Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Reviewing the Tamron 45mm f/1.8 VC


This is a lens I had very briefly referred to during a comparative review of 5 normal primes for Nikon. I had then said that it wasn't anything special in terms of performance. I was afterwards not happy about the way I had expressed myself, but I decided to let the text stand. After all, there was a particular context: I was referring to the "best of the best", and the Tamron was at the bottom of the list that included the superlative Zeiss Otus. I decided, instead of editing that text, to simply offer a dedicated page for this interesting lens.

Difficult scene for focusing, but the Tamron had no problem.


+ optical stabilization on a normal prime? Why not, I'll take it.
+ focuses rather close for a normal prime (~1ft/30cm)
+ superb construction quality (better than the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 and 50mm f/1.4)

- somewhat expensive
- although the image quality is fine, it doesn't justify the price tag. Similar as the (cheaper) competition.
- bigger and heavier than the (cheaper) competition.

Intended Users

Great for:
  • if you have unsteady hands or you expect to be shooting hand-held in very low light, the stabilization helps quite a bit.
  • a reliable all-around normal lens. Good for hiking and long walks outdoors.
  • indoor concerts or low-light urban photography

Not for:
  • portraits. Short (especially on FX), and I wasn't crazy about the bokeh.
  • those on a strict budget. I don't see the point of paying almost 3 times the price of the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8. No, optical stabilization isn't worth it.
  • those not on a strict budget! I'm not joking, if you can spare another couple of hundred dollars, the Sigma Art 50mm f/1.4 is a much better solution if you want something clearly better than the average prime.
Somewhat busy bokeh, at least in certain conditions

Final Verdict

In absolute terms, it's a pretty good lens. Optically it's very good and the optical stabilization - though not as crucial as with a tele - is still welcome. Still, it's expensive for what it offers. Even if what I just said above, about the budget-minded (and the... not so budget-minded) sounded funny, that's the reality of this lens. It's too expensive for those eyeing something like a Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.8, and not as good as the not much more expensive Sigma Art 50mm f/1.4. All in all, the Tamron 45mm f/1.8 VC is a fine lens, but its price tag makes it a bit difficult to position in the market. If optical stabilization is important to you for one reason or another, I'd still consider it a good purchase.

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