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Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro VC USD Lens Review

Gary Wolstenholme gives us a World Exclusive first review of the Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro VC USD lens.

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Handling and features
Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di MACRO 1:1 VC USD

Tamron's 90mm Macro lenses have earned an enviable reputation for optical quality and value for money over the years. With this new 90mm Macro optic, Tamron have brought their 90mm up to date with the latest technology by incorporating Vibration Compensation, silent internal focusing with full time manual override, moisture sealed construction and newly developed lens coatings to help suppress ghosting and flare. It sports a completely new optical design which uses two ELD (Extra Low Dispersion) elements and one LD (Low Dispersion) element.

The lens is available in Canon, Nikon and Sony mounts. The Sony compatible model will lack Vibration compensation, as this functionality is already built into Sony DSLR and SLT bodies. As this lens is a 'Di' optic, it is compatible with both full frame and crop sensor camera bodies. Does the performance of this lens hold up to the reputation earned by its predecessors? We'll investigate in this review.

Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di MACRO 1:1 VC USD



Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro VC USD Handling and features

Even with the inclusion of Vibration Compensation, this lens isn't much heavier than it's predecessor, striking a good balance between the use of high quality materials and construction and light weight. Weighing about 550g and being just short of 123mm long, it balances well on the Canon EOS 5D MkII used for testing. The lens sports a moisture resistant design and a thin rubber gasket has been placed around the metal lens mount to help prevent the ingress of dust and moisture into the camera body.

As this lens incorporates Tamron's USD silent focusing motor, autofocus is quick, especially for a Macro lens and very accurate. A three-stage focus limiter switch is provided for those times when the camera struggles to achieve focus first time, preventing the lens from hunting through the whole focus range.

Manual focusing is a pleasure as the wide rubberised focus ring is well damped and very smooth to operate, which makes it easy to apply fine adjustments. Manual adjustments can be made at any time, whether in Auto or Manual focus mode. A minimum focus distance of 30cm provides life size magnification, without being overly close to your subject. Focusing is performed internally, so the 58mm filter ring does not rotate and the lens doesn't extend.

With care, sharp images are possible hand-held at shutter speeds as low as 1/6sec at normal focusing distances, approximately half the time. This is roughly four stops slower than the usual rule of thumb for sharp hand held images would permit. At close focusing distances, higher shutter speeds will need to be used, but the VC system still helps to make a difference in the amount of sharp hand-held shots that can be taken. The VC system also provides a very steady viewfinder image, which can help with accurate composition and focusing.

Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di MACRO 1:1 VC USD


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

Right away at maximum aperture, sharpness in the centre of the frame is very good, with good clarity being produced towards the edges of the frame. Stopping down the aperture improves perforamnce further with outstanding sharpness across the frame being achieved with the aperture set to f/8.

Resolution @ 90mm
Resolution @ 90mm

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. Averaging them out gives the red weighted column.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution. The taller the column, the better the lens performance. Simple.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II using Imatest.

Chromatic aberrations very well controlled, thanks to Tamron's use of XLD and LD glass in the optical design. Fringing just exceeds 0.25 pixel widths towards the edges of the frame at f/2.8, which is an extremely low leveland shouldn't pose any issues, even in large prints or harsh crops from the edges of the frame.

Chromatic aberration @ 90mm
Chromatic aberration @ 90mm

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 minimize the problem, hence they usually cost more.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II using Imatest.

Falloff of illumination towards the corners is typical for a lens with an f/2.8 maximum aperture at this focal length. At f/2.8 the corners are 1.74 stops darker than the image centre and visually uniform illumination is achieved with the aperture closed down to f/5.6 or beyond.

As you might expect from a fixed focal length macro optic, distortion is virtually non-existent. Imatest did manage to detect 0.13% pincushion distortion, but you'll be hard pressed to spot this low level of distortion yourself.

A deep circular hood is provided to help shield the front element from extraneous light that may cause issues with flare and loss of contrast. Although it is good practice to keep a lens hood in place, Tamron's new eBAND (Extended Bandwidth & Angular-Dependency) lens coatings do an excellent job of suppressing flare and contrast remains good, even when shooting into the light, so the hood may not always be necessary.

Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di MACRO 1:1 VC USD General Article Images

Value for Money

The suggested retail price at launch for this lens is £929.99. Whether the lens will actually sell for that much will remain to be seen, as this puts this lens much much more expensive than lenses from rival manufacturers, offering similarly specified optics. The price may drop, as is often the case with newly released lenses, but it would need to drop by quite a bit to represent good value.

By comparison, the most expensive image stabilised macro from any of the camera marques, is Canon's 100mm f/2.8 IS USM, but even this lens only costs £670. The cheapest stabilised macro is the Sigma 105mm f/2.8 OS HSM, which costs around £540.

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

As you might expect from a 90mm macro lens from Tamron, the optical performance of this lens is excellent. The lens delivers superb sharpness and contrast plus distortion, chromatic aberrations and falloff are kept in check also. The Vibration Compensation system is a useful addition for hand-held photography also.

The suggested retail price is the only dampener on this lens. Hopefully as the lens becomes more available, the price will drop from that at launch.

The Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro VC USD lens has excellent optical performance.

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

Excellent sharpness throughout the range in the centre
Handy Vibration Compensation system
Good build quality
Moisture resistant construction
Low distortion and CAs

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

Suggested retail price is almost twice that of equivalent lenses from rivals



Thanks to Harrison Cameras for the loan of the Canon EOS 5D Mark II used in the review.

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

Lens Mounts
  • Nikon AF
  • Canon EF
Focal Length90mm
Angle of ViewNo Data
Max Aperturef/2.8
Min Aperturef/32
Filter Size58mm
35mm equivalentNo Data
Internal focusingYes
Maximum magnification1x
Min Focus30cm
Box Contents
Box ContentsLens hood

View Full Product Details

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josa 8 25 Czech Republic
26 Nov 2012 6:10PM
Excellent lens and value...
Ade_Osman 18 4.5k 36 England
26 Nov 2012 6:20PM
I've a feeling Tamron might have shot their selves in the foot with this one, good it might be, but the pricing is too extravagant and too much of a leap from the old lens for mere amateurs too afford! What's more it's even more pricey than the Canon/Nikon equivalents with which the pros will prefer......I see aggressive discounting a few months after launch otherwise Tamron will be seeing this one staying in the warehouse......Bonkers price, that has you asking who has the sense to buy it?????......Also feels like the company is trying to rip customers off, a bad thing to try and do in this current economic climate.
I was looking forward to this release, but at that price, I don't think so, you'd have to be a complete fool, I'll stick with what I got thank you very much Tamron!!!.....Tut tut tut Sad
lemmy 14 2.9k United Kingdom
26 Nov 2012 7:42PM
I wonder if, this being a new lens, there is any pointer here to future lens pricing from other makers. Maybe lenses currently 600 are under-priced now?

If raw material prices are rising fast all around the world, maybe this and the new Tamron zoom will be the new price points for everyone. I hope not.
josa 8 25 Czech Republic
26 Nov 2012 7:55PM
I don't understand why people complain, Tamron supplied us for decades with cheap and good IQ lenses and now when the price is equal to big boys everyone is screaming. I had Tamron before and I wouldn't hesitate buying this one.
lemmy 14 2.9k United Kingdom
26 Nov 2012 8:32PM

Quote:now when the price is equal to big boys everyone is screaming

It's a no-brainer. If the Tamron is as expensive as the Nikon/ Canon what have you equivalent, why buy the Tamron?

It will never have the resale value of the Nikon/ Canon. People prefer marque lenses. They have more faith in them. That's why Sigma, Tamron etc need to be cheaper.

How many DSLR users here, given the choice of a lens of equivalent price and performance by their camera maker, would choose the Tamron for preference?
Ade_Osman 18 4.5k 36 England
27 Nov 2012 1:24AM
I'd love to get my hands on one so as to it a thorough test against the old lens being the affection ado of the old.....But as Lemmy states
Quote:How many DSLR users here, given the choice of a lens of equivalent price and performance by their camera maker, would choose the Tamron for preference?
I don't feel it would be many that would plump for this new one.

It would have to offer a real advantage and some real performance improvements both over the old lens and the Canon/Nikon equivalents and I just can't see that would be the case. Perhaps being as I've been such a staunch advocate of the old lens and sung it's praises for many years now over other similar macro lenses, Tamron would like to give me the opportunity of putting a new version through it's paces, just to see if the new one really is all it's cracked up to be........I'm going to be watching any tests and comments about it really closely, before I part with my money now though, which is a shame because as I said earlier I was really looking forward to possibly upgrading my current 9 year old specimen with the new upgrade. But the price has really put me off, we'll see I guess......Come on Tamron, justify why I should spend the extra money on a lens that would replace the old one that rarely comes off it's own camera body!!!

lemmy 14 2.9k United Kingdom
27 Nov 2012 9:37AM

Quote:Come on Tamron, justify why I should spend the extra money on a lens that would replace the old one that rarely comes off it's own camera body

You don't need Tamron to persuade you. You should buy it because you know you want to, because it's new and shiny and because you're worth it. Just ask your wife.

Troublemaker - moi? Wink
cameracat 17 8.6k 61 Norfolk Island
27 Nov 2012 9:50AM

Quote:I don't understand why people complain

There is always one.....Wink

There must be a science that studies the unpaid flag waving by some people......???

Same thing as those who believed that buying a Lada, Was some kinda fashion statement....Grin

That said they would not be prepared to buy a Lada at BMW prices....Grin


The whole point is simple, Third party brands need to at least compete on price, If nothing else.!!!
Ade_Osman 18 4.5k 36 England
27 Nov 2012 6:30PM

Quote:I don't understand why people complain,

You must have more money than sense!

hippysnapper 12 17 United Kingdom
28 Nov 2012 9:33PM
Well, I for one would go for Nikkor for my Nikon. If Tamron are as expensive may as well not bother unless the lens is superior
Nigel7 9 United Kingdom
1 Dec 2012 9:56AM
What's the comment in the test that there is fringing at 24mm? This is a fixed 90mm lens. Has somebody been copy and pasting from another test? Can the rest of the test be relied on?
2 Dec 2012 5:29AM
Hi Nigel,

Yes of course it can be relied on, it was my error when uploading, sorry.

banehawi Plus
16 2.5k 4240 Canada
26 Jul 2015 11:34PM
Ive had this lens for a year, after the pricing became reasonable.

Theres is something to be aware of however with how the VC works in this model. It certainly does provide 4 stops of vibration compensation (you should include some slow shutter images in the review?), however, if the VC is left on at times where the camera is using fast shutter speeds, the VC WILL cause a soft image. The documentation with the camera suggests it might, or could, my experience is that it does. In addition, on a tripod, it introduces horrendous blur, but to be fair, this is mentioned by Tamron. So the default position for VC needs to be OFF, and on only when needed for slow shutter speeds (below 1/100 for full frame)

I have had the lens back to Tamron to check, clean and verify the lens, and its working as designed. Thankfully it has a 6 year warranty.

Otherwise very sharp and contrasty.

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