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Tamron SP 35mm F/1.8, Sony FE 35mm F/1.4 | My Favorite Lenses of 2015

By Anthony Thurston on December 9th 2015

It’s that time of year again. Time for one to sit down, reflect, take a look at what lenses were released during the previous year, and take stock of what deserves the end of the year honors.

Today, I wanted to take a minute and talk about some of my top lens releases of the past year. This is not our official SLR Lounge year end awards (those will come later); this is just my opinion regarding lenses that stood out to me during the 2015 calendar year, including my favorite one.

Top Lens Release – Tamron 35mm F/1.8 VC


I was lucky enough to be in NYC when Tamron first unveiled its newest SP lenses, the 35mm F/1.8 VC, and the 45mm F/1.8 VC. You can take a look at my initial impressions on these two lenses here, but today I wanted to specifically speak about the 35mm.

The 35mm, assuming you get a good copy (there have been reports of some QA issues, though both copies I have used worked flawlessly), offers users stellar optical performance, minimal distortion, a close working distance, and image stabilization in a single package for just $600.

It also looks about as sexy as a lens can look. I am a big fan of this Tamron lens – so much so I have greatly considered picking one up and adapting it to my a7R II. There are faster 35mm lenses out there, from Sigma, Sony, Nikon, and Canon – but this Tamron lens offers a level of quality at F/1.8 to a degree that I don’t miss the extra light one bit.



This lens, in my opinion, is the clear price to performance king in the 35mm focal length category right now. If you are interested, you can pick one of these bad boys up at B&H, here.

**We’ve also partnered with Tamron to this lens away! Enter here.**

My Runner-Up – Sony FE 35mm F/1.4


Interesting that out of my top 9 lenses of the year, three are new 35mm lenses (in wildly different price points). But yes, my runner-up for 2015 is also a 35mm prime lens, though this one mounts to my a7R II with no adapters needed – the Sony FE 35mm F/1.4.

Just as the Tamron above, the optical quality of this lens is just spectacular and its performance from center to corner on my a7R II is brilliant. Though not the killer deal like the Tamron, the Sony FE 35mm comes in at a fair price of just under $1600.

If you are shooting on Sony’s A7 series, there is no better 35mm lens available to you right now. (Though as I mentioned above, that adapted Tamron is very tempting to me and my wallet). Get it here.

Other Notable Lenses of 2015

So that is what I think, what about you guys?

There you have it ladies and gents. Those are some of my picks for the lens releases that stood out to me the most here in 2015. You may agree on some, you may disagree on some, and that is what the comment section is for!

Leave a comment below, let me know what you think! What lenses stood out to you in 2015?

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Anthony Thurston is a photographer based in the Salem, Oregon area specializing in Boudoir. He recently started a new project, Fiercely Boudoir to help support the growing boudoir community. Find him over on Instagram. You may also connect with him via Email.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Steinar Knai

    My favorite, and by far, is the Olympus 40-150 f2.8 zoom. Although I use mostly primes on my MFT gear, this zoom is so good in IQ, build and usability, that is has to be my number one choice. Secondly, it would be the Panasonic 45 f1.7.

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    • Dave Haynie

      I have the 40-150 f/2.8 and the 12-40 f/2.8 PRO zooms for my OM-Ds, as well as three f/1.8 Zuikos and the 20mm f/1.7 Lumix. And I’m also kind of drooling over the 7-14 f/2.8, but have not bough that one yet. That 40-150 is such a good lens, I’m convinced it’s sharper on my OM-D than my 70-300 f/4-5.6 IS USM on my Canon. It’s worth of “hires” mode, at least if it’s not windy and I’m on my good tripod.

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  2. Dave Haynie

    I’ve been seriously considering a fast 35mm prime for my Canon system… this is on budget and looks worth checking out. So many lenses, so little time and money :-)

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  3. Paul Nguyen

    I’m not a Canon shooter (I shot Nikon for stills and Panasonic/Olympus for video) but I think Canon’s 11-24mm f/4 and 50mm f/1.8 STM are the lenses of the year for me.

    The 11-24mm f/4 is a widely (excuse the pun) underappreciated lens. Sure it’s expensive, but most people don’t seem to quite get exactly how wide 11mm really is. I really suggest you play with it, even if it’s in a camera store. If you’re wowed by the Nikon 14-24mm, this will blow your mind.

    The Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM is a great lens with a quiet focus motor, great image quality and much better construction than the old lens. It makes the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G look expensive and it really is the best value lens on any system. You can’t find a lens that’s as versatile, useful and sharp for $100 anywhere.

    I also like the Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 VC, it’s a good alternative to the Nikon 14-24mm and arguably even better with better IQ and the inclusion of VC. I really agree with Adam Sanford about this year. It really is the year of ultra-wides this year.

    I disagree with you on this one Anthony, the Tamron 35mm f/1.8 VC is a good lens, it’s useful for Nikon shooters who don’t have another option with VC, and it’s arguably better value than the Canon 35mm f/2 IS, but I don’t see it as much of a revolutionary lens. It’s just another one of many good lenses. It doesn’t just come and blow the competition apart like the Sigma 35mm or 50mm f/1.4 ART lenses from the past few years.

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    • Anthony Thurston

      I don’t think I said it was revolutionary. I just like its performance, and when you consider the price, it looks even better.

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    • Paul Nguyen

      I know, but personally I think that a lens of the year has to really do something special. It’s like when the Sigma 35mm and 50mm f/1.4 ART lenses were released, the world was set on fire and they really were something special. The Tamron 35mm and 45mm f/1.8 VC lenses are nice, but I don’t see that “wow” factor about then, so I find it hard to say they are lenses of the year.

      Still great lenses though!

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    • Sean Goebel

      I’m still waiting to see an 11mm photo that I actually like. I shoot wide (a LOT), but most of the 11mm shots I’ve seen would be better if shot at a longer focal length. Just because you have 11mm, it doesn’t mean you should overuse it. Moderation, people!

      Plus there’s the fact that it’s an insanely expensive f/4 lens. I’ll stick to my Nikon 14-24 (adapted to Canon, no less) for the foreseeable future.

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  4. Kristopher Galuska

    Ever since Tamaron announced the 35mm I’ve wanted one. I have a d610 with only a 24mmm 2.8 and a 50 1.8g. Its been a big debate between this Tamaron and a Tokina 100mm 2.8 macro. Im thinking the Tokina makes more sence with the lenses that I have, but i love the 35mm focal length.

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  5. adam sanford

    As far as impactful ‘wow, you really need to try this thing’ sort of a lens, I’d say the 2015 ones to beat are:

    Canon 11-24 F/4L (this lens is as unreasonable as physics tends to be at 11mm FF, but it works well)

    Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art (coma performance be damned, it’s still a shockingly sharp + fast ultrawide)

    Tamron 15-30 f/2.8 VC (sharp, fast, well built. But enjoy lugging your epic Wonderpana or Lee outriggers around if you want to filter it)

    (And no, I’m not an ultrawide fanboy per se — I just think that’s where the innovation was this year.)

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    • Colin Woods

      Yes, impossibility of filtration with the 15-30mm was a bitter pill to swallow, but I don’t do that much filtered landscape-on-a-tripod stuff now so its actually not that big an issue for me. I do use NDs a fair bit and I use my 24-120 for that. Even at 24mm filter ring vignetting is a pain so probably using filters at 15mm would be impractical anyway.

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  6. adam sanford

    Anthony — respectfully, I just don’t get Tamron’s 35mm offering. In the 35mm space, the Sigma is a little pricier but faster and much sharper, and if you want IS you can get it with the Canon 35 f/2 IS USM (with much more reliable first party AF) for the same price.

    So I just don’t see the value proposition of the Tamron. Given that 3rd party glass — fairly or unfairly — has the spectre of copy-to-copy / AF reliability issues associated with it, it must be faster, sharper, more feature-laden or cheaper. It’s none of those things, IMHO.

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    • Anthony Thurston

      Not sure what you are talking about, the Tamron is one of the sharpest lenses I have used recently. :/ But as with all lenses, it’s not for everyone.

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    • Matthew Saville

      According to some tests, the Tamron is significantly sharper than the Canon f/2 and Nikon f/1.8, and equally as sharp as the Sigma 1.4. It depends on the tester, I guess, but I’d say it’s safe to consider the Tamron a winner for sharpness VS price. Don’t forget that the name-brand f/1.4 versions from Canon and Nikon are up at $1800 and $1700 now, either.

      As far as AF reliability goes, I’d say that’s a fair concern, however with each new lens that comes out, the issue does seem to lessen for both Tamron and Sigma. Meanwhile, I don’t know what everybody’s talking about when they praise Canon and Nikon for their own AF reliability, IMO all across the board phase-detect autofocus is always prone to issues no matter what brand, and is soon to be an inferior and outdated system compared to the rapidly improving hybrid AF systems like in the A7R II.

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  7. Matthew Saville

    One of the other notable lens-related events of 2015 is, IMO, that Nikon is starting to put more “E” lenses out, even in the lower range. Like their new 16-80 “E” DX.

    While this might seem insignificant to most, as a long-time Nikon aficionado, I thought to myself: this feels like when Nikon made the painful, major decision to start removing the AF-D motor from some of its camera bodies, and only allowing fully electronic AF. In the long run it allowed for much lighter, smaller DSLR bodies in the beginner range.

    To me, this indicates that Nikon is gearing up for another big change in its body design: the removal of mechanical aperture operation from either low end, or, ….wait for it… an all-new mirrorless system that remains compatible with the Nikon F mount, or compatible with an extremely simple adapter.

    So, for all you die-hard Nikon fans out there, IMO we should be paying very close attention to how many “E” aperture lenses Nikon releases, or oppositely, how FEW mechanical aperture lenses are released.

    Just some food for thought.

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  8. Ben Young

    I haven’t tried many new lenses this year, but I did have a day with the new Canon EF 35mm 1:1.4 L II USM about a couple of months ago.
    With that lens attached I’ve never seen better photos from my camera. Wow! It really is something special.

    I did however buy the Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM. Also a really nice lens. But not as nice as the new 35mm f/1.4

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  9. Colin Woods

    The Tamron 15-30mm f2.8 for me. You have to watch for flare on that big bulbous front element but that aside its 100% killer. And its got VR.My stock agency has accepted shots from it that were hand held half a second.

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  10. Kayode Olorunfemi

    Tamron & Sigma seem to be taking the fight to the big boys!

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