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Tamron SP AF90mm f/2.8 Macro 1:1

Tamron SP AF90mm f/2.8 Macro 1:1 - Will Cheung takes a walk around Manchester city centre with the Tamron SP AF90mm f/2.8 Macro 1:1 lens for company

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Tamron SP AF 90mm f/2.8 Macro 1:1 Di in Lenses and Optical Items
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Tamron SP AF90mm f/2.8 Macro 1:1 lens



Keen urban photographer Will Cheung takes to the streets of Manchester with one of his favourite lenses, the Tamron SP AF90mm f/2.8 Macro 1:1.
Leading independent lens maker Tamron have a lovely mix of zoom and fixed focal length lenses in their extensive selection and they are available in the most popular camera fittings.

One of my personal favourites is the AF90mm Di f/2.8 Macro 1:1. As you will know from its name, it is designed to focus really close to provide up to lifesize (1:1) magnification so it is perfect for nature, still-life and detail photographers. But don’t assume that it is only good for shooting great close-ups, because its repetoire is much broader than that. It is a short telephoto lens that excels in all forms of photography and I often use it on portrait shoots. It is also more than a little handy as a general purpose lens as I show here on this photo safari of the city of Manchester.

Tamron SP AF90mm f/2.8 Macro 1:1: Features
High Tamron 90mm Pair
The Tamron SP AF90mm f/2.8 Di Macro 1:1 grows in size as you focus in closer. On the right is the lens at minimum focus.

For this walking tour, I used my Nikon D700, a full-frame DSLR. Of course if this 90mm lens was fitted on a cropped sensor DSLR, it would effectively behave as a 135mm telephoto (or thereabouts) and that might be too long for general use. In that instance, the fast aperture Tamron SP AF 60mm f/2 Di II LD (IF) 1:1 Macro is recommended and that lens with its crop factor would behave as an effective 90mm for Nikon and Sony users or 96mm for Canon users. It sells for £389.99 from Warehouse Express. Click here for details.

I like the short telephoto 90mm focal length for a number of reasons. It provides a comfortable shooting distance for portraits and candids and gives a flattering perspective; it can isolate detail; and when used at wide apertures it gives good differential focus throwing the background pleasantly out of focus. Add this Tamron macro lens’s ability to focus as close as 29cm and you have a wonderfully versatile and useful lens. Furthermore, it is an optically very capable performer and at 405 grams it is pretty lightweight too, so convenient to leave in the camera bag.

A deep lens hood comes as standard with this lens and I kept it on for this shoot on a sunny June Mancunian day, but to be honest the front element is so deeply recessed that flare is not going to be an issue anyway.

Tamron SP AF90mm f/2.8 Macro 1:1 Handling

I left the lens in its autofocus mode and it coped fine in most cases. AF is very responsive and the lens swiftly zips in sharp focus. If the lens’s focusing barrel has to move a great distance, say from infinity to two metres you can hear the low whine of the focusing motor, but if adjustments are very minor, the lens motor is almost silent.

An AF focusing limiter switch is available which stops the lens searching throughout the whole focusing range when attempting to focus. You can limit it to work between infinity down to 44cm or from 42cm to its minimum focusing distance of 29cm. In that gap between 42cm and 44mm, it is not possible to engage the focusing limiter – probably a mechanical reason to allow the limiter to work in the first place.
Focus limiters are common on macro lenses and it works fine on this Tamron optic.
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The Tamron's front element is deeply recessed so lens flare is not an issue.
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This lens features something quite rare nowadays: a depth-of-field scale.
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A focus limiter switch stops too much searching in low contrast situations.
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Tamron high standard of presentation and finish is in evidence on this lens.

For street work, you are rarely going to be shooting at closer than 44cm so I engaged the focus limiter. I did find, however, that at typical shooting distances the lens did not search much anyway, so I could have left the lens to work within its full focusing range.

On the odd occasion that the camera/lens could not quite get sharp focus, it is a simple matter to engage manual focusing just by pulling back on the focusing barrel – there is no need to set the camera’s focusing control to M to enable this. As I said, the occasions when I needed to do this were few and far in-between anyway, but it was handy to have just in case. Where the lens can search is when shooting very close-up subjects of low contrast – but this is like almost every macro lens I have used so I expected this.

The lens does not have an internal focus design so when it's set to its minimum focus, the barrel increases in size by about two inches, and this is something to watch for when shooting extreme close-ups because you, the camera or the lens might cast a shadow over the subject.

This Tamron 90mm lens does not feature the company’s Vibration Compensation system found in lenses such as the Tamron 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 15x zoom. It might be useful to have it, especially when taking very close subjects with the camera handheld, but speaking personally I would only want the feature if there was no size, weight or cost penalty, but that’s me.


Optimistic England fans heading towards the fan area in Manchester's Castlefield before the first game in the football World Cup.

Fine detail is handled beautifully by the Tamron 90mm lens. The exposure was 1/1250sec at f/9 with the D700 at ISO 200.

A shot for my George cross project – this is an on-going project. This one was painted on the bonnet of an Hyundai car and the 90mm focal length was perfect for a tight crop.

Click on the left thumbnail below to view the high resolution image
Tomb detail. The low light of Manchester Cathedral meant an exposure of 1/13sec at f/3.2 and ISO 400 was needed. Without a tripod I had to improvise a 'monopod' by resting my elbow on a convenient brass rope support.

Tamron SP AF90mm f/2.8 Macro 1:1 Performance

In terms of optical performance, no problems there as you can see from the images here. Where indicated, click on the thumbnail for high resolution images if you really want to check out the picture quality. For our full technical lens review please click here.

Walking around Manchester, I concentrated on the buildings and architectural details around the city. I have been to Manchester a few times but I could not claim to know the city well, so I was joined on this photo tour by Robin Whalley, a regular ePHOTOzine contributor.

The morning was largely cloudy but there were
intermittent and intense moments of bright sunshine, so it was one of those days when I spent time either waiting for the sun to go in or for clouds to move on, depending on the result I was after. As you can appreciate, contrast was the issue – I either wanted some, or less of it.

After lunch, the sun was a more regular visitor so contrast was more of an issue. I always shoot Raw format so I know I can control contrast on the computer afterwards. In terms of lens performance, the good news was that ghosting and flare were never an issue, thanks to
Tamron's lens coating technology, even when shooting directly into the sun's reflection off some of the office buildings.  

We spent most of the day exploring the main areas of the city centre including Chinatown, the Northern Quarter, around the Arndale Centre, Spinningfields and more. The only area we left untouched was Castlefields because it was cordoned off for a football fan area – our shoot took place on the day of the first England World Cup game against the USA.

In such a short time, we only scratched the surface of the city’s photographic potential. I will most definitely be back because there are so many pictures to be had there, especially at different times of day and a twilight shoot or two is definitely on my list.
There is massive potential with the numerous modern office buildings in the city centre.
Shot at maximum aperture, it was the strong repeating lines that attracted me to this scene. The image was converted to black & white using Nik Software Silver Efex Pro.
Click on the thumbnails below to view high resolution iimages

Flare was not a problem even in high contrast situations.

The 90mm short telephoto focal length is perfect for isolating figures in scenes.

Picking out architrectural details, whether old or new, works well for abstract images.

Good light has saturated colours and brought out textures and contrast.

Tamron SP AF90mm f/2.8 Macro 1:1 Summary

I started this feature by saying that this SP AF90mm f/2.8 Macro 1:1 is one of my favourite Tamron lenses. It is a lovely performer, lightweight and useful for a huge variety of subject matter. It was certainly an amenable companion on my Manchester photo safari and I am pleased with the shots I got, and that is why it is a regular in my camera bag.


Tamron SP AF 90mm f/2.8 Macro 1:1 Di Specifications

Lens Mounts
  • Pentax K SMC-FA
  • Nikon AF D
  • Minolta AF
  • Canon EF
Focal Length90mm
Angle of View0 - 27
Max Aperturef/2.8
Min Aperturef/32
Filter Size55mm
35mm equivalentNo Data
Internal focusingNo Data
Maximum magnificationNo Data
Min Focus29cm
Box Contents
Box ContentsNo Data

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