Tamron 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Lens Review

Want some attention in this DSLR lens-filled world? Introducing a record-setting lens has been a popular business strategy lately and Tamron is once again putting their name in the record books with the Tamron 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Lens. This lens, along with the announced-at-the-same-time Tamron 35mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Lens, share the record for being the widest aperture image stabilized lenses available, besting a couple of stabilized f/2 lenses by 1/3 stop.

Tamron is fresh off of setting record firsts, incorporating vibration compensation (image stabilization) into an ultra-wide angle f/2.8 full frame-compatible zoom (the Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Lens) and into a 24-70mm f/2.8 full frame zoom (the Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Lens), so we should not be surprised to see Tamron bringing us the widest aperture prime lenses to incorporate VC.

Or maybe we should be surprised as until now, Tamron's widest aperture and widest angle full frame prime lens was the Tamron 90mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Macro Lens and there are only three primes total in Tamron's current lens catalog with all three of those being macro lenses.

Really want to get photographers' attention? Introduce a brand new, sleek-looking modern lens design, including a metal barrel, and give it a great-value price. Of course, good image quality and a useful focal length are requirements and the Tamron 45 f/1.8 meets these nicely.

Tamron 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Lens Top View with Hood

Focal Length

A bit unusual is that Tamron chose the 45mm focal length for this lens design. The only 45mm prime lenses previously available in DSLR mount were the Canon TS-E 45mm f/2.8 and the Nikon 45mm f/2.8D PC-E. Both of these are tilt-shift, manual focus, relatively narrower max aperture specialty lenses.

On the just-wider side of things, the crowd is very thin with Canon and Nikon each having one 5mm wider 40mm f/2.8 lens and the Nikon option is a DX (APS-C only) lens. Once the 35mm focal length is reached, the crowd yet again becomes significant, but since Tamron has its own entry in the 35mm competition, it doesn't make sense to make the comparison between 45mm and 35mm in this case.

On the making sense question, why did Tamron introduce two new primes so close together in focal length? Design and build synergies were obviously involved here. Why create only one new lens when two can be developed with little additional effort? Having two lenses simultaneously introduced also helps establish a line faster, avoiding the appearance of a one-off product.

Tamron 35mm and 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Lenses Compared

Back to the focal length discussion ... add 5mm to the 45mm focal length and the very crowded 50mm prime field is reached. This is the focal length I see the Tamron 45 VC directly competing against.

There is a difference between the 45mm and 50mm angle of view, but ... the difference is small. For example, to frame a 47.25" x 31.5" (1200mm x 800mm) subject, the Tamron 45 requires 5.41' (1650mm) compared to 5.87' (1790mm) for the Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens and 5.83' (1777mm) for the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens for a roughly 6" (135mm) difference. Extrapolating these numbers out to a 40' (12m) subject shows that the focusing distance difference for the same framing is only about 4.5' (1.3m), an amount that is not hard to sneaker zoom in most instances.

With a small difference in angle of view, the 45mm focal length is useful for nearly identical purposes as the 50mm focal length. Forty five mm provides a natural appearance, approximating how we perceive a scene with our own eyes (at least in field of view and perspective terms).

This focal length is great for general purpose use (just leave it mounted to your camera) and will frequently find application in fashion, portraiture, weddings, parties, events, documentary, lifestyle, sports, architecture, landscape, general studio photography, around-the-house needs and much more. A number of those good uses for this lens include people as subjects. A 45mm lens used on a full frame body is modestly too wide angle for tightly framed head shot portraits (for my taste), but 45mm is very nice for less-tightly-framed head and shoulders, partial body and full body portraits.

Mount a 45mm lens on an APS-C/1.6x sensor format DSLR camera and the 45mm angle of view becomes similar to 72mm on a full frame lens. A 72mm angle of view does not change the list of uses significantly, but most notable for me is the often better portrait perspective this angle of view will encourage.

Tamron 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Lens on Tripod

Max Aperture

One of the advantages that prime lenses usually have over their zoom counterparts is a wide aperture. At review time, the Sigma 24-35mm f/2 Art Lens and the APS-C-only Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 Art Lens are the only zoom lenses with an aperture wider than f/2.8 (and they don't include the 45mm focal length). While the Tamron 45 f/1.8 VC holds a 1 1/3 stop advantage over the fastest 45mm zoom lens, it falls into the slower range of the 50mm prime competitors with f/1.2 being the widest current model 50mm lens and with f/1.4 and f/1.8 models being common. The only about-50mm prime lenses with narrower apertures are macro or tilt-shift lenses.

Still, an f/1.8 aperture is very wide, allowing action to be stopped under low light levels and the camera to be handheld in even lower light levels. It also provides a bright viewfinder and provides a significant amount of light to the AF system, activating the high-precision mode in some cameras. I especially like the wide aperture's shallow depth of field capability. Combined with the 45mm focal length, f/1.8 can create a strongly-blurred background as shown in the aperture walkthrough below.

Tamron 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Lens Aperture Comparison Example

As seen above, the background blur difference between f/1.8 and f/2.8 is quite noticeable.

Image Stabilization

While the f/1.8 aperture alone is great for low light use, vibration compensation greatly extends the versatility of this lens. When you need to leave the tripod behind, VC is there for you.

Perhaps most important is that VC allows handholding of the camera in extremely low light situations with still subjects (or permits motion blurring of subjects with sharp surroundings). Also valuable is that VC allows handholding in medium and low light levels when more depth of field is needed, allowing narrower aperture use without a tripod. When using a circular polarizer filter with narrow apertures (typical for landscapes and cityscapes), VC can be helpful even under a full sun.

VC is useful for stabilizing the viewfinder, aiding in optimal composition. VC is also very useful for video recording, helping to avoid motion sickness in susceptible viewers.

This VC implementation is very quiet with a light clicking being audible on startup and shutdown and with only a very faint hum heard while activated. In this lens, VC activation does not cause the viewfinder image to jump and it makes a very noticeable difference in the stability of the image in the viewfinder, with the scene becoming very still. With a camera held very still and after roughly 10 seconds of VC activation, the subject framing begins to walk around a bit. Overal, this is a nicely implemented stabilization system.

How well VC actually keeps the image still is the most important aspect of such a system. Tamron does not list a number of stops rating for this VC implementation, and your experience will vary depending on your circumstances, your capabilities, the camera used and the pixel density of its sensor, but I am seeing at least 3 stops of assistance provided to the EOS 5Ds R under a controlled shooting environment. Three stops of added handholding capability is a huge advantage.

Tamron 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Lens Front View

Image Quality

Almost always paramount in lens performance is the sharpness (resolution and contrast) of the image it presents to the camera's imaging sensor.

Those using a DSLR with a medium-density imaging sensor (say 6µm and up – or 24 mp and under in the full frame format) will find wide open f/1.8 images to be very nicely sharp from center into full frame corners. There is a nice improvement seen at f/2.8 with line edges becoming more sharply defined. Results are slightly sharper at f/4, but increasing depth of field is the primary reason to stop this lens down beyond f/4.

Full frame corner image sharpness is remarkably similar to the center of the frame at f/1.8 sharpness and some vignetting assists in hiding any issues at this aperture. With vignetting significantly clearing at f/2.8, corners show very good contrast and resolution. Corner sharpness increases slightly as the aperture narrows, but it is hard to see any difference in corner sharpness beyond f/5.6.

Those using DSLRs with a higher density imaging sensor, such as with the 4.1µm pixel pitch found in the Canon EOS 5Ds R and the Canon EOS 7D Mark II, are going to notice more benefit in stopping down this lens. I'm not saying that you will not want to use f/1.8 with these cameras (the results are still very good), but the sharpness improvements made by stopping down are more noticeable when looked at under these high resolution sensors. Notice the blacks and whites becoming better delineated in the center (top) crop shown in this comparison?

When seeing this type of defect (it is not unusual), lens evaluations quickly become very time consuming. The first question we ask ourselves is: was perfect focus obtained? We use various focus techniques including computer-assisted focusing on all lenses and it is very unusual to find mis-focusing to be the issue. However, aberrations such as axial CA and spherochromatism can cause the position of perfect focusing to be more vague. In the end, we select the focus distance that creates the sharpest-appearing image.

Due to the same aberration, you will likely see some purple fringing in the center of the frame at f/1.8 with subjects having strong contrasting brightness.

The high resolution black and white test chart is brutal on image quality, so let's take a look at an outdoor scene. The following comparison shows 100% resolution crops taken from the center of the frame of images captured on a clear day in RAW format using the Canon EOS 5Ds R. These images were processed in Canon's DPP using the "Standard" Picture Style with sharpness adjusted down to "1".

Tamron 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Lens Center Sharpness Comparison Example

First, notice that the f/1.8 image quality looks nice. Perhaps add a slight amount of sharpening and contrast and this image is ready for any use.

Next, mouseover (or click/tap) on the f/2.8 and f/4.0 labels under the image and look at the very impressive results delivered by this lens stopped down. Again, I don't see a reason to go narrower than f/4 in regards to center of the frame image sharpness and the results at f/4 are extremely sharp.

Next, we'll look at a pair of 100% resolution crops taken from the absolute corners of EOS 5Ds R images captured and processed similarly as described above. Crops from the absolute top left of the frame are presented in the first comparison example below.

Tamron 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Lens Top Left Sharpness Comparison Example

Obvious is the vignetting resolving at narrower apertures and the corners really popping into sharpness at f/4. Moving to the absolute top right of the frame shows similar results.

Tamron 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Lens Top Right Sharpness Comparison Example

Of course, how critically sharp the corners are at f/1.8 does not matter to everyone and/or every situation. Keeping everything in perspective, this lens is quite sharp across the frame at f/1.8 and is really impressive stopped down.

All prime lenses used at their widest aperture on DSLRs with sensors utilizing their full image circles have it. I am of course referring to vignetting and you saw it clearing in the corner examples above. I don't see the about-2-stops of peripheral shading at f/1.8 as being unusual and less than half of the shading remains at f/2.8 where the about .8 stops are not visible in most images. From f/4 through f/16, about .5 stops of shading remains in full frame corners.

Those using ASP-C format sensor cameras will notice little or no corner darkening even at f/1.8 (roughly .7 stops) and by f/2.8, only an unnoticeable .2 stops remains.

Lateral/transverse CA (Chromatic Aberration) is very well-controlled with only minimal amounts showing even in full frame EOS 5Ds R corners as illustrated below.

Tamron 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Lens Lateral Chromatic Aberration

The only colors in this image should be blue sky and various shade of grey (white fascia to black shingles with shading). The very small amount of lateral CA is generally easy to correct in software.

More challenging to correct and found a limited amount in this lens is axial/longitudinal CA and spherical aberration. This aberration is the primary cause of the difference seen in the 5Ds R f/1.8 vs. f/2.8 comparison linked to in the sharpness section above. With the colors of the spectrum not focused identically at wide apertures, image softening, with some purple showing, is the result. Some modest CA will also show in, minimally, wide aperture bokeh.

The following Tamron 45mm f/1.8 VC lens sample image is a 100% resolution, f/11 crop taken from near the center of an EOS 5Ds R image captured at minimum focus distance.

Tamron 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Lens Close-up Chromatic Aberration

Keep in mind that the softening effects of diffraction are showing here, but ... the eyes should both be all black and both should transition into the background color similarly. All said, the amount of CA from produced by this lens is not abnormal for this class of lens and again, the lateral CA is very well controlled.

Coma (not to be confused with CA) is generally recognized by sharp detail contrast towards the center of an image and long, soft contrast transition toward the image periphery. Coma is most visible in wide aperture corners and the pin-point stars in the night sky are the subject that illuminates this aberration most easily for me. The following example, showing a 100% crop from a top right full frame 5Ds R corner of a night sky image (under a full moon), shows that this lens indeed has some coma, but not a strong amount.

Tamron 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Lens Coma

Prime lenses generally perform well in regard to distortion and the Tamron 45 VC is no exception. This lens has a very small amount of barrel distortion, but ... it takes a straight line running along the edge of the frame to discern this. Here is the edge of a window running across the edge of an entire full frame image (reduced of course):

Tamron 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Lens Distortion

In the field, I'm finding the bokeh (the quality of the background blur) to be nice (and strong), though out of focus specular highlights do not have the smoothest centers as seen in the examples below.

Tamron 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Lens Bokeh Example

With a 9-blade aperture, each aperture blade intersection creates its own pair of star points with a point light source and a narrow aperture in use. Thus, 18-point stars are created by this lens. This lens' upper left corner crop from the f/16 flare test image (reduced in size) shows 1/4 of the sun star this lens can create.

Sun Star created with the Tamron 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Lens

The Tamron 45mm f/1.8 VC Lens shows strong resistance to the effects of flare at wide apertures. As the aperture narrows, strong light sources (such as the sun) will begin to show more obviously in the frame with f/8 and narrower apertures resulting in more significant flaring. Again, this lens performs well overall in this regard.

Especially with regards to the price of this lens, I am pleased with the image quality it delivers.

Tamron 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Lens Side Angle View with Hood

Focusing

As denoted by the "USD" in its name, the Tamron 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Lens gets a ring-type USD (Ultrasonic Drive) autofocus motor. This implementation is an inner focusing and floating system design that does not change the lens size during focusing and permits FTM (Full Time Manual) focusing without a switch change.

The Tamron 45's autofocus speed is not the fastest available, but focusing, especially with relatively short distance changes, occurs with decent speed. It is common for the camera to fine tune the focus distance after the initial change, causing the overall focus lock time to increase slightly.

Center point AF accuracy has been very good for me most of the time, perhaps the best I've seen from a Tamron lens, but not always. Center AF point performance was notably not quite as accurate in low light levels and peripheral AF points have caused me more grief. Controlled testing and in the field use, including the capture of action sports in AI Servo AF mode, from both the EOS 1D X and the EOS 5Ds R, has shown that AF accuracy using peripheral AF points, including the vertically centered mid-right and mid-left AF points, has ranged between just OK and not so good. The peripheral AF points tended to focus behind the subject when mis-focusing occurred.

With 212° of rotation, this lens' large, smooth, nicely damped, manual focus ring allows for precise manual focusing even at close distances. While a short-rotating focus ring allows faster changes, I would much rather have the long rotation as provided by this lens.

Videographers should note that subjects change size noticeably during big focus pulls. As with most modern lenses, this lens' filter threads do not rotate.

Remarkable is the Tamron 45mm f/1.8 VC Lens' MFD (Minimum Focus Distance) and related MM (Maximum Magnification). Focusing down to 11.4" (290mm), the lens puts a very large reproduction ratio on the chart: 0.29x. Few non-macro prime lenses (and few zoom lenses as well) can touch this figure. And, this is a valuable feature of this lens.

Let's first look at a comparison table and then I'll show an example of what 0.29x looks like in real life.

ModelMFDMM
Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM Lens11.0"(280mm)0.21x
Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM Lens9.4"(240mm)0.24x
Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM Lens11.8"(300mm)0.18x
Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM Lens17.7"(450mm)0.15x
Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM Lens17.7"(450mm)0.15x
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens13.8"(350mm)0.21x
Nikon 35mm f/1.4G AF-S Lens11.8"(300mm)0.20x
Nikon 35mm f/1.8G AF-S Lens9.8"(250mm)0.16x
Nikon 50mm f/1.4G AF-S Lens18.0"(457mm)0.15x
Nikon 50mm f/1.8G AF-S Lens17.7"(450mm)0.15x
Samyang 35mm f/1.4 US UMC Lens11.8"(300mm) 
Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens11.8"(300mm)0.19x
Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens15.7"(400mm)0.18x
Tamron 35mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Lens7.9"(200mm)0.40x
Tamron 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Lens11.4"(290mm)0.29x
Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 Distagon T* ZE Lens11.8"(300mm)0.20x
Zeiss Milvus 50mm f/1.4 Lens17.7"(450mm)0.15x

It was about 11:15 PM when one of the kids announced that the black swallowtail butterfly had come out of its cocoon. I was tired, still had work to do before bedtime and had an event scheduled first thing in the morning. But, I knew that this subject was perfect for showing the maximum magnification this lens is capable of. And, it was very beautiful.

So of course, I spent the next 45 minutes trying to get the image shared below. Why did it take so long to get one image, especially when it was photographed on my always-ready shooting table? Well, the problem was that the modeling lights on my studio strobes were bright enough to wake up the butterfly, making active. Basically, I would let the butterfly climb up my finger onto the bottom of the flowers so that it would continue to walk up over the ideal flower while having the preferred wing orientation and try to manually focus perfectly (at MFD) and release the shutter with just the right timing.

I would then put my finger into its climbing path, allow it to climb onto my finger (if it didn't fly away first, usually landing on me). Repeat. Over and over again until I was certain that I had the shot (reviewing on the LCD). The result was ... not too bad for a quick setup.

Tamron 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Lens Minimum Focus Distance Example

The butterfly has an about 3" (76mm) wingspan and this image is an uncropped full frame capture. This Tamron lens' close focusing capability is definitely an asset.

Significant magnification increase can be enabled with the use of an extension tube. ETs permit the lens to focus to closer distances at the expense of long distance focusing. This lens is not compatible with extenders.

Tamron 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Lens Top View

Build Quality & Features

If you had not seen a picture of this lens prior and had not seen the manufacturer's name printed on it, Tamron would likely not have been the brand you guessed. This sharp-looking lens represents a completely new design for Tamron. From internals to the lens cap, every aspect of the lens is brand new.

Without a prior version of any lens similar to this one, the decision to start from scratch does not seem as if it would be difficult to make and a brand new lens model is a great introduction for a new design. With Tamron's aging lens design appearance and with Sigma's modern Global Vision lens design being a hit, it is not surprising that Tamron has brought us the new design.

Of course, new does not necessarily mean good, but in this case, it definitely does. The Tamron 45mm f/1.8 VC Lens has a very attractive, clean, modern appearance. Tamron marketing's "A brand ring that's tinted "Luminous Gold" adorns the lens just above the lens mount" and "... there is an SP emblem in the same luxurious color" [press release] statements sound a little over the top to me, but ... this lens' aluminum alloy barrel has a semi-gloss black finish that looks great next to the matte rubber focus ring and matte plastic lens hood.

Yes, you heard me correctly. Breaking the trend of engineering plastic lens barrel construction, the 45 VC utilizes an aluminum alloy body construction.

Here are the standard product image views of this lens.

Tamron 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Lens Product Images

MFD |    w/ Hood:  MFD |    Rotated        Compare »

This is a fixed-size lens with a smooth overall design, including from a diameter perspective, that feels as good in hand as it appears to the eye.

The two switches (AF/MF and VC On/Off) reside on a slightly-raised panel on the left side of the lens. Both the switches and the panel are contoured to the lens barrel. This switch placement position is very convenient to reach with the left thumb during use. The switches are very adequately sized with a sufficient amount of throw and a positive click to provide strong positional tactile feedback. There is no question about which position the switches are in.

This lens has moisture resistance incorporated into its design, including a lens mount gasket and seals in other locations. Tamron does not state that a front filter is required for complete sealing, but based on the lens design, a filter appears to warranted for improved weather sealing. The front lens element is fluorine coated to repel water, fingerprints, and smudges for easier cleaning of the lens surface.

Overall, this is a light-mid-weight lens with a size to match. However, when compared to the most-similar f/1.8 lenses and even some f/1.4 lenses, the Tamron 45 VC is relatively large and heavy. Obviously, compactness was determined to not be optimal for optical quality in this lens. Here are some comparisons:

ModelWeightDimensions w/o HoodFilterYear 
Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM Lens26.8 oz(760g)3.2 x 4.2"(80.4 x 105.5mm)72mm2015
Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM Lens11.8 oz(335g)3.1 x 2.5"(77.9 x 62.6mm)67mm2012
Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM Lens4.6 oz(130g)2.7 x 0.9"(68.2 x 22.8mm)52mm2012
Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM Lens19.2 oz(545g)3.4 x 2.6"(85.4 x 65.5mm)72mm2006
Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM Lens10.2 oz(290g)2.9 x 2.0"(74.0 x 51.0mm)58mm1993
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens5.6 oz(159g)2.7 x 1.5"(69.2 x 39.3mm)49mm2015
Nikon 35mm f/1.4G AF-S Lens21.2 oz(600g)3.3 x 3.5"(83.0 x 89.5mm)67mm2010
Nikon 35mm f/1.8G AF-S Lens10.8 oz(305g)2.8 x 2.8"(72.0 x 71.5mm)58mm2014
Nikon 50mm f/1.4G AF-S Lens9.9 oz(280g)2.9 x 2.1"(73.5 x 54.2mm)58mm2008
Nikon 50mm f/1.8G AF-S Lens6.5 oz(185g)2.8 x 2.1"(72 x 52.5mm)58mm2011
Samyang 35mm f/1.4 US UMC Lens23.3 oz(660g)3.3 x 4.4"(83.0 x 111.0mm)77mm2011
Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens23.5 oz(665g)3.0 x 3.7"(77.0 x 94.0mm)67mm2012
Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens28.8 oz(815g)3.4 x 3.9"(85.4 x 99.9mm)77mm2014
Tamron 35mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Lens16.9 oz(479g)3.2 x 3.2"(80.4 x 81.3mm)67mm2015
Tamron 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Lens19.2 oz(544g)3.2 x 3.6"(80.4 x 91.4mm)67mm2015
Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 Distagon T* ZE Lens29.7 oz(840g)3.1 x 3.9"(78.0 x 99.3mm)72mm2010
Zeiss Milvus 50mm f/1.4 Lens32.5 oz(922g)3.2 x 3.8"(82.5 x 97.5mm)67mm2015

For many more comparisons, review the complete Tamron 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Lens Specifications using the site's Lens Spec tool.

There are a lot of lenses to compare in that chart. Here is a visual comparison showing the 45 f/1.8 VC alongside three popular f/1.4 models:

Tamron 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Lens Compared to Similar Lenses

Positioned above from left to right in their fully retracted positions are the following lenses:

Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM Lens
Nikon 50mm f/1.4G AF-S Lens
Tamron 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Lens
Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens

The same lenses are shown below with their lens hoods in place.

Tamron 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Lens Compared to Similar Lenses with Hoods

Interesting that the f/1.8 lens is so much larger than the Canon and Nikon f/1.4 lenses and nearly as large as the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art lens. Use the site's product image comparison tool to visually compare the Tamron 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Lens to the other lenses shown in the chart (and many more). The just-provided link is preloaded with another interesting comparison (showing the f/1.8 lenses).

The Tamron 45 f/1.8 VC accepts mid-size and moderately common 67mm filters.

The Tamron HF012 lens hood is included in the box. This a moderately-rigid, all-plastic lens hood with a ribbed interior that offers a nice amount of protection from both light and impact to the front element. Use it all the time.

Somewhat unusual is that the lens hood includes the words "Made in Japan" and the box says "Made in Japan", but the lens states "Designed in Japan". It seems that Tamron is stressing this lens' Japanese roots, but ... I suspect the wording will leave some wondering if the lens itself was actually "made" somewhere else.

The 45 VC's new ground-up design includes the lens caps. The front cap is very nice, featuring the center-and-side-pinch design that is now ubiquitous. The rear cap caught my attention even more, initially because it does not match up equally with the diameter of the Canon body cap (it is wider) and second, because it weighs noticeably more than the Canon cap (though still weighing only 20g).

Tamron 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Lens Caps

Upon closer investigation, I found the wider, flaring Tamron cap design to better mesh with the rear weather sealing of this lens, providing better protection to the gasket and better moisture protection to the lens when the cap is attached. Look for this fit in the product images earlier in review. The rear cap uses a double-wall design as seen in the image above.

Even the box is new. The Tamron 35mm and 45mm f/1.8 VC Lens packaging design also puts a new face on Tamron.

Tamron 35mm and 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Lens Boxes

No lens case is included in the box, but finding a case for a common lens form factor is not challenging. Lowepro's Lens Case line is very nice and affordable.

Tamron 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Lens Side Angle View with Hood

Price and Value

Tamron 45mm f/1.8 Di VC Lens has a medium-low price tag at launch time. For the image quality this lens provides and the quality of the lens itself, I find this price to be a very good value. It is a good value even if only used for snapshots around the house.

The Tamron 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Lens is available in Canon (reviewed), Nikon and Sony (no VC). My standard disclaimer: There are potential issues with third party lenses. Since Tamron reverse engineers (vs. licenses) manufacturer AF algorithms, there is always the possibility that a DSLR body might not support a (likely older) third party lens. Usually a lens can be made compatible by the manufacturer via a firmware update, but this cannot be guaranteed. There is also the risk of a problem that results in the lens and body manufacturers directing blame at each other. That Tamron USA has your back for 6 years (the warranty period) is impressive.

The evaluation lens used in this review was a retail-acquired production model.

Alternatives to the Tamron 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Lens

It is possibly the comparison with the rest of the available lens field that best brings to light the specialness of this lens. When comparing the Tamron 45 VC to other lenses, the first piece of information to keep in mind is that no other similar lens has VC, meaning that this lens has no directly comparable alternative. Also, this lens is without a non-macro prime lens comparable in regards to its maximum magnification ability. That said, there are many lenses that can be compared to this one, based on focal length, aperture or both, even without considering the plethora of zoom lenses covering the 45mm focal length.

Canon camera owners will be quick to notice that the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens has the same max aperture but is much smaller and costs far less. While this is true, it is also true that the Canon does not compete with the Tamron in optical quality until about f/4. If you care about image sharpness at wide apertures, the Tamron is the clear choice.

The Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM Lens is also much smaller and priced at about 2/3 as much as the Tamron (without rebates factored in). The Canon also has a 2/3 stop wider aperture to its advantage, but again, the Tamron's image quality is strongly my preference even at the wider comparable aperture (f/1.8). This optical quality difference is easily worth the difference in price.

With a full one stop wider aperture, the Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM Lens can create a look completely different than an f/1.8 lens can create. The 50 f/1.2, however, is not renowned for its sharpness at wide open apertures. The Tamron makes this lens appear ready for an upgrade, even though the Canon 50 f/1.2L is priced more than 2x higher than the Tamron.

The Nikon 50mm f/1.8G AF-S Lens and Nikon 50mm f/1.4G AF-S Lens compare similarly against the Tamron as the Canon equivalents. I should note that you will most likely find the Canon and Nikon lenses to outperform the Tamron in the autofocus category.

The lens I see competing most strongly against the Tamron 45mm f/1.8 VC is Sigma's latest entry into the category, the 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens. These two lenses are more similar than different in image sharpness with the Sigma having slightly less distortion and the Tamron having my slightly preferred flare response. The Sigma is considerably heavier, but only modestly larger in size (with a larger filter size). The Tamron of course has vibration compensation, a much higher maximum magnification (0.29x vs. 0.18x) and a much longer focus ring rotation (212° vs. 92°). The Sigma has a 2/3 stop wider aperture (with less vignetting at comparable wide apertures) and the Tamron cost 2/3 as much.

Tamron 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Lens Side View with Hood

Summary

A new lens model for any company always brings lots of anticipation for me as I always love to see what the latest technology brings us. When a new lens model has a feature set not before seen, that level of anticipation is increased. With the ultra-high resolution Canon EOS 5Ds R being unforgiving to camera motion and it having become my standard camera, I have never valued the image stabilization feature more highly, and having optical stabilization in an f/1.8 max aperture lens is really nice.

Most importantly, the very useful focal length combined with the stellar image quality delivered at this price point would make the Tamron 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Lens a popular inclusion in the kits of photographers of all levels of ability and interest even without the VC feature. I look forward to more Tamron primes joining this unique, visually attractive lineup.

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My Recommended Tamron 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Lens Retailers

Where you buy your gear matters. You expect to get what you ordered and you want to pay a low price for it. The retailers I recommend below are the ones I trust for my own purchases. Get your Tamron 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Lens now from:

B&H Photo
Adorama
Amazon.com
Beach Camera or BuyDig.com
eBay (Choose trustworthy sellers only)
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Rent the Tamron 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Lens
Do you need/want the Tamron 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Lens for only a short period of time? Or, would you feel more comfortable buying after having a hands-on trial period? Consider renting. Renting is fast and easy. The rental companies I recommend below are excellent to work with. Schedule your rental now:
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