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First Impression: Tamron SP AF 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro

by Peter West Carey on 10/27/2012

I don’t normally buy Tamron gear but when they offered for me to test a 90mm f/2.8 Macro I was intrigued mainly because it’s been a while since I used a macro or a f/2.8 fixed focal length lens. With a certain amount of skepticism, but also a mark of curiosity, I accepted and took delivery just a day ago.

Gear Used

Product Specifications

From Tamron’s website:

  • Filter diameter – 55mm
  • Length – 97 mm (3.8 in)
  • Weight – 400 g (14.1 oz)
  • Minimum focus distance – .29 m (11.4 in)
  • Aperture Range – f/2.8 to f/32

Ergonomics

The ergonomics on this lens are not much to write home about, but that is a good thing. It’s a lens, what’s it supposed to do for you in terms of ergonomics?

Well, it’s not heavy (less than a pound) and that really helps. The focus distance limiting switch on the side is a knob which makes it easier to not accidentally hit. And it means you can’t just switch quickly with your thumb, which, for me, won’t be an issue.

One different aspect of this lens is how it switches from auto-focus to manual. And it’s a feature I like. The change is made by pushing or pulling the lens. Pull back and it switches to manual focus. Push away and it’s auto. When in Auto-focus mode, the focus ring will just spin and do nothing, which might annoy Nikon owners who enjoy the ability to manually override the auto-focus if they desire.

I like this feature because I don’t have to take the camera from my eye and it’s easier to switch than a side-of-barrel switch, like on my 28-300mm L lens.

Take a look at these photos to see how the Tamron grows to nearly twice its size when focused to the minimum focus distance of almost one foot. It take 3/4 of a full turn of the focus ring to achieve this, so not too bad. But you do need to make sure you’re focused before getting the camera close to an object or you risk hitting it as you focus closer.

Image Quality

The Tamron lens has been decent so far and, as I haven’t used a f/2.8 lens of this nature in a while, I have been enjoying it. At first I thought there was a purple fringe problem when shooting a zipper on a camera bag, but then I realized it was the zipper that was actually making the purple cast. I still need to push this lens in certain situations, but I like what I’ve seen so far. Click on images for larger version.

ISO 1600, f/2.8, 1/1250

ISO 1600, f/2.8, 1/1250

ISO 100, f/2.8, 1/6400

And a 100% crop of the image above (click for full size):

In this image, when blown up, I can detect some purple halo at the bow of the boat where it is reflecting sunlight.

ISO 100, f/2.8, 1/4000

ISO 100, f/2.8, 1/1600

ISO 100, f/32, 1/15

ISO 100, f/2.8, 1/640

Autofocus

This lens’ autofocus is fairly swift. Not lighting fast, but not lumbering. On a 1-10 scale, I would give it a 7.4. I haven’t found myself wishing it were faster that often but I have only been testing it for a couple of days. I was pleased, all in all, that it is as quick as it is.

The autofocus is loud by my normal “Ultrasonic” lens standards. And it can be chatty. It’s not a stealth lens and if you love super quite lenses, this one is not for you. But it is also not loud. It’s just chatty, like that friend you have that, sometimes, can talk up a storm. They aren’t loud, but they are noticeable.

So Far

So far, I like this lens. Being as I don’t have a Macro already, it fits the bill without breaking the bank. Canon (my camera manufacturer) has a regular Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM Lens that might give it competition at $550 and if I can, I will test them side by side. Would I like the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens instead? Sure! But it’s twice the cost.

What I would love to see on this lens is image stabilization, but I’m sure that would boost the price by $100 or more.

For now, I’m hopeful. I’ll keep this lens with me and take it to Utah in a week and see how it does pulling out sandstone details.

By the way…that little blue band around the lens? I think it’s sexy. Who needs red when you can have bright blue? It does make the lens easy to spot in a bag, at least.

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