Lens Comparison: Sigma 35mm f1.4 vs Tamron 35mm f1.8

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sigma 35mm f1.4 vs Tamron 35mm f1.8 comparison product images (4 of 4)ISO 2001-40 sec at f - 3.5

Since the announcement of the Tamron 35mm f1.8 Di VC lens, photographers have been asking whether or not this lens is worth it over the Sigma 35mm f1.4 DG HSM–the current king of the lineup. Indeed, we’ve been wondering this for ourselves when the lens came out. Both can deliver great image quality, but one has vibration compensation for those of us that drink way too much coffee and the other has reigned supreme as the king of the 35mm lens game for the past couple of years.

That means that Tamron has had that long to catch up. But did they? We decided to put the two head to head in our very own real world comparison outside of a lab. So what wins in the battle of the Sigma 35mm f1.4 vs Tamron 35mm f1.8?

Tech Specs

Specs for the Sigma 35mm f1.4 taken from the B&H Photo listing.

Performance
Focal Length 35mm
Aperture Maximum: f/1.4
Minimum: f/16
Camera Mount Type Canon EF
Format Compatibility 35mm Film / Full-Frame Digital Sensor
DSLR (APS-C Sensor)
Angle of View 63.4°
Minimum Focus Distance 11.81″ (30.00 cm)
Maximum Reproduction Ratio 1:5
Elements/Groups 13/11
Diaphragm Blades 9
Features
Image Stabilization No
Autofocus Yes
Physical
Filter Thread Front:67 mm
Dimensions (DxL) Approx. 3.03 x 3.70″ (7.70 x 9.40 cm)
Weight 23.46 oz (665 g)
Packaging Info
Package Weight 2.1 lb
Box Dimensions (LxWxH) 5.7 x 4.9 x 4.7″

Specs for the Tamron 35mm f1.8 taken from the B&H Photo listing.

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)

Prices

The Sigma lens comes in at $899 while Tamron’s offering is slated at $599. Keep this in mind as you read through our tests.

Ergonomics

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sigma 35mm f1.4 vs Tamron 35mm f1.8 comparison product images (1 of 4)ISO 2001-40 sec at f - 2.2

Both lenses have a metal exterior. The Tamron version is on the left while Sigma’s is on the right. They also both have a little insignia that is quite similar. Tamron’s little silver one says SP while Sigma’s has an A to signify that it is an Art series lens.

Tamron’s finish is smoother and quite honestly is much more pleasing to the touch. But when you grip onto Sigma’s lens, it is just that much beefier.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sigma 35mm f1.4 vs Tamron 35mm f1.8 comparison product images (2 of 4)ISO 2001-40 sec at f - 3.5

The front of each lens features a distance focusing scale and the control switches to the left of this scale. Tamron has AF/MF along with Vibration Compensation activation while Sigma just has the AF/MF switch. The focusing rings on each lens are equally as beefy and textured. Both are rubber and feel nice to the touch.

Build Quality

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sigma 35mm f1.4 vs Tamron 35mm f1.8 comparison product images (3 of 4)ISO 2001-40 sec at f - 3.5

While Sigma’s lens is beefier and larger, it’s Tamron’s that is designed to be more of a workhorse. The Tamron lens has weather sealing not only in the camera mount but also around the focusing ring. At a more affordable price point, it’s tough to beat the Tamron–but Sigma’s hefty feel also really just tugs at our hearts.

Autofocus

Both lenses focus surprisingly quickly on the Canon 6D and both don’t really suffer from any sort of lag at all. However, Sigma’s lens didn’t need micro-adjustment while Tamron’s did–though very minor and this varies from independent copy to copy of the lenses.

Both lenses also focus silently. With the Canon 6D, the Tamron tends to struggle more with AF points outside of the center. Even after cleaning the contacts, we had this problem. It occurs far less with the Sigma.

To understand and explain this problem more to you, the readers, as lenses are changed back and forth, the contacts of both the camera and lens accumulate dust and debris. I own all Sigma glass and other lenses come in for review all the time. So when I’m constantly swapping out with lenses that aren’t personally owned by me, the contacts become much dirtier much more quickly.

As it stands though, we have more problems with the Tamron lens’s focusing.

Image Quality

For our tests, we set the Canon 6D down on a tripod and use a flash with each image we shot. The exposure settings of the camera and the flash were both the same in each situation. The flash was also not moved at all during the tests to offer a similar lighting scenario each time. A flash was added because of the way that specular highlights make the output of each lens look and it equalizes the images. You can read more about how this works here.

Since we used a tripod, Tamron’s VC setting was switched off.

Bokeh

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sigma 35mm f1.4 vs Tamron 35mm f1.8 comparison Tamron bokeh (1 of 1)ISO 2001-60 sec at f - 2.0

Tamron: ISO 2001-60 sec at f – 2.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sigma 35mm f1.4 vs Tamron 35mm f1.8 comparison Sigma bokeh (1 of 1)ISO 2001-60 sec at f - 2.0

Sigma: ISO 2001-60 sec at f – 2.0

In our tests, both lenses were set to f2 with the same exposure settings. The flash was set to the left of the scene to simulate window lighting. To get the best focusing without the problems we talked about, we set the camera to Live View and focused on the same spot on the candle. No editing was done to either of these images.

Both lenses were designed with 9 aperture blades, and because they’re similar focal lengths the chances are that they’ll have very similar bokeh quality too. Indeed, that’s what we found at f2. Quite obviously though, the Sigma can be opened up to f1.4 and at that point, Tamron just can’t compete.

Sharpness

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sigma 35mm f1.4 vs Tamron 35mm f1.8 comparison Sigma sharpness (1 of 1)ISO 2001-40 sec at f - 5.6

Sigma: ISO 2001-40 sec at f – 5.6

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sigma 35mm f1.4 vs Tamron 35mm f1.8 comparison Tamron sharpness (1 of 1)ISO 2001-40 sec at f - 5.6

Tamron: ISO 2001-40 sec at f – 5.6

For this test, we decided that text would be a great test subject. We set the light up camera left and in front and again to get the best focusing we used Live View. The focusing point was set to the same spot. To make this a bit more simulated to what would happen in real life, we boosted the exposure, clarity, black levels and sharpness of each image to the exact same amount using Adobe Lightroom’s sync feature. The equalization is totally the same considering that each image had the same exposure setting.

What we found is that at f5.6, the Sigma absolutely beats the Tamron. There is much less color fringing too. Again, Tamron goes home licking their wounds here when it comes to pure image quality.

Color Rendition

Both lenses have very similar colors with Sigma being ever so slightly more saturated. Otherwise, most people won’t be able to tell the differences. In an even more real life situation, Adobe Lightroom lets you manipulate the color levels from each camera/lens.

Color Fringing

Sigma wins, hands down.

Conclusions

While we’re still working on our review of the Tamron 35mm f1.8 Di VC; we’re so far concluding the following:

  • The Tamron is better built with weather sealing and a nicer exterior texture
  • The Sigma has better image quality and can open up to f1.4
  • Tamron is more affordable and offers weather sealing for that price
  • What you’re getting with the Sigma lens is the best image quality in the business. The only thing that comes close is the Sony Zeiss 35mm f1.4.

We’re still working on our full review though, and our Tamron review will have a full comparison of the two.