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

Dustin Abbott

January 20th, 2014

Tamron’s Game Changer

Long and Lean

I pay very close attention to news in the camera industry.  I also interact with a lot of different photographers around the world via the Internet.  I can safely say that this lens, the Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD, has caused more of a stir in the community than anything Tamron has released in a long, long time.

That’s not to say that everyone was thrilled.

People, being, well, people, react to news in a variety of ways.  Some photographers were thrilled and excited. “That’s an amazing focal length! 

And it is. 

150mm is not so long as to make the lens unusable in a variety of situations, and 600mm?  Well, let’s just say that 600mm is the number that got people really excited.  That 4x zoom range covers a host of useful focal lengths.

But then there are the pragmatists.  The “realists”.  They dismissed the lens before any photos were shown and one word of review text was written. “It’s a Tamron.”  I’ve owned a Tamron super-tele before, and it was soft, slow, etc…  And it’s true that the Tamron brand has not been previously associated with high end telephotos in the past.  They have primarily been considered budget options, with lower end build and handling along with merely acceptable optical quality.

The announcement of the (amazing) price brought similar reactions.

Many people were thrilled.  Photographers are used to sticker shock, and no segment has more sticker shock than the telephoto range, where long glass can tip into the 6 figure range.  The new Tamron even undercut the price of Canon’s aging 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS lens although it offers a much more exciting zoom range.  Many owners of that lens have been awaiting a replacement with superior optics and a more effective image stabilizer, not to mention that the push/pull design of that lens is very polarizing.

But the low price was nothing more than another red flag to the “cup-half-empty” crowd.  They viewed the excellent price as further evidence that the lens simply wouldn’t be very good.  The price is low because the lens is garbage.”  The lens won’t focus quickly.”  It won’t be sharp.” 

The truth of the matter is that none of us knew whether Tamron had a hit or not; we just knew that Tamron was swinging for the fences with this one.  Many of us hoped that due to the very positive trend in recent Tamron offerings that maybe, just maybe, Tamron had a game-changer.

After shooting more than a thousand frames with this lens, I believe that I can safely say that Tamron does in fact have a game-changer on its hands.  This lens defies all expectations (including my own).  It is an excellent telephoto zoom lens that reaches a focal length longer than what most people currently own at a price that they can probably afford.  That makes it fairly unique.  But what really sets this lens apart from previous budget offerings is that, other than price, there isn’t really anything “budget” about it.  I am very privileged to get to share one of the very first thorough reviews on a lens that has convinced me.

Sporting the Big Glass-1

The Basic Facts

My test will be conducted on a Canon full frame sensor camera.  Those of you that are shooting crop sensor bodies can expect a field of view similar to 240-960mm (WOW!) on Canon crop sensors or 225-900mm on a Nikon or Sony crop sensor.  Understand that apparent sharpness will seem higher on a full frame body but optical imperfections tend to be diminished on crop sensor bodies.  Depth of field is also smaller at comparative apertures on a full frame sensor.

This is not a small lens.  No lens that reaches 600mm is.  But after having lugged it around the woods for a while, I believe that Tamron has struck an excellent balance between size, weight, and optics.  Any zoom lens is a delicate balance of compromises.  A prime lens can be built and optimized for one focal length, but a zoom has to cover any number of eventualities.  A lot of superzoom compacts cover this focal length (and beyond), but they emphasize compact size over optical quality, and as a result are simply not even under consideration by most discerning photographers.  The Tamron weighs right under 69 oz/1951g.  That is 4.3 pounds.  To give you some comparisons:  the 100-400L weighs right under 1400 grams, the 70-200mm f/2.8LII weighs about 1500 grams, while the 300mm f/2.8L II weighs 2350g.  The new Tamron isn’t light, but neither is it overly heavy.  It is slightly over half has heavy as the new 200-400mm f/4L + 1.4x (3620 grams).  The front element is large and takes a 95mm standard filter (which will set you back a bit!).  If you struggle to carry a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, then you probably will need to use a monopod or tripod.  If you are accustomed to using a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, I doubt that you will notice the extra weight very much.  I spent hours trekking through snow with the lens on a Black Rapid strap and didn’t notice the carrying weight at all.

Nature-6

It is not particularly short, either.  At its most compact, (retracted), the lens is about 10.25in/26cm).  That makes it about 2 ½ inches/6cm longer a typical 70-200mm f/2.8 lens.  The lens is not internally zooming, however, so it grows by an additional 3 inches/8cm at its maximum length.  There is also a large lens hood that can be attached that is a little over 4 inches/10.5cm long.  So at its maximum length with the hood attached, this is a nearly foot-and-a-half long lens.  It should be noted that the lens is both lighter and shorter than most of the longer length prime lenses. (Owners of the 100-400L should also note that while this lens is a bit longer than the 100-400L retracted, the extended lengths with/without the hood are nearly identical.)  On a very positive note, while the inner barrel does extend during zooming, it does so smoothly and without any hint of wobble.  All of this news so far is either good or bad depending on what end of the priority list you fall on.  If you were looking for compact, you might be disappointed.  If you were looking for quality optics, then this is very good news.  There is a practical limit to how compact a lens can be and still be optically superior. But as the little EOS M finds out in the picture below, this is a BIG lens.

037 Wag the Dog

Bad news/good news aside, the construction quality of the lens is, in my opinion, all good.  It is dense without being unnecessarily heavy.  The lens construction is both handsome and of good quality.  The barrel has a nice texture to it, and the focus and zoom rings are made of nicely ribbed rubber.  Roger Cicala has recently debunked some of the marketing myths regarding lens construction from the unique perspective of someone who has actually broken down scores of lenses.  It’s worth a read if you want to look here.  With that in mind, Tamron does claim dust and moisture resistance for this lens and it does have a rubber gasket near the bayonet mount to help eliminate moisture and dust entering the lens and/or camera body.  This is always a welcome sign, as it means that the company is doing its best to go the extra mile in building a quality lens. 

Nature-5

I have used it in very difficult weather conditions (extreme cold, snow, and rain) without a hint of complaint from the lens.  The lens also has a metal bayonet mount (in Canon [tested here], Nikon, and Sony mounts) and a removable tripod collar.  One notable departure from previous Tamron lenses is that a very elegant brushed aluminum ring replaces the gold ring.  I personally like the change.  It is more subtle from a distance but much more elegant close up.  This is the first Tamron lens I have seen that sports this new cosmetic touch.  It is constructed of the typical modern mix of high strength engineered plastics and metal, and, frankly, it feels just like all the other quality lenses that I have purchased in recent years.  There is no hint of “budget” in its construction.  While I am only evaluating the lens from outside, I personally feel confident that the lens should hold up well and survive the inevitable bumps that a lens this size will endure.  Something worth noting is that this lens will have Tamron’s industry best six year warranty.  That certainly helps with peace of mind!

The lens features three switches on the left hand of the barrel.  The top switch is a focus limiter with two positions, Full and 15m to ∞.  Using this while shooting distant wildlife will help AF speed.  The second switch is the AF/MF switch, which is less important on a lens like this that allows full time manual override, but there might be situations where you want to turn off autofocus.  The third switch is an on/off for the VC, which we will get to in a moment.  On top right of the barrel is a zoom lock.  When carried (like I often do) in a strap or harness, the lens will exhibit zoom creep, so this is an important (and necessary) inclusion.

Wildlife-24

There is a distance marker window and the aforementioned tripod collar.  Tamron collars are well designed and highly functional.  It is very handy to use this with a monopod.  When kept loose it allows for very easy rotation of the camera to change aspect.  The zoom ring has markers for 150, 200, 250, 300, 350, 400, 450, 500, and 600mm.

Wildlife-28

The focus ring is the closest to the camera body (not my favorite trend, but it is definitely a trend in recent lenses).  It is about 1 inch/2.5cm wide, and moves very smoothly at all times.  The zoom ring is about 2 ¼” in/5.7cm wide, and while there is more resistance than an internally focusing lens, the zoom action is smooth and nicely damped.  I did notice a bit more resistance in extreme cold (-20C and beyond), but that is hardly unusual.  Zoom rotation direction will (per usual) be the same as Nikon and opposite from Canon.

I should also point out that the lens has an excellent minimum focus distance of 2.7m (9 feet), which gives it a greater maximum magnification factor (1:5) than almost all of its competition.  That degree of magnification is very handy, and it interesting to shoot a near macro type shot from almost nine feet away!  Most importantly, however, it means that framing (and filling the frame) with small animals (squirrels and birds) is very achievable.

 

AF and Focus Speed

Before I write this section I want to give a disclaimer.  I have virtually no experience with high end super-tele primes.  Wildlife/bird photography is far from my primary pursuit as a photographer.  I own many very fast focusing lenses, but the closest lens I personally own to this lens is the very excellent Canon 70-300L.  Furthermore, I use Canon EOS 6D bodies, and while they are excellent cameras, they are far from beings equals of 5DMKIII or 1DX (or 7D/70D, for that matter) bodies when it comes to AF.

This was an area that I was prepared to be disappointed in.  My experience with Tamron’s Ultrasonic Silent Drive (USD) focus motor has overall been quite positive.  They are generally just a hair slower than Canon’s USM motors and are extremely quiet in operation.  USD is a huge step forward from the micro motors that Tamron used to use, which were very “buzzy” and fairly slow (particularly on their original 70-200mm f/2.8 lens).  But this type of lens is a whole new challenge.  The glass elements (20 elements in 13 groups) are big and heavy in a lens like this.  One of the biggest concerns amongst potentially interested photographers was focus speed and accuracy.  But over my time spent with the lens I have been very pleased in that regard.  I haven’t really thought about focus speed at all in the field because the lens has always just done what I wanted it to…and that is great news!

Wildlife-18

My Canon 70-300L has fabulous focusing.  It is extremely fast.  In a non scientific comparison I shot the two lenses side by side comparing focus speed going from one extreme to the other.  The Canon is almost instantaneous in those situations.  The Tamron?  From 150-400+mm the lens is almost neck and neck with the Canon.  Very impressive.  At the extreme end the lens is slower when going from the extremes (about 15 feet out to infinity), but still focuses quickly (no more than a second).  But more importantly the lens focuses extremely quickly at the smaller (and more typical) adjustments (not from one extreme of the focus range to the other).  And this was without using the focus limiter.  Here is a video to demonstrate the stellar focusing speed of the Tamron.

All pictures taken rapidly in this test were sharp and in focus (for both lenses).  One of the most important takeaways from little example is that it demonstrates that there is no “final hunting” like some lenses exhibit. They get there fast, but hesitate before achieving final lock.  The Tamron finds focus and locks without final hesitation.

Flapping

I am not a birder, so I cannot comment on bird in flight (BIF) applications, but I can note that even at 600mm I was able to successfully track a duck diving into the water from the air using AF Servo (not necessarily a strength for my camera bodies!) and was very satisfied with my results.  I have absolutely no doubt that the $6000-12,000 Canon/Nikon primes focus faster, but consider me very impressed with what Tamron has done with this lens.  I feel that this lens would be up to all of my expectations for personal use. The inclusion of a focus limiter switch will further help in certain situations.

Oh, and by the way, my previous best option for longer range shooting was the 70-300L + a Kenko teleconverter (getting me to 420mm), and focus speed with the Tamron is definitely better.

I also almost never encountered hunting with the lens.  It locks on quickly and accurately.  I found that it did a good job grabbing my subject even when there were obstacles like the branches in this photo:

This is obviously important for the many people that will be using this lens to shoot birds and wildlife.  This photo and it’s crop also reveals another optical strength for this lens:  chromatic aberrations are very well controlled.  The transition of dark limbs to a bright sky is very abrupt in this kind of shooting condition, but the chromatic aberrations look well controlled even in the 100% crop.

I did three AFMA adjustments with the Reikan FoCal software on both the wide and tele ends and got nicely grouped results.  I would consider the focus accuracy very strong with this lens.  My accuracy continued to improve as I become more comfortable with the lens, and in latter shoots with the lens my keeper rate was extremely high.  This, too, exceeded my expectations.  If, like me, you don’t have a lot of experience with shooting longer range telephotos, you need a bit of practice to develop technique (tuck those elbows!).  Early on I felt the lens was less accurate, but I discovered with time that the problem had really been with me.  By the end of my time with the lens I felt exceptionally good about the AF accuracy of the lens.

P.S.  If you are curious, yes, the Tamron did continue to AF with the Kenko Teleplus Pro 300 1.4x attached, giving an incredible potential reach of 840mm.  AF was clearly affected, however, most obviously when it came to achieving final lock.  It tended to hunt for a second or two before locking.  Metering is fine, but the EXIF data does not reflect the inclusion of the teleconverter in either focal length or aperture value.  Image quality?  Degraded (obviously, but still usable, particularly if stopped down).  The question would be whether or not one would be better off just cropping.  These two photos (boring though they may be) are of the lens at 840mm wide open (f/9 range).

Vibration Compensation – Can This Lens be Handheld?

Another incredibly important inclusion is Tamron’s Vibration Compensation (VC) system for combating camera shake.  Tamron’s VC system has received nothing but praise since its introduction, and this lens represents (by far) it’s most necessary application.  Without VC, handholding 600mm is virtually impossible.  It’s not that you can’t combat camera shake with shutter speed (provided you have great light), but the greatest challenge is try to frame your subject.  The viewfinder image is constantly in movement.   As a result, Tamron’s VC has never been more necessary than on this lens.  Tamron has come through with an excellent system that solves most all of the problems associated with handholding a lens.  I say most for two reasons:  first of all, no image stabilizer can ever eliminate movement of your subject.  That movement becomes more pronounced with telephoto lenses, producing what is known as motion blur.  If your subject is completely still, no problem, but with many subjects you will still want to keep your shutter speed high to eliminate movement on the part of your subject.  I found that that I had an exceptionally high keeper rate with most subjects starting at 1/320th second, but obviously fast moving subjects (bird in flight) will require even faster shutter speeds. 

Outdoor Action-3

The second issue was that I did notice a slight movement of the viewfinder before the image “locked” into place.  This behavior is not unusual, per se, but is a bit more pronounced because of the extreme focal length.  Tamron’s VC, as always, does a great job of locking your subject into place in the viewfinder, and this is true even out to the longer focal lengths.  You can shoot the lens at low shutter speeds with VC, but you will probably find fewer applications for such shooting with a lens like this.  In this case the primary application of VC is to stabilize the viewfinder and compensate for your movements to produce sharp images, and it works very, very well for that.  I was able to shoot the lens almost exclusively handheld.  Almost every shot shared in this review I took using the lens handheld (other than a couple using a monopod), and that is, I believe, the best testimonial for the excellent VC.

Variable Aperture Challenges

One thing this lens is not is “quick” in the aperture sense.  It starts at a middling f/5 and ends up at an unusual f/6.3.  This isn’t unusual for Tamron or Sigma, per se, as they offer several lenses with a maximum aperture of f/6.3.  Canon and Nikon native lenses top out at f/5.6.  That throws some people off, because they may have heard that their camera will only autofocus up to f/5.6, but this lens will actually autofocus on any DSLR; that is not a concern. 

I would love to see that maximum aperture down to f/5.6, but the reality is that f/6.3 is only 1/3rd stop from f/5.6, so it isn’t actually a huge difference in terms of light gathering (the number looks worse than it is).  Yes, some long telephoto primes have an aperture as large as f/2.8, and many of them are f/4.  F/6.3 is 1 1/3 stops slower than f/4.  That being said, at 10 meters, the depth of field using a full frame camera and this lens at 600mm, f/6.3, is 8.8cm.  That’s less than 3 and half inches!  At 20 meters’ distance it is still only 42cm (16 ½ inches).  It is very easy to get separation from the background with this lens.  This lens also benefits from the amazing advances in high ISO performance in modern DSLRs.  You can get stunning pictures from this lens in most lighting conditions, although it obviously won’t shine in extremely low light situations. Another point to consider is that telephotos that are f/4 at 600mm retail for over $10,000!  I doubt there will be too many potential buyers that are cross-shopping these products!

You might be wondering at what focal length the aperture changes.  My tests show that lens is f/5 wide open from 150-225mm, f/5.6 from 226-410mm, and f/6.3 from 411-600mm.  It actually only goes through only one full stop in its focal range, which actually makes it better than, say, the kit lenses that start at f/3.5 and work through to f/5.6.  This means that those that are cross-shopping the 100-400L actually don’t really lose any light at all through the comparable focal range.

So yes, this is a variable aperture zoom lens with all that brings, but the reality is it is equal in aperture to both the 100-400L and 400mm f/5.6 prime (which costs about the same and lacks IS) at 400mm.  It will also be more hand-holdable than either of those options because of the superior VC.

Can It Deliver the Goods?

All of these things pale in comparison to the most important question:  “Is the image quality any good?”  Prepare to be impressed, because this lens delivers an image quality far above its price point.  It ticks all the right boxes.  Sharpness?  Check!  The lens is incredibly sharp throughout almost all the focal lengths.  I am including a gallery of 100% crops from various photos in the reviews so that you can see the detail.  But let’s also stop for a moment and take a look at a slightly more boring subject (the teddy bear is back) at each focal length marked on the lens.  I have also attached 100% crops of the subject so that you judge fine detail.  These images have had no profile added to them and have had no additional sharpening.  This little series also gives you an idea of the focal range.

Now, for comparison purposes, here are the results from the excellent 70-300L at the 150, 200, and 300mm setting.

I would give a slight edge to the Canon, but the difference is, at most, minimal, and that is very good news for image quality!  The Canon 70-300L is a very sharp lens, and the fact that Tamron is staying close is excellent news, particularly since the Canon quits only halfway through the focal range of the Tamron.

Crops

Tamron 300mm Crop

Crops-2

Canon 300mm Crop

It is slightly less sharp at 600mm wide open, but stopping down even a half stop to f/8 restores excellent sharpness.  Here is a comparison between 600mm wide open and stopped down to f/8.  You can see that textures overall are a bit sharper and the bear has a little more “sparkle” in its eyes. 

I can tell a difference at 100% magnification between 500mm and 600mm, but as many photos in this review demonstrate, the lens is perfectly usable wide open.  I did not hesitate to shoot it wide open, and probably used it this way for about 50% of the 225 shots I took at 600mm.  It is softer at 600mm than other focal lengths (unsurprisingly), but it is actually pretty decent at 600mm.  That is another concern laid to rest.  Here’s a series along with some crops to show you just that:

This gallery demonstrates that even worse case scenario really isn’t too bad with the lens.  But at it’s best, this lens is very, very good!  Throughout most of the focal range the lens is very sharp wide open.

Wildlife-14

Many, many times I got that pleasant photographer’s “rush” followed by an intake of breath when I zoomed 100% into photos on my big monitor at my workstation and saw tight, crisp detail…just how I like it!  Once again my expectations were exceeded.  Do yourself a favor and click on the images above and below and look at it in larger size.  Above is 309mm, f/8, 1/320th second handheld and below  is 400mm, f/5.6 (wide open), handheld at 1/400th second.  The detail on my daughter’s face is simply fantastic!

400mm Wide Open

Color rendition is excellent.  Canada in January is hardly the best time of year to produce stunning color, but I have managed to find enough variety that I think you will be able to tell the excellent color rendering. 

People-2

I found the Tamron SP 70-300mm f/4-5.6 VC USD lens a very strong value when I owned that lens.  It did a lot of things very well, save one:  bokeh in the transition zone.  It tended to produce very busy looking bokeh.  Tamron has avoided repeating that mistake with this new lens.  It has nine curved aperture blades and it produces very nice bokeh.  The transition zone is smooth (important with a smaller aperture zoom), and bokeh highlights are nicely round and remain so even stopped down by several stops. 

Ducks Unlimited - Ottawa-8

Wildlife-16Wildlife-23

Flare resistance is also very strong thanks to Tamron’s new eBand coating.  I shot into the sun several times purposefully to test this and found strong resistance to both flare and ghosting.  Contrast also remained strong. 

Flare Resistance

Tamron seems to have checked all the boxes here. This lens is capable of taking beautiful photos, period.  The only optical improvement I could really ask for is for wide open performance at 600mm to match the rest of the focal range.

I have read the rumor on the Internet (always dangerous!) that the lens is very soft in the corners on a full frame body.  I’m sorry, but I just don’t see it.  Here’s an example, shot handheld, 600mm, f/6.3 (wide open) – aka worse case scenario.  The gallery begins with the original shot, then 100 % crops from throughout the frame, including the corners where the subject is still on the focal plane.

Let’s also have a look at the other end of the spectrum.  This image is handheld, 150mm, f/5 (wide open), 1/400th second shutter speed.  There isn’t much in the foreground because of the snow, but we will take crops from 1) Extreme upper left corner 2) Middle extreme top 3) Center of the image (focal point on the front end loader) and 4) Extreme upper right corner.  I would love to take crops from the lower corners for you, but there wouldn’t be much there to see.

I think that these examples should put to rest the (false) rumor that this lens is going to be complete garbage in the corners.  I can only tell you what I have seen with my own experience (there aren’t reviews out there yet to compare experience with), but I have not observed any kind of unusual softness in the corners.  For this price point the image quality is very hard to fault.

Now stop for a moment with me and reflect on the fact that this lens covers all the way from 150mm to 600mm.  The ability to frame a shot like you want and still expect strong image quality is just fantastic.  No prime lens comes close to providing the versatility that this lens delivers.  That’s huge!

Conclusion

As you can tell to this point, I think this lens is pretty fantastic.  I simply don’t have the budget to purchase many of the super-teles that cover this focal range, and furthermore, I don’t shoot this style of photography often enough to justify the expense even if I did.  But this lens hits a sweet spot for me.  It’s price is low enough to not only be affordable but also a small enough investment that you won’t feel like you have wasted your money if you aren’t shooting long distance every day.  So if you can’t afford a “super-tele”, how about an “ultra-tele” (that’s what Tamron is calling this lens segment)?  The preorder price in the United States is only $1069.  It is about $180 more here in Canada, but this lens represents such a tremendous value that I have had a serious conversation with a friend in the industry about how it is even possible for Tamron to make a profit at this price.  I personally wonder if they are not selling this lens at a loss to drive brand recognition.  It’s that good.

029 Foxy

Perfect?  Of course not.  One niggle is that the box contains the lens, the hood, tripod collar, and the paperwork (including a digital code for the SILKYPIX Developer Software – a nice touch for those who lack editing software).  But there is absolutely no consideration given to how you might carry/protect the lens after you take it out of the box.  There’s no case of any kind included.  That probably will represent an extra expense for a lot of buyers.  But when you come back to that price it seems somewhat petty to complain. 

I’m sure others will think of some things to criticize that I haven’t, but this lens won me over.  At first I was getting mixed results with the lens, and was a bit disappointed, but I began to learn better technique for shooting a longer lens handheld (get that shutter speed up to eliminate motion blur!!) and discovered that the real problem was me, not the lens.  My final several outings produced exceptionally consistent results.  I also discovered a few weird things that I had never considered before, like when you are shooting from a vehicle you have to consider difference in air temperature.  I was confused at some mixed results I had gotten when visiting the very cool Parc Omega in Quebec to shoot wildlife.  One series would produce sharp results, the next, shot only a few minutes later, produced very soft results.  What was going on?  At first I was disappointed in the inconsistency from the lens, but then I saw a pattern.   I realized that the sharp series would be when I was shooting from my side of the vehicle.  The lens would be outside the vehicle in very cold air (about -20C)…as were my subjects.  The soft series?  I would be shooting from the passenger side of the vehicle through the open driver’s side window, but there was about 3-4 feet of warm air (probably about 18C) in the vehicle.  That large temperature variation (almost 40C) was causing distortion (astronomers call them “tube currents”) that affected the sharpness of my images.  Having never shot in those conditions, I had never thought of that before.  Maybe this little anecdote will help someone else.

Let’s break down the pros and cons:

Pros:

  • A truly fantastic price/value
  • Optical excellence throughout almost all the focal range
  • Versatility of a 4x zoom range
  • Reaches 600mm (900mm+ equiv on crop sensors)
  • Sturdy, weather sealed construction
  • Excellent VC
  • Better than expected focus speed and accuracy
  • 6 year standard warranty in North America
  • Low CA and strong resistance to flare
  • Excellent color rendition
  • Smooth bokeh transition and highlights
  • Good minimum focus distance = good maximum magnification
  • Did I mention the price?

Cons:

  • Slight sharpness falloff at 600mm
  • Focus speed slightly slower towards longer end of zoom range
  • Exhibits zoom creep
  • No internal zooming means that overall length grows significantly
  • Case not included
  • 95mm filters will be expensive
  • Maximum aperture of f/6.3 on the long end
  • Fairly big and heavy

I recognize that I am reaching on some of these cons, because some of them are just the nature of this type of lens, but I do want to reach as objective a conclusion as possible.  The truth of the matter is that many of the cons are niggles and the strengths of this lens FAR outweigh the weaknesses.

The reality was that I was a little sad to repackage this lens and send it back.  I am already making plans for how to get another copy permanently added to my kit!  If you are looking for a reasonably low cost investment into the long telephoto field, look no further than this lens.  If you are anxiously awaiting a replacement to your aging 100-400L, I would recommend giving this lens a serious look.  Expect this lens to make a lot of noise.  Tamron came out swinging this time!  I have no problem recommending this lens. 

Amplis Store

FOR MY CANADIAN READERS:  Great News!  I can now offer a 5% discount on all purchases at Amplis Foto, Canada’s Leading Photographic Supplier.  Please enter discount code: AMPLIS52014 in your cart.  It is good for everything in your cart, andis stackable with other coupons, too!  It will take 5% off your entire order! If you want to go directly to the new Tamron 150-600 VC, click here:  Proceeds go towards keeping this site going and providing you with new reviews!  It is best for Canadian buyers to shop in Canada, as it ensures that you will have no question in regards to warranty service (and you will be dealing directly with Amplis Foto for that service.)

FOR MY AMERICAN READERS:  I now have a relationship in place with B&H, one of the best photography retailers on the planet.  I would appreciate if you could clink on the link below to buy this lens at a great price from them!

Canon Mount:

Pre-order Nikon or Sony Mount:

Purchasing through these retailers helps keep this site afloat, so thanks for your support…and I’ll try to keep the reviews coming!

If you would like to do further reading, I have written reviews for PhotoNews Magazine and Henry’s.

A note regarding the photos contained in this review:  I like to do post-production on my images, but I recognize that this review is different than many of my other ones.  This is a lens that is just coming to market, and most of you want to know above all else what the lens can produce…not what I can produce.  I do shoot RAW, but all of the images in this review have had nothing more done to them than a typical RAW conversion (using the standard profile correction in Lightroom 5) an in some cases a slight exposure or white balance tweak.  A couple of images have been cropped, but by and large these photos are as they came out of the camera.

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Disclaimer:  I reviewed a retail copy of the lens provided to me for review purposes.  It was not specially selected for me and represents a typical example of the lens.  I have not been compensated for this review and my conclusions were not influenced in any way.  The opinions stated here are my own.  I have tried, as always, to be as balanced and objective as possible in reviewing this lens.

Recommend Reading:

Canon 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM review

Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD review

Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Review

Canon EOS 6D Review

Dustin Abbott uses Alien Skin products.

Dustin Abbott uses Alien Skin products.

The Big Gallery (More Images)

Click here to open a gallery full of images from the new lens!

Comments

  1. Keith Meteer says:

    Thank you for the great review Dustin. Canadian like you, just checked CameraCanada site and they have it listed for $1189. (Great company to deal with)

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      Thanks a lot, Keith!

  2. Nice and indeed very informative review Dustin.
    Have both owned and worked with many of the heavy long white ones, but is realy thinking about getting the Tamron now.
    Regards.
    /Janne Höglund

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      Thank you, Janne. That is a pretty huge endorsement. I think you would enjoy the lens.

      Dustin

  3. Bob says:

    Thank you for an excellent review of this new product.

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      You’re welcome. Thanks for the taking the time to comment.

  4. Murthy says:

    Nice and a detailed review Dustin..Good work.. It is very informative.. Thank you..

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      Thank you. This is a pretty important lens, so I did my best to cover as many bases as possible.

  5. Joseph Andrews says:

    …would appreciate direct comparison of this new Tamron with the older 200-500 Tamron. Thanks.

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      I haven’t used the older lens personally, but Roger at LensRentals tested the resolution of four lenses, including the two Tamrons, over the past couple of days. You can read about it here: http://www.lensrentals.com/blog/2014/01/tamron-150-600-telezoom-shootout

  6. Dave Shores says:

    Thanks so much for the great review! I mostly like to do landscape work, but have long wanted a super tele for the occasional wildlife opportunities that come up. Of course the price was always prohibitive. There was no way to justify the expense, but I pretty sure I can rationalize this!! (give me a minute ……… Yep! 100% rationalized!) Thanks again!

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      Thanks, Dave! Your thoughts are pretty much the same as mine. It is within rationalization :)

  7. ahad says:

    Hi Dustin thank you for review it was very helpful I was going get the canon 100-400mm but I think I will go for tamron ps 150-600 VC USM and I have canon 70D what do think you think I get the tamron thank you Ahad from UK

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      Ahad, I personally think this new Tamron is a better choice. The image quality is just as good and it adds more reach. It would be my choice.

  8. Todd says:

    thanks for such a detailed,informative real world review! not sure youve seen this but its another detailed review!
    http://www.readdailynews.com/news-6180485_3.html

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      Thanks for both the compliment and the link. I’ll be giving it a read!

  9. Agnes says:

    Great review. Thanks
    I am interesting in getting a copy. Could you please provide some info as to what type ot lens plate will fit the lens. Thanks

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      Agnes, I don’t know the answer to that question. The tripod collar is pretty standard, however, so I think that most plates (Wimberley, etc…) should work fine.

  10. Peter says:

    great review. thanks.

    there is thought one problem… i think is see some blur in some images from NOT using a tripod.

    handholding a 600mm lens is difficult. even with good VC/IS.

    so while this gives a good "real life" overview i think the lens would have yieled better results on some images using a tripod.

    especaily birds and their feather structurs are easiy ruined by a littel bit of shake.

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      Peter, you are absolutely right, of course. I should have included a few more tripod based shots for that reason, and I know that a few of my early bird shots do show a bit of motion blur. I am supposed to get another time with the lens in February, and I will try to add a few new shots with a tripod. The series with the bear to show sharpness in the review is done from a tripod, so that should help you a bit.

  11. Dustin,

    Thanks for a great and detailed review. I had my eye on an eventual purchase of the Canon 100-400L IS, but now I am defintely reconsidering because of this lens. I was already impressed by my Tamron 70-300 SP VC Di, so I have no problem choosing Tamron over Canon if the price and quality are right. Thanks, again!

    Jeff Eppinette

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      Jeff – there’s a name I recognize :) If I were making that choice, I would definitely go with the Tamron. Better price, much longer reach, and better image stabilization. I definitely prefer the traditional twist zoom over the push/pull design. Thanks for taking the time to write.

      Dustin

  12. Juan says:

    Great review. This lens looks like a real deal breaker for me as I have wanted to buy Canon's EF 400mm f5.6 lens for a while, due to its sharpness, for sports and birding. But Tamron's offering being even cheaper than Canon's providing greater flexibility and an almost on-par sharpness and color rendition, could perhaps be the best choice.

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      Juan, I think a lot of people are in the same boat with you. The biggest challenge now will be to actually GET a copy of the lens. It seems to be backordered pretty much everywhere.

  13. Excellent review! The camera industry needed something like this to happen. We've been hearing story after story about DLSR is dead, and all you have to do is look at the prices of "high end" lens to see why. Canon and Nikon got to be kidding themselves at the cost of their latest lens. $10,000 for a 500mm?!?!?
    If the DLSR are going to die, all they have to do is look at themselves why.
    Excellent review Dustin.

    Ricky

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      Ricky, you are absolutely right. Both Sigma and Tamron have been pushing the envelope that last 18 months, and I think that should be a great motivator for the first party manufacturers.

  14. Stefan Schneider says:

    Thanks so much for this great review! Must have cost you a lot of time… Did you also test it on a crop? I usually use a 6D, but for longer reach and faster focussing I like to use my 7D when going tele.
    But anyway, you just saved me a lot of money, probably. I was one of the guys thinking "wow sounds great – but it can't be true. 'cause it's a Tamron". So I was probably aiming at a higher price… or none at all.

    One other thing I learned here: Reikan FoCal. Is it worth getting it?

    Btw, I loved reading your little anecdote about blur from temperature differences: I was experiencing the same in Iceland (warm car, cold air) and Hawai'i (long distance shots over unexpected lava fields…) with my 70-300L. They should print a warning on the lenses or something! ;-)

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      Stefan, my only crop body right now is the EOS M, and that obviously isn’t a very practical combination (although image quality is fine). I think the lens would be pretty great on a 7D. The only potential issue I can see is that the need for light for this baby might push you into higher ISO territory at times – not really a strength for the 7D. The new 70D would be somewhat better in this regard.

      Interesting to hear of your experience with temperature variation. That was a new one for me!

  15. Frank says:

    Thx for the afford and time to share you're experience with us Dustin.
    Great review with some great pics to show quality. Great nature over there too .. ;<)

    Looks like Tamron is gonna rock with this one too.
    Hope to ad this lens to my gear myself within a few weeks, the moment it sells over here.

    Kind regards from The Netherlands
    Frank

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      Frank, glad to share. Here’s hoping you can land the lens sooner rather than later. Looks like the waiting list is adding up!

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      Todd, I did read that article. ePhotozine is excellent at getting early reviews up on new lenses. I also like that they do the chart testing that I do not – it adds another piece of the puzzle. Their conclusions are very similar to mine.

  16. Jero says:

    I am considering buying this lens when it comes out but I would like to know if the lens did auto focus on the entire focal length? At some sites you read that F5.6 is the F-value needed for Canon camera's to focus. Could you please confirm this for me?

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      Jero, the lens focuses without issue throughout the entire focal length. You don’t need to worry about that. It will AF on all cameras that it has a mount for.

  17. George says:

    Great Review! I have to see the photos to believe that Tamron does indeed produce a fantastic lens at a fantastic price. I have Canon 400mm f5.6 , very fast and light weight, no stabilizer though and minimum focal lens is about 15ft.
    Any comparison with this Canon will be great.
    This Tamron has the benefit of zoom range, stabilizer and shorter max focal distance. Sounds like an idea "budget" superzoom.
    Again , thanks for the great review

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      Thanks, George. It is indeed a high value budget option.

  18. Daniel De Granville says:

    Hello Dustin, thanks for dedicating time for this very useful review. It was the first place where I found the answer about what was this lens' maximum aperture at 400mm.

    There is one thing that would make me refrain from buying one: what about compatibility issues with future bodies (Canon, in my case)? Any thoughts?

    Maybe Tamron will acknowledge this issue and re-chip the lens within the 6-year warranty? But for sure not here in Brazil, though…

    All the best, Daniel

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      Daniel, while no one can predict the future, thus far Canon and Nikon have never done anything to “break” compatibility with third party lenses. Should that happen, Tamron would essentially have to update lenses in order to stay in business. Making such a change for Canon would almost certainly impact some of their older lenses, too, so I just don’t see that happening.

  19. Jones says:

    I am thinking about getting the nikon version of the lens. Do you know if it will work with a teleconverter. I have the D7100. So that is 900mm x 1.4 or 1.7 for a total of 1260 mm or 1530mm.

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      I don’t know if it would work a Nikon branded tele converter, but I do know that it works with a Kenko 1.4x. It will still AF, but it hunts more. There is also some degradation of image quality, but it is certainly a usable combination.

  20. smaoui says:

    hello Dustin,
    thank you for this big test on the new tamron! it seems very good. i don't have the money for a big lens (500mm or 600 canon!) too much expensive! So this tamron is the good solution for me.
    friendly, Karim from France.

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      Karim, you are in the same boat that many of us are. We like the reach of the super-teles, but can’t afford them. This Tamron is best budget option to come along yet.

  21. What a great and long review of this outstanding lens. Indeed it might set new dimensions with its 600mm with a fair price. Thank you very much for this long and detaild check of the lens. Especially the details about several temperature ranges inside a car with -20 and +19 deg is helpfull.

    I will try this lens in a few weeks and can compare it to the new 600mm IS2 from Canon. But seen from the price point of view it shall be 10 times better :-)

    Enjoy the 150 – 600mm Lens… Best regards Joe

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      Joerg, I don’t doubt the Canon prime will soundly defeat the Tamron at 600mm (but the Tamron will be better from 150-550mm) :)! The question is indeed whether or not it will by 10x better

  22. Great Review! Thanks! I am convinced-now all I need is money.

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      LOL. Join the crowd!!

  23. Brian Allan says:

    Excellent review of a very interesting zoom! Thanks.

    My only full frame camera is a Sony A7R. How do you think this lens would perform on it?

    I normally shoot a standard Canon 60D and full spectrum 60D. Any idea on IR and/or nightscape/astrophotography performance of this lens, i.e.: coma/star stretch on edge of FOV?

    I understand the lens also has a zoom lock. Does this lock at a particular zoom position or at any zoom position throughout the zoom range? I have a Tamron 28-300 zoom where the zoom lock only works at 28mm; it simply fall open or closed (with a clunk) at any other position, very annoying!!

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      Brian, that is a tough one. It will come in a Sony mount, but the Sony version doesn’t have VC as Sony’s stablization is USUALLY in camera, but not on the A7R from what I understand. That long a lens without stabilization is probably not a great idea. You could get the Canon version and the adapter, I guess.
      It would be fine on your 60D, though. I didn’t not test it for night performance other than to do a moonshot (which it did great for). It locks only in the 150mm position.

  24. Greg says:

    I use a Canon 1DX with a 100-400 Canon L lens. The Camera body I was using before was a Canon 1D MK3. The 1DX improved the 100-400 immensely. I rent any lens over $5000. I am looking forward to trying this lens on the 1DX. Unless Canon comes out with a 100-400 f4 for under $3000 I may have to own one of these. The only hit on it is that it is made in China. Will it hold up in my wildlife photography conditions from 100 above and humid to 25 below zero? The 100-400 has performed flawless for 10 years in these conditions. Sounds like its worth a try.

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      Greg, first of all, I think the lens should perform even better for you than it did in my applications because of the better balance on the 1DX, not to mention the infinitely better AF. I obviously can’t predict the future on build quality, but it is built very robustly. Furthermore, I think Tamron has given this lens their best shot, as they know there will a LOT of them out there. So far QC seems to be good. All of the copies at Lens Rentals have performed similarly. The six year warranty period (if you are in North America) should help with the peace of mind. That extra 200mm of reach is a big deal on FF

  25. Harley says:

    Hi, thank you for posting this :)

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      You’re welcome!

  26. Gavin Phillips says:

    Hello Dustin

    Indeed this lens really has created quite a stir on various photography forums and elsewhere. I'm a Sony dSLR/dSLT user myself and do have some Tamron glass so when I first heard about the 150-600mm lens, I was immediately interested.

    Its a pretty steep price over here in the UK though, around £950 seems to be what they're asking, which is what I bought my non-HSM Sigma 50-500 for. The newer version with HSM is far more expensive and also a fair bit heavier too. So the Tamron would make a very suitable replacement.

    Just one question; regarding the lens and its hood. Is the lens hood reversible? I'm led to believe not all of the 500mm zooms have this capability, but it does save alot of room in a backpack!

    Thank you for your time and effort in this detailed review, I think you've just encouraged me to order myself a new Tamron lens…

    Best regards

    Gavin

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      Gavin, from what I understand (at least with past history), prices tend to be high in the UK initially and then settle fairly quickly. To answer your question – yes, the lens hood can be reversed…and it does save a space in storage, to be sure.

  27. Shane says:

    , I might need dumbed down version of the post?
    Haha

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      Good lens, good price. Big. How’s that? :)

  28. clive says:

    Thanks for the in depth and honest review, I have never owned a large tele lense and have been toying with the idea of buying one, you have sold me on this, my largest is a300mm Sony which has limitations. Am going to S Africa later this year so hopefuly will be able to get some good large game shots.

    Regards, Clive Wales UK.

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      Clive, thank you for the nice feedback. I would definitely love to have the big Tamron in hand if visiting South Africa. I do think it is a great way to enter the long telephoto arena because of the very reasonable price. Enjoy!

  29. Arie says:

    Thanks so much for the review and all the sample photographs. I'm really gaining more confidence in this lens as I see more sample images. I'm currently torn between keeping my 80-200mm f/2.8 lens (older nikon pro telephoto zoom) which I use with a Tamron teleconverter and getting this lens, but I think I can do without an f/2.8 telephoto lens as I'm not a wedding photographer.

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      It can be a tough call. There are settings where one needs a wide aperture zoom (wedding or event photography being notable examples). If you are shooting wildlife, however, reach is key, and getting both reach and a wide aperture is prohibitively expensive. I think it boils down to your personal sets of priorities.

  30. vikta says:

    Tamron owes you big. I hope they pay up. Excellent well rounded review of this lens! Please keep up the solid work as your experience is helping others like my self.

    I also love my 70-300L on my 5D3, and did switch from a 70-200 f2.8 ii, because of range. Now I will complete that cycle with this lens. Thanks much for all your imput, very well done.

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      Had to laugh at your opening line. It might defeat the purpose if Tamron was paying me big for my review… Thanks for the kind feedback and for taking the time to write.

  31. Robert D. Brown says:

    I've got the Tamron 150-600 pre-ordered from B&H (review unseen) so I'm particularly glad to read Dustin Abbott's review. Thanks!

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      Bob, it is always comforting to read a positive review that reinforces our buying decision. I think you will be pretty happy once you get the lens.

  32. Erich Neidhart says:

    Thanks a lot for the review Dustin. Do you think that weaker autofocus systems (D600, D700) will aim similar good results? Erich with greetings vom Vienna.

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      Eric, is far as I know the D600 actually has a better autofocus than what my 6d. I think you will get good results with that type of camera

  33. Marco Di Virgilio says:

    Thanks su much for this really great review! I've searched on internet for months about this lens! I will buy it for sure, here in Italy i've to wait more time for the availability
    Congratulation again for your work!

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      Thanks, Marco. It seems to be backordered everywhere, not just Italy! Thank you for the nice feedback.

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      Todd, that’s a great review, and one that I will gladly have a link to here in these comments. That is an amazing comparison!

  34. Ernie says:

    What a great in depth review, thank you for that. I have the Sigma 150-500 new version and am not very happy with it. Mine is on a Nikon D600, pics are very soft @ 500mm. Also very slow AF on birds in flight, I am considering getting the Tamron.

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      Ernie, I think that the Tamron is without question in every way an upgrade from the Sigma. Better AF, better IQ, and better focus accuracy. I suspect more than a few Siggy’s are going to end up in the used market.

  35. Ravishankar says:

    Thank you Dustin! That's a very informative and detailed review. Very useful!

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      You’re welcome. Thanks for the kind feedback.

  36. Michel J says:

    Thanks for sharing this, but I did not see one single crop (100%) in a good lighting situation.
    You have published some in good light, but never 1/1 to be honest.

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      Michel, the crops were made in Lightroom and most are within a few percentage points of 100%. I zoomed in to 1:1 magnification and made a crop as close to that size as possible. None of them may be a perfect 100%, but are representative of that value. I’m not quite sure where you are coming from or precisely what your point is.

  37. Ahmed says:

    Hey Dustin great review really helps in making my decision, I wanted to if you tried using a extender on this lens it might be silly, but then it can replace my telescope :)
    i would appreciate response to this weird question.
    thanks

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      I used a Kenko 1.4x and it worked fine. AF hunts a bit more, but it did AF. IQ is degraded somewhat, but as you can see in my review, it isn’t bad.

  38. Anthony Meador says:

    Thank you for an informative and drama free review of this product. I don't think I've ever seen so many photographers (and I use that term loosely) get so emotional about an equipment release.

    It's nice to know that the reality of the beast lies somewhere in the middle, perhaps being slightly better than hoped. Enough so that I'll certainly consider purchasing one as soon as my Wife's not looking. THIS one she'll notice! All the other ones have red rings and are about the same size (more or less)!

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      Anthony, thanks for the great feedback. Good luck on hiding this one from your wife; it’s size is a wee bit noticeable.

  39. Rob says:

    Great review. Thanks
    I will be ordering this lens soon.

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      Rob, I would appreciate if you would order through one of my links when you do. I will be putting up a B&H link for American customers later today.

  40. Arie says:

    Thanks for the wonderful review! Question: does the lens have a hard stop at infinity or does it go past? Hard stops are nice if you're taking pictures of the moon, etc.

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      Arie, I don’t actually have the lens in my hand at the moment, and I don’t know that I actually physically tested for that. I will have a copy in hand again within a month, and I’ll be sure to test that and add a note in the comment section here. Thanks for the nice feedback.

  41. Grant Hall says:

    A good review. I'm thinking of selling my Canon 100-400 for this lens but would I have problems using my 1.4 extender.

    Thanks,
    Grant Hall

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      Thanks, Grant. You might end up needing to use a third party extender like a Kenko if you need the extra reach. The extra 200mm on the Tamron is going to help a lot!

  42. Thank you for the time and effort on this review.

    I came across this lens in a camera store and was immediately attracted to it. Your review just brought my comfort level up 100% about putting out the cash for this lens. I am waiting on the Nikon version and my supplier is quoting a higher $ than what your piece mentions so I will do some serious shopping around for my best deal.

    Thanks again.

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      Cathy, I’m glad to have helped. If you local dealer is quoting a higher price, preorder the lens from Amplis through the link above and the coupon will give you 5% to get the price down even lower.

  43. Reynaldo says:

    Way cool! Some very valid points! I appreciate you penning this post and also the
    rest of the website is extremely good.

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      Thank you on all counts

  44. […] great textures. If you haven’t yet read my review of the new Tamron Ultra-Telephoto, it is here P.S. If you are in Canada, I have a code for 5% off everything at the Amplis Store (where I get my […]

  45. Interesting lens, since it has little competition except the Sigma 150-500. But I bet most will go for the Tamron unless they already own the Sigma. I actually sold my 70-300L to buy this lens and should recieve it very soon. Thanks for good review with solid information and samples.

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      Thanks for the nice feedback, Victor. I agree with your conclusion, and I hope you really enjoy the lens.

  46. Hello,
    thank you for your very good report and meaningful images.

    Best Regards :-)

    Alfred Weglehner, from Germany

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      Alfred, thank you for taking the time to write. I’ve got several German photography friends that are very talented.

  47. Nicolas says:

    Hi Dustin, thank you for this awesome review, I appreciate the effort you put on it.

    I have a Nikon D5200 and I wanted to buy the Sigma 50-500 on a trip to Tokyo I'm going to do on march (btw, I'm from South America, so no American prices for me), but after reading your review and a little more research I think I'm going to buy this Tamron and a Nikkor macro for the same money than the Sigma.

    Best regards,
    Nicolas.

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      Nicolas, glad to serve. Other markets can be a challenge. Pretty great to be able to get both lenses for the same price as the Sigma. Enjoy.

  48. […] It's sounding more and more like a really decent lens for the length of zoom and the price. DustinAbbott.net __________________ TLCA #9031 SDSFXSE#1666-69 […]

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      That seems about right. DXO only tests optics, so it doesn’t tell much of the story about the way the lens performs in other situations, but that data is handy as it shows a baseline between the 100-400L, the Sigma, and the new Tamron.

  49. Todd says:

    hey Dustin,DXOmark seems to rate this lens much higher on full frame then crop frame like the 7d which is what i use,my question is what are your thoughts comparing this lens,full frame vs crop frame? im a crop frame guy and waiting patiently for 7dmk2,i want the extra reach but has to be quality reach and according to DXOmark this lens performance not so good on crop frame. i love my 70-300L but when comparing these lenses on 7d,the 70-300L is superior and i was hoping that the tamron was atleast equal.if not ill have to pass on the tamron.

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      Todd, a crop sensor is never going to be as absolutely sharp as a full frame. Their conclusions strike me as a bit odd in that regard, as typically the optical flaws of a lens are actually diminished by using a crop sensor. DXO is not overly transparent as to how they arrive at their conclusions – which can be a bit odd sometimes. I don’t think the Tamron is as sharp as the 70-300L, but I don’t think it is drastically less sharp, either. Only you can determine whether you need that extra reach. The 70-300L doesn’t work particularly well with teleconverters.

  50. Steve R. says:

    Hi Dustin,

    Great review. This looks like a fantastic lens. I was thinking of getting a Nikon D3200 camera. Will this new Tamron lens work well with the D3200 and can it make use of all the high end auto features of this lens.

    Do you know of any reviews of the D3200 with the Tamron lens?

    Thanks, Steve
    Burbank, CA

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      Steve, unfortunately the Nikon mount has not yet been released. I expect it to be on sale within a month or so, but until then no one knows for sure how well it will perform. I haven’t actually seen any Nikon reviews yet, so I don’t know if there any of the lenses “in the wild” yet.

  51. Todd says:

    thanks Dustin! the point i guess im trying to make is the 70-300L is super sharp on both full frame and crop frame,i love it with my 7d very sharp! but the tamron is alot less sharp on crop frame and seems to suffer much more on crop frame then the 70-300L so if its noticeably less sharp then 70-300L on APS-C sensors then i may not be happy. i may rent it first like i did with the 70-300L. not sure you answered my question about whether you thought it performs great on APS-C sensor compared to full frame? was looking for your thoughts and if you noticed that the tamron doesnt perform nearly as well on APS-C then on full frame bodys? if you compared at all?

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      Todd, I only have the EOS M as a crop sensor body right now. Images look fine with the combination, but I used it very little because the size is completely impractical. That being said, I just saw a wonderful review based on the 70D today that should answer your questions: http://www.sumeetmoghe.com/2014/02/field-testing-bigron-aka-tamron-150.html

  52. Todd says:

    thank you Dustin! i did see this review but couldnt see what camera he was using,this is very helpful and shows this lens is very capable of capturing good shots!

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      He mentions he is using a 70D about a third of the way into the review. He used the lens VERY well and got some great pictures. He was working with much better light than at any point that I had the lens (January is not an overly inspiring month around here!!)

  53. […] Tamron 150-600mm f5.0-f6.3 Di VC USD review by Dustin Abbott […]

  54. […] Dustin Abbott wrote an exhaustive review about the image stabilized Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD super zoom ($1069, Adorama | B&H Photo). He defines the Tamron as a “game changer” and compares the lens to the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS. […]

  55. manoj dhaka says:

    very helpful I was going get the canon 100-400mm but I think I will go for tamron ps 150-600 VC USM and I have canon 70D what do think you think I get the tamron Manoj Dhaka Rohtak Haryana

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      Manoj, that would be my choice if I was making the decision right now. Take a look at the comment above yours and see a link to a great review on the 70D with the Tamron.

  56. wellhung says:

    Dustin Just want to say.Thank You for this review of the tamron.
    I purchased the lens three days ago and find it to be a great lens.All I had was the canon 55-250.With the tamron I have taken very nice shots of the bald eagles here in New York.Your review was a great help to me.Thank you very much.Chuck..

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      Glad to hear the good feedback. Enjoy the lens!

  57. Mike says:

    Wonderful coոteոt you've gotten hеre.

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      Thank you!

  58. Richard DesJardins says:

    Excellent, comprehensive review! Thank you for putting the time into it. Your excitement for this lens really comes through. As an amateur, having a super zoom in this range was previously unthinkable – "game-changer" is apt. I've been very pleased with my Tamron 70-300 SP VC USD and look forward to putting my tax return into Tamron's latest offering. I'm also glad that I found your site. Your reviews have a nice conversational tone and give the potential purchaser practical insight into what to expect, (your comment about "learning" the lens was encouraging). Including real-world results with side-by-side "test" shots in hi-res sealed the deal. Thanks, again!

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      Thanks for the great feedback, Richard. Glad to be of service, and enjoy the lens when it arrives.

  59. Onnie Espena says:

    Hi,

    Have you tried the Tamron 150-600MM and Tamron 1.4x if it work well or Kenko 1.4x only?

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      I don’t actually own a Tamron 1.4x right now, so I haven’t had an opportunity to test that combination. Using a teleconverter with the lens should really be a last resort, as AF will really suffer.

    2. Dustin Abbott says:

      Tamron has stopped supporting their teleconverters. I don’t believe that combination works.

  60. […] : tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 VC USD die slechts rond de 1069 $ zou kosten. uitgebreide review : http://dustinabbott.net/2014/01/tamr…vc-usd-review/ of toch maar voor 2x teleconverter en nikon 300mm F4? Met citaat […]

  61. Todd says:

    hi Dustin!
    saw this new review and thought you might wanna add it. this is one review ive been waiting for. thanks again for your great review! ill be ordering this lens soon!
    Todd

    http://www.the-digital-picture.com/Reviews/Tamron-150-600mm-f-5-6.3-Di-VC-USD-Lens.aspx
    Todd

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      I too am a fan of Bryan’s reviews. Thanks

  62. Leora says:

    Hi there it's me, I am also visiting this site on a regular basis,
    this website is really pleasant and the visitors are in fact sharing good thoughts.

  63. Jay says:

    I appreciate your effort and time spent on this reivew.

    To my eyes, Canon @ 300mm resolves more details in face of teddy bear than Tamron at 600mm.

    I would say, a direct comparison of Moon's craters taken at same time would tell us which one resolves better and shows the craters clearer.

    with regards
    Jay

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      Jay, it would be near impossible for any 300mm lens to outresolve a 600mm lens when upscaled. The 70-300L is a wonderfully sharp lens, but it would be fighting a serious battle against physics here :)

  64. Jay says:

    //Jay, it would be near impossible for any 300mm lens to outresolve a 600mm lens when upscaled. The 70-300L is a wonderfully sharp lens, but it would be fighting a serious battle against physics here //

    Dustin,
    Goliath did not win the battle..
    http://g1.img-dpreview.com/2E08611EDBAC4F69904DFD61EBB44C95.jpg
    The above link is un-edited photos from your post. Canon @300mm has out resolved Tamron @600 in red circled area, while Tamron even at 600mm f8 just barely managed to have better sharpness in green circled area.
    Again, it is your own photo. un edited with respect to sharpness.

    I understand the fact that your camera had a inch of focussing point difference between these two photos.

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      Jay, I appreciate your zeal here, but this isn’t really a perfectly scientific means of testing sharpness. My reviews are not about chart measurement anyway, but, as you rightly pointed out, the slight variance in focus essentially invalidates the comparison for testing definitive sharpness. If you research the subject you will find that it is, as I said, basically impossible for the 300mm lens to outresolve the 600mm lens when the 300mm lens has to be so significantly upscaled to provide similar framing. There’s a reason why photographers spend big money for the long glass.

  65. Amit gajare says:

    Hi,

    I love to take bird photographs. I have planned to upgrade my lens. I have 2 option,
    Option1: Nikon 300mm prime f4 and a kenko 2.0x teleconverter
    Option2: Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD

    Which option I should go for ?
    Thanks,
    Amit

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      Amit, I’m not sure about the body that you will be using, but the single biggest problem is that your first option may not autofocus for you. It will have a maximum aperture of f/8. Because you are using a Kenko, AF may work, but I would suspect the image quality and AF would be better/faster with the Tamron. It would be my choice of the two options.

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  67. Jeff Lambert says:

    Dustin,
    Thank you so much for your time in reviewing this lens. A fantastic review!! I had read a review from someone else prior to yours and he didn't really do the lens justice. I really enjoyed your take on this lens. Very thorough and honest, lots of photos…Thank you!!
    Love the fact that Tamron has a 6 year warranty. Because of your awesome review and the warranty, I placed my order for this lens today. I've wanting a lens with reach and now there is one within my reach.

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      That is some great feedback, Jeff. Thank you!

  68. Hans-Peter Nöh says:

    Excellent Review!
    Very helpful with all the pictures and crops.
    After reading it, I ordered the lens.
    Actually not available in Germany for Nikon, must wait estimated 6 weeks to get it.
    I´m really curious and excited what quality I will have with my Nikon D610.

    Best regards
    Peter

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      Peter,

      I’ve just started to get feedback from Nikon users, so the lens is starting to circulate in that mount. The feedback so far has been very good. Your D610 has a very good AF system, so I think you will be very pleased with the results. Enjoy!

  69. Jocelynne Littlebear says:

    Thank you, most kindly, for your excellent, thorough and impressive report. I can not think of any aspect of reportage that you have overlooked. I believe that you have answered all of the really important questions that I have.

    I have Sony Alpha equipment, so I expect that the VC facility will not be included in this lens intended for usage with the Sony Alpha bodies. But that is no hold up or weakness IMHO.

    Again, thanks for your efforts and professionalism.

    Respectfully,

    Jocelynne Littlebear

    1. Dustin Abbott says:

      Thank you, Jocelynne. It is always a bit of a shame to me that Sony users don’t have an either/or option when it comes to VC, as the VC/IS systems in many lenses is more capable than the in camera stabilization. I’ve started to hear feedback from Nikon users (very pleased!) but haven’t heard from any Sony users…I don’t know if the mount is currently available yet.

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