It seems that every photographer has at least a mild fascination with telephoto lenses. Owning glass that can capture distant objects as if they were right in front of you is great fun. However, these specialist optics can be quite pricey. That’s why we’re bringing you the best Tamron telephoto lenses under $500.
Many of the top telephoto lenses are in the high price bracket range, but as shown by the examples below, there are still affordable options available. All of these lens types provide nice rounded features with good optics for under $500. You may have to deal with things like variable apertures and less solid build construction but, on the whole, they all offer very good value for money.
1. Tamron SP 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di VC USD
The Tamron SP 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di VC USD has a smattering of everything for telephoto use. The lens covers the short to long telephoto range, with a variable aperture and image stabilization for those long focal lengths.
It wasn’t so long ago when image stabilization, or in this case, vibration compensation was a high-end feature. Now, more budget-friendly lenses have the facility, in this case providing up to four stops of compensation. The system works extremely well in application, providing far more keeper images and steady shots for the likes of stills and video work.
The lens also has an optical arrangement of 17 elements in 12 groups, which includes one LD and one XLD element for reducing lens artifacts. And while the lens itself weighs in at 765g, it’s still relatively lightweight for a telephoto zoom.
Due to the variable aperture, the SP 70-300mm needs reasonable light levels to work at its best. But when you use the lens within its workable zone, it provides very respectable sharpness across the frame, with a rich degree of color and contrast. This essentially means it’s a good all-rounder telephoto zoom which packs a lot in for the price.
2. Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro
If you prefer to go all-in with a prime lens rather than a zoom option, the most likely candidate under our price bracket is the Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro. This version is a slightly older model of the Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di MACRO 1:1 VC USD, which means it can be snagged for under $500, while still providing good quality optics.
This lens also provides the widest aperture on our list at f/2.8, which will work very well in low-light conditions, as well as provide good quality bokeh. This is a good lens for macro work with a 1:1 reproduction ratio and a 28.96cm close focusing distance.
As a macro lens, the SP 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro is a very cost-effective solution, without any of the cheap associations with lesser lenses. As a telephoto lens, it reaches into the short telephoto arena, with respectably sharp images even with the aperture set at f/2.8. The sharpest images across the frame come in from f/4, with that extra level of detail that you can only get from a prime lens.
3. Tamron 14-150mm f/3.5-5.8 Di III
If you’ve parked your boat firmly in the Micro Four Thirds camp for the likes of Olympus and Panasonic cameras, then you’re in luck with the 14-150mm f/3.5-5.8 Di III as a firm Tamron zoom offering. The lens has an equivalent focal length of 28-300mm, which will cover most long-distance scenarios, wrapped around an extremely lightweight lens barrel of only 280g.
As per usual with long optics, the lens contains a good deal of glass in the form of 17 elements in 13 groups, which includes two molded glass aspherical, one hybrid aspherical and one LD glass element to correct for any lens anomalies. A stepping motor has also been provided which is reasonably quick and quiet for video use.
The Tamron 14-150mm has a very long stretch from the wide-angle to long telephoto range. And while the variable aperture needs reasonable light levels, the lens delivers very good image quality from f/5.6. This makes it a very good all-rounder lens and nice lightweight companion for everyday use.
4. Tamron 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC (Budget Winner)
One telephoto lens which provides the most bang for your buck is the Tamron 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC. This zoom covers a 27-300mm range on crop sensor cameras, which is where it will be most likely be used. The lens also comes in at a respectable weight of 400g.
To maintain image quality, one hybrid aspherical and one low dispersion element have been included in the overall optical arrangement of 16 elements in 14 groups. Plus, it has a very usable image stabilization system which helps out at the longer focal lengths.
The main consideration with this lens is what you get for the money. When the aperture is stopped down to f/5.6, the lens provides good image quality for both stills and video. It may not have the ultimate definition as a prime lens or the other zoom lenses above, but it is a very good cost-effective solution as a walkabout lens covering a wide range of focal lengths.
To decide if this lens is for you, read our complete Tamron 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC review.
Narrowing the View on the Best Tamron Telephoto Lenses Under $500
In this price bracket, telephoto prime lenses are thin on the ground, but if you need a short telephoto lens that will work great as a portrait and macro lens in one package, the SP 90mm will fit the bill. From there, we have to move onto the zoom lens solutions which generally act as good all-rounder lenses in this price bracket.
The SP 70-300mm has a good balance between quality and price, with built-in image stabilization and good image quality in its workable zone. But if you want the most cost-effective solution which also features image stabilization for the longer focal lengths, the 18-200mm packs in lots of features for the price.
If you wanted to touch out just a bit further than today’s budget, then the Tamron 70-210mm f/4 Di VC USD can be picked up for just under $600. This lens benefits from a constant f/4 aperture, plus a four-stop compensation image stabilization system with exceedingly good optics for the price. Considering high-end Tamron telephoto lenses can cost nearly twice as much, the 70-210mm f/4 is a quality option if you want to save up a little bit longer.