First Look
Tamron's SP AF90mm F/2.8 Di Macro (1:1)
A Lens With Breathing Room

Macro photography takes all shapes and forms, and covers a wide range of subject matter from nature to abstract to collectibles' cataloging. While you can get into the macro realm using supplemental lenses (essentially magnifying glass that you screw onto the lens like any other filter), extension tubes (which mount between the lens and camera body), or with lenses that promise "macro" range focusing but don't get you closer than 1:3, the preferred option and ultimate image quality is obtained from working with a prime lens that gets you as close as 1:1 without additions to the light path. The 1:1 term refers to what's called the "reproduction ratio," or what ratio of life size to image size is obtained in the eyepiece. In film terms it's easy to express--photograph a dime at 1:1 and you should be able to drop that dime onto the film and the diameter will be the same. In digital terms, where you can't drop a dime on the sensor, it's getting close enough to see as if you were shooting at 1:1.

Tamron's latest version of their famed 90mm 1:1 macro now has the "Di" appellation, which means that the lens is highly corrected to deliver optimum image quality for a digital sensor. Of course, it can be used on a film camera as well. When used on a film camera the 90mm focal length holds true; when used on most digital SLRs (those with an APS-C size sensor) it will deliver a 140mm focal length. While there are shorter focal length macros available, most agree that having the longer focal length allows for greater shooting freedom, especially when working with nature subjects or under lighting conditions where cast shadows from the photographer or rig can pose a problem. In essence, it gives you more breathing room, especially with "live" subjects.

© 2004 George Schaub, All Rights Reserved

The new lens works in both manual and autofocus. There's a very handy and easy autofocus to manual focus function on the lens (available for Nikon and Canon autofocus mounts only). You just slide the outer ring back and forth to switch between the two. This comes in handy when shooting complex nature close-ups, where the autofocus might get snagged on a part of the image that was not intended to be the sharpest in the scene. Using Depth Of Field (DOF) preview on any body is suggested, as the aperture range is f/2.8-f/32, allowing you to make many variations on a close-up scene. The difference between shooting at f/2.8 and f/32 is profound, especially when the range of sharpness at 1:1 even at f/32 might be an inch or two.

Of course, you need not always shoot at such close-up ranges, and Tamron's 90mm has earned a rightful reputation for delivering crisp images for both macro and general-purpose photography. That 90mm focal length is great for candids and even formal portraiture.

At a list price of $850.99 (we've seen it for around $500 street), the Tamron is a lens that everyone who loves macro photography will treasure. We worked with it in a garden during the height of spring and found ourselves lost in the amazing worlds it reveals. It's available in Nikon AF-D, Canon AF, Minolta AF-D, and Pentax AF mounts.

For more information, visit Tamron's website at:

Technical Specifications
Lens Construction: 10 elements, nine groups
Angle Of View: 27Þ
Diaphragm Blades: Nine
Macro RR: 1:1
Filter Size: 55mm
Aperture Range: f/2.8-f/32
Weight: 14.3 oz
Size: 2.8x3.8" (unextended)
Price: $850.99 (list); around $500 (street)