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Lens Reviews

Tamron SP AF60mm F2.0 Di II LD [IF] Macro

Thomas Berg (twberg) on August 4, 2010


Keywords: tamron, af60mm, macro, lenses, non_nikon, product, articles

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This review of the Tamron 60mm f/2 Macro/Portrait lens for Nikon DX cameras is completely subjective and concentrates on practical aspects such as usability,  bokeh and field‐of‐view characteristics. It concentrates on the "hands‐on" aspect instead of the intricate performance data used by authors who emphasize resolution figures and lab‐style technical aspects determined through the use of equipment designed to gauge, measure and analyze lens performance. Reviews covering the technical data and performance in detail can be found throughout the almighty internet.

Lens 60mm
Tamron SP AF60mm F/2.0 Di II LD [IF] Macro 1:1

In producing this DX format lens, Tamron integrated a motor to enable full compatibility with Nikon's line of DX bodies. This line includes: Nikon D1 series, D2 series, D100, D40 series, D50, D60/D60x, D70/D70s, D80, D90, D100, D200, D300 series, D3000 and D5000.

Tamron's combination of 1:1 macro capability and fast f/2 aperture is unique in the current lineup of DX lenses across brands . The 60mm Micro‐Nikkors are not as fast and the Voigtländer Nokton 1.4/58 SL II provides neither macro nor AF capabilities. However, from this quick mentioning of lens alternatives featuring somewhat similar parameters it becomes obvious that the 60mm Tamron lens positions itself as a niche product. What a pity it is not an FX format lens; that would really set it aside from the crowd!

Tamron targets macro as well as portrait shooters and claims the lens will provide on DX format sensors a similar angle of view as 90mm lenses on 24x36mm film. Like the current 105mm VR Micro‐Nikkor, the lens has no protruding parts while focusing, it is a true Internal Focusing (IF) design and therefore must reduce the effective focal length while focusing close and that has an impact on the resulting field of view. By matter of definition, the nominal focal length of 60mm is valid only for infinity.

Tamron states an effective lens‐to‐subject distance of 100mm at full close‐up 1:1 reproduction ratio. This is darn close to the subject and according to my macro‐shooting experience, too close in many cases where you aim to shoot shy animals like butterflies, frogs, etc. Of course one rarely shoots a frog at 1:1 ratio but at 1:5 the effective working distance is no more than 330mm and that is still pretty close from the frog's point of view. This is the typical problem of macro lenses of this focal length or less. Very often, macro enthusiasts (including myself) prefer long working distances in order neither to disturb the animal or its habitat, or get bitten. A macro lens with short focal length and relatively wide field of view is better suited for such subjects as stills of food or flower arrangements rather than small animals unless encased.


 

When it comes to portrait shooting, we should remember that 60mm on DX equals 90mm on FX (commonly called "full frame" because it is very close to the size of the original 35mm film size) in terms of field coverage. In the minds of many photographers, "the" classic portrait lens is 85mm f/1.4D AF.

I really don't know how often portraits are actually shot at f/1.4. Let us do a tought experiment. Assuming a reproduction ratio of 1:20, this covers a portrait with shoulders, the depth of field for such a lens calculates to be about 30mm (FX). That's quite shallow. For me, not denying its low light cpabilities, the primary benefit of f/1.4 has always been the excellent acuity of the focal plane in the viewfinder and hence the ability to control the point of focus better than with slower lenses.

In comparison, the Tamron 60mm f/2 yields almost the same 30mm depth of field at 1:20 and DX. Surprised? Feel free to calculate for yourself. This is because DX requires the circle of confusion to be divided by 1.5 while the nominal lens aperture increases by 1.41… so this nearly equals out. Of course, what will be different — very different— is the distance between model and photographer. Shooting with the Tamron, you need to be closer: 132cm (52 inches) instead of 187cm (74 inches). Taking the IF‐related focal length reduction into account, the true shooting distance will rather be 110cm (43 inches). That's a lot closer.

The reason for my lengthy introduction is to raise awareness for the scope of application. This is a specialty lens, a macro DX lens. Before you purchase such a thing it is worth knowing its limits even better than its performance.

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Thomas Berg Thomas Berg (twberg)

Porz, Germany
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4 comments

Thomas Berg (twberg) on August 12, 2010

David, thank you for your comments. I agree with you, human models would have been nice, however I decided against that after friends refused to agree to an internet publication.

Thomas Berg (twberg) on August 12, 2010

Thanks, Peter, I was afraid that my expression might make experts frown. I would just like to comment that the "R-law" is of course not limited to close range and, by putting emphasis on macro, I did not intend to imply a limitation elsewhere.

David Elfering (Aroundomaha) on August 7, 2010

I also very much appreciate a review of this lens. Honestly I could care less about the macro capability, for me the max aperture and focal length make this a portraiture lens. To that extent I would have liked to see some human victims lined up in front of the lens for this review, but again I'm thankful for the review at being here at all. The issue with exposure makes me a little wary. For me its a toss up between this and the Voigtlander 58mm f/1.4. The advantage here is the autofocus, where as the Voightlander is probably a little better with regard to build and possibly (and debatedly) optical quality.

Peter S (PAStime) on August 6, 2010

Excellent review! Thanks for preparing it. One nit pick: You state "In the macro photography domain, [...], the optical laws state that for ..." I 100% agree with you, but want to add that this law is also true outside of the macro domain! Cheers, Peter

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