Friday, November 20, 2015

Reviewing the Tamron AF SP 90mm f/2.8 VC


This is the newer version of this lens, offering VR (or, as Tamron calls it, VC = Vibration Compensation). But is it otherwise similar to the old one, optically and otherwise? Or are there any tricks hidden inside its (plastic) casing? As you can see if you compare the two reviews, a lot of what I had to say about the previous version also applies here. But there are still some crucial differences.

I found myself using this lens more as a short tele and less as a macro. It doesn't mean it's not good in that, too, simply that this is a lens meant for versatility


+ optically almost flawless, no real issues (but read below).
+ stabilization works splendidly.
+ AF is finally modernized: fast and reliable

- construction quality inferior to Nikon's
- on full-frame, I find the 90mm a weird focal length for macro (more on 'Final Verdict')
- somewhat susceptible to flare without the hood.

Intended Users

Great for:
  • DX users looking for a macro which can double as a short tele - stabilization is an added benefit.
  • As a portrait lens, it's highly capable - again, stabilization helps a lot with such shots.
  • Low light capabilities are greatly increased by the stabilization feature, as well as the more capable autofocus.

Not for:
  • If you plan to use it exclusively for macro, there are better/cheaper options
  • A personal opinion, of course, but 90mm is not a great macro range for full frame. 105mm is a minimum for me. The difference might not sound much, but it can be.
  • resale value of third party lenses will always drop faster, if you care about such things.
You really, really, can't fault its optical qualities. Bitingly sharp, with superb micro-contrast.

Final Verdict

A superb lens - as good optically as its predecessor, and with far better features. Stabilization works, the autofocus is clearly improved, and thanks to the design the length of the lens remains the same. Yeah! The only real issue (and what you should consider before committing to buying one) is its usefulness/deployment. If you're looking for a lens to be used exclusively for macro, there's nothing wrong with the old AI-S Nikkors that can be had for less. In fact, they are probably even bit better optically, and significantly better in terms of construction quality. Of course, if your camera can't meter AI-S lenses, that's another story. They also change if you plan to use this lens as a short tele or as a portrait lens - autofocus and stabilization are extremely helpful and great to have then. But all in all, however, I highly recommend this lens. It's optically excellent, inexpensive, capable of producing superb images.

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