A fast, well-built macro lens for cameras with APS-C sized image sensors.Tamron's SP AF 60mm f/2 Di II Macro lens is considerably lighter and a full f-stop faster than the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens we reviewed recently. This SP (Super Performance) lens covers a focal length equivalent to 93mm in 35mm format with Nikon and Sony cameras or 96mm on the Canon EOS 40D camera we used for our review, which makes it also suitable for portraiture. . . [more]
Tamron's SP AF 60mm f/2 Di II Macro lens is considerably lighter and a full f-stop faster than the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens we reviewed recently. This SP (Super Performance) lens covers a focal length equivalent to 93mm in 35mm format with Nikon and Sony cameras or 96mm on the Canon EOS 40D camera we used for our review, which makes it also suitable for portraiture.
Unlike the Canon lens, the SP AF 60mm f/2 Di II Macro can't be used with camera bodies that have 36 x 24mm sensors because it's been designed for a smaller image circle. (This largely accounts for its smaller size and lighter weight.) It also lacks two features of the Canon lens: image stabilisation and a USM focus drive.
Compact and relatively light to carry, this lens comes with Internal Focusing (IF) and a Full Time Manual Focus Control Mechanism. Its key features are its fast f/2 maximum aperture, which enables photographers to isolate subjects from their backgrounds, and the 1:1 reproduction ratio, which indicates ‘true' macro capability.
The minimum focusing distance is 23 cm, which gives users an actual working distance from the front of the lens hood to the subject of approximately 10 cm when shooting at 1:1 size. This is fine for photographing subjects like flowers and inanimate objects but a bit close for insects and other small animals.
Although it has a largely polycarbonate body, this lens is built to befit its price tag. It's also attractively finished with the characteristic Tamron gold ring around the middle of the barrel. The stainless steel mounting plate is robust and the lens is supplied with a cylindrical lens hood that has a bayonet mounting. Plastic front and end caps are also provided.
Side view of the new Tamron SP AF 60mm f/2 Di II Macro lens, shown without its lens hood. (Source: Tamron.)
The optical components in this lens consist of 14 elements in 10 groups. Two low-dispersion (LD) elements are included to minimise chromatic aberration. Tamron makes no mention of coatings in its description of this lens - or in the product specifications but we can probably assume some coatings have been applied to reduce flare and ghosting as neither was evident to a noticeable degree in our tests.
The diagram above shows the optical construction of this lens with the two LD elements coloured green for easy identification. (Source: Tamron.)
A broad (30 mm wide) focusing ring is located just behind the front of the lens barrel. This ring has a deeply-ridged, rubber-like coating that provides a secure grip. In manual mode, it rotates through just over half a turn as you move from the closest focus to infinity. It does not move in AF mode.
Just behind the focusing ring is a recessed distance scale, marked in metres and feet. Also located on the side of this section of the lens barrel is the AF/MF slider switch. There's no built-in stabilisation and no focus limiter, which is unfortunate as both would be assets had they been provided.
Internal focusing means the lens remains the same length throughout the focusing range. The front element does not rotate, allowing use of angle-critical attachments. Autofocusing is driven by a conventional micro-motor that is quite noisy in operation. This lens supports FTM (full-time manual) focusing, which means you can over-ride the AF when desired, provided the camera is in one shot AF mode. Unfortunately, this lens is prone to hunting at close focusing distances and in dim lighting, both situations where a focus limiter would have been useful.
When fitted to the EOS 40D camera body we used for our tests, the SP AF 60mm f/2 Di II Macro proved to be a comfortable, well-balanced match. It protruded approximately 80mm from the camera body without the hood. Adding the hood extended the overall length to 124 mm.
Internal focusing means the lens remains the same length throughout the focusing range. The front element does not rotate, allowing use of angle-critical attachments. Autofocusing is driven by a conventional micro-motor, rather than an ultrasonic drive. We found it to be quite noisy in operation. This lens also supports FTM (full-time manual) focusing, which means you can over-ride the AF when desired, as long as the camera is in one-shot AF mode.
The broad (30 mm wide) focusing ring is located just behind the front of the lens barrel. This ring has a deeply-ridged, rubber-like coating that provides a secure grip. In manual mode, it rotates through just over half a turn as you move from the closest focus to infinity. It does not move in AF mode.
Just behind the focusing ring is a recessed distance scale, marked in metres and feet. Also located on the side of this section of the lens barrel is the AF/MF slider switch. There's no built-in stabilisation, which would have been useful in many situations.
The cylindrical lens hood was easy to fit and remove. It reverses over the lens for storage. It did not interfere with the built-in flash on the EOS 40D, allowing us to use flash when necessary.
Precise focusing in both AF and MF modes was challenging when the camera was hand-held, particularly with a wide aperture setting, which provides a very shallow depth-of-field. In AF mode, this lens was prone to hunting at close focusing distances. Hunting was also common in dim lighting.
When the camera was tripod-mounted, it became easier to focus manually, particularly with the Live View mode on the EOS 40D enabled. Being able to magnify the displayed view makes it easier to focus on the subject and you can check depth-of-field at the same time.
Imatest showed the review lens to be capable of matching - and slightly exceeding - the potential resolution of the EOS 40D body we used for our tests. Some edge softening was measured at wider lens apertures, with the highest resolution delivered between f/2.8 and f/5. Diffraction reduced resolution from about f/8 onwards, with a sharp decline from f/11. The graph below shows the results of our tests.
Lateral chromatic aberration hovered around the border between ‘low' and ‘moderate' in our Imatest tests. In the graph below, the red line marks the boundary between ‘negligible and ‘low' CA, while the green line separates ‘low' from ‘moderate' CA.
Vignetting was generally quite low. We measured a centre-to-edge brightness discrepancy of 1/3 EV at f/2, which faded down to less than 1/5 EV at f/2.8. No vignetting could be measured from f/3.5 onwards. Rectilinear distortion was also minimal with very slight barrel distortion visible at both the normal and macro focusing distances.
Bokeh (out-of-focus blurring) is an important feature in fast macro lenses and we found the review lens produced quite pleasing bokeh overall. Some longitudinal chromatic aberration could be seen along contrasty out-of-focus edges in a few test shots but stopping down to f/5 largely eliminated it.
Buy this lens if:
- You want a well-built macro lens with a wide maximum aperture.
- You'd like to be able to over-ride the AF system and focus manually while in AF mode.
- You want a lens that requires no readjustment when you fit filters.
Don't buy this lens if:
- You'd like image stabilisation for hand-held close-up work.
- You require a lens with quiet autofocusing and little tendency to hunt.
Vignetting at f/2.
Vignetting at f/2.8.
1:1 macro; 1/250 second at f/2; with flash.
1:1 macro; 1/83 second at f/5; with flash.
1/320 second at f/2; ISO 100.
1/100 second at f/8; ISO 400.
1/320 second at f/2, ISO 200; no flash.
1/1250 second at f/6.4, ISO 400; no flash.
1:1 macro; 1/200 second at f/2, ISO 100; no flash.
1/250 second at f/3.2, ISO 100; no flash.
1:1 macro; 1/320 second at f/5, ISO 200; no flash.
Longitudinal chromatic aberration along contrast boundaries; ISO 400, 1/500 second at f/2.8.
Used as a portrait lens; ISO 400, 1/8 second at f/2.8.
Picture angle: 26 degrees 35 minutes
Maximum aperture: f/2
Minimum aperture: f/22
Lens construction: 14 elements in 10 groups (includes two LD elements)
Lens mount: Canon, Nikon (with built-in motor), Sony
Diaphragm Blades: 7
Focus drive: Micro-motor
Minimum focus: 23 cm
Maximum magnification: 1:1
Filter size: 55 mm
Dimensions (Diameter x L): 73 x 80 mm
Weight: 400 grams
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