Tamron 180mm macro review (f/3.5)
The 180mm focal length is the longest usually used focal length in macro photography. The only longer macro lens is perhaps the Nikon 200mm f/4. These lenses allows longer working distance than the usual 90, 100, and 105 mm lenses.
Built quality – Tamron 180mm macro
The lens is reasonably well built. but feels light compare to the size of the lens. The lens has a longish shape. The lens can switch between manual focus and autofocus by pulling or pushing the lens. This is a good feature for macro photography. The action is not as smooth though as I would like to.
The lens has two rings: a wide manual focus ring and an other ring, which rotates under the filter. First I didn’t understand the aim with the second ring, it actually rotates the filter, together with the hood.
A barell type lens hood is supplied with the lens. The lens has a detachable tripod collar as well.
180mm focal length
The 180mm focal length on crop sensor camera is a little long for general photography like landscapes, portraits, street photography. It is a telephoto focal length: good if you want to capture details, or things from a distance. For portraits 4-5m or more distance needed even for head and shoulder shots. On the other hand is good for flowers, small thing, jewellery you don’t need to be so close to make the picture. Also good for cat dog or other pet photography. For wildlife usually it is too short, 400mm is preferred, but sometimes can be useful from a hide, perhaps combined with a Kenko 1.4x converter. (Canon converters are not fit because of the protruding lens element). On the Full frame camera the field of view is significantly wider, which makes it more useful for portraiture, or general photography.
Tamron 180mm f/3.5 macro specification
Minimal focus distance: 0.47m (1.54″) (250mm working distance)
Optical quality – Tamron 180mm macro
The Tamron 180mm macro is a very fine lens, it produces excellent images. The colors, contrast are very good, distortion is very low if any. The lens is very sharp at f/3.5 already, stopping down to f/5.6 increase sharpness. On my 8 megapixel Canon 30D camera, the lens usable even at f/32. Perhaps this is not the same on newer 16, 18, or 24 megapixel cameras, due to diffraction.
Tamron 180mm macro, f/3.5 ISO 800 1/640s Canon 30D camera
Tamron 180mm macro, f/3.5 ISO 800 1/500s Canon 30D camera
What do you think which aperture the below picture was made ?
It was made at f/29 aperture 1/10s, ISO 1600, Canon 30D 8Mp camera. I don’t guarantee the same detail in 18 Megapixel, but here at 8Mp the amount of detail is surprising for me.
I made lots of pictures of different coins with different apertures, I wanted to check how the picture quality compares to each other in different apertures. According to my judgment on my 8 megapixel camera even the smallest f/32 aperture is usable, with some sharpening. It is not granted for higher pixel count cameras though. At f/16 the pictures are great, but as i said not bad even at f/32. Such small aperture perhaps not needed most cases anyway, and of course tripod is a must at the small aperture. It is funny I like these coins pictures very much, and like to play with the depth of field.
The 180mm focal length enables the lens to blur the background significantly better than the shorter focal length lenses. Although the f/3.5 aperture doesn’t appear too bright, the lens able to blur the background swignificantly even from 5 meters or more. Both the foreground and background blur is very smooth and pleasing.
Compare to the rivals this is a cheaper lens. On the other hand many of the competition has ultrasonic focusing motor, stabilizer, and better build quality.
Compare to / Alternatives / Rivals
There are many alternatives, but most of them has shorter focal length. To compare you simply cannot get the same with a shorter focal length. The shorter lenses are more useful in portrait or general photography for example, but for artists, or really serious shooters the 180mm is more interesting, mostly because of the better bokeh, bigger telephoto compression and longer working distance. I’ve checked many very high quality 90,100mm macro lenses, but none of them makes me so interested than this 180mm lens. For macro and for some other tasks as well, simply the longer is better. But for users who don’t want to spend hours with macro photography or pixel peeping regarding bokeh the cheaper wider 90,100mm lenses are perhaps more useful, because for example for portraits the usage of these lenses are more convenient.
The longer focal length ones are the following:
– Canon 180mm f/3.5 L
– Sigma 180mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM
– Sigma 150mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM
– Nikon 200mm f/4.
Among these lenses the Tamron 180mm macro is the lightest and the cheapest. The other lenses has ultrasonic focusing and better build quality though, and some of them has stabilizer as well, which is good at general photography, but not very useful in macro photography.
you can check the alternatives / rivals in detail in below table.
|Minimal focus distance
Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 Macro
|No, only manual
|23.88 cm (9.4″)
|710g (25 oz)
Canon 100mm f/2.8 Macro
|580g (20.46 oz)
Canon 100mm f/2.8 is Macro
|30.48 cm (1″)
|625g (22.05 oz)
Canon 180mm f/3.5 Macro
|48 cm (1.6′)
|1090 g (38.45 oz)
Tamron 90mm f/2.8 Macro
|28.96 cm (11.4″)
|405 g (14.29 oz)
Tamron 90mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Macro
|550g (19.4 oz)
Tamron 180mm f/3.5 Macro
|83.8 x 165.1 mm
|920g (32.45 oz)
Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro
|31 cm (12.2″)
|726g (25.6 oz)
Sigma 150mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro
|38.1 cm (1.25′)
|78.7 x 150 mm
|1180 g (41.62 oz)
Sigma 180mm f/2.8 APO Macro EX DG OS
|1.63 kg (3.6 lb.)
To compare optically the Tamron 180mm is a very fine lens. Where the competitors are better are the following areas:
-ultrasonic focusing motor
-manual focus override
–teleconverter compatibility with native converters, I think with a 1.4 Kenko would work nicely with this lens, but for people who has Canon converters, the Canon lens is perhaps more useful regarding converters. It is much pricier though.
– Decent build quality
– Excellent optical quality
– Relatively longer minimum focusing distance
– Beautiful bokeh
– Good price compare to competition
– Push pull change system between manual and autofocus, perhaphs not everybody likes it though, I found it practical, as mostly I would use this lens in manual focus mode
– really slow and noisy micromotor autofocus, if you get used to Canon high end lenses, can be disappointing quality.
– no full time manual focus override
– build quality significantly lower than high end Canon and Sigma lenses
– No focus limiter, would be useful
Bottom line / recommendation
The Tamron 180mm f/3.5 macro is a very high quality macro lens, capable to make excellent images. If your main aim is macro it is Highly recommended !
On the other hand if your main aim is not only macro, but portraits and other pictures as well the slow focus is not the best. Ultrasonic focusing lenses has big advantages especially if you intend to make pictures of toddlers, pets or other fast moving subjects.