Since 1979, Tamron has produced 90mm macro lenses whose optical quality has rivaled the extraordinary Micro-Nikkors. Some photographers claim to have preferred the Tamron over the Nikkor because of its superior handling of out-of-focus areas ("Bokeh").
More recently, Tamron have introduced a range of “digitally integrated” Di lenses, each of which has raised the bar in value-for-money optical performance. Now, we see the marriage of the famous 90mm macro to the most up-to-date Di technology. The result is the ...
Tamron SP AF90mm F/2.8 Di Macro 1:1 Model 272E
Like all the Tamron SP Di lenses released to date, the 90mm macro is made of black polycarbonate, with a rubberised focusing collar and metal lens mount. It shares a family resemblance with the superb 180mm macro, through the use of gold engraving and blue manual/autofocus markings.
In the hand, this lens feels compact and light, but never flimsy. It is too small to accommodate a tripod collar. However, this is not an IF lens, and grows by 50mm when focusing to the 1:1 position.
A welcome addition – and something the 180mm really should have had – is a full / limit switch. The action of this rotary switch is very light – very easy to use, but it is the one item on this lens that feels less than robust. I wonder at its durability.
Switching between manual and auto focus modes is as easy as sliding the focusing collar forwards or backwards. A distinct click ensures you do not change modes accidentally.
The front element is deeply recessed, so that the supplied hood is not really necessary. Conversely, the rear element is right up in the throat of the lens mount, and does not move during focusing. The lens barrel is thereby sealed against dust entering from the rear.
Being polycarbonate, the lens is lighter than an equivalent metal lens. However it feels solid and well made. I have no doubt that it will prove just as durable and reliable as a metal lens.
|Angle of view||27°|
|Lens construction||10 elements in 9 groups|
|MOD (minimum object distance)||0.29m / 11.4"|
|Overall length||86.5mm / 3.41"|
|Maximum diameter||83.2mm / 3.28"|
|Weight||405g / 14.3oz|
|Number of diaphragm blades||9|
|Standard accessory included||Hood|
The new lens has the same optical configuration as that it replaces, plus the digital integration technology. The following is from a Tamron press release:
One major difference between digital cameras and film cameras is how internal reflections may occur and to what extent. These internal reflections can cause unwanted flare or ghosting on the final image. In a film camera, internal reflections can be created inside the mirror box of the camera or from light reflecting off the film surface itself. In a digital camera, stronger reflections can occur from light bouncing off the sensor, since CCD and CMOS sensors are almost mirror-like on their surface, making the problem more noticeable with digital cameras.
Unlike conventional lenses designed to cope with internal diffused reflections off the mirror box and film surface, Di lenses offer new anti-reflection countermeasures that are essential in lenses designed for use with digital cameras. The new SP AF90mm Di (Model 272E) features an improved coating technology that reduces the reflections that are likely to become a problem, to the absolute minimum.
The mechanical performance of the Tamron 90mm Macro is very good.
On my F80 and D100, the autofocus is fairly quiet, and (for a macro lens) reasonably brisk.
Tamron SP AF 180mm F/3.5 XR Di LD [IF] Macro 1:1 Lens
It is certainly much faster than the Tamron 180mm macro, and is further assisted by the focus limiting switch. Engaging the switch will restrict the focus action between the closest distance of 0.29 metres to 0.4m approximately, or from 0.4m to infinity.
Except in very poor light, the lens finds focus quickly and accurately, and “hunting” is a rare occurrence.
On my new D2H, focus is quite brisk, and within the limits of the Full/ limit switch is virtually instantaneous.
This lens / camera combination finds focus immediately with virtually no hunting.
|Sliding the focusing collar back towards the camera body engages manual focus. A definite click stop ensures this does not happen accidentally. The manual focus is very smooth, though lacking a little in “feel”. The throw is very long, making accurate focusing easy.||
The lens comes equipped with an aperture ring (no G-lens nonsense at Tamron ) which immediately means I can use it on my FM2n as well as my more modern Nikons. The aperture ring has an automatic lock at the f/22 position, which is released by a tiny button built into the ring itself. It has full stop detents. Half stop settings are possible, but there are no half stop detents.
I don’t shoot test charts, brick walls or newspapers. I shoot flowers and bugs and other interesting things. For the purpose of this test I also shot some coins and samples of print.
A sample of print (Epson Photo R210 on plain paper) at 1:1.
The optical performance of the Tamron 90mm lens has always received praise from users. This new incarnation will continue that tradition.
The Tamron 180mm macro has achieved a reputation as being one of the sharpest macro lenses on the market. The new 90mm optic matches the 180 in this respect.
The bokeh of the Tamron is beautiful. (Bokeh is the quality of rendering of the out-of-focus elements of an image). All the new Tamron Di lenses I have tried have had excellent bokeh, and this is obviously a priority with the Tamron engineers.
Colour rendering is very slightly warm. Again, this is consistent with the other Di lenses.
Chromatic aberration is entirely absent, as far as I can discern. The Digital Integration technology definitely works on this lens.
As a portrait lens, the 90mm focal length is ideal for head shots on a digital SLR, and for half length or head & shoulders pictures on a film camera. The beautiful quality of the bokeh suits the portrait application well. However the sharpness of the lens is such that the women of my household refused permission to publish any pictures. There can be times when a lens is too sharp!
The Tamron SP AF90mm F/2.8 Di Macro 1:1 Model 272E is the newest at this time of writing in a line of Tamron macro lenses dating back many years. It will carry on this proud tradition.
Geraldton wax flower. SB-80DX with diffuser, 1/60 @ f/16
Apart from the slightly less robust feel of the full / limit switch, I really can find nothing to criticise.
The build quality is admittedly not up to that of the micro-Nikkors, but is perfectly adequate for normal use. I do not subscribe to the school of thought that cameras and lenses should be treated roughly. They are expensive precision instruments and should be treated accordingly. Given normal sensible treatment, this lens should last a lifetime. The rear element effectively seals the barrel against dust, and the deeply recessed front element is exceptionally well protected from scratches or sticky fingers.
The autofocus speed is adequate, and helped by the full / limit switch. On a camera body with power grip, or on more powerful pro body such as the D2H, focus speed is very good – and focusing locks on accurately.
Optically, this lens is superb. It is Sharp with a capital S as can be seen in all samples and on this image of a Zeiss Pancolar for Exakta.
It is contrasty, but has a beautiful bokeh.
As a portrait lens, it may be too sharp.
The new Tamron is probably the best macro lens on the market, this side of a micro-Nikkor.
More articles that might interest you