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Featured Product: TAMRON SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD

Click Pro: Francesca Russell Photography

When I was offered the opportunity to test Tamron’s SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD lens, I was really excited. I bought the Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC a few months ago and it has quickly become one of my favorite lenses, producing sharp images with beautiful color. I was interested to see how a lens from Tamron’s prime line measured up.

As a documentary family photographer, I don’t use long lenses very often. When indoors, photographing my children or clients, I prefer to use a wider focal length. However, my love of the 85mm goes back to my years before kids, when I was working full time as a Broadway stage manager and photographing life backstage. An 85mm lens enabled me to capture intimate moments without having to be too close to my subjects, which is important in an environment like the theater where interrupting an actor’s work process would not only have been unprofessional of me, but also would have kept me from capturing some wonderfully intimate and candid images of what real life in the theater is like.

As a documentary family photographer, I don’t use long lenses very often. When indoors, photographing my children or clients, I prefer to use a wider focal length. However, my love of the 85mm goes back to my years before kids, when I was working full time as a Broadway stage manager and photographing life backstage.

I decided to take the Tamron 85mm out to the streets with the same philosophy and goal in mind — to capture some candid moments without being disruptive to the subjects or the scene. I spent a couple of hours one afternoon walking around the streets of midtown Manhattan covertly snapping portraits of strangers.

When I got home and uploaded the images to Adobe Lightroom, I was so pleased with the results! I shot most of the street portraits in the f/3.5-f/5.6 range and was impressed not only with the sharpness of the images, but the beautiful compression I was able to get from the busy background of the city.

black and white photo of mom and daughter walking down the street by Francesca Russell

picture of woman writing on cardboard by Francesca Russell

curly haired woman in a blue shirt standing by a busy street by Francesca Russell

two girls looking at an iPhone by Francesca Russell

photo of woman selling items on the street by Francesca Russell

A few nights later, I took the 85mm to a local street fair with photographing my kids in mind. Again, I came away extremely pleased with the sharpness of images and beautiful compression that enabled me to isolate my subjects in a busy environment. The vibration compensation also came in very handy as I was tracking my fast moving two year old!

black and white photo of kids on the street by Francesca Russell

picture of kid in a red shirt running down the street by Francesca Russell

black and white portrait of young girl by Francesca Russell

Of course the 85mm also excels at traditional portraiture. I love the clarity in the details and the beautiful creaminess it brings out in the skin.

black and white photo of young girl with curly hair by Francesca Russell

close up photo of girl by Francesca Russell

close up portrait of blonde girl by Francesca Russell

pic of boy playing a game by Francesca Russell

portrait of curly haired girl by Francesca Russell

Finally, I wanted to give the Tamron 85mm a whirl while shooting some video. Although I don’t often use the 85mm focal length in my daily shooting of stills, I do love using it in my short films for close-ups, portraits and detail shots. I shoot most video fairly wide open, as I love the dreaminess of the shallow depth of field. This little film of my daughter was shot at f/2.0. I am very happy with the final product. The vibration compensation also helped stabilize my handheld footage.


Music credit: “LANDRA’S DREAM” by Jason Shaw

Overall I was extremely pleased with the Tamron SP85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD and would highly recommend it to those photographers who regularly shoot at a longer focal length. The lens itself is bigger and heavier than the Nikon 85mm f/1.8 that I own, but the vibration compensation (which enables you to shoot at up to four times slower shutter speeds, therefore buying you more mileage in low light) is an added bonus that my Nikon version does not have. And for the price point, the Tamron cannot be beat.

All images by Francesca Russell.

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