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Tamron 60mm f2.0 Macro lens

Tamron's new 60mm macro lens speeds past the competition with its fast f2.0 aperture, a stop faster than the other guy's lens By Robert Jensen

Introduced at the end of March of 2009, Tamron's new 60mm is finally hitting the shelves at the camera stores. What makes this lens stand out more than anything else is its fast f2.0 lens. That's not a typo its a full stop faster than the competition's f2.8 lenses. Two other standout features are internal focus and the use of two low dispersion elements in the design for improved image quality.

While working on this review I wandered around some various forums, reading some early owner experiences with their Tamron 60mm f.20-- they all love the lens. Some of their posted images were impressive. Several forum members did their own comparison tests and gave the lead to the Tamron in image quality. Magazine tests seem to back up what the forum members are saying. This is one sharp lens capable of taking exceptional images.

After shooting awhile with the Tamron I like how it feels in the hand. It takes a 55mm filter, smaller than on similar lenses by other manufacturers. Also supplied in the box is a deep bayonet style lens shade. When working 1:1 its best to remove the shade to prevent it from blocking your light.


I mounted Tamron's latest to my Nikon D300 and put together a little setup on the card table using my Photogenic studio strobe and a medium size Chimera softbox. I grabbed whatever I could find around the house at a moment's notice and this is what I came up with.

Note: All shots in this group were hand held using flash.

Flower. Click for full view


Money. Hand held shot with flash of $10 bill.Click for full view.


Salt. Click for full view

Coins. Click for full view.

What can I say other than the pictures speak for themselves. It has been decades since I did any macro work so I was pleasantly surprised with the results right from the start. With more practice I would expect even better results.
If you plan on doing a lot of macro work I would recommend looking into a macro ringlight or a setup like Nikon's R1 or R1C1 Wireless Close-Up Speedlight System.

One thing to note, as manufacturers keep trying to increase auto-focusing speed they keep cutting back on the mass of the lens. Understandable, but a lot of us old timers still think heavier means better built. I've had to break myself of the 'lighter means cheap and flimsy' mentality, first with the Canon T90 and now with these faster focusing lenses. In the mid price range the Tamron 60mm f2.0 occupies the photographer will get many years of shooting pleasure.

Tip: I noticed that the US Dollar has fallen again against the Japanese Yen, (as of Nov 30th, 2009 its 87.6 Yen = $1 US) so we can expect price increases from all the Japanese manufacturers soon. So if you want to start shooting macro now is a good time to place your order.

Features
Fast f2.0 aperture, one stop faster than the competition.
Working distance of 100mm, the longest in its class. Too short a working distance means your lens can block the light.
Two LD (Low Dispersion) glass elements help correct for visible aberrations by better focusing the various wavelengths of light on the sensor.

Flat field of focus - Most regular lenses have a curved field of focus and you can end up with a problem where your image is out of focus at the edges. This is especially problematical when shooting macro of a flat object, say a $10 bill.

1:1 -- Life size. When shooting with a film camera this meant that a penny shot at 1:1, if laid on the negative/slide, would exactly fit over the image on the film.

6 year USA warranty, better than the competition.
APS-C sized cameras only, although it should work on full size sensor cameras with a crop feature.
Equal to 93mm lens on a 35mm camera, within the focal length range most popular for portraiture. (85-105)
F2.0 helps to isolate background from subject.

Internal focusing, lens won't change length while focusing, which is a must for most macro work. In this situation most photographers have their camera mounted on a tripod. If when you focus a macro lens that extends its length when focusing closer you'll need to reposition your tripod all the time otherwise you could end up with the front lens element hitting your subject.

Full Time Manual Focus Control Mechanism -- means you can keep your camera in AF mode but manually fine tune focus, without having to switch to manual focus. (I love this feature!)
Tamron's BBAR (Broad-Band Anti-Reflection) multi-layer coating. When the switch to digital happened it was found out that some lens designs and older non-coated, mono-coated or multi-coated optics suffered from problems because most image sensors reflect more light than film used to. This could cause lower contrast in your images. A few newer lenses, ones designed for digital use, and newer coatings, like Tamron's BBAR, are now reaching the market to greatly minimize the problem.

The Tamron fits Canon, Nikon (with built-in AF motor) and Sony APS-C sized cameras.


The Tamron 60mm f2.0 isn't just for macro work, it does great on landscapes too. Click for full view.

Wish list:
I tested an early model so things may be different now but while working with the lens I had trouble with the AF/MF switch. It was on the small side and I wasn't sure if I had changed modes unless I checked visually. I wish this lens was packing Tamron's VC (vibration control) setup. There are times when you don't have your tripod with you, or using a tripod would slow you down, where vibration control would be a useful, if a bit pricey, addition. Sony users can benefit from their camera's built-in anti-shake mechanism.

Structure

Specifications
Model G005
Lens Construction (Groups/Elements)  10/14 (2 LD glass elements)
Angle of View 26 35` (APS-C size equivalent)
Diaphragm Blade Number 7
Minimum Focus Distance  9.1in. (0.23m)
Macro Magnification Ratio  1:1
Filter Diameter  55
Weight 400g (14.1oz.) *
Diameter x Length  2.9 x 3.15in.
(73 x 80mm)
Accessory Lens Hood
Mount Canon - Available
Nikon (Built-In Motor) - Coming Soon
Sony - Coming Soon
  
*values given for Nikon AF cameras  


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Robert Jensen has spent most of his 55 years in photography, from the age of 11 when he got his first camera (a Kodak Instamatic) to the present, shooting professionally. From 1971 to 1997 he worked in retail selling photographic equipment to people of all skill levels. For most of that period he was also a manager.
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