2014 Macro Lenses Group Test (Part 6) - Tamron SP AF 60mm f/2 Di II Macro

9/20/2014 11:19:00 AM
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2014 Macro Lenses Group Test (Part 6)

Tamron SP AF 60mm f/2 Di II Macro

Unlike the other Tamron lenses in the group, the 60mm macro is only compatible with APS-C cameras (shown by its Di II classification) so it can’t be used on full-frame bodies such as the 5D Mark II. It’s therefore in direct competition with Canon’s EF-S 60mm macro lens. Like the Canon equivalent, it features fully internal focusing so the front element neither rotates nor extends throughout focus travel. It also features full-time manual focus override, but the autofocus actuator is a more basic, noisy and sluggish micro-motor.

In manual focus mode, as well as in autofocus override, the focus ring is unpleasantly jerky and lacks smoothness, making accurate focusing for macro shooting quite a chore. Overall build quality feels a bit cheap and plasticky, despite the relatively steep asking price.

Description: Tamron SP AF 60mm f/2 Di II Macro

Tamron SP AF 60mm f/2 Di II Macro

One thing in the Tamron’s favour is that it has a large maximum aperture of f/2. There’s quite a soft and dreamy look to images at f/2 and for truly impressive sharpness in macro shots, we had to reduce the aperture to at least f/5.6. Between f/5.6 and the minimum aperture of f/22, optical quality is very impressive. On balance, we much prefer the Canon EF-S 60mm lens, which is similarly priced.


·         Price: $525

·         For: Large f/2 max aperture, good image quality, internal focusing

·         Against: Slow autofocus, no focus limit switch, jerky manual focus ring

Tamron SP AF 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro

The Tamron 90mm macro lens has made quite a name for itself over the years, delivering excellent image quality at a competitive price. The flipside is that its older designlacks novelty value. For example, there’s no internal focusing and the overall length of the lens extends by nearly double as you focus down to the shortest available distance of 29cm. There’s only a basic micro-motor autofocus actuator, unlike the USD (Ultrasonic Silent Drive) system fitted to some Tamron lenses, and full-time manual focus override is also lacking.

Description: Tamron SP AF 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro

Tamron SP AF 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro

On the plus side, the focus ring’s pushpull design to switch between autofocus and manual focus is easy to use, and manual focusing is very smooth and precise – much better than on Tamron’s 60mm lens. The front element is, also deeply recessed so there’s no need to use a lens hood, although Tamron does include one with the lens.

There’s no faulting the optical quality. Sharpness is excellent, even at the widest aperture of f/2.8, and remains razor-sharp through mid-range apertures, only really dropping off at the smallest aperture of f/32. It may not be the newest macro lens on the block, but it’s still one of the best and it’s very good value for money.


·         Price: $500

·         For: Premium image quality sold at a reasonable price

·         Against: Lacks some of the fancy frills of newer lenses

Tamron SP AF 180mm f/3.5 Di Macro

The big gun in Tamron’s macro stable, this 180mm f/3.5 is nevertheless a little smaller and lighter in weight than Canon’s equivalent 180mm lens. Unlike Tamron’s 90mm macro lens, the 180mm features internal focusing so its length doesn’t increase as you focus down towards the shortest distance of 47cm. Another difference is that the front element is pretty much right at the front of the lens assembly, so you’ll often need to use the hood supplied with the lens. A neat feature is that the lens includes a Filter Effect Control, so you can easily twist rotational filters such as a circular polariser, even with the hood fitted.

Description: Tamron SP AF 180mm f/3.5 Di Macro

Tamron SP AF 180mm f/3.5 Di Macro

Where the Canon 180mm has whisper-quiet USM autofocus, the Tamron has a more basic micromotor that’s loud and ponderous. We found autofocus to be slow, and it was further hampered by a lot of hunting back and forth when trying to lock onto a target. The situation is made worse by the absence of a focus limit switch, and there’s also no full-time manual override. Optical quality is very impressive, almost on a par with the Canon 180mm, but the Tamron’s poor autofocus performance really lets it down.


·         Price: $740

·         For: High optical performance through the aperture range

·         Against: Very slow autofocus that often hunts about, no limit switch


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