Andy Westlake tests Tamron’s new image stabilised short telephoto prime
With an optical formula of 13 elements in 9 groups, the Tamron is the most complex 85mm prime on the market. This is likely a consequence of the addition of optical image stabilisation, or vibration compensation, as Tamron likes to call it. Low Dispersion (LD) and Extra Low Dispersion (XLD) glass is used to minimise chromatic aberration, and Tamron’s eBAND nano-structured coating minimises flare and ghosting.
The diaphragm used 9 rounded blades, maintaining a near-circular aperture down to around f/4, which should help with giving attractively blurred backgrounds. At the front is a 67mm filter thread, which doesn’t rotate on focusing, along with a bayonet mount for the supplied cylindrical lens hood. When not in use, the hood can be reversed over the barrel for storage; in this position, though, it covers most of the barrel, blocking the manual focus ring entirely.
Tamron describes the lens as having moisture resistant construction, with a number of seals arranged strategically around the barrel. Most visible is the one around the lens mount that protects the join with the camera body, but others seal the manual focus ring and control switches. In principle the lens should be unfazed by shooting outdoors in light rain or drizzle.
Build and handling
At 85mm in diameter, 91mm in length and 700g in weight, the Tamron is a big, chunky lens.
It’s much larger than Canon or Nikon’s 85mm f/1.8 offerings, indeed it’s around the same size as Sigma’s 85mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM, and larger than the Nikon or Sony A-mount 85mm f/1.4s (although not quite as huge as Sony’s monster new FE 85mm f/1.4 GM). This doesn’t really have a negative impact on handling while you’re shooting, as you’ll naturally be cradling the lens in your left hand. But it does add to the overall weight of your bag, and some subjects may find the size a little intimidating.
Build quality feels excellent, in contrast to some of Tamron’s older designs. The manual focus ring rotates smoothly, and a distance scale marked in feet and metres helps you keep track of the current focus position.
Two switches on the side of the barrel are used to turn VC on or off and select between AF and MF modes, but because these are identically sized and shaped, they can’t be easily distinguished by touch alone.