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12-04-2011, 10:13 PM   #1
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100mm f/2.8 WR vs Tamron 90 (again)

This has been discussed a lot, and I've read everything I could find, but I have a few unanswered questions.

I want the lens for both macro and general shooting, especially portraits. The attraction of either the Pentax or the Tamron is versatility. My understanding is that optically, they are both very good, and that it's hard to go wrong with either, but I do have a couple of image quality questions below.

The Pentax is pulling at me for several reasons:
  • Weather sealing
  • Size and weight. (There was an interesting thread at dpreview about using the K-5 on-board flash with the 100mm, and surprisingly, it works pretty well. I wonder if this would be possible with the larger Tamron.)
  • Build. I like a lens that feels good to use.
However, the Tamron:
  • Costs nearly $200 less
  • Has a focus limiter
  • Is guaranteed for much longer
My questions:
  1. Do both render OOF areas as well, or is one of them better?
  2. Both have very good resolution, but do images from either "look better" than from the other?
  3. How much of an issue is the lack of a focus limiter in the Pentax for general, non-macro photography. Is using the quick shift focusing to get approximate focus before auto focusing a convenient and effective technique?
  4. I am tempted to pay the $200 extra for the Pentax for the reasons I listed above. I know that this is very subjective and personal, but what do you think? Is it worth it?
Jeff

12-04-2011, 10:39 PM   #2
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I know that the 90mm F2.8 wide open is a bit harsh on the CA - stopped down it's fine, so as a macro lens, you should be stopping down for DOF anyways.
12-04-2011, 10:53 PM   #3
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The Tamron feels good to use as well, I love its build. The focus limiter is really useful when using it as an AF portrait lens. Bokeh's pretty excellent. I have the Non-WR version of the DFA 100, and my experience is that it has a tendency to hunt all the way to the 1:1 end of the lens if you don't start at infinity for portraits. I found the quality to be pretty much the same on rendering, color rendition on the Pentax lens is a little less blue and a little more green than the Tamron SP 90. The DFA 100 is just a bit softer wide open than the Tammy. Also, if you want to use the onboard flash with the Tamron, you might have to take the hood off -- otherwise, I don't recall any light shielding from it at close range.

Overall, I'd say don't overlook the Tamron, it's a fabulous lens at the price.
12-04-2011, 11:14 PM   #4
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I liked the rubber focusing ring on the Tamron - it really helped when manual focusing for macro shots. Being able to disengage it for normal use make the focus slightly speedier. However, I had some problems getting it to lock focus even on high-contrast objects at normal distances, and the lens has been sold since I was doing very little macro.

Since trying out (and not really liking) the FA77, I was thinking of buying the DFA100WR to give it a shot, since it's been so highly praised.

12-05-2011, 01:10 AM   #5
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if saving money is important for you, get the Tamron. if you think that WR and built is important, get the Pentax.
12-05-2011, 01:22 AM   #6
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I have not tried the tam 90 so I cannot give a direct comparison.
I will say that the dfa100wr is an absolute joy to use and delivers consistently sharp images with very pleasing bokeh.
For normal use prefocus with the quick shift keeps AF travel to a minimum and is easy to use.
The build quality is awesome.



That being said one member here reported receiving a copy with abnormally high purple fringe tendencies so test the lens fully on receipt to make sure all is well.

Last edited by crewl1; 12-05-2011 at 01:31 AM.
12-05-2011, 02:03 AM   #7
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I have the DFA 100 1:2.8 (the older, non-WR version), the only real complaint is the lack of a focus limiter. With a macro lens a long focus throw is important for accurate manual focusing, but without the limiter this also means that AF is very slow to lock on anything when it decides to grind through the entire focus range. This is mitigated by the quick shift MF, but IMO it is no substitute for a focus limiter in general purpose use. Of course, such a feature is of secondary importance to IQ in a macro lens, but then the Tamron enjoys a fine reputation in that respect. (Have you considred the Sigma 105 and 70, BTW?)
12-05-2011, 03:40 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Jeff Charles Quote
[*]Do both render OOF areas as well, or is one of them better? [*]Both have very good resolution, but do images from either "look better" than from the other?[*]How much of an issue is the lack of a focus limiter in the Pentax for general, non-macro photography. Is using the quick shift focusing to get approximate focus before auto focusing a convenient and effective technique?[*]I am tempted to pay the $200 extra for the Pentax for the reasons I listed above. I know that this is very subjective and personal, but what do you think? Is it worth it?
Jeff
1. Macro lenses in general are extremely sharp and most render OOF beautifully - the Tamron / Pentax are no exceptions.

2. Only you can decide that one. There are plenty of examples on here (check the Tamron thread for one).

3. This is a BIG issue if you are using your lens for more than macro/posed portraits. Without the limiter the lens can be focus hunting for 5 seconds or more - i.e. the photo op may be long gone. However quick shift is a brilliant feature on any lens.

4. IMO the Pentax offers no advantage at all over the Tamron with the exception of WR (and you can buy a lot of plastic bags and rubber bands for US$200) ! What it misses is both an aperture ring (Pentax - what on earth were you thinking !) and a focus limiter. Both huge omissions IMHO.

Oh BTW having handled both the Tamron and the Pentax I can't discern any difference in build-quality (WR aside). The Tamron is a very well made and solid lens, definitely not a cousin to some of the cheaper Tamron lenses.

12-05-2011, 06:12 AM   #9
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For real life, you won't see much difference in the outputs. The rounded aperture blades might do a difference but the Tamron is one heck of a lens by itself.

The perks of the Pentax are the rounded blades, weather sealing (of paramuont importance for me), the quick-shift (also of paramount importance), the build quality and ludicrously small size.
12-05-2011, 11:25 AM   #10
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Thanks

Thanks to all for your replies. It seems to me that for what I want to do, the Tamron 90 is the more rational choice, primarily because of the lower cost and the focus limiter. The Pentax's WR would be a plus, because it rains here most days from June to September. However, I'm not sure how often I'd actually need to shoot with the 100 in the rain. Also, I just bought an 18-135 that can serve when things get ugly.

The Sigma 70mm also looks interesting, but it is more expensive than the Tamron, and several reviews on this site say that the AF is slow.

Jeff
12-06-2011, 06:15 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Jeff Charles Quote
he Tamron 90 is the more rational choice, primarily because of the lower cost and the focus limiter.
As I wrote, either are fine. However I must stress that quick-shift is a much better tool than a focus limiter. It lets you dynamically limit the focus AND it acts as a MF override when needed. I thought I needed a limiter for macro too but after using the DFA WR I don't want it anymore.
12-08-2011, 08:39 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by bdery Quote
As I wrote, either are fine. However I must stress that quick-shift is a much better tool than a focus limiter. It lets you dynamically limit the focus AND it acts as a MF override when needed. I thought I needed a limiter for macro too but after using the DFA WR I don't want it anymore.
I've read that point of view from others too. I plan to visit B&H when I am in the US in about 10 days. I will try both lenses on a K-5 when I am there.

My wife's opinion is that I should get the Pentax. I showed her the photo below from this thread, and she said, "get the cute one in the middle."


Jeff
12-08-2011, 09:13 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Jeff Charles Quote
... "get the cute one in the middle."
Jeff


She has a point though .
12-08-2011, 10:18 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by jolepp Quote


She has a point though .
Actually, although I was having fun when I posted her comment, I kind of agree with her. The Pentax's smaller size and weight (and the WR) are appealing. My head is telling me to buy the Tamron, but I want the Pentax more.

It may not be important in actual use, but the Tamron implementation seems more complicated to me. Is the lens in MF or AF mode? Is my camera set to MF or AF? Have I set the focus limiter? I like simplicity in my gadgets and tools.

Jeff
12-08-2011, 11:11 AM   #15
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Yup, I think I know what you mean: in that company the WR somehow oozes that alluring "I'm the quality, no compromise item" while the others are so very "I'm a regular SLR lens" (?) One more rational point in the Tammy's favour though: it has the aperture ring, which would allow using it on basic extension tubes.
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