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Tuesday, 24 March 2009


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My all-time favorite macro, the SMC-A Pentax 100/2.8 Macro extends when focusing, while the very common Canon 100/2.8 USM Macro has IF. While IF not a bad thing, the Canon lens is much larger, probably in order to allow for the element extension at 1:1. But when you shoot at infinity or store the lens in your photo bag, the Pentax Macro is _much_ smaller.

BTW, the Pentax macro features a FREE optical design, which leads to a shorter focal length in the macro range (61.5 mm at 1:1). Much more details can be found here.

The Canon lens, being IF, also has a fixed rear-element, so it probably also changes focal length while focusing.

Ah yes, the USM Canon. Thanks Boz.

Memory like a steel sieve,


If you're on Canon then this is a direct competitor to the EF-S 60mm f/2.8 macro, which also does 1:1 and has internal focussing.
The Canon 60mm has buttery smooth bokeh and makes exquisitely sharp images, so the new contender from Tamron has something to live up to.
I've used the Canon 60mm mainly underwater (in a housing) where internal focus is paramount (otherwise the extending lens would bash the front glass of the housing's port). In that scenario the extra stop on this Tamron has no bearing, because nobody shoots underwater macro at f/2.8 or f2 - f/8 is the widest aperture commonly used.

I have used the Canon 60mm macro on dry land though, and this is where an extra stop would come in very handy.
If the bokeh and sharpness of this new lens compares well with the EF-S 60 then I'll take a good look at the Tamron lens.

But, what I really need in macro lenses is image stabilisation. This is paramount when used on land without a tripod and no flash (underwater macro is always done with a huge strobe, so IS is not as important).
Because I'd like a macro lens with IS I am naturally VERY VERY jealous of Nikon who offer their 105 macro with IS. So for my purposes I think Tamron should have put their R&D into an IS system rather than offering a wider aperture.

A 60mm macro with IS would cover all my uses on dry land and underwater. So I'm still waiting for something like that to appear in the Canon world.

Would a Sony A700 with the new Tamron 60mm f/2 solve your needs?

Of course I imagine you're already invested in your housings, which might not fit?


I can confirm reasonable results using the Minolta 50mm/2.8 Macro handheld to take close-up shots with Anti-Shake (KM's precursor to SSS) on the 7D, down to 1/25th at f/11.

No Pentax? Boo.

"Now, I'm not a macro photographer, and I'm quite sure to be corrected emphatically and frequently if I'm wrong, but as far as I know this is pretty unusual for macro lenses, most of which extend in a manner that would make a Victorian lady faint."

Mike, sorry for the digression, but this is great! I'm still giggling. Thanks!

"Most of which extend in a manner that would make a Victorian lady faint."

Thanks for the morning laugh!

Hi Mike - add two more to the internal focusing macros. Both of Nikon's newest (60mm and 105mm af-s versions) have that feature.

This tamron lens looks fun though. If it is sharp at f/2, it could be a great portrait lens for aps-c cameras. Not quite the 85/1.4 that many people love, but a 90mm f/2 equivalent would be a neat option.


The Minolta 100/2.8 extends, while the 200/4 does not. I'm not sure if it makes a big difference in practice, as the focal length of the IF lens decreases as you focus down toward 1:1. Someone figured once that the 200/4 was really about 135mm at 1:1. So whether IF or extension, I'm not sure there's a drastic difference in working distance (though I'm sure there's some difference).

I like the sounds of this lens - I'm sure many will snatch it up instead of a 50 as an affordable portrait option for APS-C - hopefully AF performance won't be too bad. I see no evidence of an AF limiter; the 90/2.8 had one and it was helpful to avoid long hunting times. With the limiter set, the 90/2.8 (in Minolta screw-drive mount) was tolerable as a portrait/candid lens, but slow AF speed still counted as a "con".

I see this lens making a big dent in sales of the not-quite-announced Sony APS-C only 50/1.8.

Just a note, but the revolutionary Tamron 90mm Macro introduced in 1979 was the SP 90mm f2.5 Adaptall-II with a dedicated 1:1 converter. It only went to 1:2 normally.

The 90mm f2.8 was introduced around 1990 and added 1:1 capability in both the long-lived AF version and the shorter lived (and extremely rare) Adaptall-II version.

The two lenses are very closely related, the f2.8 being little more than a mild revision of the already superb f2.5 version.

Did Mike just let slip another clue about his new camera in a post about something else?

The Nikon 105mm VR also has IF. I'm not sure about a change in focal length as you approach 1:1, but it does have a variable aperture. Beyond focus of ~10 feet (3m), the widest is 2.8 while at 1:1 magification the widest is (I think) 4.5. I believe that's the way Nikon solved the issue of an ever-extending lens barrel.

"it's the fastest macro lens of its focal-length family today"
Olympus has been making a 50mm f/2 Macro for the 4/3 system for about five years or so.
Or did you forget?:
Although technically 1:2 magnification, Olympus says it is 1:1 equivalent to 35mm.

I was pretty interested until I read that it was APS only. I would really like to have a 60/2 on my A900. I always thought that the 58mm lenses that were available in the early days of 35mm film cameras were really nice focal lengths. I wish the lens manufacturers (besides Pentax) would get more creative with focal length offerings instead of just following everyone else.

"...most of which extend in a manner that would make a Victorian lady faint."

lmao! (laughing my $&* off!)

if the 90mm is anything to go by, then this will probably give the camera-brand 'normal' macros a good run for their money. i have hardly heard anyone have problems with the 90mm's optical or build quality(including me).

however, if it's APS-C only or even full-frame sans aperture ring, i probably wouldn't be lining up for it though the f/2 is quite tempting.

What a delightful little review. Thank you.

You asked for it ;-)

I'd guess the majority of modern macro lenses which focus to 1:1 are IF designs.
I can personally attest that Nikons AFS VR 105 mm and Sigmas 150 mm are; and from Nikon's product literature the AFS 60 mm and the aging AF 200 mm are IFs, as well ...


fastest??? how about zeiss zf/zk 100m f/2 maKro?

I can't wait to see what you think of the Pentax 55mm ƒ/1.4 portrait lens.

Well in fact, all of Canon's autofocus macro lenses have internal focusing (EF-S 60mm f/2.8 USM, EF 100mm f/2.8 USM, EF 180mm f/3.5L USM).

Since I cannot use the EF-S on my camera bodies, and since I wouldn't go as far as buying the massive and expensive 180mm (which is likely harder to work with hand held — it even comes with a tripod mount ring), the 100mm was the logical choice.

It is an exceptionally sharp lens (the sharpest of all my lenses, by far), so I use it as a portrait lens as well as for macro work.

"Just a note, but the revolutionary Tamron 90mm Macro introduced in 1979 was the SP 90mm f2.5 Adaptall-II with a dedicated 1:1 converter. It only went to 1:2 normally...[snip].

Thank you kindly for the information. I've corrected the post and added your name as a source.

Shows what I get for relying on the steel sieve instead of doing my homework....


"Olympus has been making a 50mm f/2 Macro for the 4/3 system for about five years or so. Or did you forget?"

Photogdave (and Mishka),
Here's Tamron's actual wording from the press release:

"The SP AF60mm is a medium telephoto macro lens designed for APS-C size digital SLR cameras that realizes the fast maximum aperture of F/2.0 for the first time in the world(*2)."

"(*2) As of March 1, 2009, according to Tamron's research of 50–60mm life-size macro lenses designed for exclusive use on digital SLR cameras"


Of course, I hope it's good, but I'm not entirely convinced of its utility.

In the non-macro, wide-aperture department, it also has to compete with the 50mm f/1.4 and f/1.8's (or, on Pentax, the 55mm f/1.4; or possibly with the manual-focus Voigtländer 58mm f/1.4).

In the macro department, longer is often better -- for the sake of working distance (as long as it doesn't get out of hand for indoor work; things are still fine at 90mm). A 100mm working distance at 1:1 would be something, since the Tamron 90mm macro has a 95mm working distance from the filter ring (not the front element). But the latter hardly needs a hood, since the front element is deeply recessed. With a hood, the working distance of the new 60mm might get cut down quite a bit.

I would have rather Tamron came out with a competitor to Sigma's 150mm macro (which occupies the sweet spot of being significantly longer than the 90-105mm macros, but much cheaper than the 180-200mm macros).

I applaud Tamron for this lens. My "lowly" Sigma 105mm f/2.8 macro with VLF (Victorian Lady Fainting) focus style serves me well for my occasional macro needs, but I can see this lens having a market if it comes in around $400.

What I applaud Tamron for is taking advantage of APS-C: They can make a smaller, faster lens.

60mm makes sense as it's 90mm-equiv., and they have a reputation to keep at that focal length, although for some it will be too short as a macro. However, seeing as they dubbed their 90mm macro the "portrait macro lens", this will be the same for APS-C if it retains contrast wide open.

I hope people understand they couldn't make it 90mm because then it would be in direct competition with their full-frame version.

Fourteen elements! Holy cow. What happened to non-zoom lenses with five elements?

@Fred W: IS is a real mixed bag for macro work. It's extremely useful at moderate magnifications, but once you get to higher than about 1:4 magnification the usefulness of IS drops of very rapidly. At 1:1 IS is useless, it simply can't compensate for the extremely minute shifts necessary.

This is the primary reason why you won't see much in the way of IS macros. Nikon's 105VR is it for now, or at least until Panasonic's 45mm f2.8 OIS Macro shows up. Note both of those lenses are also intended as general-purpose medium telephotos.

I purchased the Tamron SP 90/2.5 Macro new when it was in production in the 1980s, and after trading many lenses back and forth over the years, that one's remained a keeper. It tested well against the comparable Leitz offering of the day, as I recall, and it still holds up well both for film and digital.

With a macro you always lose 2 stops going from infinity to 1:1, this was masked by in camera meters for years, but now the way Nikon has their meter readout you notice the loss. Often IF lenses lose focal length going to 1:1.
Also shake reduction isn't as effective at macro magnifications. While Nikon says they get 2-4 stop at infinity with the 105 only 0-1 stop reduction at 1:1.
Other f2 macros, the Zeiss 100 f2 and Zeiss 50 f2.

"I can't wait to see what you think of the Pentax 55mm ƒ/1.4 portrait lens."

Hear, hear. I'm intrigued as well.

I had a decently sized comment, but it's gone poof, so let's see what I remember...

Well, firstly, Tamron makes a 180/3.5 that's been out for some time now. So I think T's main complaint should be addressed. It's not too expensive either. I recall it's the price of most first-party 100/105 macros.

60/2 is nice combination for an APS camera. In fact it's another lens to address those who have been complaining about the lack of a short portrait lens for the APS sensors.

Oh, and one more thing; macro lenses all cheat to some extent; at 1:1 they'll shrink their focal length. Due to the way lenses work they'll also shrink their maximum aperture. IF or not it doesn't make a difference, other than have some lens manufacturers (I'm looking at you Sigma) cheating a lot more.

I'm anxious to see some video podcast reviews of this lens in action by professional photographers.

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