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Lens Reviews

Tamron SP AF 90mm F/2.8 Di Macro 1:1 Model 272E Lens Review

Paul Fisher (Paul_Fisher)

Keywords: tamron, lenses, non_nikon, macro, sp, 90mm

Show pages (4 Pages)


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 90mm Di macro

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.


Model 272E
Focal length 90mm
Maximum aperture f/2.8
Angle of view 27°
Lens construction 10 elements in 9 groups
MOD (minimum object distance) 0.29m / 11.4"
Magnification ratio 1:1
Filter size 55mm
Overall length 86.5mm / 3.41"
Maximum diameter 83.2mm / 3.28"
Weight 405g / 14.3oz
Number of diaphragm blades 9
Minimum aperture f/32
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.

Mechanical performance

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.


180mm and 90mm lenses

Tamron SP AF 180mm F/3.5 XR Di LD [IF] Macro 1:1 Lens
Tamron SP AF90mm F/2.8 Di Macro 1:1 Model 272E


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.


The lens at infinity

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 at 1_1 macto


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.



Test images

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.


Sample of print with this lens

A sample of print (Epson Photo R210 on plain paper) at 1:1.
Nikon D2H, SB-80DX
Tamron SP AF90mm F/2.8 Di Macro 1:1 Model 272E



The optical performance of the Tamron 90mm lens has always received praise from users. This new incarnation will continue that tradition.


I tested the lens on three cameras – two digital SLRs and a FM2n with Provia 100.

At all apertures and from edge to edge, the image is sharp and contrasty.


Ten Australian Cents

The above image of printing and these here of a coin attest to the flatness of the field. The coin is approximately 24mm diameter.  

Ten Cents Coin detail

All of the floral images made show the quality of image the lens is capable of.

At right a sample: Eucalyptus blossom and leaves with the lens on a D100 body, SB-80DX flash with diffuser and white reflectors. 1/60 @ f/22.


Eucalyptus blossom and leaves

At right, a detail of the image above.  

Flowers detail


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.


Sample of print with this lens

Geraldton wax flower. SB-80DX with diffuser, 1/60 @ f/16
The flower is approximately 10mm across

Tamron SP AF90mm F/2.8 Di Macro 1:1 Model 272E on a D100 body



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.


Zeiss Pancoiar lens

It is contrasty, but has a beautiful bokeh.

As a portrait lens, it may be too sharp.


macro shot


The new Tamron is probably the best macro lens on the market, this side of a micro-Nikkor.



(2 Votes )
Show pages (4 Pages)

Originally written on June 13, 2011

Last updated on March 23, 2017

Paul Fisher Paul Fisher (Paul_Fisher)

Awarded for his multiple article contributions

Perth, Australia
Silver, 12880 posts


Neil Waldman (leo2500) on February 2, 2016

Does anyone have any experience using the non Di version on a Nikon D7000 or D750. Are the results positive or would you have to move up to the Di version?

bill kelly (paver12321) on March 25, 2015

Very nice-So much to learn!

Rob Avery (Robeaver) on November 27, 2013

Yes sharp, had mine for a year, then put it on my new d800.wow.