When it comes to portrait photography, full-frame users instinctively reach for their 85mm lens, as this focal length tends to produce the most flattering results. Tamron’s latest release in its new-look range is a stylish 85mm f/1.8 that boasts a sleek, clean design and a special coating that repels smudges, condensation, grime and fingerprints.
Features & performance
Compatible with full-frame and APS-C cameras (where it has an equivalent focal length of around 125mm), the standout feature on this lens is its Vibration Control image stabilisation. This helps users achieve shake-free shots when shooting handheld in low light, and in combination with the very fast aperture of f/1.8 makes the lens exceptionally capable in darker conditions.
Sharpness is also very good, even at the widest apertures. At f/1.8 there’s slight softness in the corners of the frame, but the lens still performs very well compared with its competitors. Distortion is also negligible and Tamron has combated chromatic aberration well. Even at the widest apertures, the lens isn’t plagued by fringing issues, even in high contrast scenes.
Autofocus is near-silent, quick and, on the whole, accurate. Manual focus override is possible at all times using the focus ring on the lens, which offers a smooth range of motion. The optical construction is comprised of 13 elements in nine groups, and a round aperture with a nine-blade diaphragm offers smooth and natural-looking bokeh that contrasts well with the sharpness of the in-focus subject. At wider apertures, there’s some vignetting but not enough for this to be a real issue, and it can easily be removed in post-processing.
The design is extremely slick with a matte finish and ergonomic design, and as previously mentioned there is a very useful coating to repel most dust and dirt. The lens even comes with the assurance of a five-year warranty, so you can buy with confidence.
Tamron has really pulled it out of the bag with this lens, which is likely to become a popular choice with professional portrait shooters. However, at £759 it’s considerably more expensive compared to its 85mm competitors, most of which come in around the £300 mark. However, the Tamron 85mm f/1.8 offers great image quality, excellent build quality and image stabilisation, making it a complete package. And even at wider apertures it performs very well. If you don’t already have an 85mm in your kit bag, this is a very wise investment.
- Street price: £749 (As of August 2016)
- Maximum aperture: f/1.8
- Minimum focus distance: 0.8m
- Filter size: 67mm
- Weight: 700g
- Lens construction: 13 elements in 9 groups
- Minimum aperture: f/16
- Dimensions (DxL): 84.8x91.3mm
This review was first published in the August 2016 issue of Digital Photo - download back issues here.