Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Review

John Riley reviews the new Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD, a full-frame portrait lens with Vibration Compensation.

| Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD in Interchangeable Lenses

Handling and Features

Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Review: Tamron Sp 85mm F1,8 Front Oblique View

The Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD prime lens is a fast short telephoto in the classic focal length for portraits. It is also a focal length that usually offers the very best of the lens makers' art, so the standard expected is very high. It is a 35mm-format “full frame” lens. Let's see how this new Tamron design performs and how it compares to other newly released optics in the same category.

Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Handling and Features

Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Review: Tamron Sp 85mm F1,8 On Canon 6D

It has 13 elements in 9 groups, including LD (Low dispersion) and XLD (Extra-low dispersion) glass and a Fluorine coating on the front surface to repel dirt and grease. Reflections are suppressed using eBAND and BBAR coatings. eBAND is a nano crystal coating and BBAR is Tamron's version of multi-coating. The lens focuses to 0.8m (31.5”), has a maximum magnification of 1:7.2, takes 67mm filters and weighs in at a reasonable 700g.  It is an AF lens and also has Vibration Control (VC) to reduce the possibility of camera shake. Two switches on the lens barrel control AF/MF and VC on/off. There is a solid plastic bayonet fit lens hood provided and this clicks firmly but easily into place.

Focusing is snappy and the viewfinder image reassuringly crisp. The point of focus is very precise, as we would expect from an f/1.8 lens. As there is no aperture ring on the lens there is no depth of field scale either. Manual focusing is via a wide rubber ring at the front of the lens and despite its short throw the point of focus can be easily found. The direction of focus was correct for the Canon EOS 6D camera used for this review.

The VC system takes about one second to click in, which does mean it is best switched off for action subjects. It is also best to switch it off when using the camera on a tripod as the VC system may try to hunt for vibration that does not exist. It is, however, excellent for more static subjects.

Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Review: Tamron Sp 85mm F1,8 With Lenshood On Canon 6D

Moisture resistant seals are included in the lens construction, a feature that is really useful as we can now continue shooting images regardless of the weather conditions.

Although the lens is quite chunky, it balances well on the Canon 6D used for this review, making a very ergonomic package. The operation of all controls is smooth and reliable. The AF is very slick, virtually silent and locking on positively every time. There is no hesitation or hunting.

Applications will cover many different areas of photography, from portraits to landscapes, sports, reportage (street photography) and anything else needing a short telephoto lens.

Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Review: Tamron Sp 85mm F1,8 Rear Oblique View

Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Performance

Sharpness is of a very high order, basically excellent across the whole image area and across the full aperture range, pushing towards outstanding at f/5.6 and f/8. The high level of corrections seem to have resulted in the edges of the frame outclassing the centre, although the figures are close and visually the sharpness is high and very even across the frame.


Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Review: MTF Chart
MTF Chart

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. 

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution as LW/PH and is described in detail above. The taller the column, the better the lens performance. 

For this review, the lens was tested on a Canon EOS 6D using Imatest.

Chromatic Aberration (CA), the splitting of light due to the lens not focusing all colours at the same point, is virtually absent. The CA figures are commendably low and consistently so across the aperture range.


Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Review: CA Chart
CA Chart

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 minimise the problem, hence they usually cost more.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Canon EOS 6D using Imatest.

Distortion measures the amount of bending of straight lines and this too is very low indeed. It measures at +0.151% pincushion distortion, which is a negligible amount for general photography.

Flare is well under control and it was not possible to induce any in normal photography. The coatings and lens hood clearly do an excellent job.

The VC system seems to work best at slow shutter speeds, under 1/125sec, and gives us about 3-4 stops advantage. Remarkably slow shutter speeds can be used, even down to 1/15sec or so, which is remarkable for a short telephoto lens. Of course, this is no good if the subject is moving and in that case high shutter speeds will be needed to arrest that movement.

Images look deliciously crisp and the bokeh smooth and creamy. So out of focus areas take on a very smooth gradation, something that is very much sought after.

Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Sample Photos

Value For Money

There is a wide choice of 85mm lenses available, perhaps unsurprisingly as this is the classic focal length for portraits. The Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD is priced at £749.

At the high end of the options, the Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4 costs £1379, equalled in cost by the Canon EF 85mm f/1.2 L II USM (£1499) and the Nikon 85mm f/2.8 D PC-E Micro-Nikkor (£1299). The Nikon is also a perspective control lens, adding yet another dimension of possibilities. Zeiss also offer the 85mm f/1.4 Planar (£989) and the Otus 85mm f/1.4 (£3299). The Zeiss lenses are manual focus only.

Alternative lenses from Nikon are the 85mm f/1.8 G AF-S (£399) and the 85mm f/1.4 G AF-S (£1199). Canon also has the EF 85mm f/1.8 at £237.

Sigma offer the 85mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM (£619). Manual focus options come from Samyang and Lomo. The Samyang 85mm f/1.4 IF MC costs £249 and the Lomo 85mm f/2.2 Petzval Art Lens in brass is £459, or the black version is £549.

For more options have a look at the Top 5 Best Tamron lenses.

Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Verdict

A slightly slower maximum aperture of f/1.8 (many 85mm lenses are f/1.4 designs) does seem to have its advantages in terms of a more compact, lighter lens and also a lower cost. Performance is impeccable, the lens handles superbly and the price well within reason. There is little not to like about this Tamron lens and Nikon, Canon and Sony users will be able to use it to their advantage. Unless the photographer has a definite need for an f/1.4 then the Tamron 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD delivers superb quality at a more reasonable price level. What a lovely lens this is, with Vibration Compensation (VC) unique in this lens. 

Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Pros

Beautiful, high-quality images
Fast and silent AF
Effective VC system
Very well controlled CA
Excellent flare resistance
5-year warranty
Low distortion
Beautiful bokeh

Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Cons

Limited choice of mounts


Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Review:

The Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD is a superb short telephoto lens at a very reasonable price.



Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Specifications

Lens Mounts
  • Nikon F
  • Canon EF
  • Sony A
Focal Length85mm
Angle of ViewNo Data
Max Aperturef/1.8
Min Aperturef/16
Filter Size67mm
35mm equivalentNo Data
Internal focusingYes
Maximum magnificationNo Data
Min Focus80cm
Box Contents
Box ContentsNo Data

View Full Product Details

Buy Now


Sell or trade used photo and video kit with MPB

With MPB you can get a free instant quote for the kit you want to sell, including a trade-in all-in-one transaction - no need for callbacks or waiting for an email quote. Then, if you decide to sell, MPB will pick up your kit with a free insured DPD collection and youíll get paid cash into your account within days. MPB will also keep you informed about the status of your gear at every step of the way and the whole process is carbon neutral.

Sell your unwanted gear with MPB

Amazon UK Logo

We don't have the latest price however the link below will take you to the most relevant items.

Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD SEARCH
Amazon US Logo

We don't have the latest price however the link below will take you to the most relevant items.

Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD SEARCH
MPB Logo

We transform the way that people buy, sell and trade in photo and video kit.


Support this site by making a Donation, purchasing Plus Membership, or shopping with one of our affiliates: Amazon UK, Amazon US, Amazon CA, ebay UK, MPB. It doesn't cost you anything extra when you use these links, but it does support the site, helping keep ePHOTOzine free to use, thank you.


Other articles you might find interesting...

Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM II Lens Review
Sigma AF 23mm f/1.4 Lens Review - X Mount
Sigma AF 100-400mm f/5-6.3 Lens Review - X Mount
Nikon Z 70-180mm f/2.8 Lens Review
NIKKOR Z 135mm f/1.8 S Plena Lens Announced
Nikkor Z DX 24mm F/1.7 Lens Review
Fujifilm XF 8mm F/3.5 Review
Best Third Party Nikon F Lenses (DSLR)


krasitsky Avatar
27 Apr 2016 1:53AM
Why ISO 400 everywhere? It's lens test, not camera. We need ISO 100
johnriley1uk Avatar
27 Apr 2016 9:35AM
ISO 100 was used for all the technical tests, but whatever ISO necessary for the real world shots. If ISO 400 ones have been chosen for the final review, that's coincidence.
markku Avatar
markku 7
28 Apr 2016 12:02PM
Is the MTF chart correct?
johnriley1uk Avatar
28 Apr 2016 4:21PM
I did a total of seven runs to make sure, so I can confirm that it's correct. It wasn't quite what I expected, which was why I pursued it for some time to make sure.
JackAllTog Avatar
JackAllTog Plus
14 6.4k 58 United Kingdom
19 May 2016 12:59PM
Thanks for the review John, this is a super looking lens and is going on my wishlist.
JackAllTog Avatar
JackAllTog Plus
14 6.4k 58 United Kingdom
24 May 2016 11:06AM
christian_s Avatar
5 Jul 2018 9:00PM
I own a Nikon 85/1.8 and considered buying the lens to fill a gap between two manual focus lenses. According to some reviews, this lens should be of higher optical quality than the Nikon 85/1.8. The copy I tested turned out to be on a par with the Nikon 85/1.8 with regard to an aggregate impression of resolution and chromatic aberrations on a D7500. (AF tuning set the Nikon on -15, this lens on +12.) VC and autofocus tests were somewhat inconclusive but could not obviate some concerns mentioned in the review. VC allows you to take pictures at 1.8 with acceptable ISO, but does not offer a significant improvement when going from 1.8 to 2.8 with VC - chromatic aberrations are still visible at 2.8 (and above). I got sharp pictures with VC at 1/15 vs 1/60 without VC. If you have objects that don't move and you need greater depth of field and/or you shoot in below average indoor light, this lens may well be perfect for you. I decided to wait for Nikon, or any other manufacturer, including Tamron, to come up with a better lens in the future, preferably with stabilization.

You must be a member to leave a comment.

ePHOTOzine, the web's friendliest photography community.

Join for free

Upload photos, chat with photographers, win prizes and much more.