Tamron 35mm f/1.8 VC: $385, winner.

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MiraShootsNikon Contributing Member • Posts: 962
Tamron 35mm f/1.8 VC: $385, winner.
7

Just had an outstanding lens experience I thought I'd share, for the collective record.

I bought a used Tamron 35mm f/1.8VC from MAP Camera, Japan, via their E.bay store, for $385. The lens is fantastic, and the purchase experience was possibly the best I've ever had from any online retailer, anywhere, ever.

First, the lens: it's just terrific. Some thoughts:

(1) Build & mechanical quality appears top shelf. From Tamron? Yeah, I know, right? Tamron's not the first brand I'd have picked for "premium" feel, but they nailed it with this one. The lens itself is dense and tight; materials are quality, from the anodized aluminum barrel to the meaty rubber focus ring; and the mechanics are silent, well weighted, and silky smooth with zero play. Even the lens hood is a class act--it slips onto its bayonet with a smooth twist, locks with a confident "click," and sits tight. Whoever spec'd the bill of materials and the industrial design for this lens deserves a promotion--it's a home run, a radical upgrade from any Tamron lens I've ever used before, and a noteworthy upgrade from Nikon's own f1.8G line.

(2) Optical performance looks well-rounded, terrific. I'm still testing with the D750, but the gist I'm gathering is that it's sharp from f/1.8, with ample of high-frequency "microcontrast" response, and no glaring problems for my photography--no major sharpness falloff, no strong vignette, no serious fringing against bright contrasts. There doesn't appear to be any significant field curvature or focus shift. Veiling / ghosting flare resistance appears strong. Colorcast is very, very slightly warm. And bokeh is nice. Really nice, in fact; smoother than I'm used to from this focal length. Maybe it's not the absolute sharpest or most clinical lens I've ever tested in this range? Hard to say. The all-around performance on the D750 is definitely in the game, though: it's very, very strong right from f/1.8.

(3) Solid autofocus. Action is silent and smooth. My copy is dead on right out of the box with "0" fine tune, and performance looks good-to-go at near and far distances, with both center and peripheral points. I can already tell that I won't be buying the Tamron TAP-In USB dongle for further tuning. Speed is medium / quick--noticeably slower than top-tier Nikkor zooms like the 70-200 FL, but also quite a bit faster than the Nikkor 24 1.4G, or 35 1.4G. Maybe about on par with the 60G?

(4) The VC works to 3-ish stops--and differently than I expected. It's not like what I'm used to with Nikon VR tele lenses, where the view through the finder clearly "snaps" into a stabilized hold when you activate VR, and you can hear a soft, subtle "hiss" as lens EM coils suspend elements. With the Tamron, you see no definitive "snap" into stabilization, and you hear no hiss. At first I thought the stabilization wasn't even working! But a few test shots proved me wrong--considerably so. With the Tamron's VR on, I was able to test-hit a few clean shots all the way down to 1/2 second. At 1/8 (2 stops down from reciprocal 1/30) I'm hitting 100% sharp hand-held. At 1/4 (3 stops down) I'm hitting about 80%. At 1/2, (4 stops down from reciprocal) I'm still hitting about a quarter hand-held. Not a bad show for third-party stabilization--but it's the finesse with which it works that really impresses me.

(5) Handling is good. Compared to other contemporary fast 35s, it's fatter and shorter. From a distance I'd easily confuse it with other manufacturers' 85 f/1.8 lenses.

Sum: in a world of four-figure fast primes, this lens is amazing for $385. It'd still be a good value at retail $599, but for less than $400 "like new," it's a no-brainer. And it certainly makes me want to try Tamron's "normal" 45mm f/1.8 VC, which I see can be had new-new for only $329.

And that brings us MAP Camera, which is an amazing e.bay vendor for used gear. They're in Tokyo, but they ship free via DHL express to the US, and include customs. My lens arrived (I live in California) 18 hours after I ordered it, following extensive tracking communication-- e.mails at every step to let me know they'd received my order, that the order was shipped (with tracking no.), that it had passed through customs, that it was out for delivery, and that it would arrive at my door in a specific 2-hour window (which I could reschedule if I liked). Given the overseas transit, I found the overcommunication a welcome courtesy.

And the package itself was beautiful! (!!!) I'm used to B&H, Adorama, and Amazon, who throw your $$$$ lens in a bigger, single-walled box with a single sheet of bubble wrap on one side and call it a day. MAP, on the other hand, packed the lens box tight with three inches of formed air-padding on all sides, itself wrapped in bubble packaging taped down with crisp military corners. (!!!) At the top: an enveloped thank-you note. It's a white-gloved performance, all around. I'm going to be looking to them first for future gear--no doubt.

Anywho, I have a few fashion shoots coming up this weekend and early next week; I'll see if I can't get some samples together for y'all if you're curious.

 MiraShootsNikon's gear list:MiraShootsNikon's gear list
Nikon D750 Nikon D850 Sony a7R III Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II Nikon AF Nikkor 28mm f/2.8D +14 more
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