Today Tamron announced something I don’t know if any of us were really expecting: a new series of Superior Performance (SP) prime lenses in the 35mm f/1.8 Di VC USD and the 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD that are new not only in the fact they are primes (seriously! Primes from Tamron!), but also in their completely new design. They also, at least in preliminary tests with this photographer, rock.
It wasn’t long ago that Tamron toyed with a new, sleeker and more modern design to their lenses, but today we see an even more evolved form of their original attempt, and this one is stellar. The new 35mm and 45mm look spectacular, with beautiful modern finishing that imitates that which has seen the success of Zeiss and Sigma. Tamron has been known for their gold ring, and they still keep that in a way. Instead of the gaudy gold, there is a silver/platinum ring that encompasses the lens at the base where it connects to your camera. It’s a stark contrast to the black of the lens and your camera body, and looks beautiful and refined.
Here is a bisected and teardown-style look at how what these lenses have on the inside:
Both these lenses share much in common. Both have a maximum aperture f/1.8 with a minimum aperture of f/16. The aperture ring is nine bladed and circular, producing some pretty phenomenal and buttery bokeh:
Perhaps you noticed something about those last two images… I’m mere inches from both subjects. That’s something these Tamron lenses can do that no other 35mm or 45mm lens can: both can get absurdly close to subjects for a perspective not normally seen at their focal lengths.
The minimum object distance (MOD) of the 35mm f/1.8 measures just 7.9 inches, giving a magnification ratio of 1:2.5, the shortest close focusing capability among fast-aperture fixed focal lenses in a full-frame format. This close distance allows you to get some incredible up-close shots with insane bokeh, like shown above. The 45mm MOD measures 11.4”, yielding a magnification ratio of 1:3.4, incredibly impressive for the focal length.
Tamron has added an EBAND coating to the lens to suppress ghosting and flare:
eBAND (Extended Bandwidth & Angular-Dependency) and BBAR (Broad-Band Anti-Reflection) coatings, both providing outstanding anti-reflection effect, are applied to critical element surfaces for maximum light transmission. Internal reflections from element surfaces which cause ghosting and flare are reduced to an absolute minimum. Flawless, crystal clear images can be obtained. eBAND Coating, a hybrid nano-structured layer with extremely low refractive index coupled with multi-layered anti-reflection coating technology, efficiently minimizes reflection of extremely angulated incident light—something that cannot be achieved by conventional anti-reflection coatings alone.
Tamron touts the new lenses to be powered by a fast and quiet ultra-sonic drive for quiet and fast autofocus. From shooting with the lenses for a few hours, I did notice that the autofocus is incredibly accurate and very quiet. Tamron says that “because the rotational torque of the USD is generated by waves of ultrasonic vibrations, inherent operating noise is extremely low and practically imperceptible. In addition, Full-time Manual Focus override is available at any point during the autofocus operation for deliberately shifting focus without switching the AF-MF mode back and forth.”
Tamron has added a flourine coating to the front of the lenses, making liquids and oils easily wick-away with a micro-fiber cloth (or, let’s be honest, your t-shirt). Tamron also says the coating will provide a “reasonable level of durability, and will sustain its effectiveness for years.”
Both the 35mm and the 45mm have a moisture-resistant design, so it won’t crumble under averse shooting conditions. Though it’s not weather-proof, it will repel dust and heavy mist.
Finally, and probably most importantly, Tamron included what I consider to be the best optical stabilization available, Vibration Compensation, in both the 35mm and the 45mm. This is a big deal, as getting super-reliable image stabilization allows you 3.5 additional stops of light when shooting hand held. Shakey hands or minute vibrations to a tripoded camera are nothing to worry about with these new Tamron SP lenses.
Here are some photos I took after an afternoon with the lenses. Each photo is in full resolution, so feel free to download them and oogle the pixels. My very early first impressions? The lenses take very, very sharp photos. The bokeh is incredible and the lenses themselves are wonderfully light weight. Specifically, the 35mm is a fun lens to shoot with, feels great on my camera, and I’m absolutely loving what it does for my images.
Our full review will be available after I have had more time to test the lens in various conditions.
Oh, and one last thing: These lenses are going for just $600 each. That’s an incredible price point, but it does make sense. Entering this market behind Canon, Nikon and Sigma, Tamron can’t really come in at the same price as Sigma, and certainly can’t come in at a Nikon/Canon price point. $600 is super affordable and less than everyone else, which should entice many photographers.
The lenses will be available at the end of September for both Nikon and Canon mount, with Sony A-Mount coming to the market approximately three months later.