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Review by Klaus Schroiff and Markus Stamm, published April 2015
Tamron has a long history of providing affordable and high quality macro lenses for ambitious users. Lately they fell somewhat behind due to more modern designs from other manufacturers. However, the new Tamron AF SP 90mm f/2.8 Di VC USD macro is supposed to change the game once more. It is a member of the "SP" or "Super Performance" lineup thus designed to deliver professional quality results. Promising ... so let's see how the lens performs on our FX test camera.
The build quality of the Tamron lens is very good but it stays slightly short of what we have seen on the Nikon and Sigma side. This is mostly because of the extensive use of plastics in the construction. Technically this is fine, of course - it just feels somewhat less reassuring than the Sigma AF 105mm f/2.8 OS macro or the Nikon AF-S 105mm f/2.8 VR.
There are two major mechanical improvements compared to the old Tamron SP AF 90mm f/2.8 Di macro - the new lens is weather-sealed and it keeps a constant physical length throughout its focus range.
The broad rubberized focus ring operates smoothly and without play. Just like most macro lenses, it has a focus limiter so you can select the focus range to reduce AF hunting e.g. in non-macro scenes. A barrel-shaped lens hood is also part of the package.
The front lens does not rotate, so using a polarizer is no problem.
As all macro lenses with F-mount the Tamron reports the effective aperture to the camera, which drops from f/2.8 down lower values with decreasing focus distance.
The Tamron lens features a virtually silent USD (Ultrasonice Drive) similar to Nikon's AF-S technology. Autofocus operations are very fast at conventional distances. This is at least partially achieved by implementing a rather short focus path, which makes life a little harder in manual focusing mode. Full-time manual focusing (FTM) is supported.
Another new feature is the optical image stabilizer - or "VC" = Vibration Compensation according to Tamron naming conventions - with a claimed efficiency of up to 4 f-stops. However, take this as an optimistic statement as usual.
Technically, the Tamron is a G-type lens and thus does not feature an aperture ring.
|Optical construction||14 elements in 11 groups, incl. 1 LD and 2 XLD elements|
|Number of aperture blades||9 (rounded)|
|min. focus distance||0.3 m (max. magnification ratio 1:1)|
|Dimensions||76.4 x 114.5 mm|
|Filter size||58 mm (non-rotating)|
|Hood||barrel-shaped (bayonet mount, supplied)|
|Other features||Ultrasonic AF motor, Optical stabilization (VC)|