Tamron SP AF 90mm F2.8 Di Macro A-mount lens review by Miranda F

reviewer#26549 date: Apr-14-2016
sharpness: 5
color: 5
build: 5
distortion: 5
flare control: 4
overall: 4.8
tested on:
  • film camera:Film camera
  • APS-C: 6MP6 MP; 10MP10 MP; 12MP12 MP; 14MP14 MP; 16MP16 MP; 20MP20 MP; 24MP24 MP
  • full frame: 12MP12 MP; 24MP24 MP; 36MP36 MP; 42MP42 MP; 61MP61 MP
ownership:I own this lens
compared to:Minolta 50mm f1.7
Sony DT 55-200
Sony DT 55-300
Tamron adaptall 80-210/etc
Various MF primes, eg 135mm
Various MF lenses with bellows for macro
price paid:150 UKP s/h
positive:Amazingly sharp
Useful aperture
Close-focussing
Usable 1:1 macro without extras
Light weight
Robust
negative:Quite long (much longer than the Sony 85mm f2.8)
Slow focussing (only a problem if the camera AF gets it wrong)
Push-pull MF action takes some getting used to.
comment:As others have said, an amazingly sharp lens, useful not just for macro but tight portraits and general photography.
Unlike the original adaptall lens and the later USD, this screw-drive version is a true telephoto, constructed as an all-moving 50mm-ish main lens with a fixed negative rear element equivalent to a 2x TC.
On the A58, I find it AFs well most of the time, but when it goes wrong it can take a while to get back into the right range, though the focus limiter helps here. I don't think this is a fault with the lens, but with the way the PDAF works, but it is possibly more obvious with this lens because of the screw drive and long focus travel. I find it best not to use spot focus but a wider focus, to ensure the AF has something to fix on.

Sharp? Yes! Tests with the Koren 2003 lens test chart show this lens to beat the 20Mp A58 camera sensor by a very large margin, making it sharp even with a separate TC added, and perfectly useable as a 180mm f5.6 lens.
With the TC on it is a little less sharp at f2.8 than f4-f5.6 but I don't notice this on its own. I haven't noticed any back/front focus issues either (no micro-adjust on the A58!)
I find it AFs fine with a chipped 8-pin Teleplus MC4 TC, but won't AF or operate with a 1.4x 5-pin unchipped TC, which surprised me since all the Minolta screw-drive lenses I have will operate normally on 5-pin TCs.
The push-pull AF-MF action is a bit of an oddity (I haven't come across this before) and takes some getting used to.
I don't bother with the lens hood unless I'm using a PL filter, as the front element is already well shielded.
The Tamron 90mm makes an excellent nature lens, with closer focussing than the Sony 55-200mm (though this is also good), but as close-ups need a small aperture to get enough DOF the wide aperture isn't as useful here as you might expect. Macro performance is excellent as expected.
I haven't used it very much on film or FF (yet), but the f2.8 aperture is useful on a camera with OVF.

Incidentally this version of the tamron 90mm macro doesn;t do nice sunstars, unlike the older f2.5 1:2 macro model with 8-sided iris which gives very good 8-point sunstars with long narrow spikes.

rating summary

lens image
  • total reviews: 109
  • sharpness: 4.92
  • color: 4.76
  • build: 4.08
  • distortion: 4.79
  • flare control: 4.71
  • overall: 4.65
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