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Tamron SP 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Lens Review

Gary Wolstenholme reviews the premium Tamron SP 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD lens with built in image stabilisation.

|  Tamron SP 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD in Interchangeable Lenses
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Handling and Features
Tamron 45mm Sp Vs Usd White Bg

This standard lens from Tamron sports a fast f/1.8 maximum aperture,  silent internal focusing with full time manual override, Vibration Compensation, moisture resistant construction with eBAND and BBAR lens coatings to help suppress ghosting and flare and a special moisture repellent fluorine optical coating.

The lens is available to fit Canon, Nikon and Sony SLR full frame and crop-sensors cameras, although the Sony compatible model will lack Vibration compensation, as this functionality is already built into Sony DSLR and SLT bodies. In this review, we'll take a look at how it performs.

Tamron SP 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Handling and Features

Tamron SP 45 F1 8 VC USD (3)

Although this lens certainly isn't the most compact f/1.8 standard lens around, the extra size accommodates the Vibration Compensation system. Even so, it's not a heavy lens, striking a good balance between the use of high quality materials and low weight. Weighing about 520g and being 89.2mm long, it balances well on the Nikon D600 used for testing. The lens sports a moisture resistant design with a rubber gasket placed around the metal lens mount to help prevent dust and moisture getting into the camera body.

Tamron SP 45 F1 8 VC USD (6)

Tamron's USD silent motor powers autofocus, which makes focus speeds reasonably quick, and manual focus adjustments can be applied at any time. Manual focusing is a pleasure as the wide rubberised focus ring is well damped and very smooth to operate, which really helps when applying fine focus adjustments. A minimum focus distance of 29cm is pretty close for a standard lens and it is perfectly suited for shooting in claustrophobic environments, or even for the occasional close up. The 67mm filter ring does not rotate and the lens doesn't extend, which makes this lens ideal for use with graduated or polarising filters.

With care, sharp images are possible hand-held at shutter speeds as low as 1/6sec, approximately half the time. This is around three stops slower than the usual rule of thumb for sharp hand held images would permit. The VC system also provides a steady viewfinder image, which can help with accurate composition and focusing.

Tamron SP 45 F1 8 VC USD (11)

Tamron SP 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Performance

At maximum aperture, sharpness falls just short of excellent levels in the centre of the frame and just short of good levels towards the edges. Stopping down improves performance across the frame, with clarity in the centre reaching outstanding levels between f/2.8 and f/11 and excellent levels towards the edges between f/8 and f/11.



How to read our charts

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges. Averaging them out gives the red weighted column.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution. The taller the column, the better the lens performance. Simple.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Nikon D600 using Imatest.

Chromatic aberrations are a little more prominent than you may expect from a standard lens, with fringing approaching three quarters of a pixel-width towards the edges of the frame at maximum aperture. Even so, this level of fringing should be low enough to pose few issues, even in images with high contrast towards the edges of the frame.



How to read our charts

Chromatic aberration is the lens' inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.

Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements (aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc) to minimize the problem, hence they usually cost more.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Nikon D600 using Imatest.

Falloff of illumination towards the corners is typical for a fast aperture lens. At f/1.8 the corners are 2.2 stops darker than the image centre and visually uniform illumination is achieved with the aperture closed down to f/5.6 or beyond.

As you might expect from a fast aperture, fixed focal length optic, very mild barrel distortion is present. Imatest detected 0.6% barrel distortion, but you'll be hard pressed to spot this low level of distortion under most circumstances.

A petal-shaped hood is provided to help shield the front element from extraneous light that may cause issues with flare and loss of contrast. Although it is good practice to keep a lens hood in place, Tamron's eBAND (Extended Bandwidth & Angular-Dependency) lens coatings do an excellent job of suppressing flare and contrast remains good, even when shooting into the light, so the hood may not always be necessary.

Tamron SP 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Sample Photos

Value For Money

This lens will be available for £580 at launch. Tamron are known for setting launch prices higher than what the market will usually bear, so in time this price may drop. At the moment, this price puts this lens well into premium territory, as standard lenses with a maximum aperture of f/1.8 don't usually command such a high price, but then they don't usually include Vibration compensation and weather sealing either.

As most manufacturers tend to stick with 50mm as their standard lens focal length, these will be the closest equivalents. Canon's EF 50mm f/1.8 STM lens is a veritable bargain when compared to this Tamron lens, as it costs only £100. In fact, Canon's 50mm f/1.4 lens is also under half the price of the Tamron lens, being available for around £240. Neither lens sports Vibration Compensation, or weather sealing.

It's a similar story with Nikon 50mm lenses. Their AF-S 50mm f/1.8G can be picked up for around £135, and their AF-S 50mm f/1.4G is around half the price of this Tamron lens at £275. Again, neither lens includes vibration compensation or weather sealing.

Sony's closest equivalent is their 50mm f/1.4 AF lens, which has no need for Vibration Compensation, as this is built into the camera, but it also lacks silent focusing and weather sealing. It can be picked up for around £270 though.

Finally, Sigma's 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM A lens, which I believe Tamron are probably thinking is their main competition currently costs around £580. This lens lacks Vibration Compensation, but it does sport a faster maximum aperture of f/1.4.

For more options have a look at to Top 5 Best Tamron Lenses of 2015.

Tamron SP 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Verdict

Tamron has created an excellent lens which is certainly more than capable of delivering excellent results in a wide range of conditions. It sports premium features such as weather sealing, exotic optical coatings and Vibration Compensation in a reasonably lightweight body.

In time, as the price drops away from the initial launch RRP, this lens may start to represent better value for money. At the moment, this is the only thing that blots an otherwise clean copy-book. Travellers, in particular, will appreciate the relative light weight for its size, Vibration Compensation, weather sealing and robust build. Whether that is worth paying, will be down to the individual.

Tamron SP 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Pros

Very good sharpness, especially in the centre
Good build quality
Effective Vibration Compensation system
Moisture resistant construction
Low distortion
Close focusing for a standard, non-macro lens

Tamron SP 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Cons

May be priced a little high at launch


The Tamron SP 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD delivers excellent results with premium features including weather sealing and Vibration Compensation.


Tamron SP 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Specifications

Lens Mounts
  • Nikon F
  • Canon EF
  • Sony A
Focal Length45mm
Angle of View51.21
Max Aperturef/1.8
Min Aperturef/16
Filter Size67mm
35mm equivalentNo Data
Internal focusingYes
Maximum magnificationNo Data
Min Focus29cm
Box Contents
Box ContentsFlower-shaped lens hood, Lens caps

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