MediaGuru's reviews

  • Tamron 180mm f/3.5 Di LD IF Macro 1:1 SP AF

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Excellent IQ, smooth focus ring, very little distortion, little to no chromatic aberration or vignetting
    Wiggles ever so slightly when mounted to my Sony A57

    I spent countless hours researching for a good macro lens and basically had it narrowed down to the Sigma 70mm, Tamron 90mm and 180mm. I read complaints about how close you have to get with the 70 or 90mm lenses and decided that any extra distance I could place between myself and shy animals and bugs would be nice (this lens is supposed to be able to focus at 18.5 inches). I am not sure if this is normal or typical of a macro lens, but I was able to focus at 10 inches.

    The lens arrived wrapped in a plastic bag (with small packet of desiccant) and placed in the provided lens pouch (and in the original box). I was glad to see it packaged this way because Amazon did a poor job filling the shipping box with plastic cargo pillows.

    The first thing I noticed immediately upon unboxing is the provided lens pouch is not made of neoprene but seems to be made from high quality nylon (possibly 600D or better) and about a 1/4 inch of extra padding was stitched around the entire pouch. I was happy to see this because I really don’t think neoprene offers much protection and I can’t stand the smell. The case is very well made and has a dual drawstring system to close the lens pouch. Also, it has a nice handle to make carrying easier. Unfortunately, there are no hooks, d-rings or loops to easily attach it to your bag or to attach a shoulder strap.

    This lens measures about 7.5 inches long with both end caps attached and about 3.5 inches in diameter. Of course, length and diameter will increase if you have the lens hood or tripod mount attached. BTW, the lens hood is huge (which is a good thing) but it will add an extra 4 inches to the length of the lens.

    I am using this lens with my Sony A57 and upon mounting it to the camera body I noticed it’s a little loose. This is something I find very common with Tamron lenses and is worth a 0.5 point deduction from the overall rating. No, the lens is not going to fall off and no, it’s not going to break any connection between the lens and the camera, but I think this is something that Tamron needs to address. I will say that this lens has much less movement than my 17-50 and 70-300 Tamron SP lenses. For the price, I would expect a more precise and tighter fit.

    This lens is made mostly of plastic, but does not feel cheap. The fit and finish is perfect and the large focusing ring is awesome! The focusing ring has a nice rubberized (and textured) band and rotates smoothly in MF mode. One thing I found odd (or at least very different than any other lens I’ve used) was the absence of a AF/MF switch. Instead, you need to grasp the focusing ring and pull it towards the front of the lens for AF or pull it towards the camera for MF. The ring locks in place nicely and should not move out of AF or MF unless you really want it too. AF performance is definitely lacking (as most reviewers indicated) but it does work and when it locks on, you get a perfect photo. I prefer to use MF because I find controlling the focal point to be much easier and faster. If you switch the lens to AF and the focus is not close, it will cycle through the entire focal range, but if you switch the lens and the focus is close, the lens may focus within a fraction of a second. It really depends on the environment, but overall, I found AF to be lacking and it usually cycles through the entire range which takes a few seconds. This is worth a 0.5 point deduction because it would be nice (in some instances) to have AF that works fast.

    At the font of the lens, there is another ring that allows for FEC (filter effect control). This allows you to very easily rotate a filter with the hood attached (otherwise you would need to remove the hood, rotate your filter and reattach the hood). I really like this feature (even though I don’t use filters) and anyone who uses filters can benefit from this quick and easy way to rotate their filter.

    The tripod mount is easy to remove/attach due to its hinged design. It fits in a predetermined groove and there are markings on the mount and on the lens itself so you can be sure your camera is square/level. I plan on keeping the mount attached to the lens most of the time because it’s comfortable to hold and can rest in the palm of my hand when taking photos without a tripod.

    I really enjoy taking photos without a tripod simply because I don’t have to lug it around and I almost always have a very steady hand. However, for macro shots, it’s nice to utilize the stability of a tripod because the slightest movement could cause your photos to turn out blurry or the area you thought was in focus could shift to another area of the image. This is the first lens I’ve used where I noticed this happening. I actually thought there was something wrong with the lens because I would MF an object and when I was ready to take the photo I would notice it was out of focus. Now that I know what is happening, I have been able to effectively correct this without a tripod. But by all means, if you have your tripod with you, use it.

    Before I forget, I should mention that this lens features internal focus. This means that the lens barrel does not physically extend or contract when focusing (unlike your typical zoom lens). This feature is nice and can greatly reduce the amount of dust that is capable of making its way into the lens.

    So far, I’ve just been able to test the lens on inanimate objects inside my home as we are preparing for winter and it’s just too cold outside. I will be taking a trip to the southwest very soon and hope opportunities for some great outdoor macro shots will be presenting themselves.

    Overall, this lens is great. Optical quality is top notch and so far I have not experienced any issues such as chromatic aberration, vignetting or distortion.

    0.5 point deduction for the lens mount
    0.5 point deduction for the AF performance
    Overall rating is 9 stars out of 10

    reviewed November 23rd, 2012 (purchased for $690)
  • Tamron 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro 1:1 VC USD SP

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    solid build, good fit & finish, very sharp at f/2.8-f/3.1 and tack sharp at f/3.5-f/16, no lateral chromatic aberration, no distortion, IF, quiet af, no front/back focus issues, smooth focus ring, moisture resistant, 6 yr warranty
    a-mount connector a bit loose, sharpness declines after f/16, minor bokeh fringing from f/2.8-f/7.1, minor vignetting from f/2.8-f/3.5, lens flair, Sony version lacks VC, AF slower than expected, no case/pouch

    I purchased this lens to use with my Sony A57 (16.1 megapixel APS-C, 1.5x crop). I have three other Tamron SP lenses (A16, A005 and B01) and chose them because I felt their image quality was as good, maybe even better than the comparable Sony or Sigma lenses. Also, Tamron lenses are priced reasonably and come with a 6-year warranty.

    This lens is solid and feels like a quality item while holding in your hand. Yes, it is made with mostly plastic, but the plastic seems to be durable and of reasonably high quality. Like all my other Tamron lenses, this one is just a hair loose with the A-mount connector. This is extremely common with Tamron lenses and does not affect the lens' ability to communicate with the camera.

    This lens is very sharp if the aperture is set between f/2.8 through f/3.1. This lens becomes tack sharp between f/3.5 through f/16. Expect image quality to degrade slowly after f/16 - you don't even have to view your photos at 100% to notice this.

    Lateral chromatic aberration is when all colors are in focus, but do not meet in the same position along the focal plane. This only shows up in the corners of the image in high-contrast areas. I am happy to report that this lens does not suffer from any lateral chromatic aberration during my real-world testing.

    Longitudinal chromatic aberration (aka LoCA or bokeh fringing) occurs when different wavelengths of color do not meet at the optical axis. This causes red, green or blue fringing around objects throughout the entire photo. Unfortunately, this type of fringing is very common on fast prime lenses and the F004 is no exception. I took multiple photos of different objects and test charts and noticed green fringing above the focus area and red fringing below. I was able to process the images in Lightroom and successfully remove the fringing. The fringing I noticed was not as bad as some photo samples I viewed for other comparable lenses. Any fringing I found was noticeable while viewing these 16 megapixel photo at 25% or higher. I don't see any reason to be concerned about the amount of LoCA with this lens - as I mentioned this is a common issue with fast prime lenses and it is easily corrected with software. The fringing does disappear by f/8.

    Pincushion, barrel and mustache distortion are non-existent.

    Vignetting is very well controlled on this lens. Stopping down to f/4 will eliminate any visible vignetting.

    Lens flair is a problem if the sun is in the frame and your photos will contain green blobs. Definitely use your lens hood while taking photos outside. I did not notice any issues with flair when the sun was out of the frame.

    The Sony version of this lens does not include VC since this is already built into the Sony DSLR bodies. Even without VC, this lens costs the same as the Canon and Nikon versions. I would like Tamron to adjust their pricing accordingly.

    This lens does not extend while focusing since this is all done internally. This is a plus since it will offer more protection against dust entering the lens. Also, the Tamron lenses with the IF feature include a non-rotating filter ring, more precise handling since the lens length does not change during focusing and improved optical quality by minimizing illumination loss at the corners of the image field (according to Tamron).

    This lens features the Tamron USD auto-focus drive mechanism and is probably the most silent Tamron lens I own. The only other lens I have with USD is the 70-300 and that one is very quiet too, but I think this lens is even quieter - most of the time I cannot hear it focusing.

    This lens does have a focus limiter switch which you will appreciate in AF mode. I like the limiter switch because it can greatly reduce the time it takes to focus on an object. For the most part, auto focus works well and is accurate. There have been a few times where it hunted and took a second or so to focus on an object. It's safe to say that this lens focuses much faster than my A16 which does not have the USD feature.

    The copy I received had absolutely no issues with front or back focus.

    This lens has the smoothest focus ring I've ever used - I wish my 180mm macro was this smooth.

    Length with both caps attached: 5-3/8" (13.65cm)
    Length with rear cap and hood attached: 7-5/16" (18.57cm)
    Width: 3" (7.62cm)
    Width of hood: 3-5/8" (9.21cm)

    The previous version of this lens (272E) came with a nice lens pouch even though it costs a few hundred dollars less, lacks the ultrasonic silent drive (USD) and is not moisture resistant. Now, I have to out of my way to find a lens case/pouch that will comfortably hold the F004 and probably spend about $20 doing so.

    The following cases/pouch should work fine with the F004:

    Tamrac MX5341 (600D nylon & closed-cell padding, 4" x 5.5")
    Tamrac MX5378 (600D nylon & closed-cell padding, 3.5" x 5.75")
    iKan SBSL35 (neoprene, 3.5" x 5")

    Let's be real, $750 is a lot for the beginner or enthusiast to spend on a lens. There are other options out there like the Tamron 272E, Sigma 105mm or older Minolta macros that are cheaper. You could spend about $50 more for the Sony SAL100M28, but you might as well save $50 because this lens is just as good - plus it features the USD motor, a 6-year warranty and most of the time Tamron is offering some sort of rebate. Sorry Sony, a 1-year warranty for a lens that costs $800 is unacceptable.

    Overall I found this lens to be a pleasure to use. I am not sure how much I will actually use auto focus, but it's nice to have since this lens can AF silently and pretty darn quick. It is a little pricey considering no accessories are included, the Sony version lacks VC and there are many other primes around this focal length. I wish the tack level of sharpness was present throughout every aperture, but I realize this is unlikely. It would be nice not to correct any images to remove bokeh fringing, but again this is very common with fast prime lenses and the level of fringing with my copy was less than other 70-135mm primes I looked at.

    I feel this lens deserves a solid 4.5 out of 5 stars.

    reviewed October 27th, 2013 (purchased for $749)