This absolute beast of a lens is the update to Tamron’s existing 150-600mm lens, which should satisfy any type of sports or wildlife photographer who has lens envy. The latest version should definitely stand out in a crowd, even if its only due to its sheer size. But the main criteria here is if the lens can perform across its full focal length and deliver the image quality needed.
The latest Tamron SP 150-600mm is slightly larger and heavier than its previous incarnation. Only by 2mm and 50 grams, weighing in at a total of 2,010g. Compared to most lenses this is still a heavyweight, but nothing like the weight of a dedicated 600mm lenses. It’s also a lengthy affair at 260.2mm x 108.4, but it needs to be to handle this much focal length range. Tamron say the new version brings faster AF speed, VC enhancements and a Flex Zoom Lock and tele converter. There’s also some optical upgrades such as a Fluorine Coating, eBAND (Extended Bandwidth and Angular-Dependency) Coating and BBAR (Broad-Band Anti-Reflection) Coating. Basically, lots of coatings.
There’s a lot that goes into a lens of this size, so it’s no surprise that there are 13 groups with 21 elements with three LD (Low Dispersion) lens elements inside with nine diaphragm blades. The aperture range goes from f/5-6.3 – f32-40. The lens barrel extends in and out for zooming, which Tamron says has been improved with smoother functionality. There is also a ‘Flex Zoom Lock’ which locks the focal length, very handy for stopping any barrel movement when changing any other parameters. Other improvements come in the form of better a tripod ring and the use of two screw holes to better balance the lens with the camera body. Minimum object distances have also been pushed down to 2.2m.
The lens itself has a very substantial focus ring, beneath which are three switches for the VC (Vibration Compensation) modes, VC on and off and the auto or manual focus. There’s also a distance scale and the flex zoom lock switch. Everything here up to now is built rock solid with all the features you would need easily accessible on the lens. There’s also the optional TAP-in Console which provides a USB connection to update the len’s firmware and for microadjustments.
As you can see, this is a heavyweight lens with all the facilities you could need or want from some long range glass.
The sharpness of the new lens is definitely above the old version. Center sharpness is pretty good at the extremes of focal length, with halfway at 300mm being the best. F/8 is definitely the sharpness sweet spot, showing little sign of color fringing and ghosting. Bokeh is just reasonable, but you wouldn’t expect top level background blur from such a long lens. Vignetting is the same as the previous version, basically on the same level as you get from a long-range Canon on Nikon equivalent.
Speed of focusing is paramount with such a long focal length. The Tamron SP 150-600mm has a reasonably fast motor which does the job. It may not be as efficient as the Canon or Nikon equivalents, but those lenses cost almost 5 times more. The focus limiter has been improved with a 10m to infinity option which definitely improves things. At 600mm the sharpest images come in at f/11.
The antivibration system has three modes, being standard, panning and no-preview modes. The third mode basically gives an extra level of stabilization, but with no viewfinder preview. It will probably be modes 1 and 3 which you use the most.
When it comes to image quality, colors come out very good with reasonable contrast, being some of the best around 300mm. Both ends of the focal range are still very good, but can’t really match the top end lenses from Canon or Nikon at these focal lengths. However, the Tamron does produce good quality images, especially when you have it’s price always in the back of your mind.
How Does It Compare?
The Canon EF 100-400mm is one near contender as is the Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8. Both of these lenses are super sharp, with the Sigma going much wider. However both of these lenses cost far more than the Tamron. But the Tamron has a longer range, if that’s more your ideal. The Sigma 120-400m f/5-6.3 is more in line pricewise with the Tamron. Comparable optics and sharpness means that this one is a good alternative.
|Tamron SP 150-600mm||Canon 100-400mm|
|Elements||21 elements/16 groups||21 elements/16 groups|
|Aperture||f/5-6.3 – f32-40||f/4.5-5.6 – f/32-40|
When you put together how much focal range this lens covers and how much it costs compared to some of the equivalents, especially primes, you are getting a lot for your money. If you consider the Canon 600mm costs over $10k and weighs the same as a tank, the Tamron is definitely great value for money.
However, to cram VR, a wide focal range and good optics into a competitive price means there have to be some compromises along the way. Basically, there will always have to be some sort of optical compromise the greater the range of focal length offered in a zoom. The wider the focal lengths, more internal correction is needed. This doesn’t mean that the lenses is a bad performer as it takes good images, but measured against the far more expensive equivalents, the others are definitely a cut above the rest. In many ways it’s a scenario of you get what you pay for.
That being said, if you want to cover a very wide focal range for the same sort of money as a high-quality prime, The Tamron is definitely worth looking at as it has good optics, VR and would be especially good at long range images without breaking the bank.
Value for money