Two focal lengths that stand out as my favourite are 35mm and 16-35mm. For years 35mm has been the choice of lens for photographers all over the world as it’s the perfect bridge between wide-angle and standard. The biggest advantage with this lens is that you get the angle of view which closely resembles with what you see through your own eyes.
Being in the industry for a glorious 70 years this year happens to be the 40th anniversary of Tamron’s SP (Superior Performance) lens series and to commemorate this special occasion they have introduced a new Tamron SP 35mm F/1.4 Di USD (Model F045) prime lens for Canon EF and Nikon F mounts touted by the company as “the ultimate Tamron lens”.
When I was offered to use the TAMRON SP 35mm F/1.4 Di USD during my last Photo Tour to Morocco and my assignment in China my primary goal was to find out how good the lens was. Particularly when compared to the same focal length which I have been relying on heavily for years. I’ve used this lens with Canon 1Dx Mark II, Canon 5D Mark IV and Canon EOS R Mirrorless with adaptor ring.
After using this lens for a day, I had only one thought in my mind – that the company was really determined to build a lens that would be the ultimate in lens performance and they have trumped it.
Literally, Tamron’s optical design staff was given a single instruction from product planning – “aim for the absolute ultimate in lens performance”.
The new Tamron 35mm F/1.4 is designed for full-frame SLR cameras and it is equally suitable for crop-sensor models and it can be used perfectly with Canon and Nikon mirrorless models with their respective camera manufacturer’s adapter.
The lens is solidly built and nicely balanced in a clean and simplistic style. The smooth deep satin black with white lettering in clean, solid and simplistic style has become Tamron’s trademark for new SP series lenses.
To talk about the optical design of this lens, the Tamron SP 35mm F/1.4 Di USD is designed with 14 elements in 10 groups which includes 4 LD (Low Dispersion) and 3 GM (Glass Molded Aspherical) elements.
Tamron utilized everything it had in its arsenal to make this lens, adding its innovation of coating technologies like the revolutionary fluorine coating to the front element to repel water and dirt. Thus, the lens surface is much easier to wipe clean and less vulnerable to the damaging effects of dirt, dust, moisture, and fingerprints. This enables your important lenses to be continually protected on a long-time basis. Above all to correct ghosting and flare the second-generation BBAR-G2 Coating is a groundbreaking advancement that provides vastly improved performance compared to the original BBAR Coating.
Shooting in backlight is one of my most favorite shooting conditions but most of the time I see ghosting images or I lose details in these kinds of conditions. But with this new Tamron SP 35mm F/1.4 Di USD, I find all my backlit images are captured perfectly! There was no ghosting and no flare at all!
I must include another two aspects here- one is their Moisture-Resistant Construction and the other is the new locking mechanism built into the lens hood. The moisture-resistant seals are located at the lens mount area and other critical locations to prevent infiltration of moisture or raindrops. This particular feature is an additional layer of protection when shooting outdoors under adverse weather conditions. I especially like Tamron’s new locking mechanism for the lens hood. Most of the time I have seen lens hood locks getting damaged after a year. This was a very big problem if the hood was a flower hood. Flower hoods have a particular shape; I mean you need to keep your hood in the proper position so that you don’t get a wrong vignette. Now when this hood slips and goes in a different position while you are busy shooting, you get a wrong vignette, which you only happen to realize afterward. I find this lock is very useful as it will never slip. Another important thing is that Tamron came out with their new TAP-in Console and its accompanying TAP-in Utility software allowing to control the settings and programming, including firmware, of compatible Tamron lenses. This is really very useful.
The lens has a minimum subject distance of 11.8 inches from the sensor plane which gives you roughly five inches between the front element and your subject when working near the minimum distance. It’s good enough for 1:5 life-size reproduction.
Talking about the autofocusing, I must say that most photographers fear being let down by a third-party lens in the autofocus performance. When you are not using the native lens and if you are shooting at f1.4 then your biggest nightmare is front or rear focusing.
However, the new SP 35mm F/1.4 Di USD is equipped with its innovative all-new Dynamic Rolling-cam mechanism which operates the heavy focusing unit of the large F/1.4 aperture with high speed and accuracy even under the harsh shooting conditions of professional use. The lens is also equipped with a Full-Time Manual Focus override system even in the AF mode.
To test its autofocusing I used this new Tamron SP 35mm F/1.4 Di USD with Canon 1Dx Mark II, 5D Mark IV and EOS R in different lighting conditions. I’ve never seen any rear or front focus in any of my images. All my images were focused on the point where I wanted to focus on. I’ve tried Canon EOS R’s eye-tracking also and every time it focused perfectly. Moreover, I’ve shot some videos also and I find the focusing system is really very useful.
I have not done any MTF Tests or used Imatest software but I can tell from my years of experience that this is the sharpest 35mm lens till today. Even Lensrentals’ Roger Cicala’s reviews after independent testing showed that Tamron’s SP 35mm f/1.4 is one of the best 35mm f/1.4 designs out there.
I’ve tested this lens at different f-stops and in different lighting conditions, I find that even at 1.4 the lens is extremely sharp with only a tiny softening at the corners and it can produce really beautiful bokeh.
Actually, the optical design and its 9-blade rounded diaphragm produces this kind of outstanding bokeh.
With its new electromagnetic diaphragm system, more precise diaphragm and aperture control are possible because the diaphragm blades are driven and controlled by a motor through electronic pulse signals. I’m sure you’ll like its soft and subdued bokeh which applies to out-of-focus objects in front of the primary subject as well as behind the primary subject.
Normally what happens with many lenses is that it can produce good bokeh but only for behind the subjects but in the case of SP 35mm 1.4, it is different. As the aperture is f/1.4, you can get shallow depth-of-field by shooting wide open increasing the bokeh even more.
I would like to add another point here; when I used this lens with Canon EOS R surprisingly, I found that it was sharper than Canon 5D Mark IV.
There is a very minimum vignette at f/1.4 but personally, I feel if you are shooting any portrait at f/1.4 then it adds more drama on your image. Colors are rich and faithful to the source. Contrast is also great and there are no chromatic aberrations. The Tamron 35mm F/1.4 produces clean, sharp images.
TAMRON SP 35mm F/1.4 Di USD is the ultimate lens made in recent times, crafted to perfection. Start shooting with the new TAMRON SP 35mm F/1.4 Di USD, you will experience the magic of this lens yourself.
Apratim Saha is a contributing photographer for National Geographic Stock Photography, Getty Images, and StocksyUnited. He is a brand ambassador and mentor for Tamron. He is also a consultant to Chiiz Photography Magazine.