Tamron SP AF 180mm f/3.5 Di LD (IF) Macro 1:1

Tamron SP AF 180mm F/3.5 Di LD (IF) Macro 1:1
Resident lens reviewer, Gary Wolstenholme drags images closer to him with the Tamron 180mm Macro lens.

This telephoto macro lens allows frame filling shots of small subjects at double the working distance of a 90mm macro lens.

A longer focal length macro lens like this is often popular with photographers who shoot timid subjects such as insects or other applications which require high magnification and a longer working distance than 90mm or 100mm macro lenses afford.

Tamron's 180mm costs around £700 and sports features such has an internal focus design, which means the lens doesn't extend during focusing. Sigma also offer two macro lenses around this focal range. Their 180mm macro is also internal focusing, but also has a Hyper-Sonic focus motor and fulltime manual focus override and costs around £490. A 150mm macro is also available for around £570, which sports a brighter maximum aperture of f/2.8, but loses a bit of working distance to the 180mm lenses.

Even though this lens is not the cheapest on offer at this spec, it is still considerably cheaper than the marque equivalents. Canon offer a 180mm macro lens with Ultrasonic focusing which costs around £1277. Nikon's 200mm f/4 costs around £1110 and fills this gap in their line-up, but is quite an old lens design, so focus is powered by the camera's focus motor. Sony do not currently offer a macro lens of this focal length, so this lens may be of particular interest to Sony camera owners.

Tamron SP AF 180mm f/3.5 Di LD (IF) Macro 1:1: Handling and features
The build and finish of this lens is typical of Tamron's SP series of lenses with the lens barrel being constructed from high-quality plastics. For a lens of its specification, it feels quite light-weight, despite being solidly put together.

A large rubber focus ring takes up about half the length of the lens, giving plenty of purchase. The manual focus action is smooth and well damped, making fine manual adjustments possible. To switch between auto-focus and manual, the whole focus ring can be slid back and forth, making it easy to change modes quickly. Although this isn't as convenient as the full time manual adjustments that can be made on some manufacturer's it does the job well, and no further adjustments need to be made to the camera when switching modes. Unfortunately this isn't the case on the Sony/Minolta version of this lens and the AF/MF switch will still need to be adjusted along with the position of the focus ring.

The lens supplied has a standard focusing motor built-in, which tracks through the focus range in its own time. Luckily, in good light, the lens locks on accurately when it gets there. In poor light, the lens will hunt around, and manual focus is often the preferred option. A focus limiter switch would've been quite welcome here.

Due to the internal focus design, shooting with filters poses no issues as the lens does not extend at close focus and the front filter thread does not rotate. Tamron's Filter Effect Control (FEC) system is a nice touch, allowing polarising filters to be rotated with the supplied lens hood attached by turning a ring at the end of the lens barrel.

Tamron SP AF 180mm f/3.5 Di LD (IF) Macro 1:1: Performance
For this review, the lens was tested on a 12Mp Nikon D700 using Imatest.

Wide open at F/3.5 yields results with acceptable resolution across the frame. The performance at these apertures is certainly not poor, but stopping the lens down a few stops shows what this lens is truly capable of resolution-wise. The improvement from F/4 to F/5.6 is dramatic and although the resolution in the centre of the frame peaks at F/8, F/11 produces the best weighted resolution result as the sharpness is virtually excellent from corner to corner. This resolution characteristic will really suit those who like to stop down to increase the depth of field when shooting macro.

Tamron SP AF 180mm f/3.5 Di LD (IF) Macro 1:1: Resolution at 180mm
Tamron SP AF 180mm F/3.5 Di LD (IF) Macro 1:1: Resolution at 180mm
Two separate elements constructed from Low Dispersion glass are employed in this lens, which helps to keep chromatic aberrations to an absolute minimum. Imatest only managed to record the slightest trace of colour aberrations during testing.

Tamron SP AF 180mm f/3.5 Di LD (IF) Macro 1:1: Chromatic Aberrations at 180mm
Tamron SP AF 180mm F/3.5 Di LD (IF) Macro 1:1: Chromatic Aberrations at 180mm
Light falloff in the corners is reasonably well-controlled, with the corners of the image being 1.46 stops darker than the centre at f/3.5. Stopping down to f/5.6 all but eliminates this effect.

As you would expect with a fixed-focal lens, distortion is very well controlled. Imatest reocorded only 0.181% pincushion distortion, which should pose no problems during normal shooting.

A small amount of ghosting and flare can be seen in images with strong point sources of light in the frame. Contrast can also be reduced by strong back-lighting, although it's performance here is in line with other similar lenses. The supplied lens hood is deep enough to do a sterling job of shielding the front element of the lens from extraneous light, reducing the chances of flare happening in the first place.

Tamron SP AF 180mm f/3.5 Di LD (IF) Macro 1:1: Verdict
In testing, this lens has proved itself capable of excellent results especially when stopped down to f/5.6 or smaller.

Those requiring the extra working distance this lens affords for their macro work will almost certainly be pleased with the performance of this lens, and at just over half the price of marque equivalents, it is definitely worthy of consideration.

Tamron SP AF 180mm f/3.5 Di LD (IF) Macro 1:1: Pros
Resolution when stopped down to F/5.6 or smaller
Fantastic control of Colour Aberrations
FEC is a nice touch
Good build quality
Good value for money

Tamron SP AF 180mm f/3.5 Di LD (IF) Macro 1:1: Cons
Resolution at f/3.5
Slow auto focus
No focus limiter switch

Tamron SP AF 180mm f/3.5 Di LD (IF) Macro 1:1: Ratings

Tamron SP AF 180mm f/3.5 Di LD (IF) Macro 1:1: Lens specification
Price: £700
Contact: http://www.tamron.co.uk/
Filter size: 77mm
Format: Full Frame
Construction: 14 elements in 11 groups
Angle-of-view: 14°
35mm equivalent focal length (on APS-C body): 270mm
Internal focusing: Yes
Image stabilisation: No
Minimum focus: 46cm
Maximum aperture: f/3.5
Minimum aperture: f/32
Weight: 920g
Size (lxw): 165.7x84.8mm
In the box: Lens Hood, Case, Removable Tripod Stand

The Tamron SP AF 180mm F/3.5 Di LD (IF) Macro 1:1 costs £699.99 and is available from Warehouse Express here:

Tamron SP AF 180mm f/3.5 Di LD (IF) Macro 1:1 - Canon Fit

Tamron SP AF 180mm f/3.5 Di LD (IF) Macro 1:1 - Sony/Minolta Fit

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