Featured Product: Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Lens
Click Pro: Dana Ball, Dana Ball Photography

I’m a prime lens girl.

There was a time when I thought all the good lenses zoomed. Then I was introduced to primes.

I fell in love with the sharpness and wide apertures of primes. The ability to shoot in low light. Dreamy bokeh. These days, I shoot everything, except sports, with primes.

So I may have squealed a little when I was asked to test drive Tamron’s SP 85mm 1.8 prime lens. Do I even have to think about it? Of course, I’ll take her out for a spin!

Days later, she arrived on my doorstep. Opening the box, my first impression was, “Wow. This is not a budget lens.”

She felt solid — substantial. Heavy in the way that implies quality. And she was a beautiful piece of glass. Sleek. With a pretty, brushed gold ring around the base.

With the first shot, I was blown away. She was sharp. Incredibly sharp. And that gorgeous, circular bokeh was to die for.

This was a quick test shot at the soccer fields. Unplanned. Nothing fancy. With a simple five-minute edit in Lightroom.

Tamron 85 1.8 lens review by Dana Ball

ISO 100, f/2.2, 1/500

A quick portrait after my son’s haircut produced similar results.

Tamron 85 1.8 lens review by Dana Ball

ISO 100, f/1.8, 1/500

This lens has a couple of features you usually don’t find on prime lenses in this price range. It’s moisture-resistant. And it has vibration compensation. Other companies call this image stabilization. This is genius for this lens.

At the 85mm focal length, I don’t really need an aperture wider than 1.8 to isolate my subject. But in some settings, I may need more light. With vibration compensation and a still subject, I’m able to choose slower shutter speeds with no loss of sharpness.

We hit the road for a family road trip, and I shot the next two images at Grandma’s house.

Tamron 85 1.8 lens review by Dana Ball

ISO 250, f/5, 1/500

Tamron 85 1.8 lens review by Dana Ball

ISO 100, f/2.2, 1/640

We spent a day in D.C., so I tested her out at monuments and museums. Professional lenses are expensive, so when considering a purchase it’s important to me that the lens be versatile.

Tamron 85 1.8 lens review by Dana Ball

ISO 1600, f/2.2, 1/1,000

Tamron 85 1.8 lens review by Dana Ball

ISO 200, f/2.5, 1/200

Tamron 85 1.8 lens review by Dana Ball

ISO 100, f/2, 1/4000

Tamron 85 1.8 lens review by Dana Ball

ISO 640, f/4.5, 1/500

Tamron 85 1.8 lens review by Dana Ball

ISO 1000, f/6.3, 1/640

Tamron 85 1.8 lens review by Dana Ball

ISO 1250, f/3.5, 1/80

My first Tamron lens was a relatively inexpensive all-purpose zoom with a wide range. But my perception of Tamron as the affordable lens has changed completely after shooting with this lens.

I would recommend the Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 to any serious hobbyist or pro photographer looking to add a professional portrait lens to her kit. It is incredibly sharp. The image quality reminds me of my 135mm lens.

Tamron 85 1.8 lens review by Dana Ball

ISO 160, f/3.2, 1/1,600

Tamron 85 1.8 lens review by Dana Ball

ISO 100, f/3.2, 1/320

My lenses that I take on every shoot are my 35mm and my 135mm. The Tamron SP 85mm 1.8 would round out my kit nicely. It’s going to be hard to send her back!

All images by Dana Ball

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