Tamron SP AF 90mm F2.8 Di Macro A-mount lens review by seagr112

reviewer#915 date: Jun-15-2006
sharpness: 5
color: 5
build: 4
distortion: 5
flare control: 5
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 have experience with this lens
compared to:Minolta 50mm Macro
price paid:190 USD (new)
positive:VERY Sharp
Superb bokeh
Versatile lens
Nice working distance w/ crop factor
Simply an awesome lens, another "must have".
negative:Focus travel (minor complaint)
comment:I am thrilled to have bought this lens new about 18 months ago at a great price on ebay. I did some research at the time and found it to be a well appreciated lens by both users and bench testers. Mine is the previous version as well, the 72E.

What is not to like about this lens? It is SO sharp, produces 1:1 image reproduction, and has a fast f/2.8 maximum aperture. It stays sharp at f/2.8, but talk about shallow depth of field! It has a much nicer working distance over a 50mm, especially with the 1.5x digital factor. In a recent photo of a bee, the veins in the wings were razor sharp and you could count the yellow and black hairs on the thorax. The background and foreground flower petals "cream out" beautifully.

If you'd like to have a look:

http://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=169099674&size=l

I've used the lens extensively, and every time I photoshop the images, I appreciate this lens' balance of sharpness, contrast and beautiful bokeh.

The 2 major issues that others have mentioned are the build and the focus travel.

Build is certainly not that of a first generation vintage Maxxum lens. But it is still well built and in trading off the metal, the lens is much lighter, although certainly not cheap. I don't consider build to be a negative. A lot of the VINTAGE Maxxum AF50 (2.8) Macros run into problems as they age due to a flaw in their design. Focus action can stiffen as glue works into the extension tube assembly. I've not read or heard of any design issues with this Tamron lens. Focus is smooth and quiet and it is a pleasure to use. Apparently, flare is more pronounced in this version in comparison to the Di version, but it's not been an issue in my experience.

The Tamron SP90 is not the fastest focusing lens on the block, but this is due to the fact that the lens is capable of such an incredibly wide focus range. It is essentially 2 lenses in one. You get a 90mm f/2.8 prime (135mm on a 7D) for portrait and regular shooting to infinity, plus a top notch Macro lens capable of 1:1 images very close up. You simply can't physically do all that without having the focus travel a fair distance and take the time to travel it. As others have noted, the lens has a Limiter Switch to reduce focus travel depending on which application the lens is being used for and this does help. In any case, AF time is certainly not a critical factor or even an annoyance that would sway me away from highly recommending this lens.

Many have mentioned that the Manual/AF Focus Clutch as a negative feature, but frankly, I like it. And the focus ring is wide and has a nice damped feel to it.

If you can get a new or used SP90 at an equal or better price, I'd take it over the Maxxum 50mm Macro simply for the working distance and the AF50 Macro's propensity to stiffen up with age. It would be interesting to compare this lens image quality to the 100mm Macro which runs about double the price.

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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