07 Sep Tamron SP 35mm f/1.4 Review
Tamron surprised us all when they announced their latest flagship full-frame lens: a 35mm f/1.4 prime, made for DSLRs.
Cranking out amazing f/2.8 zooms left and right for years now, (for both DSLR and mirrorless systems) they have shown their commitment to serious photographers with truly impressive lenses. Meanwhile, however, other third-party brands were cranking out impressive f/1.4 primes, too.
Now, the Tamron SP 35mm f/1.4 Di USD is the first f/1.4 prime lens they’ve ever made, to the best of my knowledge. So, you might assume that it’s just an experiment to “dip their toes” into the highly competitive realm of f/1.4, however, you would be totally wrong. Tamron has made a bold statement with this lens: here’s the new champion of affordable (flagship, even) 35mm primes!
Focal Length & Angle of View: 35mm, 63 degrees
Mounts: Nikon F, Canon EF (DSLR)
Price: $899 MSRP
Aperture & range: 9-blade circular, f/1.4-16
Optical Construction: 14 elements in 10 groups, 3 aspherical, 4 LD (low dispersion), BBAR-G2 coating (Broad-Band Anti-Reflection Generation 2), fluorine coating
Autofocus: USD (ultrasonic silent drive), “dynamic rolling cam”
Manual Focus: Mechanical, focus distance scale, no hyperfocal markings
Mechanical Construction: Metal, Plastic, rubber gaskets / weather sealing
Magnification & focus distance: 1:5, 0.3m (11.8″)
Weight: 805-815g (28.4-28.7 oz) Nikon/Canon
Filter Threads & Hood: 72mm, hood w/ spring-loaded lock
Included Accessories: Hood, Caps, Pouch
Price: $899 (Buy on B&H, Adorama, & Amazon)
Tamron SP 35mm f/1.4 Di USD | Who Should Buy It
35mm is one of the go-to focal lengths for experienced photographers who know exactly what angle of view they want for anything from candid journalism to editorial portraits.
There’s something about that slightly-wider-than-50mm angle of view that is perfect for an environmental portrait, or any sort of in-the-action feeling imagery, without getting too wide that distortion becomes a serious issue at the edge of your frame.
Simply put, portrait photographers, wedding photographers, casual or professional, should all try a 35mm at some point. There’s a very good chance that if you like 50mm, you might absolutely love 35mm.
For general travel photography, landscape photography, nightscapes, and other nature/outdoor photography, 35mm might compete with 28mm or 24mm for the title of “best lens for the job”. However, a 35mm is often a top choice for astro-landscape photographers who prefer to stitch high-megapixel panoramas, or travel & landscape photographers who prefer a traditional, medium-wide focal length that they can use for both landscapes and other types of travel portraiture, or in-your-face action shooting.
Personally, as both a landscape and nightscape photographer, I’d want to own both a 24mm and a 35mm f/1.4 prime. (If Tamron has an SP 24mm f/1.4 up their sleeves that is as good as this 35mm, I’ll be over the moon!)
But, why the Tamron 35mm f/1.4 in particular, out of all the other 35mm primes? It’s $899, and it’s not exactly ultralight, so it’s a pretty serious optic. There are also a lot of great 35mm f/1.8’s out there, which cost about the same or less, and fit a more portable form factor. (Including Tamron’s own 35mm f/1.8 VC!)
Simply put, the Tamron SP 35 is better. It’s not just significantly sharper than almost every other 35mm out there, it’s got a whole lot else going for it, which we’ll get into when we break down the image quality. Suffice it to say, it’s other things like color, bokeh, and everything else which make up the ambiguous aspect of “character” that images have.
In other words, this is a lens that discerning artists will choose for its special “look”, and pixel-peeping camera geeks will also choose for its more quantifiable aspects of performance.
tamron SP 35mm f/1.4 Di USD | Pros
I have to be honest, I really don’t like to call something “perfect” in a gear review. But lately, it seems that I’ve been reviewing quite a few near-perfect lenses. Are any of them truly flawless, though? No, they could always be a little better. But, there is an optimal balance between “truly flawless” and “near-perfection”.
Unlike some of the other f/1.4 (and now even f/1.2) lenses out there which strive for optical perfection, (but still don’t achieve it, though they come close) …this Tamron is among those few lenses which seem to achieve the impossible: it’s not just optically better in most ways than its near-perfect competition, it also does it for less money and/or in a smaller form factor.