In February 2016, Tamron introduced a new macro lens Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di MACRO 1:1 VC USD (Model : F017). Tamron had a similarly named lens earlier and the only difference you see in the name, is the model number. However it is totally different lens from exterior as well internally. I was able to purchase a copy, thanks to my dealer Anish George. This lens has a true 1:1 maximum reproduction ratio or 1x maximum magnification. While many look at a macro lens as being specific for close-up photography, nearly all macro lenses, including this one, work very well for many other purposes compatible with their focal length. All the photos here are taken with SP 90mm F/2.8 Di MACRO 1:1 VC USD on Canon EOS 80D camera and Godox Ving 860C flash with modified softbox.
Tamron’s latest lens design is really nice, featuring an attractive, clean and modern appearance. This lens is moisture proof and has dust resistance incorporated into its design, including a lens mount gasket and seals in other locations. The front lens element is fluorine coated to repel water, fingerprints, and smudges for easier cleaning of the lens surface.
The new 90mm VC USD lens (Model F017) delivers excellent resolving power and remarkably soft background blur effects (bokeh). The advanced construction includes one Low Dispersion glass element and two Extra Low Dispersion glass elements. These special elements optimally compensate for on-axis and lateral chromatic aberrations from macro through to infinity. Furthermore, the optical design ensures the best imaging performance at any range by adopting the Floating System that shifts the location of a group of elements to the best possible position as the focusing group travels relative to shooting distances. From 1:1, life-size close-ups to the most distant horizon, this new 90mm Macro lens achieves outstanding image quality.
When assessing the image quality of a lens, most will look first at the sharpness a lens delivers. And, this lens delivers very nicely in this regard. Tamron 90mm VC Lens images at f/2.8 are quite sharp from corner to corner and razor sharp when stopped down to f/4. It also features a very quiet ring-type USD (Ultrasonic Drive) autofocus motor. Manual focus from closest focus to infinity takes a wide 207° focus ring rotation which is needed for precise focusing. It uses 62mm filter thread, which I found did not help me to use my Canon MT-24EX macro twin light flash. The photos here are shot using a larger softbox on Godox Ving 860C flash.
A three stop autofocus distance range selection switch offers Full, 0.5m to infinity and 0.3m to 0.5m range. Selecting a range less than Full can improve AF performance within that range, especially when shooting close-up. The Tamron 90 VC also does not rotate the filter threads.
Tamron’s VC implementation is very quiet with a light clicking being audible on startup and shutdown and with only a very faint hum heard while activated. In this lens, VC activation does not cause the viewfinder image to jump and it makes a very noticeable difference in the stability of the image in the viewfinder, with the scene becoming very still. Tamron does not list a number of stops rating for this VC implementation, I was getting a decent keepers at as long as 1/10 second. That shows around 3.5 stops of assistance using the VC
This lens is compatible with Tamron Pro teleconverters. Mounting a 1.4x or 2x teleconverter behind this lens creates a 126mm f/4 VC lens or 180mm f/5.6 VC lens with 1.4x and 2.0x respectively. Expect reduced AF speed and a noticeable impact on wide open aperture as well impact on image sharpness when teleconverters are mounted.
No lens case is included in the box. It has a nice compact reversed lens hood. This lens is compatible with the optional Tamron TAP-in Console, a computer-attached dock used for fine-tuning focusing performance and updating the lens firmware. The TAP-in Console was not available yet available here in India.
Tamron 90mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Macro Lens (model F017) performs noticeably better than its predecessor with the same name, at f/2.8. The new lens is nicer in many other regards. As compared to Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM, the lens is on par with AF, sharpness and feel. Being far cheaper than Canon macro lens with almost same quality of performance really makes it an attractive alternative to Canon macro lens. With the help of almost 3.5 stop VC and a great focal length which is suitable for portraits, it is definitely a well recommended lens.
Disclosure: I was not financially compensated for this post. I purchased and paid for the retail lens from my own pocket. Tamron in no way influenced me to write this review. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience. The photo of the Lens is from Tamron website.
2 thoughts on “Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di MACRO 1:1 VC USD Lens Hands-On Test”
Thanks for the detailed review of this new lens. I have the previous version of this same VC USD lens for Nikon. Whats the upgrade that it carries over previous version and what performance difference we can expect?
In the copy of lens I have, I had faced small dead focus range issue in manual focus when full focus range was selected in focus range limiter. Guess such issues are sorted out? or probably, that niggle was just my copy?
Dear Venkatraman Hegde,
Thanks. It is totally redesigned lens. Unlike your lens, this has new design which looks similar to Art series by Sigma. They also have optional dock which can adjust the firmware and focusing issues if there need be. It feels much more premium. If you compare these two lenses. Now sharpness is better at f/2.8. The Tamron 90 VC also does not rotate the filter threads. Tamron 90mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Macro Lens (model F017) performs noticeably better than its predecessor with the same name, at f/2.8. The new lens is nicer in many other regards. But price wise they have made it quite steeper to the older lens. So it might not give you such a great advantage for the upgrade.