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 telephoto 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 Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 can perform across its full focal length and deliver the image quality needed.
The Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 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 says the new version brings faster AF speed, VC enhancements and a Flex Zoom Lock and teleconverter. 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 to f/32-40. 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, which is very handy for stopping any barrel movement when changing any other parameters. Other improvements come in the form of a better 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 Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 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 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 lens’ firmware and for micro-adjustments.
As you can see, this is a heavyweight lens with all the facilities you could need or want from some long range glass.
The Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 in Use
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. The sharpness sweet spot is definitely f/8, 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 f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 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 five 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 anti-vibration system has three modes: 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 one and three which you use the most.
When it comes to image quality, colors come out very good with reasonable contrast, with 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 SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 does produce good quality images, especially when you have its price always in the back of your mind.
How Does It Compare?
The Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM is one near contender as is the Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM. 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 SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 has a longer range, if that’s more your ideal. The Sigma 120-400m f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM is more in line price-wise with the Tamron. Comparable optics and sharpness means that this one is a good alternative.
|Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2||Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM|
|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 f/4L IS III USM costs over $10k and weighs the same as a tank, the Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 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 with a greater range of focal length offered in a zoom. The wider the focal lengths, the more internal correction is needed. This doesn’t mean that the lens is a bad performer as it takes good images, but measured against the far more expensive equivalents, the others are definitely a cut above. In many ways it’s a scenario of you get what you pay for.