Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens Review

Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens

A telephoto zoom lens is usually one of the first two or three first-purchased and most-used lenses for most photographers, even those with tiny kits. For some, especially those photographing wildlife and sports, a versatile lens such as the Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD ultra-telephoto zoom lens may be found continuously mounted to a camera body. For a reasonable price, this attractive, solidly-built, modestly-sized lens delivers excellent image quality from an extended range of long focal lengths, reaching deep into the super-telephoto range.

Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens Top View

Focal Length Range

Choosing the right focal length or focal length range is of utmost importance for lens selection. The focal length determines the perspective and framing combination.

With a range that starts at 150mm and goes to a super-telephoto 500mm, this lens covers a wide range of uses, including many general-purpose telephoto needs. I carry a zoom lens covering these focal lengths a significant percentage of the time in the field.

Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens Bird Photography Sample Picture

One of the best uses for the 150-500mm focal length range is wildlife photography. Large or very close wildlife can be contained in the frame at the wide end of the range, often enabling environmental portraits capture. From the other perspective, when the wildlife is scared of you (or vice versa) or you cannot or do not want to approach more closely, 500mm permits capturing images of distant subjects rendered large in the frame. Smaller birds and animals, chipmunks for example, often need longer focal lengths to have a substantial size in the frame even at close distances. These subjects are included on this telephoto zoom lens's uses list.

Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens Bird in Flight Sample Picture

Staying with the fauna theme, the Tamron 150-500 is an ideal zoo and safari lens option.

A 150-500mm lens is often a great choice for photographing people. The wide end has great portrait photography capabilities, even indoors, if adequate ambient light is available. The mid and long focal lengths, typically most-easily used outdoors, will provide a more-compressed appearance (due to the longer subject distance), and these focal lengths bring the potential for a strong background blur (long focal lengths magnify the background blur). Parents chasing kids can also find plenty of uses for this entire focal length range, including for their at-the-park and at-the-beach needs. If you get bored at the beach, this focal length range provides an artistic outlet.

Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens Artistic Sample Picture

This focal length range is ideal for headshot portraits.

People participating in sports make great subjects for this lens. While selecting a telephoto lens is a good choice from a safety perspective (safety both from and for the subject), it is also a good choice when there is a physical or designated barrier to getting closer, such as a fence or the perimeter lines on a sports field. Sometimes, the action can be close, and sports photography needs can range all of the focal lengths this lens avails. A full-frame camera-mounted 500mm lens will reach deep into large field events, covering a very significant portion of even large soccer, football, field hockey, lacrosse, etc. fields. At the same time, even close action will be nicely handled by the wide end of this zoom lens. A zoom range (vs. using a prime or single focal length lens) means that the proper cropping of a subject can be established and maintained over a wide range of subject distances, resulting in full use of your camera's imaging sensor, creating optimal image quality.

I use all of these focal lengths in this lens for landscape photography. I often find it easy to create attractive, compressed-perspective landscape images when using a telephoto lens. Note that long focal lengths can make even a mediocre sunrise or sunset look amazing. This lens is a great choice for smaller flora, such as the flowers in your garden.

Wildlife, sports, and landscape photographers make up a large percentage of the owners of this lens, but there are plenty of other uses for this wide 5x focal length range. Photojournalists, especially those with restricted access to their subjects, may find this focal length range very useful. With the close minimum focus distance, this lens will work excellently for product photography. This lens is a great choice for air shows.

Sometimes, laziness (perhaps "relaxation" sounds better) is a good reason to opt for the 150-500mm focal length range. Sit in the comfort of your car, avoid the need to cross a creek, stay back from the surf, etc. An advantage of having the wider focal lengths available is that subjects can be framed appropriately from in front of line-of-sight obstacles.

I've only touched on a small percentage of the uses for this lens. If I am not using it as my primary lens, a lens such as a 150-500mm zoom will be handling much of the balance of my needs, including complementing a 600mm lens when photographing wildlife or a 24-70mm lens when photographing landscapes.

Here are examples illustrating this focal length range:

Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens Focal Length Range Example

APS-C sensor format cameras utilize a smaller portion of the image circle, and that means a scene is framed more tightly, with 1.5x being the angle of view multiplier for Sony's camera line-up. The resulting 225-750mm full frame angle of view equivalent shifts the uses for this lens deeper into the sports and wildlife genres.

Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens Front View

Max Aperture

If you want a small, light, affordable lens with very long focal lengths included, assured is that lens will have a variable max aperture (the maximum opening does not enlarge adequately with focal length increase to maintain the same ratio) that is relatively narrow at any focal length, and especially narrow at the long end. While no one will complain about those advantages, the narrow apertures require noisy-high ISO settings to avoid motion blur when shooting handheld or when the subject is moving under medium and low light conditions. Less light reaching the sensor can also affect AF performance.

How does the Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens's max aperture openings compare to similar lenses?

Modelf/4.5f/5.0f/5.6f/6.3
Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1 L IS USM Lens100-150mm151-253mm254-362mm363-471mm
Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens100-134mm135-311mm312-400mm 
Sigma 60-600mm f/4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports60-75mm76-138mm139-347mm348-600mm
Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS C Lens 100-112mm113-234mm235-400mm
Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM C Lens 100-111mm112-233mm134-400mm
Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports 150-184mm185-320mm321-600mm
Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM C 150-179mm180-387mm388-600mm
Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS Lens100-115mm116-161mm162-400mm 
Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens  200-299mm300-600mm
Tamron 100-400mm f/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD Lens100-136mm137-180mm181-280mm281-400mm
Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens 150-241mm242-387mm383-499mm
Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 Lens 150-212mm213-427mm428-600mm
Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD Lens 150-225mm226-427mm428-600mm

The lower the aperture number, the wider the opening, and the more light the lens will allow to reach the imaging sensor. Interesting is that the Sony a1 was still indicating f/6.3 with this lens zoomed to 499mm. It seems that marketing would have been advantaged by ending the range at 499mm, calling it 500mm, and specifying the aperture range as ending at a slightly more favorable f/6.3.

Use our lens specifications tool to compare lenses not included above.

Wider aperture lenses can create a shallower depth of field, resulting in a stronger, subject-isolating foreground and background blur. While this lens lacks the wide aperture advantage, the stronger background magnification created from the relatively long focal lengths availed in this lens easily overcome that disadvantage. With a relatively close subject and wide aperture, this lens adeptly erases the background.

Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens Maximum Blur Example

The above sample image (full image reduced in size) was captured at 150mm. The 500mm sample was essentially a solid color, beautifully void of noticeable variation and not worth showing.

When recording video, only 1/60 second shutter speeds (twice the framerate) are typically needed (assuming you're not capturing high framerate slow-motion video), and wide apertures are not often required for 1/60 second rates in normally encountered ambient lighting.

A downside to the variable max aperture is that the widest available max aperture, f/5, cannot be used over the entire focal length range. Your camera will automatically account for the change in auto exposure modes, but making use of the widest-available aperture in manual exposure mode is complicated somewhat.

Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens Side View with Hood

Image Stabilization

The longer the focal length, the larger subject details (captured at the same distance) are rendered, and the more still the camera must be held to avoid subject details crossing imaging sensor pixels, the cause of motion blur. Image stabilization, VC (Vibration Compensation) in this case, is an extremely valuable feature in any lens and an especially valuable feature in a telephoto lens. VC significantly increases the versatility of the Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens.

Perhaps most important is that VC allows handholding of the camera in extremely low light situations with still subjects (or permits motion blurring of subjects with sharp surroundings). Also valuable is that VC allows handholding in medium and low light levels when more depth of field is needed, allowing narrower aperture use without a tripod. When using a circular polarizer filter with narrow apertures (typical for landscapes and cityscapes), VC can be helpful even under direct sunlight.

This VC implementation is nearly silent, with a low hum being audible only by an ear close to the lens. This VC system is well behaved, keeping the viewfinder image free of jumping and drifting issues. VC modestly improves the stability of the image in the viewfinder, aiding in optimal composition, which is an image quality factor. Providing a still subject to the camera's AF system is another VC benefit.

VC can stabilize video recording, creating a more pleasant-to-watch result.

How well VC actually keeps the image still is the most important aspect of such as system. Tamron does not provide a CIPA stops of assistance rating for this VC implementation, and your experience will vary depending on your circumstances, your capabilities, the camera used, and the pixel density of its sensor.

Tamron provides three VC modes on this lens. Mode 1 (general-purpose), Mode 2 (for panning with a subject, one axis of stabilization is provided), and Mode 3. Mode 3 is useful for tracking erratic action. In this mode, VC is active and ready for use the moment the shutter releases, but stabilization is not provided until that precise time. The view seen through the viewfinder is not stabilized, allowing an erratically moving subject to be tracked without fighting against image stabilization trying to stabilize the view. VC Mode 3 is designed to detect panning motion, and when detected, the lens will only apply stabilization at right angles to the direction of the detected movement (like Mode 2).

Note that this VC implementation is not tripod sensing and adapting. VC should be switched off for tripod use.

When you want or need to leave the tripod behind, VC is there for you, helping to ensure sharp images and adding significant versatility to this lens.

Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens on Tripod

Image Quality

Tamron's Di III lenses have been delivering very nice, often remarkable, image quality for their small size, light weight, and affordable price. Is the Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens sharp? That was the first question on my list, and yes is the answer.

At 150mm, with a wide-open aperture, this lens produces very sharp center-of-the-frame results. As the focal length increases, sharpness slowly decreases. At 300mm, the results appear slightly softer than at 150mm. Ditto for 500mm compared to 300mm. However, 500mm results are still nicely sharp, usable for most applications.

In general, lenses are not as sharp at their wide-open apertures as they are when stopped down one or two stops, but a narrow aperture lens does not provide much stop-down headroom before the softening effects of diffraction are encountered. Fortunately, this lens performs so well wide open that, at f/8, there is very little sharpness improvement visible, and with the Sony Alpha 1 mounted, no sharpness improvement is seen when stopping down from f/8 to f/11.

Moving out to the periphery of the image circle, where light rays are refracted to a stronger angle than in the center, lenses typically show decreased sharpness. That expectation holds at 150mm, where the periphery is slightly soft, but from 200mm through 500mm, this lens's peripheral image quality is very sharp. Stopping down this lens again produces very little change in the above regard.

Taking the testing outdoors, we next look at a series of center-of-the-frame 100% resolution crop examples. These images were captured in RAW format using a Sony Alpha a1 and processed in Capture One using the Natural Clarity method with the sharpening amount set to only "30" on a 0-1000 scale. Note that images from most cameras require some level of sharpening, but too-high sharpness settings are destructive to image details and hide the deficiencies of a lens.

Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens Sharpness Comparison Example

150mm: f/5.0 | f/5.6 | f/8.0  f/5.0 | f/5.6 | f/8.0  f/5.0 | f/5.6 | f/8.0
300mm: f/5.6 | f/8.0  f/5.6 | f/8.0  f/5.6 | f/8.0
500mm: f/6.7 | f/8.0  f/6.7 | f/8.0  f/6.7 | f/8.0

The natural outdoor subjects are looking excellent in these examples.

If present, focus shift, the plane of sharp focus moving forward or backward as the aperture is narrowed (residual spherical aberration or RSA), is often made apparent in such a comparison. That issue is not exhibited by this lens.

Next, we'll look at a comparison showing 100% extreme-top-left-corner crops captured and processed identically to the above center-of-the-frame images. The lens was manually focused in the corner of the frame to capture these images.

Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens Corner Sharpness Comparison Example

150mm: f/5.0 | f/5.6 | f/8.0  f/5.0 | f/5.6 | f/8.0
300mm: f/5.6 | f/8.0  f/5.6 | f/8.0
500mm: f/6.7 | f/8.0  f/6.7

Samples taken from the outer extreme of the image circle, full-frame corners, usually show a lens's weakest performance. These results are really nice. Note that heatwaves ruined the second 500mm f/8 sample, excluded from the shared results.

When used on a camera that utilizes a lens's entire image circle, peripheral shading can be expected at the widest aperture settings. Want less shading? Select a narrower aperture, though having narrow max apertures affords less stopping down headroom. Fortunately, throughout the focal length range, a not-too-bad about two stops of shading is present in the corners at wide-open apertures. At f/8, the shading drops to just under a stop over most of the range. The long end, having stopped down less to reach f/8, pushes shading to just over one stop. Shading amounts continue to reduce at f/11, with a relatively low about 0.5 stops remaining throughout the focal length range.

APS-C format cameras using lenses projecting a full-frame-sized image circle avoid most vignetting problems. In this case, the just-under one-stop of shading showing at wide open will be visible in only certain instances, such as those with a solid color (a blue sky, for example) showing in the corners.

One-stop of shading is often used as the visibility number, though subject details provide a widely varying amount of vignetting discernibility. Vignetting is correctable during post-processing with increased noise in the brightened areas being the penalty, or it can be embraced, using the effect to draw the viewer's eye to the center of the frame. Study the pattern showing in our vignetting test tool to determine how your images will be affected.

Lateral (or transverse) CA (Chromatic Aberration) refers to the unequal magnification of all colors in the spectrum. Lateral CA shows as color fringing along lines of strong contrast running tangential (meridional, right angles to radii) with the mid and especially the periphery of the image circle showing the most significant amount as this is where the most significant difference in the magnification of wavelengths typically exists.

With the right lens profile and software, lateral CA is often easily correctable (often in the camera) by radially shifting the colors to coincide. However, it is always better to avoid this aberration in the first place.

Color misalignment can easily be seen in the site's image quality tool, but let's also look at a set of worst-case examples. The images below 100% crops from the extreme top left corner of Sony Alpha 1 frames showing diagonal black and white lines.

Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens Lateral Chromatic Aberration Example

Only black and white colors should appear in these images, with the additional colors indicating a minor presence of lateral CA. Common is for a zoom lens to have noticeable color separation in the corners at the focal length extremes (with a reversing of the fringing colors) and little lateral CA at mid-range focal lengths. For this lens, the color shift crossover (colors aligning and then reversing) happens at around 200mm, where little color shift is seen. While the Tamron 150-500mm lens produces some color separation, the overall amount is quite low and primarily noticeable at the 500mm focal length.

A relatively common lens aberration is axial (longitudinal, bokeh) CA, which causes non-coinciding focal planes of the various wavelengths of light. More simply, different colors of light are focused to different depths. Spherical aberration along with spherochromatism, or a change in the amount of spherical aberration with respect to color (looks quite similar to axial chromatic aberration but is hazier) are other common lens aberrations to observe. Axial CA remains somewhat persistent when stopping down, with the color misalignment effect increasing with defocusing. The spherical aberration color halo shows little size change as the lens is defocused, and stopping down one to two stops generally removes this aberration.

In the real world, lens defects do not exist in isolation, with spherical aberration and spherochromatism generally found, at least to some degree, along with axial CA. These combine to create a less sharp, hazy-appearing image quality at the widest apertures.

The examples below look at the defocused specular highlights' fringing colors in the foreground vs. the background. The lens has introduced any fringing color differences from the neutrally-colored subjects.

Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens Spherical and Axial Aberration Example

While some color separation is visible in these samples, the amount is rather low. This performance is not unusual for a narrow aperture lens.

Bright light reflecting off of lens elements' surfaces may cause flare and ghosting, resulting in reduced contrast and sometimes interesting, usually destructive visual artifacts. The shape, intensity, and position of the flare in an image are variable, dependant on the position and nature of the light source (or sources), selected aperture, shape of the aperture blades, and quantity and quality of the lens elements and their coatings. In the 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens, Tamron utilizes BBAR-G2 (Broad-Band Anti-Reflection Generation 2) Coating to combat flare, though the high 25 element count is challenging in this regard. Still, this lens produced relatively few flare artifacts, even at narrow apertures, in our standard sun in the corner of the frame flare test, reflecting excellent performance in this regard. Veiling flare is somewhat pronounced, though still reasonable for such a lens.

Flare effects can be embraced or avoided, or removal can be attempted. Removal is sometimes very challenging, and in some cases, flare effects can be quite destructive to image quality.

Two lens aberrations are particularly evident when shooting images of stars, mainly because bright points of light against a dark background make them easier to see. Coma occurs when light rays from a point of light spread out from that point instead of being refocused as a point on the sensor. Coma is absent in the center of the frame, gets worse toward the edges/corners, and generally appears as a comet-like or triangular tail of light which can be oriented either away from the center of the frame (external coma) or toward the center of the frame (internal coma). Coma clears as the aperture is narrowed. Astigmatism is seen as points of light spreading into a line, either meridional (radiating from the center of the image) or sagittal (perpendicular to meridional). Remember that Lateral CA is another aberration apparent in the corners.

The images below are 100% crops taken from the top-right corner of Sony a1 frames.

Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens Coma Example

Most lenses stretch the peripheral stars, but these results look great.

This lens has a moderate amount of pincushion distortion that, a bit unusual, changes little over the entire focal length range. This distortion will primarily show itself when a straight line runs near and parallel to the border of the image.

Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens Distortion Example

The ocean is unforgiving in this regard.

Most modern lenses have correction profiles available (including in-camera), and distortion can easily be removed using these. Still, distortion correction is destructive at the pixel level as some portion of the image must be stretched or the overall dimensions reduced.

As seen earlier in the review, it is easy to illustrate the amount of blur a lens can create, and telephoto lenses are inherently advantaged in this regard. Due to the infinite number of variables present among all available scenes, assessing the bokeh quality is considerably more challenging. Here are some f/11 (for diaphragm blade interaction) examples.

Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens Bokeh Example

The first set of examples, 100% resolution crops, show defocused highlights rather nicely filled and quite rounded. That last attribute is availed by the aperture not stopping down significantly to create f/11. The second set of results are full images reduced in size, illustrating expected results in the field. Overall, the Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens produces nice bokeh.

Except for a small number of specialty lenses, the wide aperture bokeh in the frame's corner does not produce round defocused highlights, with these effects taking on a cat's eye shape due to a form of mechanical vignetting. If you look through a tube at an angle, similar to the light reaching the frame's corner, the shape is not round, and that is the shape seen here. The results below are upper left quadrant crops.

Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens Cat's Eye Bokeh Example

As the aperture narrows, the entrance pupil size is reduced, and the mechanical vignetting absolves with the shapes becoming rounder.

With a 7-blade count diaphragm, point light sources captured with a narrow aperture setting and showing a sunstar effect will have 14 points. In general, the more a lens diaphragm is stopped down, the larger and better-shaped the sunstars tend to be. A narrow max aperture lens does not afford much stopping down before reaching apertures where diffraction causes noticeable softening of details, and these lenses typically do not produce the biggest or best-shaped sunstars.

Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens Sunstar Effect Example

The 150mm f/16 example above shows approximately the best sunstar this lens can create. Zoom to a longer focal length, and the star points shrink significantly. This lens is not a good choice for producing sunstars.

The design of this lens is illustrated below.

Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens Design

Overall, the optical performance of the Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD is impressive, leaving little to complain about. The pincushion distortion is probably this lens's worst optical offense. If unable to produce impressive imagery with this lens, the photographer is the first part of the equation to inspect.

Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens Extended Top View with Hood

Focusing

As denoted in the name, the Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens utilizes a VXD (Voice-coil eXtreme-torque Drive) linear motor focus mechanism.

Tamron Voice-coil eXtreme-torque Drive

"VXD delivers extreme high-speed and high-precision movement and ensures exceptionally responsive performance." [Tamron]

This lens focuses very fast, and unless your ear is next to the lens, the faint clicks made while doing so will be inaudible.

I found this lens to consistently focus accurately, the number one requirement of an AF system. The accurate in-focus rate on running people was very high. Performance on more challenging birds approaching in flight was not as stellar.

With the max apertures being relatively narrow, this lens is not the best choice for low-light AF. However, at the wider focal lengths, the Sony a1 can focus this lens in rather dark environments. Select a longer focal length, and the performance is far less impressive with focus hinting becoming a problem in low light scenarios.

This lens features a focus distance range limit switch that, in addition to enabling the full focus distance range, allows distance selection to be limited to 9.8' (3m) - ∞ and 49.2' (15m) - ∞, with the narrower ranges potentially decreasing focus lock times (reduced hunting).

While it can be an individual lens-specific attribute, the review lens did not exhibit parfocal-like behavior in this test. When focused at 500mm, subjects were noticeably out of focus at 400mm, though the subject came back into focus at wider focal lengths. If you adjust the focal length, re-establish focus.

FTM (Full Time Manual) focusing is supported in Sony's DMF (Direct Manual Focus) mode with the shutter release half-pressed or the AF-ON button pressed.

Normal is for the scene to change size in the frame (sometimes significantly) as the focus is pulled from one extent to the other, referred to as focus breathing, a change in focal length resulting from a change in focus distance. Focus breathing negatively impacts photographers intending to use focus stacking techniques, videographers pulling focus, and anyone critically framing while adjusting focus. This lens produces a modest change in subject size through a full extent focus distance adjustment.

Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens Focus Magnification Example

150mm: Far | Close   300mm: Far | Close   500mm: Far | Close

The Tamron 150-500mm VC VXD lens has a very small ribbed (not rubber coated) focus ring located behind the zoom ring. Adequate separation between these rings helps avoid inadvertent adjustments. The manual focus ring resistance is on the light side and is smooth with a very slightly scratchy feel.

Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens Side View

Turned slowly at 150mm, the focus ring rotates 1170° to cover the entire focus distance range. Zoom to 500mm and turn slowly for a patience-testing 3,030° of rotation (8 full rotations x 360° + 150°) to accomplish the same task. While the slow focus adjustment rate allows precise manual focusing, making long-distance adjustments at those rates is frustrating. Fortunately, when the focus ring is turned quickly, a much faster adjustment rate is imparted, ranging from 140° to 320°.

With a minimum focus distance of 23.6" (600mm), this lens has a sweet 0.32x maximum magnification spec, allowing tight framing of even small subjects.

ModelMFDMM
Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1 L IS USM Lens35.4"(900mm)0.33x
Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS C Lens63.0"(1600mm)0.24x
Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports Lens102.4"(2600mm)0.20x
Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM C Lens110.2"(2800mm)0.20x
Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS Lens38.6"(980mm)0.35x
Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens94.5"(2400mm)0.20x
Tamron 100-400mm f/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD Lens59.1"(1500mm)0.28x
Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VXD Lens23.6"(600mm)0.32x
Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 Lens86.6"(2200mm)0.26x

At 150mm, a subject measuring approximately 4.0 x 2.7" (68.6 x 45.7mm) fills a full-frame imaging sensor at this lens's minimum focus distance. With the minimum focus distance increased by 500mm, a slightly larger 4.5 x 3" (114.3 x 76.2mm) subject then does the same.

Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens Maximum Magnification Example

Need a shorter minimum focus distance and higher magnification? Mount an extension tube behind this lens to decrease and increase those respective numbers, with the greatest increase occurring at the wide end. Extension tubes are hollow lens barrels that shift a lens farther from the camera, allowing shorter focusing distances at the expense of long-distance focusing. Electronic connections in extension tubes permit the lens and camera to communicate and otherwise function as normal. As of review time, Tamron does not publish extension tube specs, nor do they manufacture these items, but third-party Sony E-mount compatible extension tubes are available.

This lens is not compatible with Tamron teleconverters.

Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens Extended Top View

Build Quality & Features

The Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens has a solid, high-quality feel and a modern design.

Looking at Tamron's most similar predecessor lens, the 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 Lens, we see some design changes implemented.

Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens Compared to  150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 Lens

Tamron started the to-600mm craze with the Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD Lens and followed up with the G2 version. Interesting is that, with new mirrorless line-up goals in play, they backed off on the long zoom range, dropping that capability to 500mm in the Di III model. Obvious is that the mirrorless design (shown on the left) is considerably smaller and, as you will see below, noticeably lighter, two of Tamron's high priority design goals for the mirrorless lens line-up.

Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens Product Images

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This lens features engineering plastic exterior construction.

The huge rubber-ribbed zoom ring is easy to find and rotates smoothly over the short 75° of rotation, facilitating quick subject acquisition. By 500mm, the lens is extended a very noticeable 2.95" (74.9mm) from its retracted length. Even fully extended, the lens barrel has very little play, showing tight tolerances.

At 150mm, the lens is modestly back heavy when supported with left-hand fingertips on the zoom ring, but the forward shifted weight at 500mm vastly changes that aspect.

Especially with zoom lenses having heavy elements in the extension, gravity will fight to move the extension toward the ground. Typically, lens manufacturers provide a lock switch to hold the lens fully retracted. This is a nice feature, and the Tamron 150-500mm III VC VXD Lens has this switch.

However, it is sometimes important to lock another focal length into place. For example, when the lens is pointed upward (at the moon, for example), gravity will prevent the lens from remaining extended without a hand on it. Tamron overcomes that issue with a push/pull feature they call "Flex Zoom Lock". As seen in the referenced G2 lens, the zoom ring can be shifted forward at any focal length to hold that setting. While the zoom ring is not completely locked in place by this feature, it is firmly held there. Overall, the zoom lock feature is very helpful, though a downside is that I find it easy to shift the lens into the locked position inadvertently.

A full complement of switches are provided on a significantly raised switchbank. Despite being nicely recessed, the switches are easy to adjust. As usual, the pair of 3-position switches require care to set to the middle position setting.

Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens Mount

Especially appropriate for a lens primarily intended for outdoor use is weather sealing, and this lens gets that feature.

Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens Weather Sealing

"The front surface of the lens element is coated with a protective fluorine compound that is water- and oil-repellant. The lens surface is easier to wipe clean and is less vulnerable to the damaging effects of dirt, dust, moisture, and fingerprints." [Tamron]

The 150-500mm DI III is compatible with many of the advanced mirrorless camera features including, Hybrid AF, Eye AF, in-camera lens correction (shading, chromatic aberration, distortion), and camera-based lens firmware updates.

The Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VXD Lens is not a small or light lens relative to all lenses. However, for the focal length range it avails, the Tamron 150-500mm Di III VC VXD Lens is relatively compact and lightweight. This lens is easily handholdable, but your body will let you know that you have done so after long periods of continuous handheld use.

ModelWeight oz(g)Dimensions w/o Hood "(mm)FilterYear 
Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1 L IS USM Lens48.2(1365)3.7 x 8.2(93.8 x 207.6)772020
Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS C Lens40.9(1160)3.4 x 7.8(86.0 x 197.2)672020
Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports Lens101(2860)4.8 x 11.4(121.9 x 289.6)1052014
Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM C Lens68.1(1930)4.1 x 10.2(105.0 x 260.1)952015
Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS Lens49.2(1395)3.7 x 8.1(93.9 x 205.0)772017
Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens74.8(2120)4.5 x 12.5(115.5 x 318.0)952019
Tamron 100-400mm f/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD Lens40.1(1135)3.4 x 7.8(86.2 x 199.0)672017
Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VXD Lens60.9(1725)3.7 x 8.3(93.0 x 209.6)822021
Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 Lens71.0(2010)4.3 x 10.2(108.4 x 260.2)952016

For many more comparisons, review the complete Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens Specifications using the site's lens specifications tool.

The joints on my fingers mildly impact the barrel of this lens when tightly gripping the Sony a1.

Here is a visual comparison:

Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens Compared to Similar Lenses

Positioned above from left to right are the following lenses:

Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS Lens
Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VXD Lens
Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens

The same lenses are shown below at full extension.

Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens Compared to Similar Lenses Fully Extended

Use the site's product image comparison tool to visually compare the Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens to other lenses.

Expected is that this lens would accept standard threaded filters, and good news is that the thread size is only 82mm. While 82mm filters are relatively large and expensive, they are considerably smaller and more common than the 95mm and larger filters typically accepted by similar lenses.

Like most large and heavy lenses, the Tamron 150-500mm Di III Lens comes with a tripod mount ring. The model A057TM tripod mount ring allows the lens and camera weight to be balanced over the support vs. a very front-heavy situation (with risk to the camera mount) created by the lens hanging from a supported camera body. A tripod ring-mounted camera is also quickly and easily rotated for the ideal orientation.

This tripod ring features a convenient integrated, practically universal Arca-Swiss-compatible mount – no accessory lens plate or replacement foot is required. Strap attachment points are included.

The hinged, removable tripod ring is smooth when fully loosened but shows slip-stick behavior when tension is added (normal for this class of lens). When locked, the ring is quite solid, showing little flex.

The top of the foot is rounded, making the lens comfortable to carry upside down and comfortable for a hand hanging over it when tripod or monopod supported. The tripod ring lock knob is easy to access and use. A single threaded insert is provided on the foot.

Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens Angle View with Hood

As always, Tamron includes a lens hood in the box. The rounded, semi-rigid plastic model HA057 hood has a ribbed interior designed to avoid reflections. An advantage of this shape is the lens can stand upright on the hood (user discretion required), though alignment on the lens requires finding the marks (vs. aligning the obvious petal shapes). Also, a release button is not provided.

This hood offers excellent protection from physical impact and bright lights. Nice is that the end of the hood is rubberized, protecting it and what it is against from scratches while making it less likely to slide while sitting. The rubber is also nice to have when bracing the camera against something to steady the shot. In addition, it looks nice.

Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens Cap

The lens case is not included in the box. Consider a Lowepro Lens Case or Think Tank Photo Lens Case Duo for a quality, affordable single-lens storage, transport, and carry solution.

Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens Front View on Camera

Price, Value, Wrap Up

The 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens price is about what I would expect for such a lens from Tamron, and it is a very good value. The Sigma 100-400mm and 150-600mm Contemporary options are priced considerably lower, while the Sigma 150-600mm Sports, Canon RF 100-500, and Sony 200-600mm options are priced considerably higher.

What does the "Di III" in the name mean? Tamron's Di III lenses are designed for use on mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras. The Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens is compatible with all Sony E-mount cameras, including full-frame and APS-C sensor format models.

"This product is developed, manufactured and sold based on the specifications of E-mount which was disclosed by Sony Corporation under the license agreement with Sony Corporation." [Tamron] Tamron USA provides a 6-year limited warranty.

The reviewed Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens was on loan from Tamron.

Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens Top View with Hood

Alternatives to the Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens

While the Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens does not have a direct mirrorless equivalent to compare against, there are other mirrorless telephoto zoom lenses available. Add a mount converter into the equation, and there are numerous alternatives available.

I'll start off the comparisons with an adapted lens from the same family, the Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 Lens, the lens most fitting to be called the predecessor. In the image quality comparison, the Di III lens shows a strong advantage over the entire focal length range. The Di lens has less geometric distortion and, at wide apertures, shows less peripheral shading.

Looking at measurements and specifications, the Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens vs. Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 Lens comparison tells much of the story. As you saw a visual comparison of the lenses earlier in the review, the Di III lens, stopping at 500mm, is considerably smaller. The weight comparison also points the advantage to the DI III lens, even without an adapter's (rather light) weight factored in.

The Di lens has a significant focal length range advantage, and it has more diaphragm blades, 9 vs. 7. The Di III accepts smaller filters, 82mm vs. 95mm, has a longer zoom ring, has a shorter zoom ring rotation (75° vs. 122°), and in the slow mode, has a dramatically longer focus ring rotation.

The Di III's zoom lock switch is recessed, its switch bank is raised and moved in front of the focus ring, and the tripod mount is moved forward and shortened. The Di III tripod mount ring has a hinged design for removal while the lens is mounted vs. a split ring design, and the DI tripod mount has two threaded inserts vs. one. The Di's focus distance window has been omitted from the mirrorless model.

The price of these two lenses is the same without an adapter factored in. For most purposes, I'd give up the extra 100mm on the long end to gain the Di III lens's advantages. That said, 600mm is a nice feature.

Two Sony telephoto zoom lens alternatives are the FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS Lens and FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens, both impressive performers. I'll start with the 100-400.

In the image quality comparison, these two lenses are relatively similar in their native overlapping focal lengths until the Sony lens shows a slight advantage at 400mm. The Sony lens is compatible with teleconverters, and with the 1.4x mounted, the Sony lens at 560mm f/8 performs very slightly behind the Tamron lens at 500mm f/6.7. The Sony lens has less geometric distortion and slightly less peripheral shading over most of the range.

The Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens vs. Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS Lens comparison shows the Sony lens a bit lighter, but the two lenses are similar in size. The Sony lens has an about 1/3 stop wider aperture, uses 77mm filters vs. 82mm, and has 9 diaphragm blades vs. 7. The two focal length ranges are different, with both having advantages. The Tamron lens has a much lower price, a difference that will supersede all others for many.

In the FE 200-600 image quality comparison, we see two lenses performing similarly at the wide end, but the Sony is slightly sharper, primarily in the center of the frame, at the long end. The Sony lens has slightly less peripheral shading at wide apertures in the mid focal length range and less geometric distortion, especially in the wider comparative focal lengths.

The Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens vs. Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens comparison shows the Sony lens weighing modestly more and measuring considerably larger, at least when the Tamron is retracted (the Sony lens has a fixed size). The Tamron lens has a slightly wider aperture at some focal lengths and uses smaller filters, 82mm vs. 95mm. The Sony lens has 11 diaphragm blades vs. 7. The focal length ranges are obviously different, with both having advantages. The Tamron lens's price is considerably lower.

Going back to the 100-400mm focal length range, I'll next compare against the Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS C Lens. In the image quality comparison, the two lenses show similar performance, with the Tamron results looking better at 400mm. The Sigma lens shows modestly less peripheral shading in the wider focal lengths, and the Tamron lens shows modestly less at the longer lengths when stopped down. The Sigma lens shows slightly less pincushion distortion.

The Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens vs. Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS C Lens comparison shows the Sigma lens slightly smaller and significantly lighter. The Sigma lens has 9 diaphragm blades vs. 7 and uses smaller filters, 67mm vs. 82mm. The Tamron lens has a significantly higher maximum magnification capability, .032x vs 0.24x, and the Sigma lens's tripod ring is optional. Again, these focal length ranges are different. The Sigma lens is noticeably more affordable.

The Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG DN Lens is expected to be introduced a few days after this review goes live. This lens should be an excellent comparable.

Use the site's comparison tools to create additional comparisons.

Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens Angle View

Summary

Telephoto zooms lenses are extremely useful members of the kit, and with a long range of long focal lengths, the Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD ultra-telephoto zoom lens is a great option to fill that role.

Relative to lenses overall, this Tamron lens is rather large and heavy. However, when compared to zoom lenses reaching 500mm, this lens shows itself advantaged in those regards.

While this lens's maximum aperture openings do not provide low light excellence, including AF performance in those conditions, they help achieve Tamron's compact size and light weight mirrorless camera lens goals. Vibration compensation offsets the narrow apertures in some scenarios.

From an optical perspective, the Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens performs superbly, and comparisons with the alternative choices especially drive this point home. Moderate pincushion distortion is perhaps the most significant optical downside.

This lens's build quality seems excellent, and the design is attractive and highly functional. While the price tag is not low, it is much lower than many alternatives, making the Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens a great value. This huge range of long focal lengths will suit a wide range of needs, increasing the time in use and increasing the value.

The Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens is a great choice and another good reason to select a Sony camera.

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Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens
Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens
Bryan Carnathan
by Bryan Carnathan
Manufacturer ID:
AFA057S700

Review Date: 2021-08-01
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