amron’s popular line of
90mm macro lenses
stretches all the way back
to 1979. The latest edition is
distinguished by a silver band around
the base, and comes with a host of
updates. Compared with the previous
‘gold ring’ edition, the new version has
a revised and refined optical layout,
including two top-grade XLD (eXtra
Low Dispersion) elements instead of
just one. It also features conventional
and nano-structure coatings to keep
ghosting and flare to a minimum. The
lens also gains weather-seals and a
fluorine coating on the front element.
Tamron has also added a hybrid
image stabilizer or VC (Vibration
Compensation) system. This corrects
for X-Y shift, as well as the more usual
angular vibration, making it more
effective for close-up shooting. Even
so, performance drops from four stops
to about two stops at close range.
Scores for sharpness are good, based
on medium-range test charts. But the
Tamron proved ace at short focus
settings, right down to the minimum
distance for full 1.0x magnification.
ikon’s top-drawer Micro lens
is full-frame compatible
but bears certain
similarities to its 85mm DX
sibling. Both have the same number of
optical elements, including one ED
element, plus a three-stop stabilizer.
Both lenses also have a very similar
minimum working distance of 14.5cm
and 15 cm for the 85mm and 105mm
lens respectively, and a similarly swift
ring-type ultrasonic autofocus system.
As you’d expect, the FX format
105mm is bigger and heavier.
Surprisingly though, although it’s not
much larger than the DX lens, it’s more
than twice the weight, at 750g. In the
UK, it’s also twice the price, but there’s
less of a difference in the USA. One
upgrade is that the 105mm lens
includes Nano Crystal Coat, whereas
the 85mm has a more conventional
Super Integrated Coating.
The regular VR system lags behind the
Tamron’s hybrid stabilizer for close-
range performance, but outright
sharpness is also impressive. However,
the Nikon doesn’t fare so well in terms
of colour fringing and distortion.
Tamron SP 90mm
f/2.8 Di VC USD Macro
It’s the best Tamron 90mm yet
Nikon AF-S 105mm
f/2.8 G IF ED VR Micro
As good as it gets for a Nikon Micro
Close-range sharpness in
macro photography is even
better than medium-range lab
tests would imply.
Levels of sharpness are
excellent across the whole
image frame, right into
It beats the pricier Nikon
105mm Micro for control over
colour fringing towards the
corners of the frame.
The Nikon 105mm is actually
the worst lens in the group for
control over colour fringing,
but it’s still decent.
Distortion is absolutely
negligible. It’s one of the very
best lenses in the group in
There’s very little barrel
distortion, but it’s worse
than in some of the other
lenses on test.
N-Photo verdict N-Photo verdict
It’s an ace macro lens
for SLRs, but needs a
firmware update for full
It’s good, but not the
best buy, as the Sigma
and Tamron offer
at lower prices.