Andy Westlake tests Tamron’s new image stabilised short telephoto prime
So far we’ve found that the Tamron 85mm is a weighty beast and accurate focusing requires some care and attention, but frankly every criticism dissolves away when you start looking at the images it makes. Because where it counts, this lens delivers in spades. It’s capable of providing the kind of dreamily beautiful pictures that mark out a really superb portrait lens, and it works equally well on full frame and APS-C cameras.
We expect 85mm telephotos to be very good indeed, but this one is absolutely outstanding. It combines superb cross-frame sharpness, even at maximum aperture, with gorgeous-looking out-of-focus backgrounds. Micro-contrast is a little low at f/1.8, again due to residual spherical aberration, but this can often be flattering for portraits.
This effect becomes stronger at closer focus distances, but stopping down a little to f/2.8 brings visibly more bite to your images. Colour fringing from either lateral or longitudinal chromatic aberration is practically nonexistent and distortion is negligible. Naturally there’s some vignetting at large apertures, but usually this adds to the aesthetics of the image, rather than detracting from them.