The Tamron SP 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD is a prime standard focal length 45mm lens that’s available in Canon and Nikon mounts. This is a great lens for low-light photography due to the fast f/1.8 aperture and the Vibration Compensation (VC) image stabilization.
Tamron threw everything it had into the Tamron SP 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD to make it superior to other standard prime lenses, including special coatings on the lens, weather-sealing, and the Ultrasonic Silent Drive (USD) AF motor. Does this lens live up to the hype about it? Let us take a more detailed look.
The build quality on the Tamron SP 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD lens is amazingly good. Tamron opted for a metal lens barrel and lens mount, and the only plastic you’ll find on this lens is at the very front of the barrel and on the switches on the side of the lens. The Tamron SP 45mm is built to endure and is weather-sealed for protection against water and dirt.
There are two switches on the lens barrel. One is for image stabilization (VC on/off) and the AF/MF switch for changing from autofocus to manual. The rear of the lens features a rubber gasket on the mount to protect from water or dust getting into the lens or camera body.
The rugged build and weather-sealing make this lens a great choice for landscape and street photography. However, it’s a fairly heavy lens, weighing in at 540g, which is more than many 50mm prime lenses.
The filter thread is 67mm, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find a variety of lens filters to fit, and the HF012 lens hood is included with the lens. The lens hood clicks on easily and stays in place during use, which is a big bonus as you’re not constantly trying to reattach the lens hood.
The ridged focus ring is nice and wide, and very smooth to use. One big feature of the Tamron SP 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD is the impressive minimum close focus distance of just 29cm, which lets you get very close to your subjects. The Nikon 50mm f/1.4G has a minimum focusing distance of 45cm, and the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art only manages 40cm, so the Tamron has them both beaten here by a good margin.
Optics feature 10 elements in eight groups, including a low-dispersion element and two aspherical elements for superior image quality, as well as special coatings on the lens glass to reduce chromatic aberration and flare. Nine diaphragm blades give a smooth and lovely bokeh, too.
The VC image stabilization and the USD autofocus motor round off the specifications. Now we’ll take a look at how the Tamron SP 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD performs, and if it’s worth spending your hard-earned cash on.
The Tamron SP 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD in Use
The VC image stabilization in the Tamron SP 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD is a useful addition, especially when shooting hand-held in low-light conditions such as a wedding or event. One thing to note with image stabilized lenses is that if you’re using them on a tripod, then you should switch the image stabilizer off or you will paradoxically end up with blurry images!
The AF performance of the Tamron SP 45mm is mostly fast and silent, thanks to the USD autofocus motor. One thing to note if you are a Canon shooter is that some Canon photographers have experienced AF issues with this lens, while Nikon users don’t seem to have problems in this area. So, there is some inconsistency in AF accuracy depending on which camera brand you use.
As far as sharpness is concerned, the Tamron SP 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD is quite sharp at large apertures, with excellent contrast. Stopping down between f/2.8 and f/5.6 brings you to the sweet spot of this lens, with sharpness gradually falling off again towards the minimum aperture of f/16.
This lens does a good job at controlling vignetting, but it does vary on whether your subject is at infinity or close-up. Vignetting at f/1.8 is significantly more visible in the corners when the lens is focused to infinity. Stopping the lens down to f/2.8 reduces vignetting by a large amount, and after f/4 it’s just not an issue.
Tamron’s special eBAND and BBAR glass coatings help to significantly reduce lens flare and ghosting, and while barrel distortion is there it’s very minimal and can easily be fixed in Lightroom or other image editing software.
Perhaps the biggest issue with the Tamron SP 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD is the longitudinal chromatic aberration even when there’s only slight blurring. This may be problematic, as this type of distortion isn’t easily fixed in an image editor. Lateral chromatic aberrations in the Tamron 45mm are nowhere near as bad, and these types are easily fixed in post-processing.
How Does It Compare?
The Nikon 50mm f/1.8G costs around half as much as the Tamron SP 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD, but the Nikon isn’t as sharp at larger apertures. However, it is sharper in the center at f/4, although the corner sharpness suffers. The Tamron is more consistent across the frame than the Nikon in terms of image sharpness.
When it comes to longitudinal chromatic aberration, the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G is so much better than the Tamron, with only minimal purple or green fringing to deal with. The Nikon 50mm doesn’t come with image stabilization, and it’s not as sturdily-built or weather-sealed like the Tamron 45mm, but it costs a good deal less and copes with chromatic aberration much better.
Ultimately, you will need to decide which features are most important to you, and how much money you are willing to spend on a standard prime lens.
|Tamron SP 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD||Nikon 50mm f/1.8G|
|Optics||10 elements / 8 groups||7 elements / 6 groups|
|Diaphragm||9 rounded blades||7 rounded blades|
The Tamron SP 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD is a professional-grade lens at a rather steep price. It’s well-built, weather-sealed, and features image stabilization, which neither the Sigma nor Nikon equivalent lenses do.
Image sharpness is very good, and the image quality would be outstanding if it wasn’t for that chromatic aberration issue. The CA problem shouldn’t be as bad as it is on an expensive professional prime lens, and it’s a shame that this is what lets this otherwise fantastic lens down.