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

4.0
December 6, 2012 | Mark Goldstein |

Introduction

The Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di MACRO 1:1 VC USD is an updated version of Tamron's classic macro lens. Now offering built-in image stabilisation and a revised optical design, the Tamron 90mm VC is actually more expensive than the Canon and Nikon equivalents. Read our Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di MACRO 1:1 VC USD review to find out if it can justify its cost...

The Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di MACRO 1:1 VC USD is a redesigned version of Tamron’s classic 90mm macro lens. It features a fast maximum aperture of f/2.8, the inclusion of Vibration Compensation (VC) technology, an ultrasonic focus motor for quiet AF operation, and a moisture-sealed construction. The optical formula comprises 14 lens elements in 11 groups, including two XLD (Extra Low Dispersion) glasses and one LD (Low Dispersion) element and an iris diaphragm with nine rounded aperture blades, and there’s a new eBAND (Extended Bandwidth & Angular-Dependency) coating which improves anti-reflection performance. The Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di MACRO 1:1 VC USD lens officially retails for £929 / $749.

Ease of Use

Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di MACRO 1:1 VC USDThe Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di MACRO 1:1 VC USD lens mounted on a Canon EOS 5D Mk III

Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di MACRO 1:1 VC USDThe Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di MACRO 1:1 VC USD lens, isometric view

Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di MACRO 1:1 VC USDThe Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di MACRO 1:1 VC USD lens, isometric view

The Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di MACRO 1:1 VC USD is quite a big and bulky lens, measuring almost 13cms in length and wighing in at 550g. You can use it on a smaller APS-C body, where the focal length will change to 145mm or thereabouts, or a full-frame camera like the 5D Mark III (as shown above), where it retains the 90mm focal length and feels slightly better balanced.

Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di MACRO 1:1 VC USDThe Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di MACRO 1:1 VC USD lens alongside the Canon EOS 5D Mark III

Build quality is very good, despite Tamron traditionally offering lenses at the cheaper end of the market. The more premium-priced Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di MACRO 1:1 VC USD feels solid in your hand, even if the outer barrel and the filter thread appear to be made from plastic.

Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di MACRO 1:1 VC USDFront of the Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di MACRO 1:1 VC USD lens

Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di MACRO 1:1 VC USDFront of the Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di MACRO 1:1 VC USD lens

A switch on the lens barrel can be used to limit the focusing distance of the Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di MACRO 1:1 VC USD, useful when you know exactly how close you'll need to get to your subject ahead of the shot. There are three settings - 0.3-0.5m, 0.5m-Infinity, and Full (essentially 0.3m-Infinity).

Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di MACRO 1:1 VC USDFront of the Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di MACRO 1:1 VC USD lens

The focusing ring is generously wide and has a ridged, rubberised grip band. There's a distance scale that runs from the closest distance of 30cm to infinity, along with a useful magnification scale, but there's no depth of field scale. An AF/MF switch on the side of the lens makes it easy to switch between the two focusing systems.

Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di MACRO 1:1 VC USDRear of the Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di MACRO 1:1 VC USD lens

 

Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di MACRO 1:1 VC USDFront of the Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di MACRO 1:1 VC USD lens

Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di MACRO 1:1 VC USDRear of the Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di MACRO 1:1 VC USD lens, isometric view

The final control is the VC On / Off switch, which turns the lens' built-in Vibration Compensation on and off. This is a big selling point for the Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di MACRO 1:1 VC USD, as neither the original Tamron 90mm lens (which is still in production) or the Canon or Nikon equivalents offer image stabilisation. In practice we found it offered around 3 f-stops of compensation, obviously dependant upon your own particular hand-holding technique, making it easier to use the lens in low-light.

Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di MACRO 1:1 VC USDThe Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di MACRO 1:1 VC USD lens, in-hand

Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di MACRO 1:1 VC USDThe Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di MACRO 1:1 VC USD lens with the lens hood fitted

The lens is supplied with lens caps and a substantial circular lens hood - there's no bag included. The filter size is 58mm.

Auto-focus

The Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di MACRO 1:1 VC USD features a USD (Ultrasonic Silent Drive) that allows near-silent auto-focusing. Importantly, this solution allows instant manual override even when the focus mode switch is in the AF position. Focusing is fully internal, meaning the length of the lens always remains constant. In use, we found the focusing to be indeed very quiet, and pretty fast - but definitely not instantaneous - with the lens mounted to a Canon EOS 5D Mk III body.

Chromatic Aberrations

Chromatic aberrations, typically seen as purple or blue fringes along contrasty edges, are impressively well controlled with this lens - the examples below show the worst-case scenario.

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

Light Fall-off

With the Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di MACRO 1:1 VC USD wide open at f/2.8, you can see some noticeable light fall-off in the corners. Stopping down helps, although to completely get rid of this phenomenon, you will need to use an f-stop of f/5.6 or smaller.

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

Macro

The Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di MACRO 1:1 VC USD is a macro lens that lets you reproduce a life-size image of the subject on the image sensor. The close-focus point is at 30cm from the film/sensor plane and the maximum magnification ratio is 1:1. The following example illustrates how close you can get to the subject, in this case a CompactFlash card.

Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di MACRO 1:1 VC USDClose-up performance

Bokeh

Bokeh is a word used for the out-of-focus areas of a photograph, and is usually described in qualitative terms, such as smooth / creamy / harsh etc. One of the reason to buy a fast lens is to be able to isolate the subject from the background. Tamron was apparently very much aware of this requirement, as they employed an iris diaphragm with 9 rounded blades for a pleasing rendering of the out-of-focus highlights. Based on what we have seen, we can say that they largely succeeded. Below you'll find some examples, but you are also encouraged to check out our sample images.

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

Sharpness

In order to show you how sharp this lens is, we are providing 100% crops on the following page.

Entry Tags

review, lens, f2.8, telephoto, portrait, image stabilisation, macro, vibration compensation, anti-shake, tamron, vc, 1:1, 90, Tamron SP 90mm F2.8 Di MACRO 1:1 VC USD, 90mm

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