need to do work to their images.

If you’re not looking at an image at 100%, the focus is still good enough for you to be happy with the results if the person looking at the image has an untrained eye. Those folks will be thrilled with the output. For that reason, this is a great lens to get for a beginner just looking to get started.

Bokeh

One of my favorite features of this lens has to do with the bokeh. It’s just creamy all around. The image in this section of the woman with the red dress is shot at f1.8 and has beautiful, creamy bokeh.

Again, the price point is really hitting home here and those 9 aperture blades are really paying off. Tamron should be praised for the beautiful bokeh and giving a lens at $599 nine aperture blades.

Sharpness

Chris Gampat The Phoblogrpaher Tamron 45mm f1.8 other review images (3 of 4)ISO 1001-25 sec at f - 2.8

Like mostly everything with this lens, when the Tamon 45mm f1.8 Di VC hits its sharpness peak, it’s really good. Wide open at f1.8, this lens isn’t super sharp comparatively to some competitors. It starts to get better by f2.8 but it really hits an amazing point at f5.6.

Beyond all this, we always recommend using a lens with a flash to get its maximum sharpness.

Color Rendition

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 45mm f1.8 other review images extras (1 of 2)ISO 1001-400 sec at f - 1.8

Color rendition straight from the camera is pretty saturated and that works out very well in most cases. If you’re a film shooter and using this lens to shoot portraits, you’re going to want to desaturate the skin tone color channels a bit more. Otherwise, it’s almost as saturated as results from Sigma and Zeiss though still not quite there. However, the images are more saturated than what Rokinon offers.

Color Fringing

Chris Gampat The Phoblogrpaher Tamron 45mm f1.8 other review images (1 of 4)ISO 4001-250 sec at f - 2.5

In our original unit, we got lots of fringing yet for some odd reason, the unit we got in to test recently had no fringing. Just be careful here, Tamron.

Extra Image Samples

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 45mm f1.8 review photos (5 of 6)ISO 64001-25 sec at f - 1.8
Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 45mm f1.8 Di VC first impressions photos (7 of 8)ISO 1001-1000 sec at f - 1.8

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 45mm f1.8 Di VC first impressions photos (5 of 8)ISO 4001-4000 sec at f - 1.8

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 45mm f1.8 Di VC first impressions photos (4 of 8)ISO 4001-100 sec at f - 1.8

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 45mm f1.8 Di VC first impressions photos (2 of 8)ISO 1001-800 sec at f - 1.8

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 45mm f1.8 Di VC first impressions photos (8 of 8)ISO 1001-800 sec at f - 1.8

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 45mm f1.8 Di VC first impressions photos (3 of 8)ISO 1001-1000 sec at f - 1.8

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 45mm f1.8 Di VC first impressions photos (1 of 8)ISO 8001-50 sec at f - 1.8

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 45mm f1.8 review photos (4 of 6)ISO 64001-25 sec at f - 1.8

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 45mm f1.8 review photos (2 of 6)ISO 64001-200 sec at f - 1.8

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 45mm f1.8 review photos (1 of 6)ISO 64001-60 sec at f - 3.2

Chris Gampat The Phoblogrpaher Tamron 45mm f1.8 other review images (4 of 4)ISO 4001-50 sec at f - 4.0

Conclusions

Likes

  • Weather sealing
  • Nice bokeh
  • Nice textured feel in the hand

Dislikes

  • Quality control issues seem to be apparent.

I really, really want to like the Tamron 45mm f1.8 Di VC. It’s got image stabilization, nine aperture blades, weather sealing, an affordable price, and can deliver good image quality to the user. Plus, it’s got a metal build to it, is lightweight and just looks good. In the right situations, it’s very sharp and the lens renders images to be really beautiful either way.

But the truth of the matter is that I don’t like this lens. The focusing issues caused me more frustration than pleasure. Despite the fact that the image quality from it is solid in the right situations, I just can’t fall in love with it. Tamron has had years to try to outdo Sigma, and they just haven’t done it.

Again though, that’s just me. For a really affordable price point, you’re getting what Sigma and Zeiss can almost offer you.

Almost.

At the same time, no one ever remembers the second best lens. They only remember the best.

three-Phoblographer-Star-rating

The Tamron 45mm f1.8 Di VC receives three out of five stars. Want one? Check the B&H Photo listing for current pricing.

Recommended Cameras

Chris Gampat The Phoblogrpaher Tamron 45mm f1.8 product highlight images (2 of 2)ISO 3201-250 sec at f - 2.8

Canon 6D: Despite the focusing issues we encountered, your experience may be different.

Nikon D610: This lens is targeted at the entry level full frame camera user, so go for it if you’re a D610 user.