I recently had the pleasure of testing out the new Tamron 85mm f/1.8 lens. My love affair with prime lenses has been reignited!

I am mostly a zoom lens shooter, favoring the ability to be lazy and zoom in and out as I need. This lens, however, reminded me there is magic hidden inside those prime lenses. They provide a certain ethereal look to beautifully composed images.

As a portrait photographer, most of my photographs are taken at a large aperture, and often wide open. At f/1.8 with this prime, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I have shot with an 85 f/1.4 and anticipated at f/1.8 I may see less compression in the background, with bokeh not as creamy. I also remembered as I began my sessions that at f/1.8 I’d need to be careful where to position myself and my subject to ensure tack sharp focus on both eyes – something that can easily be missed at such a large aperture.

I am mostly a zoom lens shooter but the new Tamron 85mm 1.8 lens has reignited my love affair with prime lenses.

My first surprise was at how sharp this lens was – especially wide open. As a quick shooter (you sort of have to be when dealing with young and easily bored subjects!), that can sometimes cause a few images to be slightly (or really) out of focus. This lens held focus extremely well, creating tack sharp images with extremely crisp detail, even when pixel peeping at 100%.

backlit picture of girl with a flower in her hair by Shey Detterline

The next surprise was the creaminess and overall beauty of the bokeh this lens created. I positioned my subject a few feet away from the greenery behind her, cranked my aperture all the way open to f/1.8 to let this lens do what it does best, and fired away. The sharpness of the focal point blended away naturally into dreamy backgrounds while keeping the color and depth perfect.

Finally, I was pleasantly surprised to test out how close I could get to my subject – a HUGE thing in child portrait photography – and still keep focus on my subject. Typically minimum focal lengths keep me at least 4 feet away, but this lens let me get in almost to 2 feet away before I hit the threshold on focusing ability. This allowed me to capture some really beautiful angles, and also interact more closely with my subjects than I normally am able to do.

portrait of girl in a dress wearing a sparkly headband by Shey Detterline

This lens really impressed me! In photographer circles you’ll hear anecdotal advice on which lenses are good bets for your money at f/1.8 and which lenses are worth splurging for the next level. This Tamron 85mm f/1.8 lens is definitely one to grab if you are in the market for a prime portrait lens!