A Sharp Contrast: On the Street with the Tamron SP 35mm f/1.4 Di USD Lens


I am in a year-long quest to find the right camera/lens combination that will give me a wide-angle (24mm, 28mm, or 35mm equivalent) fixed focal length setup for everyday carry and general street photography. I have been experimenting with small form factor mirrorless and point-and-shoot cameras such as the Sony a6500 and FUJIFILM X100F; I even tried the Olympus Tough TG-6 point and shoot, but haven’t yet found the perfect fit. I still shoot Nikon FX DSLR as my primary system but didn’t want to consider the Nikon as my everyday camera for the simple reasons of size, weight, and its lack of discretion when it comes to street photography. However, after a few weeks with the Tamron SP 35mm f/1.4 Di USD Lens, I am rethinking that presumption.

It’s not that the Tamron is a small lens; my reconsideration is based solely on the lens’s autofocus speed and accuracy and the sharp images it creates. To be sure, the lens is not discreet; with the lens hood on, it weighs 1.77 pounds and is almost 6" long. Obviously, that is not a street shooter’s dream, but I will say that it is a balanced match for my Nikon D750 in terms of weight. Neither the lens nor camera are much heavier than the other, so the lens does not point down when the camera is around your neck. For general comfort, this is good, and for street shooting without bringing the camera to your eye, it’s in the perfect position to catch action in front of you. The AF system does the rest. It also offers a nice balanced hold when in the hand.

In terms of barrel design, it is a sleek black like the other recent Di VC lenses, offering just the AF/MF switch, a focal length window, and a wide rubber grip for smooth manual focus. It features moisture-resistant construction along with a front fluorine coating to support working in harsh weather.

The optical design incorporates a series of low-dispersion and aspherical elements, which control aberrations and enable overall impressive sharpness. A BBAR-G2 coating has been applied and helps to reduce flare and ghosting for improved color and contrast when working in strong light. It is this aspect of the Tamron 35mm f/1.4 lens that impressed me the most. Photographing in strong sunlight loaded with contrasting visuals and harsh reflections, the lens produced ideal colors with minimal fringing and attractive contrast.

Complementing the optics, the Ultra Silent Drive autofocus motor and Dynamic Rolling-Cam mechanism ensure quick, quiet autofocus and seamless full-time manual focus override. Close focus is possible to a minimum of 11.8", and this allows one to flaunt the lens’s depth of field control. Even at f/1.4, focus is sharp, and for portraiture or even product photography and still life, you can really enjoy controlling focus placement.

This wide-angle prime is designed for FX-format Nikon F-mount cameras, but is also available for Canon EF mount cameras and can even be used with Nikon DX models and Canon APS-C cameras to provide a 52.5mm equivalent focal length.

Despite my pleasure using this lens, especially for wide-angle portraiture, and the speed and AF accuracy it demonstrated in the streets, I am thinking that I need a wider focal length for my type of street photography. The search continues.

What has been your experience with the Tamron SP 35mm f/1.4 Di USD Lens? Would you use it for street photography? Share your comments in the box below.