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Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD Lens Review

Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD Lens Review - Gary Wolstenholme reviews this new ultra telephoto zoom lens from Tamron, with a massive 600mm telephoto zoom.

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Category : Digital Cameras
Product : Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD
Price : £949
Rating :
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Handling and Features
Performance
Verdict
Specification

Tamron SP 150 600mm F5 6 3 Di VC USD (8)
This ultra-telephoto zoom lens sports a 4x zoom range, that is both wider and more telephoto than the 200-500mm lens it replaces. The lens also includes, fast, silent focusing, eBAND lens coatings to increase contrast and reduce ghosting and flare, as well as Vibration Compensation to aid hand held shooting. At launch it will costs around £950.

The lens is available initially to fit Canon SLRs and Nikon and Sony mounts will follow shortly after. The Sony compatible model will lack Vibration compensation, as this feature is already built into Sony DSLR and SLT bodies. This may upset those wishing to use the lens with Sony's A7 mirrorless camera with an adapter, as this camera relies on optical stabilisation in the lenses. As this lens is a 'Di' optic, it is compatible with both full frame and crop sensor camera bodies and will provide a field of view equivalent to a 225-900mm lens on an APS-C sensor camera. In this review we'll investigate how it performs.

Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD Handling and Features

Tamron SP 150 600mm F5 6 3 Di VC USD (9)
Although this is quite a large lens, it isn't overly heavy, weighing 1951g. This is due to Tamron striking a good balance between build quality and weight by using high quality plastics for much of the construction of the lens barrel. It balances well on the Canon EOS 5D Mark III used for testing, although it may be advisable to use some kind of camera support if shooting for long periods of time. A removable metal collar with a tripod thread and finger grip further improves the handling of the lens. Although no claims are made about weather sealing, a rubber gasket has been placed around the metal lens mount to help prevent the ingress of dust and moisture into the camera body.

As this lens incorporates Tamron's USD silent focusing motor, autofocus is very quick and accurate. A two-stage focus limiter switch is provided for those times when the camera struggles to achieve focus first time, preventing the lens from hunting through the whole focus range.

Tamron SP 150 600mm F5 6 3 Di VC USD (13)

Manual focusing is a pleasure as the focus ring is well damped and very smooth to operate, which makes applying fine adjustments a pleasure. Manual adjustments can be made at any time, whether in Auto or Manual focus mode. A minimum focus distance of 2.7m provides 1:5 magnification at closest focus. The huge 95mm filter thread does not rotate as focusing is performed internally, although the cost of polarising filters for this lens may be prohibitive.

Tamron SP 150 600mm F5 6 3 Di VC USD (12)

With care, leaving a pause of a few seconds between focusing and taking an image, sharp images are possible hand-held at shutter speeds as low as 1/40sec, approximately half the time. This is roughly four stops slower than the usual rule of thumb for sharp hand held images would permit. The VC system also provides a very steady viewfinder image, which can help with accurate composition and focusing.

Tamron SP 150 600mm F5 6 3 Di VC USD (5)

Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD Performance

At 150mm, sharpness already approaches excellent levels in the centre of the frame and is very good towards the edges of the frame. Stopping down to f/8 achieves the best performance across the frame. Here sharpness is outstanding across the frame.

At 300mm, the high level of sharpness in the centre of the frame is maintained, although clarity towards the edges of the frame falls away to fairly good levels. Stopping down improves performance across the frame, with peak clarity being realised between f/8 and f/11. Here sharpness is excellent across the frame.

Finally at 600mm, sharpness in the centre of the frame is still very good at maximum aperture, and clarity towards the edges of the frame is fairly good. As is the case at 300mm, stopping down to between f/8 and f/11 results in the best performance across the frame. Here sharpness is excellent in the centre of the frame and very good towards the edges.

MTF @ 150mm
MTF @ 150mm
MTF @ 300mm
MTF @ 300mm
MTF @ 600mm
MTF @ 600mm

How to read our charts

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges. Averaging them out gives the red weighted column.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution. The taller the column, the better the lens performance. Simple.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III using Imatest.

Chromatic aberrations are extremely well controlled for an ultra-telephoto lens, thanks to Tamron's use of LD glass in the optical design. Fringing is most prevalent at 150mm when stopped down beyond f/16. Fringing just exceeds 0.5 pixel widths towards the edges of the frame at f/22, which is an extremely low level and shouldn't pose any issues, even in large prints or harsh crops from the edges of the frame.

CA @ 150mm
CA @ 150mm
CA @ 300mm
CA @ 300mm
CA @ 600mm
CA @ 600mm

How to read our charts

Chromatic aberration is the lens' inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.

Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements (aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc) to minimize the problem, hence they usually cost more.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III using Imatest.

Falloff of illumination towards the corners is well controlled for a lens this focal length range. At 150mm the corners are only 1.12 stops darker than the image centre at maximum aperture and at 600mm this rises to 1.38 stops. Visually uniform illumination is achieved with the aperture closed down by one full stop from maximum aperture throughout the zoom range.

Mild pincushion distortion is present throughout the zoom range. Imatest detected only 1.44% pincushion distortion at 150mm and only 1.16% at 600mm. You'll be hard pressed to spot this low level of distortion in images, even with straight lines running parallel to the edges of the frame.

A deep circular hood is provided to help shield the front element from extraneous light that may cause issues with flare and loss of contrast. Although it is good practice to keep a lens hood in place, Tamron's new eBAND (Extended Bandwidth & Angular-Dependency) lens coatings do an excellent job of suppressing flare and contrast remains good, even when shooting into the light, so the hood may not always be necessary.

Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD Sample Photos


Value For Money

This lens has a launch price of £949, which seems quite reasonable for a 600mm lens. This lens' predecessor, the 200-500mm isn't much cheaper being available for around £870. As this lens lacks Vibration Compensation, USD silent focusing and eBAND anti-reflective coating, it's probably worth stumping up the extra £80 for the newer lens.

The closest equivalent from Sigma is their 150-500mm f/5-6.3 lens, which also sports silent focusing and optical stabilisation and is cheaper at around £700. However, this lens doesn't sport lens coatings on a par with Tamron's eBAND coatings and is 100mm shorter at the telephoto end.

As a point of reference, Canon's 600mm f/4 lens may sport a faster aperture of f/4, but it lacks the flexibility of a zoom and costs over £10,000, which puts it beyond the reach of most photographers.

Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD Verdict

With this lens, Tamron have created something that offers more reach at the telephoto end than equivalent lenses, whilst still being able to deliver good sharpness for a reasonable price. The launch price of £949 makes this lens pretty much the only option for photographers looking for a 600mm lens for under £1000.

 
  The Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di lens delivers very good sharpness in the centre with good value and build quality.

Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 VC USD Pros

Very good centre sharpness throughout the range 
Effective Vibration Compensation system
Good value
Good build quality
Extremely low CA
Low distortion
Resistant to flare and retains good contrast shooting into the light

Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 VC USD Cons

No claims made about weather resistance

FEATURES  
HANDLING  
PERFORMANCE  
VALUE FOR MONEY  
VERDICT  

With thanks to Harrison Cameras for loan of the Canon EOS 5D Mark III.

Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD Specifications

ManufacturerTamron
General
Lens Mounts
  • Nikon AF
  • Canon EF
  • Sony A
Lens
Focal Length150mm - 600mm
Angle of View4.8 - 16.25
Max Aperturef/5 - f/6.3
Min Aperturef/32 - f/40
Filter Size95mm
35mm equivalent240mm - 960mm
Internal focusingYes
Focusing
Min Focus270cm
StabilisedYes
Construction
Blades9
Elements20
Groups13
Box Contents
Box ContentsLens hood, detachable tripod mount, front and rear caps
Dimensions
Weight1951g
Height257.8mm

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Comments


RJPhoto 1 9 1 United Kingdom
21 Jan 2014 8:39PM
Very tempted! That extra reach, and excellent sharpness levels, plus the VC and USD makes me think this could be a pretty damn good addition to my kit bag. It would stop me using the 2x tele on my existing lens too...

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22 Jan 2014 9:42AM
While the article compares the 950 Tamron to the 10,000 Canon prime these are chalk and cheese products.
A more realistic comparison is a Nikon 80-400 or Canon 100-400 plus a 1.4 x converter which fits. The Canon and old technology Nikon version are around 1,200 with Kenko converter.
I do not know enough about Canon to say which bodies and AF sensors work at f6.3. Although not to Nikon's minimum standard every AF point on every Nikon DSLR ever made can AF down to f8 with a static subject with good contrast in decent light. All Nikon sensors are reasonable performers at f6.3.
Technology and stabilisation has moved on in the more than a decade since the Nikon (old version) and Canon were introduced.
The original Nikon rates only 2 speeds VR using the recently adopted CIPA standard. The new Nikon AF-s has much better optical performance, dramatically improved AF speed and 4 speeds VR using CIPA. This is to be expected allowing for the 13 year difference between launching each version and the 100% difference in street price.
The new Nikon plus TC14e at around 2,200 is currently more than double the likely price of the Tamron in Nikon fit.
How the new Nikon compares is unknown until ephotozine test the new Nikon (big hint).
The wide angle end of the Tamron at 150 mm may be more practicable for many photographers lens bags than the 80 mm of the Nikon or 100mm of the Canon now that both Nikon and Canon make good 70-200 f4 stabilised lenses at under 1,000 street. Decent f2.8 versions are around the same price point.
Is the Tamron any good for bird photography and "little brown jobs"?
This was not tested but it well known most variable aperture zooms loose significant effective focal length by minimum focus.
As an example at the 2 m minimum focus of the Nikon fixed aperture 200-400f4 it covers the same 8.5 inch field of view on 24x36 at 240 mm as the 80-400 AF-s at 400 mm.
Although the new Nikon 80-400 focuses closer to 1.75 m it still only covers 7 inches wide at 400 mm compared to 5 inches on the 200-400 at 400 mm 2 m distance.
These are big differences for some bird photography.
A similar variable aperture characteristic is likely to be present in the Tamron - and the Tamron MFD is 2.7 m compared to the 1.75 m of the new Nikon AS-s.
The Tamron spec does not seem to mention magnification at 600 mm MFD so I can only guess but maybe it goes no closer than 8 inches wide on a 24x36 body.
I think this Tamron will sell very well, especially for Nikon shooters where the Nikon entry point around 2,200 is out of reach. It may however not have as much magnification at 600 nn as some might be expecting.
joshwa e2
4 600 United Kingdom
22 Jan 2014 10:11AM
Hi LenShepherd, I'll let Gary answer your lens based questions, however, our Nikon 80-400mm lens review is here:
http://www.ephotozine.com/article/nikon-nikkor-80-400mm-f-4-5-5-6g-ed-vr-ii-review-22065
DenisG 12 11 England
22 Jan 2014 10:19AM
As an owner of this lens and it's predecessor, the 200-500, I fully agree with the test comments. IMHO it is probably the best value for money lens around. But, being an owner will obviously make anything I say appear biased.

There are many tests of this lens doing the rounds at the moment but you can read as many tests as you like and as much technical jargon that you can absorb, at the end of the day it's how it performs for you, on your camera. The best reviews are not really reviews at all, they are results from other users in the subject fields you are interested in. They are not too difficult to find but there is a Flickr page dedicated to this lens at http://www.flickr.com/groups/2470447@N21/ for anyone interested.

For birds, most users at the moment seem to be thinking on the same lines and for the LBJ's?, I don't think that tree sparrow shot in the above review was bad at all.

Denis.
22 Jan 2014 12:07PM
I bought and had one for a couple of days, until I had to return it...

While I had it, it seemed very capable of producing images with decent IQ and sharpeness and I was very pleased with it. However, the autofocus struggled quite frequently at the long end on frames without huge detail and just wouldn't lock on at all far too often for comfort, which is not what you want from a long zoom!

Plus, within a day of getting it out of the box there was quite a bit of dust between the front two elements.

I hope my replacement (when it is available...) doesn't have the same problems as beyond these two rather key issues I think it will be a great lens I can use frequently. If its a design issue though then the AF problem makes it quite a bit less atractive...

I wonder if Gary had either of these problems with his copy?
theorderingone 10 2.4k United Kingdom
22 Jan 2014 12:19PM

Quote: While the article compares the 950 Tamron to the 10,000 Canon prime these are chalk and cheese products.

Indeed they are. But as a point of reference to compare the upper and lower priced 600mm offering available it is relevant. It's in the value for money section of the review, and optical performance isn't talked about... merely price. I could go on forever comparing the prices of every telephoto+TC combo that gives roughly 600mm, but as this is the internet, all the prices will probably be wrong in a month or two anyway. Tongue


Quote: Is the Tamron any good for bird photography and "little brown jobs"?

There is an example in the review. I'm by no means a bird/wildlife tog though. To do it properly takes lots of patience, time and technique (as I'm sure you know). Unfortunately I only had time to bob down to a local hide with a monopod on a day the light wasn't ideal for an hour or so. Focusing is very fast though, which certainly helps with small, twitchy subjects (I guess you're talking about birds and not some other, 'little brown jobs'?) However, I do use long lenses, only my use is normally pointing it at someone on a stage from the soundboard at an arena.


Quote: For birds, most users at the moment seem to be thinking on the same lines and for the LBJ's?, I don't think that tree sparrow shot in the above review was bad at all.

Thanks! Smile


Quote: The Tamron spec does not seem to mention magnification at 600 mm MFD so I can only guess but maybe it goes no closer than 8 inches wide on a 24x36 body.

Max magnification is 1:5 . So converting that roughly to how you're expressing magnification, the frame should be filled by 180mm (7inches) across or 120mm (4.7inches) tall at MFD on full frame. I would say this will be adequate for most prospective purchasers of this lens, especially as most bird photography involves at least a little bit of cropping for composition. Those folks who like to take pictures of aircraft should enjoy using this lens also as well as those lucky enough for a safari jaunt of some description.
theorderingone 10 2.4k United Kingdom
22 Jan 2014 12:27PM

Quote: I wonder if Gary had either of these problems with his copy?

AF seemed good at 600mm, granted it was much better using the centre focus point, than off-centre ones, but this will be the case with any tele-lens, especially when dealing with low-contrast subjects.

Light wasn't great when i went out with the lens, but focusing was still swift and accurate.

I still have the lens here, and there's still no dust inside the lens as I've just checked it. All lenses are bound to get a bit of muck inside them eventually though, just maybe not after a day.
22 Jan 2014 2:23PM
I think the real comparison for many Canon photographers is the Sigma 50-500. You gain flexibility on the low end and lose 100mm in length. Be interesting to compare the two side by side. I have been very satisfied with the Sigma for wildlife, but the extra length would be good. The Canon 200-400 f4 would be better, but way too expensive.
22 Jan 2014 2:57PM
This brings the cost of a long lens well within the budget of the amateur photographers.
NDODS e2
4 3.1k 101 United Kingdom
22 Jan 2014 3:50PM
A very well written and informative review with some interesting stats. Being the owner of the Sigma DG 150-500mm 1:5.6-6.3 APO HSM can I really warrant further expense for a mere 100mm?

Regards Nathan GrinGrinGrin
NeilS e2
7 882 United Kingdom
22 Jan 2014 4:24PM
Well done Tamron, a very favourable review

Looks like this will make a great kit lens for the Canon 7D Mark 2 and Nikon D400 if/when they eventually appear

I have always advocated that Canon should have brought out a cheaper long slow IS telephoto prime, on the basis that it would sell very well, I rather suspect Tamron will prove the point, and in the process harm sales of the Nikon 80-400 vll and any Canon 100-400/400 upgrade in the pipeline

Meanwhile Sigma will probably stuff sales of Canon 50mm with its new art 50mm f1.4

Interesting and hopefully less expensive times ahead for DSLR users
annettep38 e2
3 186 30 France
22 Jan 2014 4:42PM
In the picture I eally like the fact that the focussing ring is near the camera and not far away as on most mordern Nikons.
Howerver, it looks heavier than my 600 5.6 MF and it is certainly less sharp ( judging from the sparrow and th squirrel.. Having said that my 600 was 1000 i wouldn't swap Smile
22 Jan 2014 4:57PM
It's quite capable of sharp...

Tamron test swan

This was about 500mm f/8
23 Jan 2014 6:14AM
Hello, everyone..!!! Is there any comparison available regarding "Bird Photography" between the Sigma 150-500 f/5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM with this Tamron, yet..!!!! Would like to know about that comparative study....!!! Thank you all...!!!
23 Jan 2014 8:27PM
Adding some extra comments, thanks Gary for finding your link to the Nikon 80-400 AF-s.
A minor detail and something the team might look at is why a search for Nikon 80-400 comes up with a 2006 test report which is obviously not the latest AF-s version.
Back to the Tamron a maximum reproduction of 1:5 is slightly better than the Nikon 80-400 AFs with around a 7.5 inches wide subject at 600 mm 2.7 m distance on 24x36. For those interested this is an equivalent focal length of 375 mm with this combination of settings.
As others are saying what matters is the way the lens performs the way you shoot, though the ephotozine tests helps indicate what might be expected.
Optically it seems quite close to the different focal length Nikon at less than half the price.
23 Jan 2014 10:31PM
I rarely comment about lens reviews. They are hard to do and always somewhat subjective. I applaud the efforts of diligent reviewers. That said, I think it is unfortunate that Nikon is not providing reviewers with the new 80-400 AFS. I was lucky enough to be able to try this new lens before I buy from a very good local photo shop. I have the very heavy Nikon 200-400 vr and 1.4 / 1.7 TCs. I was tired of hauling it around and tired of the inability to hand hold the lens. I wanted an alternative and considered everything (and tried several, including borrowing a colleagues' Canon with 100-400mm) I looked at the Sigma 50-150 and Tamron (not a big fan of the Tamron....) After looking at these I decided on Nikon's new lens despite the very high $2700. This lens obviously much lighter than the 200-400, has a much more useable focal range, works fine the 1.4 TC, it can be handheld for short periods, and it comes within an eyelash of the sharpness of the much more expensive 200-400 at the long end with the 1.4TC. It is the best lens of this type I have seen...by far. Honestly, I thought it smoked the Canon 100-400 and Sigma in terms of quality with better IQ (easier to handhold..., but the Sigma is close) Of course, it won't compete on sharpness with the Nikon bazooka primes, but in every other way its far more usable. Bottom line, in everything but very low light, I get professional results.
The lens is not perfect. It has two obvious cons - price and build. It's plastic (other than the mount) I can drop the 200-400 and am pretty sure it won't break (a tank!, for $6900 it should be!) Drop the 80-400 and its toast Smile
I implied that I think the reason the word isn't out there about this lens is that Nikon is not making it easily available for reviewers. I am not sure why (maybe there is a shortage, who knows). If they did, they would garner a lot of great press.
Obviously, I have not seen this new Tamron and its longer length is attractive. The fact that it produced results similar to the Sigma is a good endorsement. Hopefully, this will mean better prices / quality in the future.
Please don't trust it's really a 600 mm f6.3 optic. Probably something between a 600mm f 6.8 and a 560 mm f 6.3 at best. I can't think you can have a 95,2 mm effective aperture with a 95 mm thread in front of it...

I know no one tells the truth about photo lenses data (pro lenses included), but it's rare you can say that simply from manufacturer's data.

While in astro optics a declared 100 mm aperture lens IS a 100 mm aperture lens, since you can test it easily with a ruler.
1 Feb 2014 12:57PM

Quote: As an owner of this lens and it's predecessor, the 200-500, I fully agree with the test comments. IMHO it is probably the best value for money lens around. But, being an owner will obviously make anything I say appear biased.

There are many tests of this lens doing the rounds at the moment but you can read as many tests as you like and as much technical jargon that you can absorb, at the end of the day it's how it performs for you, on your camera. The best reviews are not really reviews at all, they are results from other users in the subject fields you are interested in. They are not too difficult to find but there is a Flickr page dedicated to this lens at http://www.flickr.com/groups/2470447@N21/ for anyone interested.

For birds, most users at the moment seem to be thinking on the same lines and for the LBJ's?, I don't think that tree sparrow shot in the above review was bad at all.

Denis.

Your link has been messed with and the redirect goes elsewhere than to the flickr group. You or ephotozine may like to correct this?
DenisG 12 11 England
3 Feb 2014 11:20AM
Reported. The link as shown is still correct and I have no idea why the change has happened.

Denis.
8 Feb 2014 11:38AM
Is it me or do some of the images posted (sample images) look....SOFT.

I have a D800 and use Only Nikon glass. You can view some of my stuff here:

http://www.500px.com/Art_L

I am keenly interested in the lens as I agree, it appears to be a killer value for the money but if it sacrifices sharpness for reach, I will pass? Have any of the testers put it on a D800?
8 Feb 2014 8:29PM

Quote:
I implied that I think the reason the word isn't out there about this lens is that Nikon is not making it easily available for reviewers. I am not sure why (maybe there is a shortage, who knows). If they did, they would garner a lot of great press.


Nikon is not the manufacturer of the 150-600, Tamron is. Nikon has no say in who gets to test it or not.

Most likely, the reason it has not been tested a lot on Nikon cameras is because Canon paid Tamron money to delay the Nikon release so Canon looks more important! This happens a lot in console game releases, now it is happening in the Camera market! Or so it would seem.

Tamron are morons participating in this type of marketing, doesn't work for me. I may have impulse bought this if it came out at the same time, now I am going to take a very critical look and may opt for the Nikon 200-400 instead.
John_7 1 2 United Kingdom
7 Mar 2014 10:39AM
Its a pity no country has any supply's of this lens. Tamron in the UK have no idea past end March/into April "possibly" they will have some. It looks like the makers have a major problem some where with it. I am hoping its just keeping up with demand but looking at most countries retailers NON say other than awaiting stock
1 Apr 2014 2:22PM
Any idea how this would work with a 1.4x teleconverter?
Nice review on the whole. But the results of the MTF meaurements here, as on almost all review-sites, are limited by the camera beeing used. As a matter of fact, they dont really show how well the lens it self performs but rather this particular combination. Since I dont own a Canon EOS 5D Mark III, the result is less interesting than a traditional MTF measurement made on an optical bench without camera. Of course very few reviewers can do such measurements because the equipment costs a fortune. However, I came across a site that actually do measure MTF like it should be done. It is the swedish photomagazine FOTO. And they have published a review of this lens complete with MTF curves for 150, 300, 400 and 600 mm, made at full aperture and f/8. Now we can really see how good this lens is. They also have published some high-res pics that look really sharp. The review is in swedish but a google translation make it rather readable. The MTF charts however, dont need translation!
http://tidningenfoto.se/test-av-tamron-sp-150-6005-63-di-vc-usd-en-riktig-superzoom/

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