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Tamron 90mm Di Macro

The Tamron is made from a black polycarbonate with a rubber focusing ring and a metal mount. Being made of polycarbonate makes this an ideal travel macro lens and no doubt as durable as a metal one. In hand the lens feels very light, but not cheap or clunky. It is small enough so that it does not need a tripod collar unlike its 180mm bigger brother. The lens does extend by 50mm when extending to the 1:1 reproduction ratio. The lens is equipped with a aperture ring which allows it to be used on older bodies as well unlike some of the "G" Nikons.

The lens has a limit switch, which limits the range of focus between the macro range(29cm to 40mm), and the long distance range (40mm to infinity). The rear element does not move during focusing, hence sealing preventing dust from entering the camera body. The front element is very deeply recessed in the barrel, pretty much eliminating the need for the supplied lens hood.

The Di aspect of the lens name relates to the extra coatings that are put on the glass elements to eliminate internal reflections and flare.

Performance: Focusing is fairly quick for a macro lens, further assisted by the focus limiting switch and is fairly quiet. It focuses much faster than the Tamron 180mm macro. Focusing in low light is very good and hunt free. Changing between manual and auto focus is done by sliding the focusing ring forward or backward. The position selection is very positive and gives an audible click. It is easy to change it by accident when putting the lens into a bag but not when it is on a camera and being used.

Optical performance of the Tamron 90mm has always been superb and this new model is no exception. The lens is very sharp and contrasty corner to corner. The Tamron 180mm macro is known for being one of the sharpest macro lenses available. The 90mm keeps up the sharpness tradition. Colors are rendered slightly warm as is expected with all lenses with the Di coatings. Bokeh is very smooth and creamy also making this lens useful for portraits. However, the excellent sharpness of this lens will bring out all the details in the skin, requiring some post processing to smooth out or the use of a softening filter.

When used with the onboard flash on a D200, the lens barrel does cast a shadow at 1:1 reproduction ratio. It is best to use a SB600 or SB800 off camera. On camera flashes tend to cast very harsh downward shadows on the subject, specially when shooting insects. A better idea is to use a ring flash such as the Sigma EM 140 DG flash when you can control the direction of the shadow and the strength of the dual flash elements.

Summary: Overall this lens is absolutely superb for macro and light enough to work with all day. Image quality is identical to the 105mm micro Nikon though with a slightly less robust feel and the lack of VR. Please note that the VR is of virtually no use at 1:1 reproduction ratios, due to the amount of magnification, but it can be useful for portraits.

Personally I feel that the Tamron is a very good buy, however it does have its drawbacks. The extra extension can be a drawback, especially when shooting insects. The movement tends to scare off quick moving insects. Given its 90mm focal length, I don't think that it has enough "reach" to do smaller bugs, such as flies, spiders and other small critters. I've used it to do all those things, but it takes a very long time to get a keeper. The Tamron 180mm macro is much better for bugs. I use the 90mm generally for flowers and larger insects such as butterflies and reserve the 180mm Tamron for small insect work.


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