Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3
Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 (covers full-frame, APS-C and 35mm formats, 95mm filters, 59.5 oz./1,687g without collar, 8.9'/2.7m close focus, about $1,070). It comes in versions for Nikon, for Canon and for Sony Alpha & Minolta MAXXUM. This ad-free website's biggest source of support is when you use these links, especially this link directly to this lens at Adorama and at Amazon when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. It helps me keep reviewing these lenses when you get yours through these links — but I receive nothing for my efforts if you take your chances and buy elsewhere. Tamron does not seal its boxes, so never buy at retail; only buy from approved sources. Thanks for your support! Ken.
The Tamron 150-600mm VR/IS is an inexpensive ultra telephoto zoom that works much better than I had expected.
It's surprisingly sharp, doesn't have much distortion, it zooms very well across a large range, its VR (Nikon) and IS (Canon) system works very well, and its silent autofocus really does work very well.
It feels great; zooming is smooth and easy — feeling better than Nikon or Canon's ultra-tele zooms.
Autofocus is fast and sure, and you can grab the focus ring at any time for instant manual focus override.
Autofocus works great. This Tamron works better on my Nikon D810 as far as autofocus and general usage than other third party lenses, none of which has gotten instant focus override to work properly, as it does on this Tamron.
Considering its huge range, this Tamron looks and feels great. Presuming you don't intend to abuse it physically, for the super-low price, this Tamron is an unexpected winner.
If you think you want one and aren't expecting it to take a beating or last more than 10 years, sure, I'd get one. It's much nicer than I expected, and for a 600mm lens that actually works and feels great, the price is a steal.
As a third-party lens, it may or may not work on your camera.
The biggest concern is that although it ought to work great today, it is much less likely to work on whatever Nikon or Canon you buy 8 years from now.
The Nikon version (tested here) should work with all Nikon DX and FX cameras, and most autofocus 35mm cameras.
See Nikon Lens Compatibility, and read down the "AF-I/AF-S," "G" and "VR" columns. You'll get the least of all the features displayed in all columns, since "G" (gelding) is a deliberate handicap which removes features and compatibility.
I found my sample sometimes overexposed, but no worries: that's why there's an exposure compensation button on our cameras.
The Canon version is supposed to work with all Canon EOS cameras, meaning every Canon DSLR and every EOS 35mm camera.
Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3. enlarge.
Sample Images top
Tamron calls this the Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD.
SP: Super Performance. Tamron's been calling their lenses this at least since the 1970s.
Di: More marking fluff meaning it works on digital cameras, too.
VC: Image Stabilization, also called VR or IS. Tamron calls it Vibration Compensation since Canon calls theirs Image Stabilization.
USD: UltraSonic Drive, same as Nikons AF-S SWM and Canon's USM.
20 elements in 13 groups.
Rotary zoom. Front extends as zoomed longer:
Tamron 150-600mm at 600mm. enlarge.
Tamron 150-600mm at 150mm at f/32.
9 rounded blades.
Stops down to f/32-40.
Focal Length top
Angle of View top
16.4° ~ 4.1° on full-frame and 35mm.
10.5° ~ 2.6° on small-format.
Close Focus top
8.9 feet (2.7 meters) from the image plane.
Maximum Reproduction Ratio top
Hard Infinity Focus Stop? top
You have to let the AF system focus at infinity.
Focus Scale top
Depth-of-Field Scale top
Infra-Red Focus Index top
Aperture Ring top
Tripod Collar top
Filter Thread top
95 mm, plastic.
Does not rotate.
Vibration Reduction (VR) top
Tamron specifies 4.2" (105.6 mm) diameter by 10.1" (257.8 mm) extension from flange.
59.495 oz. (1,686.65g), lens only without collar, actual measured.
68.845 oz. (1,951.65g) with collar, measured. (Tamron specifies 68.8 oz (1,951g).)
9.343 oz. (264.9 g), collar only.
Plastic bayonet HA011hood, included.
Snap-on 95mm front lens cap.
Made in People's Republic of China.
6 years, USA.
Don't try it. f/6.3 is pushing it as it is.
Microcorrugated cardboard box with folded cardboard inserts.
Box, Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3. enlarge.
Available since top
They were hard to get even in December 2014. They are this popular
Tamron Product Number top
A011N is Nikon.
A011C is Canon.
A011S is Sony and Minolta.
Price, USA top
December 2014: $1,070.
The Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 is a surprisingly decent performer. It shoots well, and its optics are better at 600mm than cropping from a sharper 400mm lens — although a great fixed lens with a teleconverter should be sharper at 600mm.
AF is plenty fast, a surprise especially at 600mm. It moves and locks-on without wavering.
AF is right-on with my Nikon.
Manual focus is easy, just move the ring with a fingertip at any time for instant override.
Bokeh, the character of out of focus backgrounds, not simply how far out of focus they are, is great.
Here are images on full-frame at about headshot distance at each focal length wide-open:
The Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 has minor to moderate pincushion distortion at all settings. It won't be visible unless you look for it.
No camera will be able to correct it automatically; Tamron doesn't make DSLRs and neither Nikon nor Canon are going to add this lens to their firmware.
It's easy to into Photoshop's lens distortion filter using my figures below. These aren't facts or specifications, they are the results of my research that requires hours of photography and calculations on the resulting data.
© 2014 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.
Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3.
Ergonomics are surprisingly good. For what ought to be a giant lens, it's trivially easy to handhold, zoom, focus and shoot.
The focus scale uses the same color for feet and for meters, so it always takes too long to read.
Zooming is marvelous. It's smooth and easy to turn, even pointed straight up or down.
Just like Nikon's original 80-400mm VR, there are metal nubs left protruding when you remove the tripod collar.
This is a slow lens. Your finder will be darker, especially at 600mm, than with your other lenses.
Loads of air is pumped in and out as the 150-600mm zooms. All that air has to go someplace, and so it's pumped in and out of your camera body, and you may have some air blow out of the eyepiece into your eye.
You won't usually care, but the design of the 150-600mm f/5-6.3 is such that air, and thus dirt, are pumped in and out all the time into both your lens and your camera.
I've exaggerated this by shooting a gray field and placing these on a gray background.
There is no problem with vignetting, even with stacks of thick filters.
The filter ring does not rotate.
The effective maximum focal length shortens at closer distances.
This is an optical trick to let this lens to focus as close as it does.
If you compare it to a fixed 600mm lens, you'll see the same angler of view at infinity, but this lens won't actually be a true 600mm as you focus closer.
The other ultra-tele zooms do the same thing.
Of interest mostly to cinematographers focusing back and forth between two subjects, there is almost no focus breathing.
The image from the Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 gets very slightly larger as focused more closely, but only very slightly and only at the closest distances.
Unless you're deliberately running a test, this lens has less focus breathing than almost any other lens.
There are no lateral color fringes on the Nikon D810, which corrects them automatically.
At least on Nikon DSLRs which correct this, this lens looks great at every focal length. Lateral color used to be a huge problem with lenses this long, and this Tamron looks great on my D810.
Macro gets reasonably close - from nine feet away!
Full-frame image at 600mm at f/11 at close-focus distance.
Crop from above 36 MP image at 100%. If this is 6" wide on your screen, the complete image printed at this same magnification would be 75 x 50." (6 x 4 feet, or 2 x 1.25 meters!)
Macro is sharp, too. Bravo!
Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3. enlarge.
The Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 is almost all plastic, except for the mount and tripod collar.
Plastic; rubber covered.
Mid Barrel (between focus and zoom rings)
Metal trim ring just in front of focus ring.
Plastic; rubber covered.
Yes, but feet and meters are the same color.
Depth of Field Scale
Rear Barrel I (between focus ring and tripod collar)
Rear Barrel II (between tripod collar and mount)
Seem like plastic and metal.
Gray mark painted on barrel.
Laser engraved onto bottom rear of mid barrel between focus and zoom rings.
US Model Signified by
Hologram sticker on box:
Moisture seal at mount
Noises When Shaken
Since the barrels are plastic, one good drop and I presume it will break in two.
If the AF motor dies and Tamron has no parts, you're stuck with a manual focus lens.
While amateurs waste time worrying about lens sharpness, pros know that lens sharpness has little to do with making sharp pictures. This said, the Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 is quite sharp, except as expected at 600mm, where — news flash — it's not quite as sharp as a $12,000 lens.
Honestly, it's difficult to get perfect results at 600mm of distant subjects because of atmospheric heat shimmer. This has been vexing Man for hundreds of years; most of the time slight differences in air temperature refract light and make ultra tele shots look as if they're shot through water. This isn't the lens, it's nature.
Thankfully this lens is sharp wide-open, which is where we almost always shoot it.
Be sure that your lens is focussing perfectly with your camera. It's always likely that a third-party lens like this will have some focus offset which may need to be adjusted with your camera's AF Fine Tuning.
Sure, if you want perfect results limited only by diffraction at 600mm, then buy a real 600mm lens, but for the people who buy this lens, it works very well at all settings, especially 600mm.
Focus really is nearly silent. This is a quiet, refined lens.
With its rounded diaphragm, I don't expect to see sunstars on brilliant points of light.
The Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 is almost all plastic.
I suspect it will be easy to break into two pieces if you bang it. This is why this lens only costs $1,100.
The metal collar works fine.
It has some play when loosened.
It does not have 90º clicks.
It removes by sliding it off the rear of the lens.
I really like the little carrying handle it forms, reminiscent of my Nikon 400/2.8 AF-I.
VR and IS is well behaved and works surprisingly well. It settles down quickly, and I have no problems getting sharp shots at 1/60 at 600mm.
Other third-party VR and IS systems I've used have not worked this well; this IS/VR system seems to work as well as Nikon and Canon's.
Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3. enlarge.
Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3.ÏÏ
FULL - 15m-∞ Switch
This is a focus limiter.
Leave it at FULL.
Set it to 15m-∞ only if the lens is getting confused and trying to rack itself all the way in and out as you try to focus on distant targets. The 15m-∞ position prevents it from autofocusing closer than 15 meters (50 feet).
AF - MF Switch
Auto or manual focus.
Leave it in AF, in which setting you may grab the ring for instant manual override
Use the MF setting only if you want focus to stay where you set it and not move if you tap your shutter button.
I do this for a living, so I only use camera-brand lenses since the price of a lens doesn't matter because I use it every day. See Is It Worth It.
For normal people, this is a very inexpensive way to get to an honest 600mm.
If you really need 600mm, then get this lens over the Nikon or Canon lenses, otherwise, I prefer Nikon or Canon lenses because they work better and last longer.
A funny way to think of it is to think of cars. If you need 400mm, then just like carrying 4 people, you want the Mercedes S-Klasse just as you want the Nikon or Canon lens. If you really need 600mm, just as if you need to carry 6 people, then a Dodge Caravan, like this Tamron, does it better for a fraction of the price.
This Tamron feels and handles much better than the Sigma 150-500mm.
The Sigma is sharper at 500mm, but its autofocus is much slower.
The Sigma also feels junky compared to Nikon and Canon.
I'd consider the Sigma for things that hold still, but if they're moving, get this Tamron.
The Nikon 80-400mm VR AF-S has superb optics, ultra-sharp at all settings, but it's mostly made of plastic and costs almost three times as much as the Tamron.
The original Nikon 80-400mm VR is very well made and has swell optics, but it focuses slowly and not very close. The original 80-400 VR is inexpensive to buy used, about $800 if you know How to Win at eBay.
The brand-new Canon 100-400mm IS L II just started to ship in December 2014, and mine just arrived. Unlike the Nikon or Tamron, the Canon is made as a pro lens should be: out of all metal. The 100-400 II is a beauty, and I'll bet you that with the 1.4x extender that it can outperform this Tamron optically as well. The new Canon also focuses down to only 3 feet (0.98 meters), giving the Canon 100-400 II a much larger performance envelope than this Tamron.
The original Canon 100-400mm IS L has always been a top lens, and sells for almost a little as this Tamron. This Canon is also a top professional product, and sells today for a song. I'd buy the original Canon in a heartbeat over this Tamron; but that's just me who prefers camera-brand lenses. If money is tight, I'd consider a used 100-400 for about $1,000 if you know How to Win at eBay.
The Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 is a great lens for the price. It really does feel good in-hand, works well and gives excellent results. Compared to spending twice as much for the Canon 100-400mm II or almost three times as much for the mostly plastic Nikon 80-400mm VR AF-S, this Tamron is a great lens for the next few years.
If you've been considering one, by all means get it. Never buy a third-party lens as a long term investment, but if you're happy to get several years of great pictures out of it for a bargain price, go for it.
I'd leave a 95mm UV filter on the lens at all times. I'd specifically get the B+W multicoated 95mm filter. At 600mm, you don't want too cheap a filter. Then again, you're buying a third-party lens because you don't mind taking chances to save some cash. Seeing how a good 95mm filter sells for more than 10% the price of this lens, maybe you want to go commando and forget the filter.
Tamron does not seal its boxes, so never buy at retail since God only knows what has happened or where the lens has been before it's bought by you; only buy from approved sources. One drop from the counter by the customer before you at a retail store before the lens is put back and sold to you can really mess up a zoom like this.
This is a very popular lens, and therefore isn't always in stock. Just order and be patient and resist the temptation to get one at retail if you find it. If it's sitting in a store, there is a reason why.
If you've found my honest opinion helpful, know that my main source of support to share this ad-free website comes from you using these links to it in Nikon mount, Canon mount and Sony Alpha & Minolta MAXXUM mount, or using any of these links when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. It helps me keep reviewing these lenses when you get yours through these links — but I receive nothing for my efforts if you take your chances and buy elsewhere.
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17-18 Dec. 2014