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The Tamron 90mm f/2.8 macro lens is an amazingly good value for money, good quality lens, that is designed to fit all major SLR brands, (Canon, Nikon, Minolta, 4/3 etc). I will explain in this review the lens’ simplicity and quality.
When I first received this lens, it had been shipped from Hong Kong, it was alone in its box, however, and within it’s own leather case, which provided a surprising amount of support for the lens. The lens itself is of great quality, and it is very solid. To start with, it has a metal lens mount, which anyone with an SLR will now is a nice thing that is lacking on bundled, or cheaper lenses.
This means that attached to the SLR of choice, the lens feels powerful and purposeful. It isn’t a lightweight lens, however, for a macro, particularly at 90mm it is quite light, weighing in at around 400g. The main body of the lens feels as though it is made of a very solid plastic or more likely a metal, and feels great.
The focusing ring is one of the most solid feeling parts. It spins smoothly and has a very rugged rubber surface, which is comfortable and grippy, providing you with ample support. A feature that I particularly like is that, instead of having a switch to choose between manual focus and auto focus, you just pop the focusing ring back and forth. It feels solid and like it won’t break any time soon.
If I dropped this lens, of course I’d be worried. But I must say that, it is the least worried I’d be compared to my other lenses. It is very durable, and the front glass element is set back around about four centimetres into the lens itself meaning that it couldn’t fall onto the glass, unless maybe you conveniently dropped it onto a spike or something! However, the rear glass element is more exposed. If you were to drop it straight onto the back of the lens with no cap on it, I wouldn’t expect it to survive. This is the only weak point. However, you have to remember that very rarely are you going to be in a position for dropping a lens on it’s rear, with no cap on, from a great height, so I wouldn’t worry.
Overall, the lens feels incredibly durable, and is my most solid lens I own at the moment. It is wonderful to handle.
I’ve already kind of mentioned the size of the lens. It is impressively small and light. If you compare the lens to the Canon 100mm Macro lens, it appears microscopic. It is not even 10cm long, (when focused to infinity), and it is only 7cm wide at the widest point, and it only weighs 405g. If you compare this to the Canon 100mm, which is 12cm long, 8cm wide, and weighs 600g, nearly 200g more than the Tamron.
So, I think I’ve clearly displayed the compact size of this lens. However, when you are focusing at it’s closest, (29cm from the front of the glass), it is extended. And the extension of the lens is quite amazing, it practically doubles the length of the lens, which is a shame when it is so compact. This is probably why the Canon is so much bigger and heavier, because it focuses internally, so it doesn’t extend. However, I don’t feel that this is much of a problem, and it only becomes extremely long when you are focusing between around 33cm and 29cm.
This size and weight really complements a compact or medium DSLR, such as the 400D, or the Canon EOS 30D. It is evenly balanced and very comfortable. Overall, I’d say that I prefer the size and weight to the Canon, even if it extends, (I’ve had experience with both). And there is an even bigger advantage that I shall come to later.
Image Quality ==========
Not only does this lens provide itself in a surprisingly compact size, it is also impressive when it comes to image quality, or IQ. The lens is sharp wide open, (i.e. At the largest aperture, 2.8), which is unusual of a third party lens, and the sharpness really continues up until f/11, at which point it does begin to slide. However, not crucially, and right down to f/32 the lens is still perfectly usable.
Furthermore, the lens remains sharp, both at the centre of the image, and at the edges and corners, which can be the opposite in other lenses, and the images can be fine in the middle, and really quite soft and unclear at the edges, particularly the corners, but this lens does not suffer from this, and the IQ remains fairly constant throughout the image.
The colours are another fabulous aspect of this lens. You will find that it is bursting with perfect, real, colours, and it saturates them just enough to make it perfect, and you are left with amazingly vibrant images.
Overall, there is not that much detail to do with the IQ of the lens, just enough to say that it is nothing short of spectacular, particularly when you match that to what I will talk about next.
Value for Money ============
This lens is cheap, and I mean cheap considering what it can do. I purchased mine off of eBay, for £195, plus a £16 import fee. You will notice that I believe Ciao displays the best price as £280, but don’t pay that! You must check out the deals on eBay, as you will save yourself a lot.
Match this to the competition, the Canon 100mm Macro, which retails at about £350, which is verging on double the cost. And of course, the Tamron comes with things that the Canon most certainly doesn’t, such as a leather case, (probably another £15 on top of the lens with Canon), and more importantly a Hood, which is included with the Tamron, but is a £25 extra with the Canon!
I needn’t say much more about the value you get from this lens, it really is far superior in these respects to all the competition, and this I highly recommend this lens to anyone looking for a macro lens, that can focus down to 1:1, and doesn’t want to carry around something too heavy, or too expensive!