Manual focusing is a little lacking in smoothness, whereas autofocus is sluggish but benefits from a limiter switch that can cut out the short end of the focus range for general shooting. And general photography turns out to be what the lens is best suited to, as it delivers good allround image quality. Sharpness and contrast are impressive, even at the widest aperture. Tamron advertises this lens as being equally suitable for portraiture and close-up shooting. To help with the former, it gives an ideal ‘effective’ focal length for portraiture of 90mm on the DX bodies for which it’s designed. Better still, it has a class-leading widest aperture of f/2, which helps to tighten the depth of field and blur the background.
Further refinements include an intriguing autofocus system which, while using an electric motor, still enables full-time manual focus override in ‘single’ AF mode. However, the manual focus ring feels quite sticky.
With a minimum focus distance of 18.5cm, you don’t need to get as close to objects for full 1.0x magnification as with the Nikon 40mm. Another bonus is that the Tamron features fully internal focusing. As such, the overall physical length is shorter than that of the Nikon 40mm when they’re both at their closest focus distance.
Sharpness is respectable at medium to narrow apertures, and better at wide apertures than in previous review samples of this lens that we’ve used. Even so, sharpness between f/2 and f/2.8 is still distinctly low. One plus side of this is that it can make for soft, dreamy looking portraits.