Tamron 90mm f/2.8 SP AF Di Macro - £345/$450
A favourite with serious macro photographers over the last eight years, the Tamron 90mm has stood the test of time. Compatible with both full-frame and APS-C-format cameras, it's reasonably compact and only about half the weight of the two 105mm lenses in the group. The front element is recessed within the lens barrel, making the supplied hood something you'll never need.
Unlike most lenses on test, the Tamron lacks internal focusing and almost doubles in overall length at the closest focus setting of 29cm. Even so, there's much less of a problem with casting subjects you're photographing into shadow than with the Nikon 40mm f/2.8G AF-S DX Micro.
With an electric autofocus motor there's no full-time manual override, but a push-pull mechanism on the focus ring makes it quick and easy to switch between focus modes.
Excellent optical quality is the main reason for this lens' success. Autofocus is sluggish but the extra-long travel of the silky smooth focus ring makes it a joy to use for manual focusing. There's also a focus limit switch on both sides of the 40cm mark.
The compact yet competent Tamron delivers great sharpness and contrast, even at its largest aperture of f/2.8.
Sharpness at f/2.8: 2214
Sharpness at f/8: 2241
Sharpness at f/16: 2079
There's a little colour fringing at the extreme corners of the frame but it's not generally noticeable in images.
Fringing at f/2.8: 0.43
Fringing at f/8: 0.19
Fringing at f/16: 0.16
The lens is low on distortion - there's a hint of pin-cushion but you have to look quite hard to see it.
Image quality verdict
Tamron's 90mm boasts an overall image quality that would be good at any price, and is even more appealing considering the lens' low cost.
Read the full Tamron 90mm f/2.8 SP AF Di Macro review