The Tamron SP 35mm f/1.8 Di VC USD is a 35mm third-party prime lens that features Tamron’s cutting-edge Vibration Compensation (VC) system, which has consistently been one of the best image stabilization systems since it was introduced. When you’re looking for a prime lens, you often need to choose between a fast aperture or some form of image stabilization, and you can’t get much better than Tamron’s VC system.
Most photographers would like a good 35mm prime in their lens collections as it’s a flexible focal length that’s suited to landscape, street photography, group portraits, and other general-purpose photography uses. Third-party brands like Tamron tend to fill a gap in the more affordable lens markets, but the Tamron SP 35mm f/1.8 Di VC USD isn’t a budget prime lens by any means.
Let’s take a look and see if this 35mm prime lens is worth the price.
The Tamron SP 35mm f/1.8 Di VC USD is bigger and heavier than Canon’s EF 35mm f/2 IS USM at 8cm long and weighing 480g, but it feels well-balanced when it’s on a full-frame camera.
Tamron lenses have an excellent reputation for weather-sealing, and this 35mm f/1.8 follows that benchmark with a water-repellent fluorine coating on the front glass and a rubber gasket on the mounting plate. It feels solid and well-built due to the metal outer barrel and metal filter thread.
The focusing ring is lovely and wide, with a rubberized ridged band, and a distance scale that goes from 20cm to infinity with hard stops at both ends. The AF/MF switch on the side of the lens makes it easy to switch between the two focusing modes.
The other control on the lens is the VC on/off switch that turns the Vibration Compensation on and off. Tamron says that you can get up to four stops of compensation while using the system, but in practice, it’s more like three stops which is still very impressive when you’re using the lens in a low-light situation handheld.
The non-rotating filter thread size is 67mm, which is handy to know if you want to use different types of lens filters with the Tamron SP 35mm f/1.8 Di VC USD. The lens comes with lens caps and a lens hood, although no bag is included.
Optically, the Tamron SP 35mm f/1.8 Di VC USD features 10 lens elements in nine groups, including two aspherical elements, one low-dispersion (LD) element, and an extra-low-dispersion (XLD) element. The iris diaphragm has nine rounded aperture blades, and the minimum focusing distance is 20cm, which will give some pretty good close-ups.
This lens comes in Canon, Nikon, and Sony mounts, but the Sony version of this lens doesn’t include VC as this feature is already built into Sony’s DSLR and SLT bodies.
The Tamron SP 35mm f/1.8 Di VC USD in Use
We’ll start with the Ultrasonic Silent Drive (USD) autofocusing. This drive gives almost silent AF, and you have the power of instant manual override even if the switch is in the AF position. Focusing is fast and accurate, but nothing out of the ordinary.
Manual focusing is very good on this lens, with the focus ring smooth to operate yet with enough resistance to make small adjustments easily.
Edge sharpness isn’t great at f/1.8, but center sharpness at this aperture is very good. The sweet spot for sharpness in the Tamron SP 35mm f/1.8 Di VC USD is at f/4, where it is outstanding.
Chromatic aberration is pretty much non-existent, due to the XLD and LD glass, and the lens coatings do a great job of suppressing lens flare and keeping the contrast high.
There is a little barrel distortion, but that’s to be expected from a fixed focal length lens and you would really have to look hard to see it in your images. Light falloff towards the corners is usual for a wide-angle, fast-aperture lens like the Tamron SP 35mm f/1.8 Di VC USD, and you have to go to f/5.6 or higher before a uniform light spread is achieved.
Bokeh is quite nice, but that’s to be expected from an iris diaphragm with nine rounded blades. It’s not the most amazing bokeh, but it’s pleasing enough.
How Does It Compare?
The Tamron SP 35mm f/1.8 Di VC USD has its nearest Canon rival in the Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM, and they are roughly the same price, although the Canon 35mm is lighter at 335g. Both lenses feature image stabilization, but the Tamron 35mm f/1.8 gives you an extra stop of light and is fully weather-sealed.
The Canon 35mm f/2 performs to the same standards as the Tamron 35mm with regards to sharpness, barrel distortion, chromatic aberration, and light falloff. There’s not much between the two, but the weather-sealing on the Tamron 35mm may be an important factor if you shoot outdoors or in adverse weather conditions a lot.
I’ve compared the Canon 35mm with the Tamron 35mm because I used a Canon 6D for this review, but Nikon shooters looking for an alternative to the Tamron 35mm f/1.8 could choose the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G as an affordable option, or the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G as a premium professional option if you have deep pockets!
|Tamron SP 35mm f/1.8 Di VC USD||Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM|
|Optics||10 elements / 9 groups||10 elements / 8 groups|
|Diaphragm||9 rounded blades||8 rounded blades|
Tamron often seems to be overlooked in favor of Sigma, but the Tamron SP 35mm f/1.8 Di VC USD is a premium-quality lens with Vibration Compensation and weather-sealing. Although this lens isn’t cheap, it’s certainly as good as the Canon and Nikon 35mm offerings at this price point.
It’s not quite up to the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art lens in terms of sharpness and overall image quality, but it does have weather-sealing and image stabilizing, which the Sigma lacks. The Tamron 35mm’s close focusing distance of only 20cm is unsurpassed at this focal length, and it can get so close to subjects that it can throw backgrounds out of focus beautifully.
Overall, the Tamron SP 35mm f/1.8 Di VC USD is a solid prime lens that is good value for money and well-built, but it’s not groundbreaking. It may not ever be your favorite lens, but it will become a reliable old faithful, especially if you like to use manual focus a lot.