Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro 1:1 VC USD (F017) Review

John Riley reviews the new Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro 1:1 VC USD lens with improved image stabilisation, image quality and design.

|  Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 MACRO 1:1 Di VC USD F017 in Interchangeable Lenses
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Handling and Features

SP 90mm f/2.8 MACRO 1:1 Di VC USD F004

Tamron's 90mm Macro lenses have always enjoyed an enviable reputation, both in their original manual focus guise and later with auto-focus added to the specification. This new version promises faster AF, improved VC (vibration control) and improved resolution. Does this challenge the best of the best? Let's find out.

Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro 1:1 VC USD Handling and Features

Tamron Sp 90mm F2,8 Macro On Canon 6D

The lens has 14 elements in 11 groups, including 1 LD (Low dispersion) and 2 XLD (Extra low dispersion) elements, with a Fluorine coating on the front surface to repel dirt and grease. It employs floating elements to ensure optimum performance at all distances.

Reflections are suppressed using eBAND and BBAR coatings. eBAND (Extended Bandwidth and Angular Dependency) is a nano crystal coating and BBAR (Broad Band Anti Reflection) is Tamron's version of multi-coating. The lens focuses to 0.3m, has a maximum magnification of 1:1 or Life Size, takes 62mm filters, has 9 diaphragm blades and weighs in at a reasonable 610g. 

It is an AF lens and also has Vibration Control (VC) to reduce the possibility of camera shake. The VC has been upgraded to include X-Y axis control. Two switches on the lens barrel control AF/MF and VC on/off. There is also a focus limiter to select either full range or a reduced range of 0.3m to 0.5m. This should assist in preventing hunting when working at macro distances. There is a solid plastic bayonet fit lens hood provided and this clicks firmly but easily into place.

Focusing is snappy and the viewfinder image reassuringly crisp. The point of focus is very precise, although there is the odd time when the lens will hunt over its full range. As there is no aperture ring on the lens there is no depth of field scale either. Manual focusing is via a wide rubber ring at the front of the lens. The distance scale is marked in metres, feet and magnification ratios. The direction of focus was correct for the Canon EOS 6D camera used for this review.

Tamron Sp 90mm F2,8 Macro With Lenshood On Canon 6D

The VC system takes about one second to click in, which does mean it is best switched off for action subjects. It is also best to switch it off when using the camera on a tripod as the VC system may try to hunt for vibration that does not exist. It is however, excellent for more static subjects and continues to work well even for macro shots. This is the first time I have found a macro lens that I am happy to use in AF most of the time.

Moisture and dust resistant seals are included in the lens construction, a feature that is really useful as we can now continue shooting images regardless of the weather conditions. The lens is fairly bulky but it balances well on the Canon EOS 6D used for this review, making a very ergonomic package. The operation of all controls is smooth and reliable.

Applications will cover many different areas of photography, from portraits to landscapes, sports, close up and macro in particular of course and anything else needing a short telephoto lens. The fact that it is a macro lens adds a considerable amount of versatility to an optic that is equally at home shooting landscapes.

Tamron Sp 90mm F2,8 Macro Rear Oblique View

Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro 1:1 VC USD Performance

Sharpness is superb, the measurements being excellent both centre and edge from open aperture through to f/16. The result is outstanding at the centre of the frame at f/4 and f/5.6. Diffraction hits at f/22, but sharpness here is still very good centre and edge. At f/32, the results are good but are noticeably softer compared to the general excellence. It is still useful to have these smaller apertures for circumstances where depth of field is the main priority, but for the very best results, we would stop at f/16.


MTF Chart
MTF Chart

How to read our charts

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges. 

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution as LW/PH and is described in detail above. The taller the column, the better the lens performance. 

For this review, the lens was tested on a Canon EOS 6D using Imatest.


Chromatic Aberration (CA), the splitting of light due to the lens not focusing all colours at the same point, is very well controlled. The CA figures are commendably low and consistently so across the aperture range. CA will not be a problem.


CA Chart
CA Chart

How to read our charts

Chromatic aberration is the lens' inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.

Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements (aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc) to minimise the problem, hence they usually cost more.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Canon EOS 6D using Imatest.


Distortion measures the amount of bending of straight lines and this too is very low indeed. It measures at -0.00607% barrelling, but this is so close to zero that for all normal purposes the lens is distortion free.

Flare is well under control and will not normally be a problem. As can be seen from the images though, in the most demanding situations it is possible to induce, but we have to work hard to do so.

The VC system is effective, although this will vary with individual photographers. I found 3 stops advantage to the shutter speeds usable, making even 1/20sec worth an attempt if needed. The best sharpness will always be obtained using a sturdy tripod, especially for macro shooting. However, both the AF and VC continue to work well at those close distances.

In the case of the AF system, this is silent and very fast, normally first time but occasionally hunting over the full range. Focus still locks on but takes a little longer to do so when this happens. The focus limiter is useful for macro distances. Many macro lenses do not focus so well at close range, but with this new Tamron, I never felt the need to move to manual focus. In any event, there is full manual override when using AF, so tweaks can be made to point of focus if required.

The bokeh of the lens is very pleasant and smooth, maybe not quite so much so as the new Tamron 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USM recently tested, but only because the wider apertures are not available.

Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 MACRO 1:1 Di VC USD F017 Sample Photos

Value For Money

The Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro 1:1 VC USD is priced at £579, and is offered in Nikon, Canon and Sony A fittings. The previous version may still be found at £349.

Nikon users have the Nikon 105mm f/2.8 G AF-S VR IF ED Micro-Nikkor at £659. Canon offers two lenses, the EF 100mm f/2.8 L Macro IS USM (£619) and the EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro (£373). Sony has the Sony 100mm f/2.8 D Macro at £529.

For the Nikon and Canon users, Sigma has the 105mm f/2.8 Macro ED DG OS (£329) and Tokina the 100mm f/2.8 AT-X Macro (£329).

In manual focus only, Samyang offers the 100mm f/2.8 ED UMC Macro (£349) and Zeiss the 100mm f/2 T* Makro-Planar (£1379) and the 100mm f/2 T* Makro-Planar Milvus (£1299).

The new Tamron lens is basically a similar price to the main marque lenses. The quality is there and quality does cost money, but the level does seem about right. For more options have a look at to Top 5 Best Tamron lenses and the Top 10 Best Macro lenses

Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro 1:1 VC USD Verdict

Another new Tamron lens, this one building on the reputation of its predecessors and definitely coming up to the mark. The Tamron 90mm Macro has been a favourite for many over the years. This one takes performance to a new peak and is very comfortable to use. There does remain the possibility of picking up the previous model at a much lower price but that is always a dilemma when lenses are updated.

This is a lens that has been a pleasure to use, from the crisp view through the viewfinder to the satisfaction of the quality of images opened on the monitor screen. Tamron has continued the legacy reputation of their 90mm Macro in an accomplished way.

Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro 1:1 VC USD Pros

Superb sharpness
Fast and silent AF
Effective VC system
Very well controlled CA
Excellent flare resistance
Virtually no distortion
Beautiful bokeh
5-year Guarantee

Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro 1:1 VC USD Cons

Limited mount options
Occasional AF hunting


The new Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro 1:1 VC USD is an outstanding updated macro lens ideal for all short telephoto applications.


Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 MACRO 1:1 Di VC USD F017 Specifications

Lens Mounts
  • Nikon AF
  • Canon EF
  • Sony Alpha
Focal Length90mm
Angle of View27.2
Max Aperturef/2.8
Min Aperturef/32
Filter Size62mm
35mm equivalentNo Data
Internal focusingYes
Maximum magnificationNo Data
Min Focus30cm
Box Contents
Box ContentsLens hood, Lens caps

View Full Product Details

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themak 6 1.0k Scotland
28 Apr 2016 12:03AM
You've described this as the F004 model - I think it's the F017.

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joshwa Plus
9 910 1 United Kingdom
28 Apr 2016 8:30AM
This has been corrected, thanks

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