Review: Canon 135mm & Tamron 90mm

I recently went for a stroll around Parramatta Park with my dad, to try out a couple of lenses. This one was taken with his Tamron SP AF 90mm f/2.8 Di macro lens (Fred Miranda review). I really enjoyed using this lens: it’s light and sharp, and the results are very pleasing (my shots on flickr with this lens). The autofocus is a known issue in low light, so you would expect to focus manually more often with it.

The macro results are lovely. To date I’ve been using extension tubes for macro shots (typically flowers, e.g. the In bloom set on flickr). As well as excellent sharpness and less vignetting, the Tamron 90mm gives a different kind of bokeh, I fancy. Images taken with the extension tubes have a certain ‘frosted’ feel to their backgrounds, as if viewed through ground glass.

Of course, sometimes that’s what you want: so a 20mm tube with the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 wide open would give blurry, pinhole-like images, whereas the straight Tamron would be quite sharp even at f/2.8. Here are some shots with the Tamron:

To compare, here are some images taken using extension tubes and the 50mm f/1.4:

I also rented the Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM from The Front for the weekend, as an experiment in try-before-you-buy (my shots on flickr with this lens). It’s considered by some to be the best in its class, but I found it too unwieldy to use as an everyday, walkaround lens (it’s both heavy and large) – far too heavy to take travelling. Admittedly, the optics are amazing. And having never used a fixed length mid-range telephoto lens before, I found 135mm quite awkward: not quite long enough to hit people on the other side of the street – so more suited to studio work (plenty of room, with tripods etc.).


Trolley (1/1000, f/2.8, ISO 200, taken with a Canon EOS 5D using a Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM lens)

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Posted on March 20, 2011

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