Tamron AF SP 90mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Macro (EOS) - APS-C Format Review
Lens Reviews - Canon EOS (APS-C)

Review by Klaus Schroiff, published November 2013


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.
While it is a full format lens, we'll have a look how it performs on an APS-C DSLR first. The full format review will follow soon hereafter. In this scope the field-of-fiew is equivalent to "144m" (90mm x 1.6) it keeps its scope as moderate tele prime lens.

The build quality of the Tamron lens is very good but it stays slightly short of what we have seen on the Canon 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 Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM L IS.
There are two major mechanical improvements compared to the old Tamron SP AF 90mm f/2.8 Di macro - the new lens is weather-sealer and it keeps a constant physical length throughout its focus range.
The broader 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 Tamron lens features a virtually silent USD (Ultrasonice Drive) similar to Canon USM (Ultrasonic Motor). AF 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. The AF accuracy of the tested sample was good in phase-detection AF mode. It didn't overly like LiveView (contrast AF) though.

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.

Here's a spec comparison between the Tamron and, its direct competitors, the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM L IS macro and Sigma AF 105mm f/2.8 DG HSM OS macro:

Tmron AF
90mm f/2.8 Di VC USD macro
Sigma AF
105mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM OS macro
Canon EF
100mm f/2.8 USM L IS macro
Design (elements/groups): 14/11
inc. 1xLD & 2xXLD elements
inc. 2xSLD elements
floating elements
inc. 1xUD element
Aperture blades: 9 (circular) 9 (circular) 9 (circular)
min. Focus: 0.3m (1:1 magnification) 0.312m (1:1 magnification) 0.3m (1:1 magnification)
min. working distance: 0.139m 0.142m 0.149m
Weather Sealing: yes no yes
Weight: 550g 725g 625g
Size: 76.4x114.5mm 78.3x126.4mm 77.7x123mm
Filter Diameter: 58mm 62mm 67mm
IS: yes yes yes
Price: ~480EUR / ~750US$ ~450EUR / ~800US$ ~800EUR / ~1050US$

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