Hands-On Review: Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 SP Di VC USD for Canon
Tamron’s brand-new 150-600mm f/5-6.3 SP Di VC USD has generated a lot of attention with its release. This is mainly because it offers Canon, Nikon, and Sony shooters access to the super-telephoto zoom. This lens replaces Tamron’s 200-500mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD and provides photographers with just a little more reach for better accessibility to wildlife, sports, and other distant subjects. It’s compatible with both full-frame and APS-C camera systems, with the latter resulting in a focal-length equivalence of approximately 240-960mm on Canon and 225-900mm on Nikon and Sony cameras. Buyers can get an impressive, high-performance lens that really stands out in its class.
This is a large lens, although that can be a subjective observation. Anyone accustomed to shooting with similar super-telephoto zooms won’t notice much difference. At slightly more than 4 pounds, its weight is comparable to Sigma’s 50-500mm f/4.5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM and it's about a pound heavier than Canon’s popular EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM. Compacted, it’s a little more than 10” in length. Extended to the longest end of the zoom range, and with the hood attached, it measures more than 17”. An included removable tripod collar is quite useful for anyone who doesn’t have the desire or ability to shoot handheld. While it’s certainly possible to shoot this way, it’ll get tiresome quickly if you don’t have the strength and stamina—you’ll need to mount it on a tripod and prevent additional shake from fatigue. The large detachable hood works well to suppress flare, though Tamron’s eBAND and BBAR coatings do a great job of minimizing these issues even without it.
The filter thread is a considerable 95mm, which makes for a very large front element. The downside here is that 95mm filters can get expensive, and you might not be able to double their use for much else in your kit. The front cap is a center-pinch type piece that stays securely in place and doesn’t pop off with a slight bump or jostle, a benefit to those trekking out for nature photography. There’s a handy zoom-lock lever on the barrel, and it leaves little option about whether or not to engage it—without it, the lens does creep. The ribbed zoom and focus rings are large and easy to grip, which makes manual focus incredibly smooth. The lens seems to be relatively durable as well, and after shooting for three days straight in a sub-zero wind chill, never faltered. Overall, it feels comfortable and sturdy in the hand, delivering across the board as both ergonomically and visually pleasing.
The 150-600mm f/5-6.3 was tested with a Canon 5D Mark II, and definitely proved to be an impressive piece of glass. The speed of its AF system (an Ultrasonic Silent Drive motor) is easily comparable with those equipped with Canon and Nikon’s high-end glass, kicking into action in a snap. It’s incredibly smooth, silent, and fast every time.
ISO 1250 | 600mm | f/6.3 | 1/160 sec. | Handheld with VC on
The lens is very efficient at finding an established focal point, something that can be tricky with super telephoto, and doesn’t cause you to miss out on a shot due to hunting for focus. There’s also a focus limiter switch, which further expedites the process, if need be. The only issue was accuracy, which suffered just slightly with moving subjects. Even at fairly high shutter speeds, subjects in motion were more susceptible to blurriness. Stationary shots were consistent in their clarity, throughout. Overall, AF could use a few improvements, but remains pretty solid for a lens of this type.
ISO 500 | 600mm | f/6.3 | 1/250 sec. | Handheld with VC on
Image sharpness in general is notably stronger at the wider ends of the zoom range, primarily between 150-300mm. At 500-600mm, softness can occur. A tripod does help to minimize this. Handheld shooting at the long end of the zoom becomes a little harder to do, especially if you lack the aforementioned arm strength. Vibration Compensation is very useful here, and definitely makes a difference in the details when you have no other option but to handhold the lens. It also helps to stabilize what you see in the viewfinder, so you end up less shaky when trying to compose. As a note, Tamron’s Sony-compatible version of this lens does not include VC, and relies instead on in-camera image stabilization.
ISO 250 | 600mm | f/7.1 | 1/320 sec. | Handheld with VC on
Background bokeh is beautiful. This lens houses a circular 9-bladed aperture, and it yields stunning, painterly elements of defocus when shooting at shallow depth of field. Of course, the 150-600mm tops off at speeds between f/5 and f/6.3, depending on where you are in the zoom range. Like a lot of lenses, its maximum aperture is not quite its sharpest.
ISO 500 | 600mm | f/6.3 | 1/400 sec. | Handheld with VC on
Around f/8-f/10, there’s a notable jump in clarity. Considering that it seems to need a lot of light, especially for action shots, this can be a bit of a handicap. To really capture crisp subject matter in motion, especially at the longer end of the zoom, a fast shutter speed is optimal—and necessary.
ISO 125 | 600mm | f/10 | 1/100 sec. | Handheld with VC on ISO 125 | 150mm | f/10 | 1/100 sec. | Hand-held with VC on
Some slight chromatic aberration and fringing was evident from time to time, though it was very minimal and easy to overlook without close inspection. Pin-cushion distortion, a common issue in telephoto photography, was barely, if ever, noticed. When magnified on a computer monitor, image sharpness pleasantly and consistently retained its integrity from corner to corner of the frame. The colors remained true and rich, even when out shooting in a bleak winter environment, and would undoubtedly do well capturing bright foliage or birds.
ISO 125 | 600mm | f/10 | 1/320 sec. | Handheld with VC on
©Images by Amanda Bellucco Photography
While it’s not without flaws, the 150-600mm f/5-6.3 SP Di VC USD’s amazing range is going to be pretty hard to beat. All things considered, it exceeds expectations. It looks solid, feels solid, and performs with a great deal of heart. For nature photography in particular, this lens is really going to make a name for itself. Given the chance, it just might surprise you. Looking for a reliable super telephoto zoom? In this case, Tamron’s got the answer.
|Format Compatibility||35mm Film / Full-Frame Digital Sensor|
|Camera Mounts||Canon EF, Nikon F, and Sony A|
|APS-C Equivalent Focal Length||Canon: 240-960mm
|Angle of View||16° 25' - 4° 8'|
|Minimum Focus Distance||8.86' (2.7 m)|
|Maximum Reproduction Ratio||1:05|
|Lens Construction||20 elements in 13 groups|
|Tripod Collar||Yes, removable|
|Image Stabilization||Canon, Nikon: Yes, Vibration Compensation
|Autofocus||Ultrasonic Silent Drive Motor|
|Dimensions||4.2 x 10.2" (10.6 x 25.8 cm)|
|Weight||4.3 lb (1.95 kg)|