Further readings for the Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di MACRO 1:1 VC USD Nikon
To provide photographers with a broader perspective about mobiles, lenses and cameras, here are links to articles, reviews, and analyses of photographic equipment produced by DxOMark, renown websites, magazines or blogs.
Tamron has an excellent reputation for macro lenses and their 90mm focal length is practically legendary. The latest version has a new state of the art optical design and adds image stabilization (vibration reduction) as well as an ultrasonic type AF motor. Read on to see how well this new significantly updated model performs in our labs.
When I began shooting with my brand new Tamron 90mm F004, I was annoyed to find the VC completely ineffective. With the shutter button half depressed, I could hear what I assumed to be the gyroscopes spinning, yet the viewfinder remained shaky. I could also hear and feel the VC element rattling inside the lens body whenever I moved (even slightly) the camera. The rattling occurred only when VC was engaged.
Long story short: I googled an explanation and found a post in another forum that suggested breaking in VC by letting it run continuously in Live View mode for a few minutes. The suggestion worked. My Tamron's VC was finally working and the rattle was gone.
It's a year later and I decided to give the Tamron VC 90mm Macro another go. The older 90mm Macro (non-VC) was giving me some problems, it wouldn't reliably focus. That is, at times it just wouldn't respond to the shutter. Sometimes after sliding the AF/MF barrel back and forth it would engage. At other times it wouldn't. And at other times it worked immediately. I was also at the stage of really wanting the VC. I travel light on a bike and wanted the benefit of the VC even if it only was useful for non-macro shots.
Bottom line - after a couple of thousand images, macro and non-macro, I love the VC version. It's a great lens and with a six year warranty I'm not going to worry about durability. It's sharp and focuses quickly. I leave the VC on at all times when I'm not on a tripod, and it certainly helps. It's bigger and somewhat heavier than the older version, and the front element is no longer tucked back behind the filter ring, but I usually just leave the lens hood on for protection as I use it without a front filter.
I have owned a Tamron 90mm f2.8 for about four years and have used it on a variety of Nikon bodies. The results have been very good. Hoping to gain the benefit of Vibration Control (Image Stabilization) for my handheld macro shots of flowers and critters I ordered the Tamron 90mm f2.8 VC. An additional 2 or more stops would be very useful for capturing more candid and fleeting shots. The promise of better sharpness was also attractive.
Comparing the two lenses on a Nikon D600 has led me to return the newer Tamron 90mm f2.8 VC. It turns out the VC version is sharper at f2.8 and f4, but the difference is pretty negligible once you hit f5.6, and basically gone by the time you hit f8 and f11, my preferred apertures for the candid shots.
But the real disappointment was with the VC benefit working at macro (1:2 to 1:4, not even 1:1) scales. I estimate the benefit of the VC lens to be about 1, perhaps as much as 2 stops. Not enough to change the way I work, and putting the lens on a tripod or monopod negated the benefit of the VC, and perhaps resulted in slightly softer images.
If I were buying one of these lenses for the first time I would probably opt for the Tamron VC version, but as I already own the non-VC version there was insufficient benefit to move up.
A few additional points:
1. Neither of the lenses is as sharp as an older manual Nikkor 105mm f4 lens that I have. They are pretty close but the Nikkor is sharper and provides better contrast.
2. The VC version of the Tamron 90mm f2.8 lens seems to be about 5mm longer than the non-VC version, perhaps an effective 95mm. This is when the lenses are placed on a fixed position camera, so it may be an issue of how far the lens projects from the body, or the placement of the lens elements relative to the subject. The VC version has one optical element basically at the front of the lens and suggests the use of filter is advisable. The non-VC version has a recessed front lens element seemingly protected from accidental damage.
3. The VC version seems to be about 1/2 or 1/3 stop slower than the non-VC version when shooting in manual mode.
4. The non-VC version works quite nicely when used with an adapter on the Olympus m4/3 system. The images are sharp, contrasty and benefit from the camera's built-in image stabilization. And the effective 180mm focal length permits not getting too close to a 'nervous' subject. But of course it requires manual focusing but will auto meter if used in Aperture Priority mode.
All of this of course largely fits with the technical observations made by the DxO folks.
I really don't understand the test results comparing the Tamron to the Nikon. I own both of the and the Nikon is far, far superior in quality and results. I will never buy another Tamron lens but I love the Nikon 70-200 f/2.8. Not a scientific test but real life use has proven to me that Nikon is a far better lens. It focuses much faster and the AF does not fail every few uses like the Tamron.