Hands On with the Tamron SP AF60mm f/2.0 Di II LD 1:1 Macro Lens

Sept 21, 2009
By Dan Havlik, PDN's Technology Specialist

Tamron 60mm

Macro photography fans have eagerly awaited Tamron's new SP AF60mm f/2.0 Di II LD 1:1 Macro lens since it was announced back in March and with good reason – a high-quality lens for close-up photography at an affordable price is hard to come by.

Add in the fact that the Tamron 60mm f/2.0 ($569) is designed for more common – and less expensive – digital SLRs with APS-C sensors rather than full-frame models, and you have a Macro lens for the everyman photographer.

While making something affordable in this rotten economy is always welcome, everyman pricing can sometimes mean everyman quality, i.e. ok, decent, middle-of-the-road, not bad…dull…blah…zzzzzzz.

I'm happy to report that the Tamron 60mm f/2.0 is no snooze though. The Canon version of the lens I tested out – it also comes in Nikon and Sony flavors – performed wonderfully, offering precise close-up focusing and gorgeous shallow depth of field thanks to its fast f/2.0 aperture.

If you thought quality sub-f/2.8 glass was out of your price range, check out this Recession-friendly true 1:1 Macro lens from Tamron.

New Workhorse

The Tamron 60mm f/2.0 is a digital-oriented follow-up to the company's long-time mid-range Macro workhorse – the SP AF90mm f/2.8 Macro 1:1. On digital SLRs with APS-C sensors – such as the Canon 50D I tested it out on – the Tamron 60mm f/2.0 becomes approximately a 93mm lens which provides a relatively comfortable working distance from the floral, fauna, and tiny critters I was photographing up close and personal.

© Dan Havlik


I say "relatively comfortable" working distance because several times I did block the light source while capturing Macro images of bugs and flowers with the lens, which is able to focus as close as 0.23mm from the subject. Typically, I like a telephoto Macro of about 150mm but that's a personal preference.

If you feel you're blocking the light with the Tamron 60mm, you might want to throw on a ring flash. (For a recommendation, check out my review of the Metz Mecablitz 15 MS-1 Digital in the upcoming October issue of PDN.) Also, I experienced no problems in accidentally capturing the shadow of the lens barrel with the Tamron 60mm f/2.0, which was a plus.

The two major attractions of this lens are its very fast f/2.0 aperture and its 1:1 "true" Macro capability, i.e. the object you're shooting a close-up of – such as an insect or delicate plant life – is the same size as the image on the digital sensor for "true-to-life capture." The fact that Tamron offers both these features in a lens designed for APS-C sensor cameras rather than pricier "full-frame" DSLRs is part of the reason the 60mm f/2.0 has generated so much excitement. (And you can't knock the $569 price tag.)

The Sweetest Spot

In terms of performance, I found the f/2.0 aperture worked very well in helping me handle mixed and low light conditions while producing artful shallow depth of field.

In one shot shown on this page, I was able to capture a tack sharp close-up of a sliver of a bumblebee's wing and surrounding hairs while parts of the flower it was sitting on washed out in a fiery red and yellow blur. (Experimenting with where to position the tiny sweet spot of focus while shooting at f/2.0 is half the fun with this lens.)

It's been a cloudy and rainy summer in New York and even though I was photographing flowers in dull overcast conditions, the f/2.0 aperture created bright, peppy results with rich colors, particularly the reds and pinks.

As might be expected, the Tamron 60mm f/2.0 also functions well as a portrait lens, producing lovely bokeh behind your subject. I do have to say I didn't achieve the same level of sharpness in my portraits as I did with my close-ups, which is not surprising for a Macro lens. (Macros are typically sharpest at their minimum focal distance.)

It's also worth noting that if you want a wider depth of field, the Tamron 60mm f/2.0 can go to f/22 which lends some additional versatility to this lens. (If you're like me though, you'll probably stick to f/2.0 for that "beautiful blur.")

In terms of design, the polycarbonate/metal Tamron 60mm f/2.0 is Spartan and solid with a comfortable rubber focus grip on the front. Because the lens uses an internal focusing system, it doesn't extended when focusing which keeps the package compact. (Though the 1.5-inch lens hood does eat into your working distance a bit.)

The Bottom Line

With the SP AF60mm f/2.0 Di II LD 1:1 Macro lens, Tamron has produced one of the best, if not the best, pieces of close-up glass of the year. And for just $569, this f/2.0 1:1 lens for DSLRs with APS-C sensors is a bargain.


Pros: A bright, fast, "true" Macro lens for APS-C DSLRs at a reasonable price

Cons: Would prefer slightly more working distance; not the same level of sharpness for portraits as for close-ups

Price: $569

H4D60 Hasselblad Announces H4D Digital Medium Format System with new True Focus AF (Updated)
September 25, 2009 - Faster focus in new system targeted toward fashion photographers; easier-to-use Phocus 2.0 software also announcedMore
New Horseman Products Will Convert Your DSLR Lens Into a Wide-Angle or a Macro
Redrock Micro Updates Video DSLR Rigs with Carbon Fiber
Pentax 645D Medium-Format Digital Camera On Track for 2010
Sinar Shake-up Seen As Medium-Format Maker Eyes Split
HP Unveils ENVY Line of Laptops and Slim ProBook 5310m Notebook Computer
The Hasselblad and two of the lights were mounted on scaffolding 16 feet above the large set. The wide-angle lens helped establish a sense of depth. Technically Speaking: Hugh Kretschmer's New Twist on Kite Flying
September 21, 2009 - An inventive approach to depicting people flying: an image created in the studio and shot in-camera.