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Shootout Tamron 90mm f/2.8 Macro Versus Olympus 45mm f/1.8

Discussion in 'Reviews, Tests, & Shootouts' started by gryphon1911, Dec 31, 2018.

  1. Another FX versus m43 comparison. Today, let's look at the Tamron 90mm f/2.8 against the Olympus 45mm f/1.8

    Both are similar fields of view.

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    Image © Olympus America
    The 45/1.8 Pro list:
    • Great micro contrast
    • Fast auto focus
    • small and light
    • large manual focus ring
    • sharp at all apertures
    • able to gather large amounts of light with the f/1.8 aperture
    • good depth of field control
    • close focusing
    • internal focusing
    The 45/1.8 Con list:
    • prime - must zoom with your feet
    • can be tight field of view indoors
    • not a macro lens
    • not weather sealed
    • No built in IS - only matters if you are going to use it on a Panasonic body
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    Image © Tamron USA
    The Tamron 90/2.8 Pro list:
    • 1:1 macro
    • sharp even at f/2.8
    • good manual focus ring
    The Tamron 90/2.8 Con list:
    • slow to auto focus compared to other lenses in similar fields of view and focal lengths
    • not weather sealed.
    • large compared to other primes in its class
    • telescopes when focusing
    • depending on focus distance, it is not a constant f/2.8

    Focal Lengths

    We shall not get into any equivalence debates, as I don't much care for them. I feel a photographer should know their gear and learn to adapt to it and use it accordingly. These 2 lenses the same in field of view(FOV), which I shall define here for our purposes as follows: If I am standing in the same location with each camera and lens, the view I see in the viewfinder is relatively the same.

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    Tamron 90/2.8
    1/1000, f/2.8, ISO 100
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    Olympus 45/1.8
    1/1000, f/2.8, ISO 100
    Image Stabilization

    The Nikon camera bodies do not have stabilization and neither does this lens. You will need sufficient light to use this lens or keep your hand holding of it to 1/100 shutter speed or faster. Tripods are also an option as well. The Olympus relies on the camera body to stabilize it, which the OMD series has. Given the potential for 3-4 stops of extra hand holdability, the Olympus has a slight edge.

    Auto Focus Performance

    The Olympus cameras are great AF performers in great to good light and suffer a little bit in speed when light starts to get challenging. With that said, the Olympus45/1.8 is one of the fastest focusing primes I've ever used. It will get you there and in a hurry and with great accuracy.

    The Tamron, well, it is a macro lens. It is geared differently. If AF speed is what you need, I'd recommend skipping this lens and maybe getting a Nikon 85mm f/1.4 or f/1.8. You'll be paying more, but what you need sometimes doesn't fit into a price range. You would then also be losing the macro focusing distance.

    Now, the Tamron is noticeably slower than the Olympus. I will say this, though, I shoot a lot of street photography and have used this lens to do so in the past. AF performance was good enough to not leave me frustrated.

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    Tamron 90/2.8
    1/400, f/8, ISO 100
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    Olympus 45/1.8
    1/400, f/8, ISO 100
    Image Quality

    We've done this before with the Tamron 70-300/4-5.6 VC vs Olympus 40-150/4-5.6
    We are going to look at real world use and not shoot targets. How well can the respective cameras and lenses compare to each other?

    On the Nikon side, we will shoot with the Df and on the Olympus side, the OM-D E-M5.

    Why do I do this? Well, lets see how the flagship sensor of the Nikon line does in comparison to the Olympus OMD EM5 camera of the Olympus line!! Last time the OM-D E-M5 and the 40-150/4-5.6 did surprisingly well against the Df and Tamron zoom combo.

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    Tamron 90/2.8
    1/2000, f/2.8, ISO 200
    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    Olympus 45/1.8
    1/4000, f/1.8, ISO 200

    So what do we say at the end o the day? Having the extra stop of light on the Olympus lens is great. It affords us a similar DOF control as we would have on the Tamron. It also gives us a lower ISO or faster shutter speeds to work with on the m43 cameras. Again, m43 is doing quite well here against a larger sensor camera.

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    Tamron 90/2.8
    1/640, f/4.8, ISO 200

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    Olympus 45/1.8
    1/1250, f/1.8m ISO 200
    The above 2 images are an example of how close the macro can get versus the close focusing distance of the Olympus.
  2. Thank you. Very interesting comparison.
  3. I don't understand this comparison. Two different lenses on two completely different camera bodies? Other than your subjective "similar" FOV, how can you make any credible comparison between the two lenses?
  4. I agree. The 45mm Oly and the PL 25mm were my favorite prime lenses on the OM-D EM5 and EM1 that I owned. The Tamron 90 macro replaced a venerable Nikon 105 AF-D macro and is a superb macro lens with a focal length and focus distance that suits my uses. What is the point of comparing the two.
  5. I don't understand why you don't understand what I've already written? But I'll try and restate it.

    There are a lot of people that have a main point of view being similar fields of view between camera systems.
    So the shootout shows multiple things.

    Similarities/differences, if any between images taken with the same field of view.
    Image quality similarities/differences between 2 different camera systems.
    Real world usage of the lens and not in-lab MTF charts.

    So again, why do the comparison? Well, why not and read above.
    there are tons of pixel peeping, MTF chart reviews out there if those are more to your interest. My reviews and shootouts are more real world shooting and usage.
  6. And I appreciate your "real world" tests and the time you take on them. Your test/review of the Z6 is one reason I bought one. But if the point is to compare camera systems (eg Nikon FF and M4/3 I would have chosen lenses with a similar use-case. If the intent was to test/compare lenses, again, I would have chosen lenses with a similar use-case.

    I'm not criticizing your testing and comparisons which are well done and appreciated. I'm just saying that this particular test doesn't tell me anything useful about choosing one system or one lens over the other.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  7. It sure does...even just looking at the images provides data. I don't believe that everything needs to be spoon fed.

    If there is more information that I can provide, I'd love to hear suggestions instead of just "don't understand, not useful". Those statements are not very useful either, provide no feedback for improvement.

    We can all do better if a valuable dialog is engaged into.

    Full disclosure as well...I originally did this review back in 2015 and this information was most important back then when people were looking at IQ/FOV comparisons.
  8. OK, fair request.

    You state at the beginning that this is a (Nikon) FX vs M4/3 comparison/test. If I were doing a Nikon FX vs M4/3 comparison, I would have chosen a lens from each system that had the same purpose, that would be used for similar types of photography. In this way, the subject matter/ test objects would be consistent with the use-case and the results would be directly comparable. The two lenses that you compare are totally different regarding intended uses and therefore very different in design and function. I often used the Oly 45 for portraits and candids. If I were taking out my D750 for similar shots, the Tamron 90 macro is about the last of the lenses that I own(ed) that I would choose. So, for instance, the comaprison of AF performance of the lenses tells me little I would not already know, even if I did not own or use the lenses in question, and isn't very useful in choosing one of these lenses if I were in the market for a fast M4/3 prime or an FX macro.

    This is one example of what I am trying to communicate when I say I am confused by the comparison. In your test/review you mention the Nikon 85 f/1.8. IMO, that would have been a better lens for this comparison since the Nikon 85 and the Oly 45 are used for similar types of photography.
  9. Well stated. Just too many variables for me to draw any conclusion here. Two different types of lenses on two different types of bodies.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  10. There are too many variables for a valid comparison - 2 camera manufacturers, 2 sensor sizes, 2 different lenses, one of which is from a 3rd party manufacturer, one macro, one not.
    I'm afraid I didn't learn anything from this.
    • Agree Agree x 2
  11. But they actually are not as dissimilar as you'd think. Yes, the Tamron is capable of macro, but the majority of people that I know who buy that lens did so as an alternative portrait lens.

    I do not have at very point in time access to every single lens to do comparisons with. Back in 2015...I owned the Tamron 90mm and the Olympus 45mm.

    I guess we do not agree that a lens with macro capability is able to do other things too? So the older Nikon 35-135 and 28-85, 28-105 lenses also had macro modes, so I guess based on what you are describing here we cannot or should not compare them against other lenses like the m43 12-40, 12-60 type lenses?

    Anyway, so some of you don't get it or find it useful. That's cool. No problem, I understand.
  12. Then you are not looking past your own preconceived notions and I cannot do anything at all about that.
  13. You asked for suggestions. I provided some. My notions are no more "preconceived" than yours. I am done here.
  14. Me too, and I thank your for expounding on what you meant.
  15. I've always loved the files produced by the Nikon DF. Great sensor in that nifty body.
  16. Definitely a classic...and I'm not sure what Nikon did to it, but it does have a slightly different look and hi ISO performance than the D4. My guess is a slightly tweaked EXPEED engine.
    • Agree Agree x 1
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