Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Review

April 26, 2016 | Mark Goldstein | |

Introduction

The Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD is a fast short telephoto prime lens for Canon, Nikon and Sony full-frame DSLR cameras. It features a maximum aperture of f/1.8, Vibration Compensation (VC) technology which provides up to 3.5 stops of of image stabilisation, an ultrasonic focus motor for quiet AF operation, and a moisture-proof construction. The optical formula comprises 13 elements in 9 groups, including both LD (Low Dispersion) and XLD (Extra Low Dispersion) glass elements, and an iris diaphragm with nine rounded aperture blades. The minimum focus distance is 0.80m and the maximum reproduction ratio is 1:7.2. Note that the Sony version does not include Vibration Compensation (as it’s already built into the camera body). The Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD lens officially retails for £749 / $749.

Ease of Use

The Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD is pretty big and bulky, measuring just over 9cms in length and weighing in at 700g. While you can use it on a smaller APS-C body, it won't balance particularly well (and the focal length will also change) - as demonstrated by the images below, it's a much better match for a professional-grade, full-frame camera like the Canon EOS 5DS R, where it feels much more well-balanced.

Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USDThe Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD lens mounted on a Canon EOS 5DS R

Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USDThe Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD lens mounted on a Canon EOS 5DS R

Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USDThe Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD lens mounted on a Canon EOS 5DS R

Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USDThe Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD lens alongside a Canon EOS 5DS R

Build quality is excellent, despite Tamron traditionally offering lenses at the cheaper end of the market. The more premium-priced Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD feels very solid in your hand, thanks to the metal outer barrel and filter thread.

Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USDSide of the Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD lens

Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USDSide of the Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD lens

Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USDFront of the Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD lens

Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USDRear of the Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD lens

The focusing ring is generously wide and has a ridged, rubberised grip band. There's a distance scale that runs from the closest distance of 80cm to infinity with hard stops at either end, but no depth of field scale. An AF/MF switch on the side of the lens makes it easy to switch between the two focusing systems.

Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USDSide of the Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD lens

 

Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USDSide of the Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD lens

The final control is the VC On / Off switch, which turns the lens' built-in Vibration Compensation on and off. This is a big selling point for the Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD, as neither the Canon, Nikon or Sigma equivalents offer image stabilisation. In practice we found it offered around 3 f-stops of compensation, obviously dependent upon your own particular hand-holding technique, making it easier to use the lens in low-light.

Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USDThe Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD lens in-hand

Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USDThe Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD lens with the supplied lens hood fitted

The lens is supplied with lens caps and a removable circular-shaped lens hood - there's no bag included. Filter size is 67mm.

Focal Range

The Tamron SP 70-200mm F/2.8 Di VC USD offers an angle of view of 28°33' for full-frame DSLR owners.

Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD

Auto-focus

The Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD features a ring-type USD (Ultrasonic Silent Drive) that allows near-silent auto-focusing. Importantly, this solution allows instant manual override even when the focus mode switch is in the AF position. In use, we found the focusing to be indeed very quiet, and pretty fast - but definitely not instantaneous - with the lens mounted to a Canon EOS 5DS R body.

Chromatic Aberrations

Chromatic aberrations, typically seen as purple or blue fringes along contrasty edges, are more prevalent than we would like with this lens - the examples below show the worst-case scenario.

Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD

Vignetting

With the Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD wide open at f/1.8, you can see some very noticeable light fall-off in the corners. Stopping down helps, although to completely get rid of this phenomenon, you will need to use an f-stop of f/5.6 or smaller.

Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USDLight Fall-off

Macro

With a maximum reproduction ratio is 1:7.2, the Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD is not a macro lens, but you can at least focus quite closely at 80cm from the film/sensor plane. The following example illustrates how close you can get to the subject, in this case a CompactFlash card.

Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USDClose-up performance

Bokeh

Bokeh is a word used for the out-of-focus areas of a photograph, and is usually described in qualitative terms, such as smooth / creamy / harsh etc. One of the reasons to buy a fast lens is to be able to isolate the subject from the background, which is normally very hard to do with a wide-angle lens. Tamron was apparently very much aware of this requirement, as they employed an iris diaphragm with 9 rounded blades for a pleasing rendering of the out-of-focus highlights. Based on what we have seen, we can say that they largely succeeded. Below you'll find some examples, but you are also encouraged to check out our sample images.

Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD
   
Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD

Sharpness

In order to show you how sharp this lens is, we are providing 100% crops on the following page.

Entry Tags

samples, photos, sample images, lens, jpeg, nikon, jpegs, jpg, sony, dslr, canon, jpgs, telephoto, portrait, tamron, 85mm, sp, Tamron SP 85mm f1.8 Di VC USD

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