Tamron 60mm f/2 Di II LD IF Macro 1:1 SP AF
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Lab Test Results
November 28, 2011
by Andrew Alexander
The Tamron 60mm ƒ/2 Di II LD IF Macro 1:1 SP AF was announced in March of 2009 and released later in that year. Essentially a remake of their popular 90mm ƒ/2.8 macro lens but for the APS-C imaging circle, the Tamron 60mm ƒ/2 offers a 1:1 macro shooting option in Canon, Nikon and Sony mounts.
The lens will mount on full-frame cameras, but given the smaller lens elements, it will show a vignetted image in this scenario. On an APS-C sensor-based camera, the lens offers an effective field of view of 96mm (Canon) or 90mm (Nikon and Sony).
The lens takes 55mm filters, ships with a circular lens hood, and retails for around $480.
The Tamron 60mm ƒ/2 is a very sharp lens. Wide open at ƒ/2, the central region of the image is almost tack-sharp, with central results which are just very slightly softer than the corners. Stop down to just ƒ/2.8, however, and the lens is as sharp as sharp gets. It's sharp all the way through to ƒ/16, where a slight hint of diffraction limiting is present, but it's still really sharp even at this aperture. At ƒ/22 there is only very slight softness across the frame.
Resistance to chromatic aberration is good for this lens, perhaps a there is a little more prominence of CA on the edges of high-contrast areas (showing as a magenta-green color shift). There is slightly less when stopped down to ƒ/2.8.
The only setting which produces any form of corner shading is ƒ/2, where the corners are about a half-stop darker than the center. At any other setting, corner shading is negligible.
There is very little distortion to worry about with the Tamron 60mm ƒ/2; just +0.2% barrel distortion in the corners.
The Tamron 60mm ƒ/2 uses an electrical motor for its autofocus, and it's fairly slow in its operation - there is a lot of focusing range to go through, so it's not really surprising that it takes around one and a half seconds to focus from close-focus to infinity. In long focus shifts the focus motor is also fairly noisy. However, smaller changes in focus happen a fair deal quicker, and a little bit quieter, too. The front element doesn't rotate during focus operations.
This is obviously the primary operation for this lens, and it provides an excellent macro shooting experience. The lens offers a full 1:1 reproduction ratio, at a working distance of 100mm (just over 3.9 inches) from the front of the lens.
Below is a series of images taken at closest focus at various apertures. Click the thumbnails for full resolution versions:
Build Quality and Handling
Tamron's used a fair amount of plastic to keep the price and weight down - the lens weighs in at just 400 grams (14 oz). The finish is matte black, with a utilitarian design. The lens sports a distance scale in feet and meters, as well as a reproduction ratio from 1:10 to 1:1. There's no depth-of-field scale or infrared index; the only control feature other than the focusing ring is a switch to enable or disable autofocus. The lens doesn't need to be switched to manual focus to override autofocus results however, you can just turn the ring whenever you like.
The focusing ring takes up a fair amount of the surface of the lens, a generous 1 1/8'' wide. It's composed of a rubber with deep ribs, making it easy to get good purchase. It's fairly stiff, meaning it will take a little more effort than you might be used to for getting a specific point of focus, but once you've set it, it won't accidentally get moved around. The ring offers a hefty 250 degrees of turning radius, and ends in soft stops on the infinity and close-focusing ends (a slight increase in resistance lets you know you've reached the end). The lens uses an internal focusing design, so there is no lens extension as the lens is focused.
The Tamron 60mm ƒ/2 ships with the HG005 circular lens hood. The hood uses a ribbed matte interior to reduce flare, and can be reversed for easy storage. When attached, it adds 1 1/2'' to the overall length of the lens.
Canon EF-S 60mm ƒ/2.8 Macro USM ~$400
While not quite as sharp as the Tamron (you need to stop down to ƒ/4 to get the best results), the Canon offers absolutely no distortion and decent resistance to corner shading. That said, chromatic aberration becomes more problematic as the lens is stopped down. The Tamron is slightly more expensive, but offers that extra stop of light gathering ability, being able to shoot wide open at ƒ/2.
Nikon 60mm ƒ/2.8G ED AF-S Micro Nikkor ~$550
The Nikon macro offering in the 60mm range isn't a lens designed for the APS-C sensor, so this could be a selling point for those considering a camera upgrade in the future. The Nikon 60mm offers excellent results for sharpness, on par with the Tamron, though as with the Canon 60mm its maximum aperture is ƒ/2.8. Results for CA resistance, corner shading and distortion are all on par with the Tamron; the Nikon is slightly more expensive.
Sony 50mm ƒ/2.8 Macro SAL-50M28 ~$530
We haven't yet tested the Sony Macro lens, which is 50mm rather than 60mm, but sized to fit the APS-C sensor.
Sigma 70mm ƒ/2.8 EX DG Macro ~$500
One of our favorite lenses, the Sigma 70mm Macro doesn't go as fast as the Tamron (ƒ/2.8 vs. ƒ/2) but it does offer excellent results for sharpness, low chromatic aberration, minimal corner shading and almost zero distortion. As with the Nikon it's a full-frame lens, and is only marginally more expensive than the Tamron.
As the list of alternatives shows, there is no shortage of options in this macro area. The Tamron lens offered excellent results, and its unique selling feature would be its fast ƒ/2 maximum aperture setting.
The VFA target should give you a good idea of sharpness in the center and corners, as well as some idea of the extent of barrel or pincushion distortion and chromatic aberration, while the Still Life subject may help in judging contrast and color. We shoot both images using the default JPEG settings and manual white balance of our test bodies, so the images should be quite consistent from lens to lens.
As appropriate, we shoot these with both full-frame and sub-frame bodies, at a range of focal lengths, and at both maximum aperture and ƒ/8. For the ''VFA'' target (the viewfinder accuracy target from Imaging Resource), we also provide sample crops from the center and upper-left corner of each shot, so you can quickly get a sense of relative sharpness, without having to download and inspect the full-res images. To avoid space limitations with the layout of our review pages, indexes to the test shots launch in separate windows.
Tamron 60mm f/2 Di II LD IF Macro 1:1 SP AF User Reviews
9 out of 10 points and recommended by PeterB666 (5 reviews)Very sharp, relatively compact, fixed front and rear elementsBuild quality a little light, not f/2 when focussed closer than 1 metre, af performance in low light
I have had this lens for a while. It produces fabulously sharp images and is a joy to use. The internal focussing means that as you focus closer, you don't need to get as close to the object as you do with non-internal focussing lenses.reviewed January 7th, 2012 (purchased for $380)
I use mine with a Nikon D90 and AF performance is fine in good light however a focus limiter would have been nice. As the light levels fall, the lens has difficulty automatically focusing but there is a nice wide range to the manual focus and a lovely big focus ring.
The lens is not perfect, build quality is adequate but could be better. The AF-MF switch is too light, the lens far from robust. I had the lens roll off a desk and had to have it repaired as the follower-arm for the focus jumped out of its guide and jammed the focus. It prevented the lens from auto focusing and manually focusing. The lens was otherwise unscathed.
A depth of field scale would be nice and the lens does have some limitations with portrait and other work as the aperture drops as you focus closer so you wind up with maximum apertures of f/2.2, f/2.4 etc. This is common with macro lenses but you should be able to have maximum aperture with a 60mm lens to at least 1 metre or even 0.7m rather than just 3 metres.
For macro work, simply brilliant and provided you take your time, great for portraits. Very nice bokeh too!
Provided you are not rough with your lenses, highly recommended.
8 out of 10 points and recommended by Toby (6 reviews)large aperture, long working distance, lightweight, compact, nice bokehnone, unless you are looking for an FX lens
The lens is a recommendable/preferable alternative to Nikon's 60 mm and 85 mm lenses.reviewed March 20th, 2010
The Nikon 60 mm AF-S changes the focal distance to somthing like 40 mm when focusing closely, in contrast the Tamron appears to be a true 60 mm lens. Result: The Nikon 60 mm AF-S has a working distance of 5 cm at 1:1, whereas the Tamron has about 10 cm (you just need to compare the closest focus distance of the lenses).
Therefore, the Nikon AF-S 60 mm will shield off any natural light at close focus, whereas the Tamron allows for light and a reasonable escape distance for insects.
Therefore, the Nikon is not acceptable to me and I would highly recommend the Tamron over the Nikon - unless it would not significantly underexpose on my D300 body (I have tested three samples now, all do underexpose by about 1 f stop (I have tested only the A exposure mode, I admit)) compared to other lenses.
The issue is also reported on www.photozone.de, along with a saddening report about the lack of service in this matter by Tamron Europe.
I have decided to wait until the bug is fixed either by Tamron or by Nikon.
Sharpness even at open aperture and also at normal working distance appears to be excellent. The AF seems to work slightly less smooth and quick than the AF-S of the Nikon 60 mm.
Note added September 2012:
The underexposure issue on Nikon has been resolved.
I have now owned the lens for more than one year. It has become one of my favourites and it has given me many beautiful pictures.
It is compact and lightweight, so the lens gives me company also on mountain tours etc. . Build and image quality are excellent, only the AF could be better.
If you are looking for a DX lens, then I would much prefer this lens over the Nikon 2.8/60, which changes its focal length the closer the focus is (resulting in a ridiculously short working distance).
9 out of 10 points and recommended by Thoppa (16 reviews)Image quality, working distance, fast aperture, macro/portrait lensAF/MF action not quite as good as Nikon AF-S; and some PF CA
EDIT : April 2010. I've been using this lens for five months now and I had a problem with the focusing which I assumed was the lens but has turned out to be the body so I have revised my comments again.reviewed August 20th, 2009 (purchased for $450)
I have seen comments about exposure accuracy problems but this has not been an issue at all with my D90. In fact, I get almost exactly the same exposure using a grey card with this lens as with all my Nikon glass.
My original review :
This is an awesome lens but perhaps a little overpriced.
At f5.6 it is ultra-sharp across the frame and gives amazing resolution even at 100% viewing. At f2 the centre is almost as sharp as f5.6 but the edges are soft - fine for portraits with a shallow dof and blurred background. By f2.8 the edges are sharp again. At f16 it is getting a little soft again, so using this lens from f2-f11 gives great results. f16 is fine for good dof macro. f22 is useable too.
Macro use is great - the front of the lens is about 10cm from the object so there's no shading from the lens. I can use the built-in flash on my D90 without problems, although I don't use the lens hood so I don't know if that would be an issue. I usually use a remote flash but being able to use the built-in is very useful.
There's very little CA for an f2 lens, ( although there is some purple fringing ), mild vignetting wide open, great colours, and good-ish bokeh. The best is at f2.8 where the bokeh is fine - just a blur with no obvious doughnuts or halos or smearing. There's slight distortion in the corners but it isn't distracting at all.
There's no obvious barrel or pincushion distortion.
It displays the true aperture in the viewfinder. Beyond 3 metres it is f2, then focusing closer it goes to f2.2 and smaller and eventually reaches f4 at min focus of 23cm.
It feels light and a bit plasticky but that isn't too bad as it seems quite well made. It is made in Japan. For an F/2 lens, it's very small and light.
The one drawback of this lens is the AF/MF. It isn't as good as the best USM/AF-S but it isn't awful either and much better than any other Tamron lens I've tried. It focuses at a similar speed to the Nikon AF-S 35mm DX. In quiet situations, you hear it whoosh/whirr a little but it isn't loud. Almost 100% of the time it snaps into focus but every once in a while it hunts a couple of times before it locks on. Focus is accurate. I doubt it could do sports but for portraits it is fine. It is certainly a lot better than I expected.
For macro (initially mostly manual adjusting of the auto-focus) it will focus, which I then correct just like a rougher version of an AF-S "instant manual" lens. The rougher (than AF-S) focus action and an occasional refocus are the main detractions of this lens. However, the light switch to MF is very convenient so it is hardly a serious issue and no reason not to strongly recommend this lens.
Here's a review :
and another in Chinese :
Given the choice between the Nikon 60mm f/2.8 af-s micro, the 85mm f/3.5 VR micro and this lens, I'd still choose this lens.
The Nikkor 85 doesn't have the bright max aperture that can defocus the backgrounds for portraits. The VR seems like a good idea but it is mostly ineffective for macro focusing distances (I already owned the 105 VR micro) and the darker aperture and longer focal length make it less versatile for portraits. However, the lens is lighter and the macro working distance is the same so really if the bright max aperture isn't on your wish list I'd get the Nikkor.
The Nikkor AFS 60 is great but the working distance is much shorter so it's hard to capture insects and avoid shading things. Plus it isn't as bright so portrait backgrounds aren't as well blurred.
So all in all, this is a versatile lens with good image quality so I think it is a very good choice, especially if the price comes down.