Review: Tamron 90mm f2.8 Di VC USD (Canon EF)

Tamron knocked the ball out of the park with their 85mm f1.4 Di VC USD lens–and so updating the 90mm f2.8 Di VC USD, one of their more popular options just made sense. This lens is very much a jack of many trades. It’s designed to shoot macro images, have image stabilization, great image quality, and also has weather sealing. For many years it was in the hands of enthusiasts and hobbyists, but the 90mm is worthy of being in the hands of many professionals.

This one, like many of the company’s new lenses, offer a metal exterior, weather sealing, 9 aperture blades, 14 elements in 11 groups and 4.5 stops of vibration compensation. For the $649 price point you’re getting quite a bargain..

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 90mm f2.8 Di VC USD review samples extras (9 of 17)ISO 2001-400 sec at f - 2.8

Pros and Cons

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 90mm f2.8 Di Vc USD portraits of Erica (1 of 2)ISO 1001-180 sec at f - 2.8

Pros

  • Super sharp
  • Beautiful bokeh
  • Consistently accurate focusing
  • Very close focusing abilities
  • Weather sealing
  • Fast focusing abilities

Cons

  • Makes weird noises when focusing and with the VC enabled, almost like an old school 386 computer…yes, before the Pentium processor.

Gear Used

The Tamron 90mm f2.8 Di VC USD was used with the Canon 6D, the Phottix Mitros +, Phottix Odin and the Phottix Octa Luna octabank.

Tech Specs

Specs taken from the Amazon listing of the lens

 

Aperture Control Design Controlled via Camera
Color Black
Compatible Mountings Canon EF
Focus Type auto-focus
Image Stabilization Yes
Included Components Tamron 90mm Macro Lens
Item Dimensions 4.5 x 4.5 x 4.6 inches
Item Weight 1.4 pounds
Lens Design Fixed Prime
Lens Type macro
Manufacturer Warranty Description 6 Year
Maximum Aperture ƒ/2.8
Maximum Aperture Range 2.8
Maximum Focal Length 90
Maximum Format Size 35mm Full Frame
Minimum Aperture ƒ/32
Minimum Focal Length 90
Number of Elements 14
Number of Groups 11
Photo Filter Thread Size 62 mm
Shipping Weight 2.2 pounds
Style Name Canon
UNSPSC Code 45121603
Zoom Type fixed

Ergonomics

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 90mm f2.8 Di VC USD review product photos (1 of 7)ISO 8001-50 sec at f - 4.5

The Tamron 90mm f2.8 Di VC USD lens is the latest update in their 90mm macro series of lenses, and it’s in many ways the biggest step forward. We reviewed the previous lens many years ago, and though that one wasn’t too bad either, this one is really bringing out all the stops.

Looking at the lens gives you a view of what many other Tamron lenses look like. The exterior is textured very slightly and it is dominated by a giant rubber focusing ring. The exterior is otherwise made of metal.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 90mm f2.8 Di VC USD review product photos (4 of 7)ISO 8001-50 sec at f - 5.0

Step up into the lens’s face and what you’ll find are things like the distance meter.Very little else is seen on the lens and it’s got a minimal body otherwise.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 90mm f2.8 Di VC USD review product photos (5 of 7)ISO 8001-50 sec at f - 4.5

On one side what you’ll find is the little SP badge that Tamron puts onto its lenses to proudly distinguish it. It’s very Sigma-like, but at this point I really want to say that Tamron’s version stands out on its own due alone to the texture on the outside.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 90mm f2.8 Di VC USD review product photos (6 of 7)ISO 8001-50 sec at f - 4.5

Move to the other wise of the lens and what you’ll find are the VC, AF, and focus limiter controls. As with their new line of lenses, you’ll also find this white metal ring towards the back of the lens.

Build Quality

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 90mm f2.8 Di VC USD review product photos (2 of 7)ISO 8001-50 sec at f - 4.5

As with all of the new Tamron lenses, there is weather sealing built into the lens mount and other areas accordingly. For photographers that need durability like that, you’ll be happy to know that you’re getting it at an affordable price. For what it’s worth though, I’d honestly like more texture on the exterior of the lens to make it easier to grip anywhere you handle it. Sure, that big rubber ring does quite a bit of extra grip that doesn’t compromise the beautiful looks would be rather welcome.

If you’re the type of photographer who likes to pretend that their a professional, go out along waterfronts, take photos of random things, and along the way berate all the younger lads and lasses doing exactly what you do, then guess what: you may not like this lens. Why? Because it doesn’t have a Canon or Nikon moniker on it and you’ll swear by the weather sealing and build quality that they’ll give you.

For the rest of us though, we’ll enjoy the quality to our heart’s content and realize that not only is it built well, but we’ve also saved a large number of dollars that we can also invest into marketing.

Ease of Use

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 90mm f2.8 Di VC USD review product photos (3 of 7)ISO 8001-50 sec at f - 4.5

Essentially what you need to do is attach the lens to the front of the camera, point, shoot and enjoy. But if you’re a photographer working amongst other people you may sit there wondering what the heck that sound is when you’re trying to focus. It’s the vibration compensation–and it sounds like an old school compute from the 1990s starting up. With the press of a button, you’ll be transported to your mom’s basement where you spent hours playing Golden Axe or Prince of Persia on the PC. Luckily for you, no one else will really hear it–so know that you’re not going crazy accordingly.

If you’re working in the macro ranges, be sure to set that limit using the according switch on the camera. Otherwise, you’ll become frustrated to the point where you’ll just manually focus.

Autofocus

On the Canon 6D, the Tamron 90mm f2.8 Di VC USD focuses very quickly and accurately around 97% of the time. In low lighting situations, it can be off by a hair or so. Additionally, strong backlight can cause the pair to not get the best focusing, but this only happened once.

The portrait, macro, and landscape photographers who are seriously looking at this lens will have no problems though. Nor will the wedding photographers–getting that ring shot will be a fair piece of cake when you combine all this with a solid flash.

Image Quality

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 90mm f2.8 Di VC USD review samples extras (16 of 17)ISO 4001-160 sec at f - 4.0

Most photographers will be very happy with the results they get with this lens. You’re paying not a whole heck of a lot of money for a lens that can really perform like many more expensive offerings when it comes to image quality. Tamron put lots of modern optics into the lens and combined them all with coatings and nine aperture blades to give you excellent image quality.

On all accounts, the image quality from this lens is very, very good. It’s sharp, not too contrasty, has life-like colors, and only shows color fringing in some of the most extreme situations. But anything that is wrong with this lens can easily be fixed with a slider in Adobe Lightroom.

What you first and foremost should be thinking about with this lens though is light–its best output comes with good lighting.

Bokeh

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 90mm f2.8 Di VC USD review samples extras (14 of 17)ISO 1001-200 sec at f - 2.8

I’d be genuinely surprised if this lens didn’t have great bokeh–but it’s lip smackin’ good. It isn’t hazy at all but in pretty much every situation it had beautiful creamy bokeh. Part of this is due to the fact that it can focus so closely to a subject. In fact, it’s tough to not get great bokeh unless you stop the lens down.

Enthusiasts will really like the bokeh they get from this lens, as will the wedding and portrait photographer trying to get a tight frame.

Comparatively speaking, there are very little options that this can really be compared to in the DSLR world.

Color Rendition

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 90mm f2.8 Di VC USD review samples extras (15 of 17)ISO 4001-160 sec at f - 4.0

Tamron has an interesting color rendition that is different from both Sigma and Zeiss–who often seem to be neck in neck. Their lenses offer very saturated images in general. The output here is more saturated than what Canon and Nikon will deliver but not as much as Sigma, Zeiss, Rokinon and Tokina. Additionally, it doesn’t offer as much contrast as Sigma, Rokinon or Zeiss.

For portraiture, you should know that the skin tones are very natural looking and that the world in general looks pretty natural with just a tad of punch.

For what it’s worth, I personally really like the 85mm’s color rendition much more. However, this lens is no slouch.

Chromatic Aberration

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 90mm f2.8 Di VC USD review samples extras (17 of 17)ISO 1001-160 sec at f - 5.6

Consistently, there is very little chromatic aberration in the output of this lens. The images all look fantastic–but there are exceptions where you’ll find it.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 90mm f2.8 Di VC USD review samples extras (8 of 17)ISO 1001-180 sec at f - 4.0

This image above was brightened and you can see it towards the bottom edge of the photo on the right side. However, any and every lens would have a tough time controlling it in that case.

Sharpness

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 90mm f2.8 Di VC USD review samples extras (12 of 17)ISO 1001-100 sec at f - 4.0

The best sharpness from this lens comes when a flash is added. At f5.6 it’s super crispy sharp–and it only slightly gets better from f8 to f11. For the most part though, you probably won’t have a reason to stop this lens down past f4.

Again, flashes help bring out specular highlights–portrait and wedding photographers know this well.

Extra Image Samples

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 90mm f2.8 Di VC USD review samples extras (13 of 17)ISO 1001-320 sec at f - 2.8

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 90mm f2.8 Di VC USD review samples extras (10 of 17)ISO 2001-1250 sec at f - 2.8

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 90mm f2.8 Di VC USD review samples extras (7 of 17)ISO 1001-180 sec at f - 4.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 90mm f2.8 Di VC USD review samples extras (6 of 17)ISO 1001-180 sec at f - 4.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 90mm f2.8 Di VC USD review samples extras (5 of 17)ISO 1001-180 sec at f - 2.8

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 90mm f2.8 Di VC USD review samples extras (2 of 17)ISO 4001-400 sec at f - 4.5

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 90mm f2.8 Di VC USD review samples extras (1 of 17)ISO 4001-1250 sec at f - 2.8

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 90mm f2.8 Di VC USD review samples extras (11 of 17)ISO 2001-640 sec at f - 2.8

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 90mm f2.8 Di Vc USD portraits of Erica (2 of 2)ISO 1001-160 sec at f - 5.0

Conclusions

Likes

  • Great bokeh
  • Sharp image output
  • Vibration compensation
  • Weather sealing
  • Affordable price point

Dislikes

  • Nothing that makes me want to get up and slam a table.
  • I would’ve liked it to be f2; but I understand that that would be tough to do.

The-Phoblographer-Editor's-Choice-Award-Logo

The Tamron 90mm f2.8 Di VC USD lens is one that is rather interesting. It delivers the performance that many more expensive lenses will, but it does it at a very affordable price point. On top of this it also gives weather sealing, fast focusing, and great image quality. There isn’t much to complain about here.

Honestly, it’s probably one of the best telephoto macro lenses out there and doubles its versatility as a portrait lens for most photographers. Doing it at this price point is just a total no-brainer too. If it were my choice to get this or the 85mm f1.8, I’d be hard pressed.

Phoblographer-Star-rating

The Tamron 90mm f2.8 Di VC USD lens receives yet another Editor’s Choice award and five out of five stars. Want one? Check out the Amazon listing for the latest pricing.

Recommended Cameras and Accessories

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Canon 5Ds first impressions product photos (2 of 10)ISO 4001-60 sec at f - 4.0

Canon 5Ds: With 50MP of resolution, this is the only DSLR that makes any sense when it comes to sharpness and overall image quality.

Canon 6D/Nikon D750: WiFi is the killer app here.

Phottix Mitros +: Great metering

Shanny SN600EX-RF : Same as Phottix