Portrait Lens Review: Tamron SP 85mm F/1.8
The Tamron SP 85mm F/1.8 was launched earlier this year for both the Nikon F and the Canon EF mounts. Later they also added the Sony A-mount to this. The Tamron SP 85mm F/1.8 is essentially a portrait lens. It is a mid-focal length fast prime with an aperture of f/1.8. Fast primes are much sought after for the simple reason that they can gather a lot of light, in most situations and also because they can easily produce those shallow depth of field effects.
- Superior resolving power and attractive bokeh
- Fluorine Coating and Moisture-Resistant Construction
- Electromagnetic diaphragm system
- fast and accurate focusing
- New SP Design
The lens is labeled with the acronym ‘SP’, which stands for Superior Performance. It is a branding strategy much like that of Canon’s ‘L’ acronym. You can be assured of the superior quality and performance of the optics of this lens.
At f/1.4 the Tamron SP 85mm F/1.8 produces a really shallow depth of field. For some, focusing could be a challenge as the margin of error is extremely small. But for those who have mastered the art of focus (with the center AF point) and recompose the Tamron SP 85mm F/1.8 is a fantastic portrait lens.
This lens also has 3.5 stops of vibration compensation built into it. This is applicable for both the Nikon F and the Canon EF mounts. Sony uses the built-in sensor-shift type image stabilization system. Thus, lenses for this mount do not have image stabilization gyros built into them. Let’s delve deeper into its feature list and find out more about it.
- 85mm focal length
- Fast maximum aperture of f/1.8
- Comes in Nikon F-mount, Canon EF mount, and Sony A-mount
- Angle of view of 28 ˚ 33’ on a full-frame Nikon DSLR
- Minimum focusing distance of 2.62’ (Nikon f-mount)
- 13 elements arranged in 9 groups
- One LD element and one XLD element
- USD AF motor with full-time manual focusing override
- Compatible with TAP-in console
- eBAND and BBAR coatings
- Fluorine coating
- 5 stops of vibration compensation
- 9 rounded aperture diaphragm blades
- Resistant of dust and moisture
- 67mm filter thread specification
The Tamron SP 85mm F/1.8 can open up to a maximum aperture of f/1.8. I have already detailed the specs of the aperture and its benefits above. The aperture diaphragm constitutes of 9 rounded blades, creating those soft out of focus effects that portrait photographers love.
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The Nikon F mount weighs about 660 grams and the Canon EF mount weighs about 700 grams. But weight alone is not an indicator of the build quality of the lens.
This is a well-built lens. There is a rubber gasket around the lens mount, though not perfectly weather sealed, the Tamron SP 85mm F/1.8 is still capable of working in dusty and damp conditions.
The front element of the lens has fluorine coating. Fluorine coating repels grime and oil and is an essential requirement for preventing smudges on the front glass element. The lens also has the Tap-in console support. This console allows photographers to precisely calibrate their lenses for accurate AF performance.
The diaphragm system of the lens is of the electromagnetic type. This ensures more accurate shooting with consistent exposure results and a much faster burst speed than other ‘normal’ lenses.
Optics and Elements
There are a total of thirteen elements arranged in 9 groups, making up the internal construction of the lens. That includes 1 low dispersion element and 1 extra-low dispersion element.
These elements reduce the effects of chromatic aberrations. Chromatic aberrations reduce color contrast and sharpness. Thus, these elements help to create better sharpness and color contrast.
Apart from these the lens also features eBAND and BBAR coating. eBAND is a Tamron devised technology. It employs a nanostructured layer which has an ultra-low refractive index.
The dimensions of which are smaller than the wavelengths of visible rays of light. Underneath this layer, there are multiple layers of coatings. Together they have the effect of excellent anti-reflection properties.
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The 85mm Tamron Lens is ideal for portrait photography. Watch the video above to see how to take sharp portrait photos using the Tamron 85mm VC lens.
The Tamron SP 85mm F/1.8 has built-in image stabilization (Nikon F and Canon EF mounts). It is rated to compensate image shake by up to 3.5 stops. That means you can use up to 3.5 times slower shutter speed than normal when hand holding the camera. The Sony A-mount does not come with image stabilization.
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Auto-focusing on the Tamron SP 85mm F/1.8 is powered by Ultrasound Silent Drive technology. This is Tamron’s version of a ring-type quite auto-focusing motor similar like SWM of Nikon or USM of Canon. The lens also features a full-time manual focusing override for those low contrast shots where auto-focus tend to struggle a bit.
The Nikon F mount, Canon EF mount, and Sony A mount all cost $749.00 – at this price, it sits at the mid-range in terms of affordability. There are both cheaper and extremely pricey options in this segment.
Compared to other auto-focusing f/1.8 options, however, the Tamron SP 85mm F/1.8 is a much better value for money proposition.
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