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

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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.

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

So what do we say at the end of 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.
 

D7k1

Mu-43 Hall of Famer
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Used a T90 for a long time with my Nikon gear because it was so much lighter than the Nikkor 105. For me (and I don't know why it took three years to get one) the Oly 60mm is the dream Macro, similar focal length to the T90 on a DX body but faster to focus and even smaller and lighter.

However, that T90 was a great tool:
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Deleted member 20897

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Used a T90 for a long time with my Nikon gear because it was so much lighter than the Nikkor 105. For me (and I don't know why it took three years to get one) the Oly 60mm is the dream Macro, similar focal length to the T90 on a DX body but faster to focus and even smaller and lighter.

However, that T90 was a great tool:
View attachment 700570
I had the Oly macro for a while and it is a great lens. Good for macro plus a bonus portrait lens. I didn't keep it long, though as I do not do a lot of macro stuff and I have an old Nikkor 55mm f/3.5 for that as well as a Nikon 28-85/3.5-4.5 that has a macro mode for those rare instances that I need that kind of close focus.

The Tamron was a dog slow focuser, but man is that thing one of the sharpest lenses! I used to love and hate it for portraits. It was a great focal length, but I had to often cut back the sharpening on it.
 
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