Thanks to the CP+ Camera & Photo Imaging Show 2016 that is taking place in Japan this week, we have a slew of exciting announcements from different camera manufacturers. Tamron was the first to make a big announcement last night, presenting two brand new lenses designed for full-frame cameras. The first one is a significant release, because it is world’s first image stabilized 85mm f/1.8 lens for full-frame DSLRs, the Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD. This is an important release, because Tamron is now upping its game like Sigma has done with its latest-generation lenses, allowing both lens firmware and AF fine tuning to be performed using an external USB dock.
I have been waiting for the day when an image-stabilized version of an 85mm is announced and I wondered who would do it first. Based on the past announcements, I was guessing that it would be either Tamron or Sigma. While I love 85mm lenses for their ability to create beautiful portraits, shooting at such long focal lengths in very low-light conditions has always been a challenge. Thanks to Tamron, we now have world’s first image stabilized 85mm f/1.8 lens, which will open up even more opportunities for portrait and wedding photographers. I really hope that the success of Tamron’s 85mm f/1.8 VC will trigger others to follow suit – I would love to see Sigma’s upcoming 85mm f/1.4 Art lens with image stabilization!
Let’s take a look at what the Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD looks like in detail. Aside from image stabilization, the Tamron 85mm f/1.8 packs quite a bit of lens technology and features to make it a very appealing lens. First, it has a fairly complex optical design with 13 elements in 9 groups, 2 of which are low dispersion lens elements (1 low dispersion and 1 extra low dispersion). In comparison, the Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G lens has 9 elements in 9 groups. Second, its design is optimized to yield very pleasing bokeh. Since the lens does not incorporate any aspherical elements, we can expect it to yield pleasing bokeh highlights, without any distinct signs of “onion bokeh”. In addition, the lens has a 9-blade diaphragm with rounded blades, so background highlights should look smooth even when stopped down. Third, the lens has an electromagnetic diaphragm, which means that there is no physical aperture lever on the back of the lens, as normally seen on many other lenses. With electromagnetic aperture control, we can expect the lens to yield more accurate results every time an image is captured. And lastly, the lens packs other important features such as nano coating, fluorine coating and weather sealing. In short, the lens packs all the great features one would need in a portrait lens. Despite its maximum aperture of f/1.8, the Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 VC does not seem to be a consumer or enthusiast-level offering – in many ways, this lens will be competing directly to its f/1.4 counterparts.
In terms of sharpness, we can expect the 85mm f/1.8 to yield excellent results wide open, as evidenced by the MTF chart below:
Looks like Tamron was able to make the lens both sharper and with higher levels of contrast than on the Nikon 85mm f/1.8G. Notice how close the sagittal and meridional lines are – this is an indication of exceptional bokeh performance. Check out my detailed article on reading MTF charts if you would like to understand the above chart better.
Official Press Release
Here is the official press release from Tamron:
February 22, 2016, Commack, New York – Tamron, a leading manufacturer of optics for diverse applications, announces the launch of the SP 85mm F/1.8 Di VC USD (Model F016), the world’s first fast-aperture telephoto lens with VC (Vibration Compensation). Tamron’s acclaimed VC makes it possible to take handheld photographs in dim light or at night. The 85mm SP lens uses LD (Low Dispersion) and XLD (Extra Low Dispersion) glass elements in the optical design to minimize color fringing and to achieve sharp and clear image quality with high-fidelity color. It also achieves attractive bokeh that draws attention to the image foreground subject. In addition, Moisture-Resistant Construction has been added to prevent intrusion of moisture, and a highly durable Fluorine Coating has been applied to the top element surface to prevent condensation and repel smudge-causing substances. This new lens joins the 35mm F/1.8, 45mm F/1.8 and 90mm Macro in a lineup of SP series prime lenses that has been expanding since 2015. The lens will be on sale in the U.S. starting in April 2016 in Canon and Nikon mounts (the Sony mount to be launched at a later date). Pricing and delivery will be announced shortly.
1. The world’s first 85mm fast-aperture lens with image stabilization (*)
Tamron’s VC image stabilization system enables handheld use in dim light without flash. Camera movement—often too minute to be perceptible to the photographer—is the leading cause of unpleasant photographs. In addition, newer DSLR cameras with higher resolution and higher pixel densities are even more susceptible to subtle camera shake. The VC System, Tamron’s time-proven Vibration Compensation, keeps the sharpness at hand, even in moody, dim light when shutter speeds tend to be longer.
(*) Among 85mm F/1.8 interchangeable lenses for full-frame DSLR cameras (as of February 21; Tamron).
2. Superior resolving power and attractive bokeh
Experienced optical design technique combined with LD and XLD lens elements have virtually eliminated on-axis and lateral chromatic aberrations that might otherwise appear as color fringing. In addition, by thoroughly reducing comatic aberrations (distortion of off-axis point source) and astigmatism, subjects that appear as a distinct point source will be captured as a distinct point source even at the edges and corners of the frame. Furthermore, optical simulations were thoroughly conducted, and the 85mm achieves natural bokeh— that dreamy, semi-focus blur that separates the portrait subject from the background with a snap.
3. Fluorine Coating and Moisture-Resistant Construction
Fluorine Coating technology developed for use in industrial optics applications has been adapted to photographic lenses. The water and oil repellant coating applied on the front element surface allows safe and easy removal of fingerprints, dirt and smudges. The coating also provides an enhanced level of durability, and will sustain its effectiveness for years. In addition, seals are located at the lens mount area and other critical locations to prevent infiltration of moisture and/or rain drops and provide Moisture-Resistant Construction. This feature provides an additional layer of protection when shooting outdoors under adverse weather conditions.
4. Sophisticated eBAND and BBAR coatings plus Advanced Anti-Reflection Technologies
Two highly developed lens coating technologies, eBAND (Extended Bandwidth & Angular-Dependency) which uses nanotechnology, and BBAR (Broad-Band Anti-Reflection), combine to increase light transmission and to reduce flare and ghosting to imperceptible levels. Additional techniques are employed to prevent reflections inside the lens barrel so that the 85mm lens delivers high contrast, sharp and clear images worthy of a fixed focal lens. This lens clearly captures detailed tones even in the shadows.
5. Electromagnetic diaphragm system now used also for Nikon-mount lens
An electromagnetic diaphragm system, which has been a standard feature for Canon-mount lenses, is now employed in Nikon-mount lenses. More precise diaphragm and aperture control is possible because the diaphragm blades are driven and controlled by a motor through electronic pulse signals.
6. USD actuator maximized for fast and accurate focusing
Fast, quiet AF is achieved by employing a USD (Ultrasonic Silent Drive) ring-type ultrasonic motor which enables remarkably precise focusing drive with high torque and responsiveness. Thanks to the absence of reduction gears in USD, there is no backlash and no unnecessary back-and-forth movement. The control software program for the USD actuator has been revised to provide substantially improved focusing speed and accuracy when using AF. In addition, Full-time Manual Focus override is available at any point during the autofocus operation for deliberately shifting focus without switching the AF-MF. Whether overriding the autofocus or focusing completely manually, the focusing ring turns smoothly and evenly.
7. Compatibility with TAMRON TAP-in ConsoleTM
Always as new as tomorrow: You can update firmware, customize autofocus positions and adjust the mechanical setup and preferences of the 85mm lens by simply attaching it to the TAMRON TAP-in Console and connecting it via USB to a personal computer. (The TAP-in Console is an optional accessory that will be released in March 24.)
8. Compatibility with Adobe and Silkypix software
Supplied with SILKYPIX Developer Studio 4.0, advanced editing software that features correction menus for various aberrations (lateral color, distortion, relative illumination) based on the optical design data of this specific lens. In addition, lens profile information has been supplied to Adobe Systems, Inc. to facilitate selecting the precise lens data required for more sophisticated adjustments in RAW processing when using Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. Shooting RAW image files enables creation of more stringent and high-fidelity image quality.
The superior technology inside the Tamron 85mm is matched by advanced external ergonomic features under a design philosophy called “Human Touch.” Improvements include altering the geometric shape and resistance of the AF/MF and VC switches to deliver comfort with secured operational feedback, and enlarging the distance scale window to maximize visibility and legibility. Even the font style has been newly developed to enhance legibility as part of the overall product design.