Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro 1:1 VC USD Review

By Yvonne

Tamron SP90mm f/2.8 Di Macro 1:1 VC US is a sharp, fast-focusing macro lens that can be used with Canon, Nikon and Sony SLRs.

Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro 1:1 VC USD Review

Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro 1:1 VC USD

The pros

  • Extremely sharp.
  • No distortion.
  • 1:1 macro magnification.
  • Optically stable
  • Multiple camera systems are supported.


  • Wide apertures and dim corners.

Tamron's 90mm macro lens has been a favourite third-party lens of many SLR owners for years. SP 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro 1:1 VC US ($649) includes image stabilization, though Tamron refers to it as Vibration Compensation. The SP 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro 1:2 VC USD ($649) also updates its aesthetic to reflect the latest SP lenses. This lens is a great performer and less costly than the Nikon AF–S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IFED or the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM (both $8499.99). This makes it Editors Choice.

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It is finished in black with a silver band at the base. The SP90mm measures 4.6x3.1inches (HD), weights 1.3lbs, and can support 62mm front filters. Metal barrel with large, rubberized manual focus rings. The top window displays the focal distance, in meters or feet, as well as the magnification. Tamron is offering the lens for Canon, Nikon, and Sony cameras—the Sony version omits optical stabilization, as that feature is built into Alpha SLRs.

A few controls are located on the lens. The toggle switches the vibration compensation system (VC) on and off for Nikon and Canon shooters. The AF/MF toggle is included in all versions. There's also a focus limiter to limit how far the autofocus system can search for a lock.

It can be set to close work at 0.3 to 0.5 meters, full-time, or 0.5 to infinity. Although the internal motor is very powerful, the lens may take some time to focus properly if the focus distance is long.

At the minimum focus distance—11.8 inches—objects are projected onto your camera's image sensor at life size, 1:1 magnification. Because distances are measured from the sensor and not from the lens' front, the distance to work is slightly closer.

The lens should be within 5 inches of the subject. You may prefer a macro with a greater working distance like the Sigma APO Macro180mm F2.8 EX DGOS HSM ($1,799.00 on Amazon). This macro gives you more distance between the subject and the lens but is heavier and larger.

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Image quality

The Canon-mount version of the SP90mm was tested along with the 50-megapixel EOS5DS R (Amazon, $1,295.00) An Imatest Sharpness result of 2200 lines per image height is a must when using a high-resolution lens. With a score of 4,371 lines, the SP 90mm has f/2.8. This lens delivers very consistent performance throughout the frame.

At f/4 the lens records 5,294 lines across the entire frame. Performance isn't as even—edges hover around 4,200 lines, the same resolution shown at f/2.8—but the center two-thirds of the frame is tack sharp. There is a small drop at f/5.6 of 4,758 lines. The edges remain steady at 4,200 lines.

As the aperture gets narrower, it continues to show a downward trend in resolution. The lens displays 4,233 lines at f/8. This is not far from the performance of wide open. At f/11 (3823 lines), at f/16 (324 lines), at f/22 (2328 lines), and at f/32 (1 428 lines), the lens is less susceptible to diffraction.

It is important to work at small apertures in order to get images that have sufficient depth of focus. Focus stacking is a technique that allows you to capture sharp images with f/16. This can be used for photos where you would normally use f/22 and f/32.

The objects are faithfully reproduced without distortion. The corners and edges of this lens are noticeable dimming at f/2.8, f/4. The corners are 3.2 stops behind the center (-3.2EV) and the sides are 2.2 stops ahead of the center at f/2.8. Narrowing the aperture to f/4 improves things—corners show -1.4EV and sides -0.7EV. The illumination of the edges is nearly equal to the center at f/5.6 or beyond.

Related Reading: Nikon Nikkor Z MC 105mm F2.8 VR S Review


Tamron SP90mm f/2.8 Di Macro 1:1 VC US is a great macro lens. It's also very affordable considering its sharp output and optically stabilized design. This lens can be used with Canon, Nikon and Sony SLRs. It has no real disadvantages. If you prefer a longer macro lens don't forget about the Sigma APO 180mm, but be prepared to spend a lot more—it's priced around $1,700.