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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.
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.
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.
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.
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 @ 300mm
MTF @ 600mm
How to read our chartsThe 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 @ 300mm
CA @ 600mm
How to read our chartsChromatic 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
Wide-angle | 1/160 sec | f/8.0 | 150.0 mm | ISO 200
Telephoto | 1/500 sec | f/8.0 | 600.0 mm | ISO 1000
Sharpness is high in the centre of the frame at maximum aperture throughout the zoom range | 1/160 sec | f/5.0 | 200.0 mm | ISO 1250
The eBAND coating applied to the lens help to retain excellent contrast, even when shooting into the light | 1/320 sec | f/7.1 | 500.0 mm | ISO 320
Cropped image | 1/320 sec | f/6.3 | 600.0 mm | ISO 1600
Cropped image | 1/320 sec | f/7.1 | 483.0 mm | ISO 1600
Cropped image | 1/320 sec | f/7.1 | 600.0 mm | ISO 2000
1/160 sec | f/6.3 | 182.0 mm | ISO 320
1/125 sec | f/5.0 | 150.0 mm | ISO 125
1/500 sec | f/6.3 | 500.0 mm | ISO 800
Value For MoneyThis 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.
Buy Online Now
|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 ProsVery good centre sharpness throughout the range
Effective Vibration Compensation system
Good build quality
Extremely low CA
Resistant to flare and retains good contrast shooting into the light
Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 VC USD ConsNo claims made about weather resistance
|VALUE FOR MONEY|
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
|Focal Length||150mm - 600mm|
|Angle of View||4.8° - 16.25°|
|Max Aperture||f/5 - f/6.3|
|Min Aperture||f/32 - f/40|
|35mm equivalent||240mm - 960mm|
|Box Contents||Lens hood, detachable tripod mount, front and rear caps|