It’s usually the case that before buying into high-end prime and zoom lenses, a general all-rounder lens is the first port of call. A lens that has good optical quality, a good range of focal lengths, and hopefully other extra goodies such as image stabilization.
The cheapest of the cheap could be opted for, but you’ll soon outgrow the optical quality, so it is advisable to spend just a little more for that bit extra. This is the motivation behind the Tamron 16-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD MACRO.
Designed specifically for crop sensors, the focal range comes out at an equivalent of 25.6-480mm and contains Tamron’s VC (Vibration Compensation), a macro mode, and is available for Canon, Nikon, and Sony mounts.
For a lens that covers such a wide focal range, the Tamron 16-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD MACRO is very compact. When the lens barrel is fully extended, it increases the length considerably and weighs in at a very reasonable 540g.
One nice feature is that Tamron has included is a lens lock switch, which will lock the lens barrel into place. Very helpful if you are shooting almost vertically at the widest focal length.
The lens barrel itself is made from hardened plastic, which is the norm for this price point of lens, and has a very straightforward design. A wide and ridged zoom ring sits up front, with a narrow focus ring which automatically overrides the autofocus. The rest of the lens barrel features has a regular distance scale, minus a depth of field scale, a switch for manual and autofocus, and one for turning the image stabilization on or off.
Piezo drive and VC are marked on the lens barrel, meaning Tamron wants to make a point that these are included items. An indicator that this lens isn’t just a basic zoom. The lens mount is all metal and is stated as being moisture resistant, which means the lens can take the odd drop of rain, but no more.
Moving to the inside workings of the lens, there are 16 elements arranged in 12 groups, a seven-blade rounded diaphragm, and a variable aperture ranging from f/3.5-f/6.3 to f/22-f/40. There’s also a 67mm filter thread up top which can accept a variety of filter types.
Tamron has clearly tried to pack a lot of features into this lens for the money. From specs alone, the Tamron is shaping up to be a possible solution as an all-day walk around lens.
The Tamron 16-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD MACRO in Use
With such a wide range of focal lengths, the Tamron 16-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD MACRO can go from wide-angle to very telephoto and covers the most usable ranges. Moving from very wide-angle to an equivalent 18.8x zoom in a snap is loads of fun. A high-end, short-range zoom is the norm for the best in optical quality, but it’s never as much fun as having such a wide range of zoom.
The Piezoelectric motor is a clear selling point and Tamron says it’s faster and lighter than a more basic unit. The system is very quick to snap into focus, not as quick as a top-end offering, but still quick and quiet.
Autofocus can be manually overridden with the focus ring and in general, is very smooth to operate. The AF system also works well in most light conditions, apart from some focus hunting when light levels really drop. Overall, very fast and efficient.
When it comes to overall sharpness levels, the Tamron exhibits soft edges at f/3.5 at the widest focal length, hitting its sharpest by f/8. After f/16 diffraction starts to take its toll and by f/22 softness is at its highest.
The same distortion is evident in the middle of the focal range and although images are acceptable when the aperture is wide open, the lens is at its sharpest f/8. At 300mm, f/8-f/11 produces the best results, but after f/16-f/40, sharpness does start to drop considerably.
The Tamron 16-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD MACRO does have its share of lens anomalies, starting with levels of chromatic aberration when the lens is at its widest and the aperture is wide open. The effect isn’t over the top, but it is evident.
Its usually at the widest focal length where anomalies are apparent and this is true with light falloff or vignetting which needs to be stopped down to f/8 to get the cleanest images. This is also the same with barrel distortion, where the most curvature is seen at 16mm.
As for the bokeh effect, the telephoto end of the spectrum provides the best results and although there is only a seven-blade diaphragm in the lens, bokeh is rendered very nicely. Not as smooth or creamy as a very wide prime, but perfectly acceptable for this price of lens.
Lastly, the macro mode has a closest distance of 39cm and a magnification ratio of 1:2.9. This won’t produce an actual life-size image on the sensor, but subjects are large and detailed enough to warrant this as a usable macro lens. If you don’t have another macro lens in your arsenal, then this is a good solution in itself, although you wouldn’t buy this lens solely for this feature.
When this lens is stopped down a little, the resulting images are well saturated with a good degree of contrast. This lens is definitely best used in good light conditions, but the image stabilization can help out loads if you have to venture into low light. The added extra stops of stabilization can really get the shutter speeds down low, especially when the lens is at its widest.
How Does It Compare?
Third-party lens makers have really stepped up their game in recent years and this is especially true with do-it-all lenses. The Sigma 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 DC Macro OS HSM is one such all-rounder lens with similar specifications to the Tamron. The Sigma is slightly less wide than the Tamron, has the same variable aperture, build quality, and image stabilization.
There’s a lot to like about the Sigma, but the Tamron comes in at a higher price point and thus slightly better optics. For generic lenses such as these, it’s always best to err on the better optical quality and spend that bit more, which is where the Tamron edges ahead.
|Tamron 16-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD MACRO||Sigma 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3|
|Optics||16 elements/ 12 groups||17 elements/ 13 groups|
As a lens that can do a bit of everything, the Tamron is better than expected. It does need to be stopped down to get the sharpest results, but in general, the lens can produce very nice images if fed reasonable levels of light. There is edge softness at the widest and most telephoto ranges, along with light falloff and distortion, but still a good performer at this price point.
The image stabilization system works well and lets you venture into lower light conditions, with lower shutter speeds than normally expected. This lens isn’t going to be a substitute for a bunch of other zooms, but for those who want an all in one solution, but doesn’t compromise too much in the optical department, the Tamron 16-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD MACRO is a very good lens for the money.