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Full review of the Tamron 60mm F/2 Di II macro lens

APRIL2011/tam60mmkit.jpg
Box and contents

 
 
The Sony A580 was used for this review.  For a better understanding of terms and methods used in this review, go here.
 
 
The usual center, mid-section and corner crops are located at the very bottom of the page.
 
  
 
Introduction.
 
Tamron introduced the 60mm F/2 Di II [IF] LD macro lens in 2009.  As of the time of this review, it's the fastest AF macro lens available with a 1:1 reproduction rate.  If you carry a wide-angle zoom around normally as I do, this somewhat small lens could be put in a jacket pocket and serve as a fast, medium telephoto lens, with an equivalent coverage of 90mm in full frame terms.  
 
Found on the outside of the lens: a focus distance window, (no DOF scale), a rubber ribbed manual focusing ring, and an AF/MF switch on the left side.  Build materials are mostly plastic, but metal is used for the mount.  Build quality is good, but nothing to write home about.  The lens body has an appealing black finish similar to Sony camera bodies, and it matches well.  Tamron claims the use of two "LD" elements in the design of the lens.  The lens says "made in Japan."
 
Use.  This is a macro lens, meaning it's been optimized for close focusing on flat subjects.  It's very sharp and impressive at F/5.6-8 in macro range, but diffraction is very noticeable from F/11-22.  In product photography, I use F/11-22 most of the time, and find this lens to be noticeably softer than the Sony 100mm F/2.8 macro at those apertures.  At longer distances, the Tamron 60mm F/2 is excellent, and is far sharper at F/2.8 than the Sony 100mm macro.  I guess it all depends on what you plan on using it for.  For a walk-around medium telephoto, it's darn good.  For product shot photography, I'd probably look at something else.
 
The aperture blades form a nice circle between F/2-8, however, at F/11-16 the hole becomes oblong.  
 
EXIF data reads the correct 60mm focal length.
 
In the box is the lens, front and rear caps, plastic solid hood, and owner's manual.  
 
Focusing.  This lens has a relatively quiet motor inside to provide focusing, (similar to Sony's SAM) and doesn't use the slot-screw type system that's typical for older lenses from Minolta and Sony.  All focusing is done internally, so the lens doesn't extend out like many macro lenses.  My copy has somewhat poor auto-focusing, being slow and not very accurate, but I've heard others generally don't have the accuracy problem; could be a little QC issue for Tamron.  The focusing ring has some back and forth slop, so it isn't the best for accurate manual focusing, but does provide a lot of movement to help out, about 7/8 of a turn for close-in to infinity.  I found getting sharp focus using the optical viewfinder is pretty easy, and by using live view focus check it's very easy, and accurate, (if your camera has this feature), although that procedure is not super handy.  There is instant manual focus override when in auto-focus mode, just turn the focus ring at any time to adjust, this feature is great when the lens doesn't want to focus on the right thing.  Unfortunately, there are no focus limiter or focus stop buttons to help with focusing, those items are typically omitted on after-market lenses as a cost saving measure.  The minimum "working" focusing distance is about 4" or 101mm, that's still a lot of room for a 60mm macro lens, and is the result of the internal focusing design.
 

 

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Requisite product shots.

APRIL2011/tam60mmsd.jpg
Side shot
APRIL2011/tam60mmbk2.jpg
Back side showing AF/MF switch
APRIL2011/tam60mmftel.jpg
Front element
APRIL2011/tam60mmxray.jpg
Tamron X-ray view

 
 
General information and specifications.

Lens

Box contents

Front cap, rear cap, hood, and users manual.

Cost

Approximately $524,  but often on sale for far less.

Build quality

Ok to good.

Additional information

Made for APS-C cameras, but also works on full frame with hard clipping of the extreme corners.  

Specifications below

 

Optical configuration

14 elements in 10 groups

Angle of view

23˚ APS-C 

Aperture

7 blades, curved

Full frame and APS-C

Made for APS-C cameras.

Depth of field and focus scales?

Focus distance scale.

Minimum focus, image plane to subject

About 9"  (230mm)

Minimum focus, end of lens barrel to subject

About 4.0"  (101mm) 

Hard stop at infinity focus?

No.

Length changes when focusing?

No.

Focus ring turns in AF?

No

Filter size

55mm.

Filter ring rotates?

No

Distance encoder?

N/A
 

Max magnification

1:1 

Min. F/stop

F/22  

Sony teleconverter compatible?

No

Length changes when zooming?

N/A

Dimensions WxL  (my measurements)

2.8" x 3.2"   72mm x 82mm.  

Maximum  extended length (my measurements)

3.2"  (82mm)                                                    

Weight bare (my scale)

12.5oz  (355g) bare

 
 
Optical qualities summary.
 
 
Lens flare/ghosting.  Good control.  I mostly see a small orange blob in the image when the sun is close, or inside the frame, see examples below.
 
Light fall-off.  A little at F/2, but no problems.  See samples below.

Color fringing (CA).  Lateral color fringing control is above average.  I see just a little magenta and green at the edges of the image.  See example farther down the page.  You see some axial color fringing too, but it clears up mostly by F/5.6.
 
Bokeh.  Smooth, and best at F/2, see examples below.
 
Color.   Seems about the same as Sony lenses.
 
Close up filter.  N/A    
 
Coma.  None.
 
Regular filters cause no additional light fall-off.  
 
Filter size.  55mm.  Sony lenses that use 55mm filters are; 35mm F/1.8, 100mm macro, 50mm macro, 50mm F/1.4, 35mm F/1.4 G, 18-70mm, 18-55mm, 55-200mm, and the 75-300mm.
 
Distortion.  Minor barrel, with simple curve.
 
Distortion example directly below.
 

APRIL2011/tam60mmdis.jpg
Minor barrel distortion

 

Distortion is not a problem with this lens, but if you look closely you'll see minor barrel distortion with a simple curve, which is easy to fix in post processing.

 

 

Bokeh samples.

 

           F/2

             F/2.8

APRIL2011/tam60mmbokf20.jpg
APRIL2011/tam60mmbokf28.jpg

           F/4

             F/5.6

APRIL2011/tam60mmbokf40.jpg
APRIL2011/tam60mmbokf56.jpg

 

Bokeh looks pretty smooth at wide apertures, but the aperture shape and slight ring shows up when stopped down smaller than F/4. 

 
 
Light fall-off samples.
 

           F/2

              F/2.8

APRIL2011/tam60mmvig20.jpg
APRIL2011/tam60mmvig28.jpg

 
There is minor to moderate light fall-off at F/2, diminishing to almost nothing at F/2.8.  Results are about the same for close-up, and infinity focusing.
 
 
Light fall-off samples from full frame A900.
 

           F/2

              F/2.8

APRIL2011/tamvig1900f20.jpg
APRIL2011/tamvig1900f28.jpg

           F/5.6

              F/22

APRIL2011/tamvig1900f56.jpg
APRIL2011/tamvig1900f22.jpg

 

Although this lens is not made for full frame cameras, if you decide to use it on one, expect heavy light fall-off with clipping of the corners.  Don't worry about this with an APS-C camera. 

 

 

Flare and Ghosting

 

Small red blob F/5.6.

Green blobs F/5.6.

APRIL2011/tam60mmgst2.jpg
APRIL2011/tam60mmgst1.jpg

 
Ghosting control is pretty good, as seen above.  When the sun is in the image, there seems to be just one amber/orange colored blob visible, but severity depends on angle and aperture.  In most images, I saw the small orange blob, and not the green blobs you see in the right image.
 

 

Light loss at high magnification. 

 

Here are the approximate F-numbers you will get as you increase the magnification, I made the table below by actual exposure sampling.  These numbers will not be indicated on the camera, and will still read F/2 even at 1:1 magnification, but look at your shutter speeds and you'll notice the loss.  This is for your information only, so just shoot away, the camera will adjust your exposure automatically.  I'm simply providing this in case you're wondering why your shutter speeds are so low when the LCD says F/2.

 

Magnification

F-number

1:10

2

1:5

2.2

1:3

2.5

1:2

2.8

1:1.5

3.2

1:1.2

3.5

1:1

4

 
 
 
Let's check out the macro capabilities of this lens.

The sample shot was taken with the Sony A 580 16.2MP camera, so don't compare it with some others that were taken with the 12.2mp A700.  The subject is a standard US stamp, 0.87"x 1.0" or 22mm x 25mm.  Also, note the macro shot was taken as close to the subject as focusing allowed; in this case a very short 4" (101mm), measured from the front of the lens barrel to the subject.  
 
This lens has a reproduction size of 1:1 which is true macro.  The full 1:1 stamp shot is displayed at full size by clicking the image, (3.7mb), as a reminder, you're only seeing half the stamp because at 1:1 it focuses so close you can't get the whole stamp inside the image.  I see a very sharp stamp shot, equal to, or better than other full macro shots tested here.  F/5.6-8 were sharpest at close focus.  As a side note; the "1996" on the bottom left of the stamp measures a mere 1mm wide.  
 

APRIL2011/tam60mac466e.jpg
As close as you can get, F/8.

 

 

Lateral color fringing.

 

APRIL2011/tam60mmcf.jpg
Color fringing crop from far right side. F/5.6

 

This crop is from the last 700 pixels on the middle right side.  I see some magenta color fringing (and a little cyan) along the tree branches, but it's controlled well overall, and not really noticeable unless viewed closely.

 

 

 

  
Conclusion. 
 

The Tamron 60mm F/2 macro lens has some really nice qualities, and a couple of negatives, but first the good stuff; it's sharp at F/2 in the centers, and really sharp across the frame at F/5.6, which makes it a great walk-around medium telephoto lens, and is small enough to carry in a jacket pocket if a prime like this is too confining for you. 

 

Now for the negatives; my copy has less-than-adequate focusing accuracy, but I may have received a less-than-perfect copy, which is unusual for Tamron.  I've reviewed about half a dozen Tamron lenses as of this review, and never had a problem before.  The other issue is diffraction when stopped down smaller than F/8.  The image is noticeably soft at F/11, and gets worse at F/16-22, this is something you'll need to consider if you plan on using this lens for product photography, where working apertures are in the range of F/11-22 to get the depth of field on small stuff up-close, so if you're looking to do that kind of work, you may want to check out the Sony 100mm macro lens, which is much sharper at those apertures when focused close.  I use the Sony 100mm F/2.8 macro for my product shots, and I tried the Tamron 60mm for shots of a future review lens, and noticed the sharpness differences right away.  Again, if you aren't planning on using really small apertures, like F/11-22, this doesn't matter.

 

I would highly recommend the Tamron 60mm F/2 lens when used out in the field at longer distances, where F/2 can come in handy for getting a defocused background, or hand-held available light situations.  For people wanting a good macro lens with plenty of working distance, and will be using it at close focus, I'd recommend the Sony 100mm macro

 

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Sample crops from the centers, mid-sections and corners.

 

 

          Center

          Mid-section

             Corner

F/2

APRIL2011/tam60mmctrf20.jpg
APRIL2011/tam60mmmidf20.jpg
APRIL2011/tam60mmcornf20.jpg

F/2.8

APRIL2011/tam60mmctrf28.jpg
APRIL2011/tam60mmmidf28.jpg
APRIL2011/tam60mmcornf28.jpg

F/4

APRIL2011/tam60mmctrf40.jpg
APRIL2011/tam60mmmidf40.jpg
APRIL2011/tam60mmcornf40.jpg

F/5.6

APRIL2011/tam60mmctrf56.jpg
APRIL2011/tam60mmmidf56.jpg
APRIL2011/tam60mmcornf56.jpg

F/8

APRIL2011/tam60mmctrf80.jpg
APRIL2011/tam60mmmidf80.jpg
APRIL2011/tam60mmcornf80.jpg

F/11

APRIL2011/tam60mmctrf11.jpg
APRIL2011/tam60mmmidf11.jpg
APRIL2011/tam60mmcornf11.jpg

 

There isn't much difference in sharpness in any of the crops, but if you look closely, you'll see the centers sharpen up nicely at F/2.8, (look at roof tiles) with the mid-sections and corners following a stop or two later.  Diffraction is very noticeable at F/11.  Maximum performance seems to be around F2.8-4 in the centers, F/5.6 in the mid-sections, and corners.  Exposure differences are from light fall-off.

 

Please check out the Tamron 60mm F/2 Di II macro at B&H Photo and help support the site!