Having a 150-600mm focal length range in an attractive, well-built, relatively small and light lens with Vibration Control (VC), Ultrasonic Drive (USD) AF and a price that doesn't require a second mortgage to afford is a dream for many wildlife and sports photographers. The "ultra-telephoto" designated Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 Lens may be that dream coming true for some.
Lenses that include 150mm in their focal length range have long been plentiful (and very useful), but until this lens' predecessor, the Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD Lens (same lens name omitting the "G2") arrived less than three years prior, the only well-known name brand zoom lens that included 600mm was the $7,999.00 Sigma 300-800mm f/5.6 EX DG APO IF HSM Lens. Tamron's first 150-600 met with immediate success and not long afterwards, Sigma released not one but two matching-spec lenses that have also proven quite successful. One of these three 150-600s have been in the site's top 10 most popular lens list since the original Tamron was introduced.
While an upgrade coming to a not-very-old lens may be expected to be a minor, incremental one, some significant improvements have been made to the G2. In addition to a great new physical appearance anchored by a metal exterior construction, the G2 receives an improved optical and mechanical design, a faster and more accurate USD AF system, an improved VC system, fluorine coating on lens elements and a new zoom lock mechanism. In addition, dedicated (as of review time) 1.4x and 2x teleconverters are available for the G2. The predecessor was a great deal and though the G2 model has a higher initial street price to go with its benefits, it remains a similar value. Combining the great zoom range, vibration control and USD AF in a compact package with a value price and decent image quality is a recipe for a best-selling lens.
Getting the right focal length range is a critical part of the lens selection process and this focal length range is a huge attraction for this lens. When you can't get closer, such as is often the case for sports and wildlife photographers, this may be your lens. If you don't want to get closer, such as for safety or comfort reasons, this lens may have the reach you need. Sit in the comfort of your car, avoid the need to cross a creek, stay back from the surf, stay out of view, etc.
Wildlife photographers, including bird photographers (who can never have too much focal length), and sports photographers needing to reach far into a field or track immediately recognize the attractiveness of the telephoto zoom focal length range of this lens. These are the two groups who will be most excited by what these focal lengths can do for them, especially at the 600mm end.
While the big 600mm prime lenses often selected for these purposes are superior in many regards, they fall short in the zoom range feature. When the subject comes too close for the 600mm angle of view, the zoom lens user can simply zoom out as needed and keep shooting. With a zoom range, it is possible to move in front of obstructions (tree limbs for example) and zoom out while still maintaining the ideal framing in a wide range of situations. Also, less cropping may be required due to the ideal framing being quickly selectable via the zoom ring. Taking up a position that provides focal length headroom for the subject allows the ideal composition to be adjusted just-prior to capture in-camera, resulting in higher resolution results compared to cropped alternatives.
I should note that adjusting the focal length while capturing fast action adds another dimension/challenge to the task at hand. Sometimes it is best to frame slightly wide and focus on what is taking place. When the fast-moving subject approaches too closely, quickly rotate the zoom ring to another slightly too-wide angle of view and resume photographing. I should also mention that making fast adjustments while capturing action is easiest when shooting from a tripod or monopod.
While wildlife and sports photographers will make up the largest owners groups for this lens, there are many other uses for this wide 4x focal length range. Photojournalists with restricted access to their subjects and law enforcement groups will find this focal length range useful. Portraits, especially the tightly framed variety, are on this lens' to-do list. I can't think of a much better focal length range for zoo photography and for airshows.
This focal length range can work well for compressed landscapes (one of my favorite uses). Long focal lengths are great for making colorful sky photos from even modestly nice sunrises and sunsets. This zoom range is a great choice for chasing the kids outdoors.
While long focal lengths will make you want to photograph very distant subjects, under some situations, getting closer is a much better idea.
The above picture is a 100% crop from a 600mm picture of a steel railroad bridge captured with the previous version of this lens. No, I did not use an "Art" filter on this image. Yes, the steel should be straight and sharp. No, this blurry image is not the fault of the lens. And no, the result would not have been any better with the G2.
When present, heat shimmer/haze/waves will create optical distortion that will diminish the quality of long distance photos. It was 13° F (-11° C) on a clear, sunny morning when I photographed the distant railroad bridge. Apparently, the warmer water in the river flowing under the bridge and in the foreground was creating turbulence for the light waves. The lesson here is that using the long focal lengths to photograph distant subjects must be done with consideration to this effect. I encounter heat waves frequently, including while testing the 150-600 VC G2 in my back yard.
When this lens' predecessor was released, I was interested in knowing if the 600mm focal length was an exaggeration or if that lens truly reached the 600mm focal length. While I'm glad that we don't have to deal with lenses named 93-376mm (for example), zoom lenses with unusually wide and/or long focal lengths (or lenses with an unusually long range of focal lengths) are sometimes suspect in their focal length ratings with marketing purposes being a driving force.
Based on the framing distances of Canon EF 600mm f/4 L IS II USM Lens (and the assumption that it is a true 600mm lens), the original Tamron 150-600 VC's slightly shorter framing distance for the same target caused me to guess that it was close to, but not quite fully 600mm at the long end (perhaps 570mm or 95% of 600mm). However, differences in distortion (the Canon 600 has negligible distortion while the Tamron has mild pincushion distortion at both focal length extents) complicate this actual focal length determination method by causing the lens to need to be closer or farther away to properly frame the rectangular target. So, we do not really know the answer to my question. What we do know is that the 150-600 VC G2 is very similar to the original lens in this regard.
Regardless of the exact focal lengths, I can tell you that 150mm is a mid-telephoto focal length that is not real wide even on a full frame body and the 600mm focal length setting has a very narrow field of view that brings your subjects in very close – incredibly close on an APS-C/1.6x body. It seems like no subject is out of reach for this lens. I love it.
For an example of the 150-600mm focal length range, I take you to the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum for a view down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway featuring Philadelphia's Washington Monument.
These above images were captured with the original 150-600mm lens mounted to a full frame Canon 5D Mark III. Put this lens on an ASP-C/1.6x FOVCF sensor format DSLR and you get an amazing angle of view equivalent to a 240-960mm lens mounted on a full frame body.
Because aperture is measured as a ratio of lens opening to focal length and because this lens maximum opening does not increase enough with focal length increase to maintain the same ratio, the max aperture is a variable one, ranging from f/5 to f/6.3 as the focal length range is traversed.
As always, the lower the aperture number, the more light the lens will allow to reach the sensor. Each "stop" in aperture change (examples: f/2.8, f/4.0, f/5.6, f/8, f/11) increases or reduces the amount of light reaching the sensor by a factor of 2x (a big deal). Allowing more light to reach the sensor permits freezing action and handholding the camera in lower light levels and can also permit use of a lower (less noisy) ISO setting. In addition to allowing more light to reach the sensor, increasing the aperture opening permits a stronger, better subject-isolating background blur (at equivalent focal lengths). Also, lenses with an opening wider than a specific aperture (often f/2.8) enable the higher precision AF capabilities (most often the center AF point) in some cameras and present a brighter viewfinder image.
The advantages of a narrow aperture, because the lens elements can be reduced significantly in size, include lighter weight and lower cost. Those are two factors that we all can appreciate. The variable max aperture has the same two advantages, compounding the benefit. A downside to the variable max aperture is that, by definition, the same max aperture 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.
The bottom line is that this lens has a relatively narrow aperture at the widest focal length and by 428mm, it has the narrowest max aperture found with any frequency in any modern lens. In fact, it is 1/3 stop narrower than many cameras require for autofocus to function (f/5.6). Apparently there is some leniency in this spec as, fortunately, at least most of these cameras will autofocus this lens.
This is not an ideal lens for stopping action in low light. When the sun goes down, action sports photographers using this lens (or similar models) will be reaching for very high ISO settings to keep images bright enough while using the short shutter speeds needed to freeze their subjects' motion. This lens is not a good choice for indoor sports.
It is normal for long focal length zoom lenses to have a variable max aperture and the Tamron 150-600mm VC Lens performs rather similarly to the Canon and Nikon models and better than the Sigma 150-600s compared below.
|Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM Lens||104-154mm||155-228mm||229-300mm|
|Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens||100-134mm||135-311mm||312-400mm|
|Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G AF-S VR Lens||80-134mm||135-249mm||250-400mm|
|Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports||150-184mm||185-320mm||321-600mm|
|Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM C||150-179mm||180-387mm||388-600mm|
|Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 Lens||150-212mm||213-427mm||428-600mm|
|Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD Lens||150-225mm||226-427mm||428-600mm|
If your lens is missing from this list, head over to the full Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 Lens specs using the site's Lens Spec Comparison Tool, enabling far more comparisons.
On many cameras, the sharpness-reducing effects of diffraction kick in with some strength at f/11 through f/16 (depending on the DSLR being used), so there is a somewhat narrow range of the sharpest apertures remaining for use. Fortunately, those remaining apertures are quite useful and I find myself most frequently using wide open apertures on telephoto lenses.
While wide apertures are better for creating a background blur, long focal lengths also have this ability and using those, this lens can create a very strong background blur. Move in close to the subject with a distant background, zoom to 600mm and watch the background melt away. Note this effect in some of the sample photos shared in this review.
This is a relatively narrow aperture lens with long focal lengths and that combination requires bright daylight and/or high ISO settings for handholding – unless image stabilization is utilized. And, like its predecessor, the 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 Lens features Tamron's vibration compensation, greatly extending the versatility of this lens and potentially greatly improving image quality.
Tamron rates this version of VC at 4.5 stops of assistance, which sounds like an upgrade compared to the probably-lower-but-still-unrated predecessor's system.
With the version I lens at 150mm, I could get sharp images nearly 100% of the time with shutter speeds as long as 1/15 of a second for nearly 3 stops of assistance. With the G2, I'm getting close to a 100% keeper rate at 1/10 of a second exposure times for about 4 stops of assistance. My experienced rate of sharp images dropped very rapidly with shutter speeds longer than 1/10 of a second.
With the version I lens at 600mm, I needed a 1/100 sec. shutter speed for solid percentage of sharp handheld shots under ideal conditions, equating to less-than-3-stops of assistance being realized. With the G2, I'm getting a reasonable keeper rate at 1/30 of a second for, again, about 4 stops of assistance. This figure also serves as a best-possible for me as I had very few sharp images at longer exposures. Photographing outside in the wind? Expect no sharp images at 1/30.
While VC is great for reducing camera shake in images, it is also very helpful for framing subjects while taking photos. Handholding this large, heavy lens fully extended at 600mm (with weight distribution moving forward) and critically framing a subject with the resulting narrow angle of view is somewhat challenging, a challenge much-reduced by VC.
The image in viewfinder remains very stable when VC starts, an improvement from the version I lens, and I do not feel like I am fighting against VC while adjusting subject framing. At 150mm, there is no drifting of the subject framing while VC is active, but at 600mm, there is a sometimes-noticeable drifting of the framing.
This VC implementation is very quiet. With an ear near the lens, a hum and some light clicking can be heard while VC is active, but again, it is quiet.
Three VC modes are provided. Mode 1 is designed for normal handheld photography, stabilizing the image on two axis (this was the only mode on the G1). Mode 2 is designed for panning with a moving subject with one axis of stabilization provided. Mode 3 is designed for photographing erratic action such as sports. In mode 3, when the shutter release is half-pressed, VC activates but does not stabilize until the shutter release is fully pressed.
When a lens pushes the extremes (the focal length range in this case), especially when it has a reasonable price, I am usually suspicious of the image quality it is going to deliver. Image quality is always very high on my importance list and fully testing the image quality delivered by a lens with such a long range of telephoto focal lengths is a challenging proposition.
The original Tamron 150-600 impressed many of us with its performance and while the Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 Lens' MTF charts appear very similar to the original Tamron 150-600 VC's charts, these lenses do not share an identical optical design. The biggest clue to the difference is the lenses/groups count of 21/13 vs. 20/13 in the older lens. Tamron also claims improvements in manufacturing technology being implemented in the G2 lens.
In our testing, these two lenses appear to perform similarly with the tested copy of the G2 having a small advantage at the wider focal lengths and also at 600mm, where the older lens was at its weakest.
In the center of the frame, this lens turns in good sharpness with a wide open aperture throughout the focal length range, though sharpness tapers off to slightly soft from 500mm through 600mm. Stopping down to f/8 yields a bump in sharpness in the wider-than-500mm focal lengths. With f/8 being only 2/3 of a stop narrower than f/6.3, the longest focal lengths are not stopping down much to reach f/8 and by f/11, the 5Ds R is showing diffraction effects that offset any sharpness improvements. So, there is not much improvement being seen by stopping down at the long end of the range.
In the mid and periphery portion of the image circle, 150 and 200mm results are modestly soft with a wide open aperture. Corners are reasonably sharp at 300 and 400mm. If CA is removed from the comparison, 500mm and 600mm corners are not too bad. A noticeable bump in peripheral sharpness is seen at f/8 in the 150 to 200mm range. The difference is less noticeable from 300-400mm where the improvement is less needed. Again, little improvement is seen at 500 and 600mm by stopping down to f/8 or f/11.
Going outside for some real world examples: The following images were captured in RAW format and processed in DPP using the Standard Picture Style with sharpness set to "1" (low). Images are cropped to 100% resolution. The following examples are from the center of the frame.
I like to use the center of the flowers in these comparisons. Find the flower most centered within the depth of field. It appears that there is a slight amount of rearward focus shift showing in the above images, perhaps most noticeable in the 150mm f/8 examples.
Let's move to the extreme full frame corners. These images were captured similarly to the above examples. Images were focused in the bottom left corner shown below.
How important corner performance is depends on your subject/scene. In the example shown below, the extreme corners do not matter so much, though the horse's nose and neck reach at least relatively deep into three of them.
As 600mm is going to be the most-appealing focal length for many considering the acquisition of this lens, here is another look at 600mm. This image was again captured in RAW format with a 5Ds R, but this time the sharpness setting was turned up to "2". The 5Ds R natively produces extremely sharp images and increasing the sharpness parameter additionally began to create some aliasing, so the result seen below should be considered about as good as it gets. This image was captured handheld, at f/6.3, 1/1600 and ISO 200.
While this sharpness/contrast/resolution is not up to Canon and Nikon 600mm f/4 supertelephoto prime standards, it is not bad – and represents a trade-off that many are going to be willing to make for the price, size, weight and zoom range differences.
The Tamron 150-600mm VC G2 lens shows only mild vignetting, starting with a barely-noticeable 1.2 - 1.4 stops in full frame corners over the focal length range. At f/8, with a varying amount of aperture difference from wide open, a varying amount of vignetting remains, starting at a mere .3 stops at 150mm and going up to a still-often-not-noticed .8 stops at 600mm. Overall, this lens performs very well in regards to peripheral shading.
A category this lens does not perform as well in is lateral CA (Chromatic Aberration). LatCA is common at zoom lens focal length extents and shows as various wavelengths of light being magnified differently with the effect being increasingly noticeable toward the image circle periphery. The most-effected areas of the image will appear less sharp due to misaligned colors. Look for the strongest color fringing along edges of strongly contrasting lines running tangential (meridional, right angles to radii) near the corners of the frame, generally irrespective of the aperture used.
This lens shows significant latCA at 150mm. LatCA fades to very mild at 300mm, becomes more visible at 400mm and becomes very strong again in the 500-600mm corners. While lateral CA is a rather significant image quality problem for this lens, especially at the long end, latCA is rather easily corrected via software by radially shifting the colors to coincide.
LatCA becomes more pronounced with an ultra-high resolution DSLR in use and here is a set of near-worst-case examples from a full frame 5Ds R corner:
The above are 100% crops and again, represent near worst case scenarios.
Very well corrected in this lens is axial (longitudinal, bokeh) CA. Axial CA causes non-coinciding focal planes of the various wavelengths of light, or more simply, different colors of light are focused to different depths. When present, axial CA remains at least somewhat persistent when stopping down with the color misalignment effect increasing with defocusing.
Another lens defect I search for is spherical aberration along with spherochromatism (a change in the amount of spherical aberration with respect to color – appears quite similar to axial chromatic aberration, but is hazier). Spherical aberration color halos show 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 150mm f/5 examples below show a slight amount of color fringing change as focus is moved from front to back.
Put the sun in the corner of a telephoto lens and you should expect to see some flare effects in your images. The amount of flare shown by this lens, especially in regards to the high lens element count, is average. Note that we do not test lenses over 400mm for flare due to the propensity of sun damage.
To say that there is barrel distortion at the wide end that transitions into no distortion and on into pincushion distortion at the long end would describe nearly every zoom lens on the market today, but ... that description would not fit this lens. Like its predecessor, the 150-600 VC G2 has a modest and similar amount of pincushion distortion throughout the entire focal length range. Here are full width full frame examples cropped to the top of the frame and downsized:
The bokeh (background blur quality) that this lens and its 9-blade aperture creates appears very nice. That this lens, due to its long focal lengths, can create a strong background blur is definite. See the horse head photo above and chipmunk image below for examples of the Tamron 150-600mm VC G2 lens' subject being strongly emphasized in front of a creamy out of focus background.
Overall, while the Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC G2 USD Lens is not going to challenge Canon and Nikon's big super telephoto lenses in regards to image quality, results captured with this lens are decent, especially for the relative price. This lens is a strong contender in its niche.
One of the G2's upgraded features was the AF system, promising faster speed along with better accuracy. Both are very important and both appear to be very significantly improved from predecessor lens (improved at least from prior to that lens' latest firmware update). Focus speed is quite fast, as long as the lens locks focus immediately. If the subject is strongly out of focus, some focus hunting is common and the end result is slower focus distance acquisition. I encountered frequent focus hunting issues in lower light levels which included a birding session in near-sunset open shade.
Inconsistent focus accuracy was an issue I had with the original lens and I am much happier with the performance of the G2 in this regard. I spent a good amount of time informally and formally testing one shot AF accuracy with overall accuracy being mostly good, even with a periphery focus point selected. I dialed in a small amount of AF Microadjustment for the wide end, but the lens focused with good consistency. Especially helpful in regard to AF calibration is that this lens is compatible with the Tamron TAP-in Console (more about this later), allowing focus calibration to be adjusted in-lens.
In AI Servo mode, with the camera tracking the subject and predicting the focus distance at precisely the time the shutter opens, both performance and testing are challenged. There are seemingly millions of factors that can affect this performance, but I spent numerous hours photographing moving subjects with this lens. These subjects included runners at a high school league cross country meet (under bright mid-morning sunlight with a 1D X II), a cantering horse (not too close, under bright late afternoon sunlight with a 5Ds R) and a trotting/fast-walking dog (late day sunlight with a 1D X II). While all of these subjects were in motion, I would not consider any of the situations to be above a medium challenge for the gear. Out of over 2,000 images captured, my experience is that the AI Servo mode AF accuracy is mixed at best using the optimal center AF point along with the 4 surrounding points and not so good when using a peripheral AF point along with its neighboring AF points.
The image above was a keeper, captured at 350mm, f/5.6 and ISO 1600 with the 1D X II.
Utilizing Tamron's USD (Ultrasonic Drive), the 150-600 VC internally focuses very quietly, with only typical lens element shuffling being audible. FTM (Full Time Manual) focusing is supported.
The 150-600 VC provides a focus limiter switch, with a third distance range option now present. Choose between the limited 7.21'(2.2m) - 32.80'(10m) or 32.80'(10m) - infinity ranges or select the full extent focusing range, from 7.21'(2.2m) - infinity. Don't like those ranges? Create your own using the Tamron TAP-in Console. Limiting the focus distance range can reduce focus hunting in some scenarios.
As with the previous version of this lens, subjects remain about the same size during full extent focus adjustment at 150mm and you can expect to see some subject size changes by the 600mm end. At 600mm, the subjects quickly become unrecognizably blurred with focus distance change.
As with most non-cinema lenses, this lens is not parfocal. While the focus distance setting on this copy of the lens does not change too much from one focal length extreme to the other, especially over the mid and long focal lengths, you should plan to refocus after zooming in or out.
The manual focus ring is very smooth with proper dampening – and a very faint squeak sound when being turned. The 149° of focus ring rotation, up from 120°, is very nice at the wider half of the focal length range, but transitions to short/touchy in the longer half. Mostly gone is the predecessor's abnormal slight left or right subject framing shifting during manual focus ring direction changes. The subject framing remains nicely centered for a good overall manual focusing experience.
The focus ring is positioned to the rear of the zoom ring. While this design is not my preference, it is normal for similar lenses. The heavy lens requires a balanced left hand grip position, and without the tripod ring under the lens, I find myself holding in the balance point between the two rings while using my fingertips to control the zoom setting. The other option I use is to simply hold under the tripod ring with my palm while using my fingertips on the zoom ring. Either method keeps my hand under the lens for support and avoid inadvertent focus distance adjustments.
Focus distances (ft and m) are provided in a window and available at a glance.
In regards to MFD (Minimum Focus Distance) and the related MM (Maximum Magnification), the original Tamron 150-600 VC lens was an average performer. A positive trend we are seeing in lens design right now is decreasing MFD (Minimum Focusing Distance) and increasing MM (Maximum Magnification), and I am pleased to see the Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD Lens joins that trend. With a substantially reduced MFD, the G2 leaps to near best in class in this regard with only the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens surpassing its specs as of review time and no other 150-600 coming close to it.
That reduction was from 106.3" (2700mm) down to 86.6" (2200mm) with MM increasing to 0.26x from 0.20x. This is a difference you will notice.
|Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM Lens||33.5"||(850mm)||0.31x|
|Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM Lens||47.2"||(1200mm)||0.21x|
|Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM Lens||47.2"||(1200mm)||0.25x|
|Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens||38.4"||(980mm)||0.31x|
|Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Lens||78.7"||(2000mm)||0.15, 0.21x|
|Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Lens||137.8"||(3500mm)||0.12x|
|Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II USM Lens||129.9"||(3300mm)||0.13x|
|Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM Lens||177.2"||(4500mm)||0.15x|
|Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G AF-S VR Lens||68.9"||(1750mm)||0.20x|
|Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS Sports Lens||102.4"||(2600mm)||0.20x|
|Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS C Lens||110.2"||(2800mm)||0.20x|
|Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC G2 Lens||86.6"||(2200mm)||0.26x|
|Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC Lens||106.3"||(2700mm)||0.20x|
Those photographing small subjects, including small birds, small animals and medium-sized flowers, will appreciate this lens' ability to fill the frame with their subjects (as long as you are able to get close enough to take advantage of the MFD improvement of course). The eastern chipmunk framed tightly in the following sample photo was captured at near MFD at 483mm, representing about .21x or only 81% of that MM this lens is capable of.
Extension tubes can be used to reduce the MFD, but the resulting MM will not be dramatically reduced for this lens. However, the difference extension tubes make can be just enough to get the tighter framing you need on an especially small subject.
The extension tube option was available to the original Tamron 150-600, but the G2 has a much greater magnification option available: teleconverters. New with the G2 are a pair of (initially) dedicated teleconverters, featuring 1.4x and 2.0x magnifications while retaining the original MFD.
The addition of a Tamron TC-X14 1.4x Teleconverter creates a full frame 210-840mm VC lens with a 1-stop narrower max aperture (f/7.1-f/9.0). Magnifying the image by 1.4x does not go unnoticed in the image quality, but stop down to f/11 and the 840mm results are nearly equal to the bare lens at 600mm f/6.3. While this lens is modestly sharper at wider-than-600mm focal lengths and the with-extender results will appear similarly improved at these focal lengths, the reason for using an extender in the first place is to gain a longer focal length than is natively available and the most focal length increase with a teleconverter is obtained at the 600mm setting. Thus, I feel that the with-teleconverter results at 600mm are the most important to consider. The TC-X14 1.4x increases lateral CA modestly and affects linear distortion negligibly.
Only cameras with f/8 max aperture-capable AF systems (typically the higher end models can autofocus the w/1.4x combination and not all AF points may be supported. Yes, this combination does have an f/9 max aperture at the long end, but f/8-capable-AF cameras do indeed autofocus with this setup. Autofocusing remains reasonably fast, but focus hunting becomes very frustratingly common.
Use the Tamron TC-X20 2x Teleconverter to create a 300-1200mm VC Lens with 2-stops of aperture loss (f/10.0-13.0). While the focal length range on this combo looks amazing, I suggest leaving this item off of your shopping list. The resulting image quality at 1200mm is not likely to impress you. Stopping down does not help much, especially with diffraction coming into play at the narrow apertures required for stopping down from a max f/13 aperture. Lateral CA is increased noticeably and the slight 600mm pincushion distortion turns into slight barrel distortion with the 2x mounted. With an f/10 max aperture (at the focal length range easily covered by the native lens), this combo will not autofocus on any DSLRs using conventional phase detection AF and the viewfinder, not especially bright at f/6.3, becomes dark at f/13. Live View sensor-based AF, on DSLR models featuring this, will autofocus this combination. In Live View, it is best to prefocus on the subject to avoid long focus hunts. Simply framing a subject properly in the 1200mm angle of view will prove challenging in some scenarios.
With its 35mm f/1.8 Di VC USD and 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Lenses, Tamron introduced a modernized lens design and the G2 inherits this look and feel. In addition to having a very attractive design, the Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 Lens features metal exterior construction and a tactile feel that is as great as the appearance. This is a significant upgrade from the previous 150-600 model as seen below.
While the basic functionality remains similar between the two lenses, including similarly-sized and similarly-positioned focus and zoom rings, the G2's design appears about a decade or two newer than its 3-year-older predecessor. Here is a closer look at the 150-600 VC G2:
Note that this lens is represented in both the standard and the big lens product image tools. While the entire lens does not fit within the standard comparison tool framing, being present here permits comparison with all of the shorter focal length lenses.
The Tamron 150-600mm VC G2 Lens' rubber-ribbed zoom ring has been given a large amount of real estate and it is very easy to find. This ring has a seemingly long 122° (down from 148°) of rotation between extents and the rotation seems even longer due to the large circumference of the ring.
If handholding the lens by the zoom ring, your hand will no longer be under the somewhat-heavy lens after the large 150mm to 600mm focal length change. You may need to make multiple turns on the ring to make this change, especially if the weight of the lens becomes too significant for your grip position. If making the same full extent focal length change with fingertips while supporting the lens handheld by the tripod ring resting on your palm, figure at least 3 turns. Holding the camera solely with the right hand during a hand position change is also somewhat challenging. Of course, this lens' focal length range is so long that a full extent change is not often necessary. My experience is that life is much better with this lens supported by a tripod or monopod. Alternatively, grasp the extending objective end of the lens and simply push away or, not quite as easy, pull back to quickly select the desired focal length.
This lens' zoom ring rotates in the Nikon direction (opposite of Canon lenses) – a clockwise rotation from the camera's perspective is required to increase focal length. The zoom ring has very good smoothness (a significant improvement from the predecessor's slip-stick behavior) and a firm resistance. You can tell that you are moving a good portion of a big lens while turning the ring, but I think Tamron created the ideal amount of resistance.
As made obvious in the above product images, this lens extends a significant amount when zoomed to 600mm – 3" (76.6mm). Add this extension to an already long lens and the hood reaches about 5" (127mm) above my knee (I'm 6'/1.8m) when hanging from my 5Ds R's neck strap. The firm zoom ring resistance helps avoid gravity extension that especially affects heavy extending lenses, but Tamron has two additional solutions to the unwanted-extension issue. The first is the commonly-found lock switch rising just above a shallow switch, enabling the lens to be restrained at its shortest 150mm length.
The second solution came as a bit of a surprise. The first step to a lens review is usually capturing the product images, attempting to photograph the lens in its most pristine condition (mostly avoiding dust). I was traveling when this lens was introduced, made a mental note to get my hands on one ASAP and had still not read the press release when it showed up. I unpacked the lens and attempted to extended it to 600mm to begin capturing the standard product images (it is easier to retract a lens without moving it than it is to extend one). The resistance was surprisingly strong and I was wondering what Tamron was thinking with this design decision. I began to capture the standard product images, making the various changes to the lens settings. As I grasped the zoom ring to twist down the length of the lens, the ring moved rearward and the white ring around the lens disappeared. Then the lens retracted freely (note to self: minimally read the press release before handling the lens).
This zoom ring lock feature, dubbed Flex Zoom Lock by Tamron, permits the lens to be locked at any focal length by simply pushing the zoom ring (firmly) forward. A white indicator ring is revealed behind the zoom ring when the lock position is in use. If you have your lens set to 600mm and focused on a bird up in a tree, you no longer need to constantly hold the zoom ring to prevent the focal length from retracting to something wider. The feature is easy to use and I don't notice that it is there when not using it. Great feature.
The main switch bank is quite shallow and located on the left side of the lens within easy reach of the left hand. The four switches found here rise above the switch bank profile just enough to be easy to use even with gloves on but not enough to make accidental changes too easily made. The design of the switches themselves make them easy to use, though the VC mode and focus limiter switches are three-position types that require an additional level of care to place in their center positions.
Like most large and heavy lenses, the Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 Lens comes with a tripod ring. The ring allows the lens and camera weight to be properly 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.
Tamron must have read my 2014 What I Want From Canon for Christmas list as they crossed off the "Arca-Swiss Compatibility Tripod Mount Rings for All" line item. Tamron's updated tripod ring features an integrated, practically-universal Arca-Swiss-compatible mount – no accessory lens plate required. I have had this mount on a variety of clamps and ... I love it. Why did it take lens manufacturers so long to implement this feature?
This newly designed tripod ring features an overall aesthetically pleasing curved profile that is functionally strong. Although the rounded top of the foot makes the lens more comfortable to carry upside down, the sloping design gives me just a hint of fear that it is going to slide out of my hand, even with the small raised bump toward the end of the foot. The lock knob is easy to access in use and sized just right to be easily usable but not get in the way. A pair (up from 1) of threaded inserts are provided on the foot.
This tripod ring has good smoothness with a relatively small amount of flex. Vibrations quickly dissipate. Note that, with the size of this lens and especially with the hood installed, wind will cause vibrations.
The tripod ring can be removed by loosening the thumbscrew and rotating to a marked position where the ring slides off of the mount end of the lens. A camera cannot be mounted while the ring is removed, but I appreciate the lack of a sometimes-uncomfortable hinge that the alternative design permits. The thumbscrew is captive and unlike on the predecessor lens, remains connected to the other side of the split metal ring even when fully loosened. No longer can the lock knob be loosened enough for the ring to be attached to the lens solely by the rigidity of the split metal ring.
Important for a lens primarily intended to be used outdoors is that it is weather sealed and this one is so. This feature is evidenced by the gasket encircling the lens mount shown above.
Overall, this lens is very well designed and built with an impressively smooth overall shape.
I frequently use a 600mm lens, but not one nearly this small and light. And not one with a zoom range. But, this is not a small or light lens relative to lenses in general. It is definitely handholdable, but much more fun to use on a tripod or monopod for longer periods of time.
|Model||Weight||Dimensions w/o Hood||Filter||Year|
|Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM Lens||13.2 oz||(375g)||2.8 x 4.4"||(70 x 111.2mm)||58mm||2013|
|Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM Lens||37.1 oz||(1050g)||3.5 x 5.6"||(89 x 143mm)||67mm||2010|
|Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM Lens||25.1 oz||(710g)||3.1 x 5.7"||(80 x 145.5mm)||67mm||2016|
|Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM||55.4 oz||(1570g)||3.7 x 7.6"||(94 x 193mm)||77mm||2014|
|Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Lens||127.8 oz||(3620g)||5.0 x 14.4"||(128 x 366mm)||DI 52mm||2013|
|Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Lens||44.1 oz||(1250g)||3.5 x 10.1"||(90 x 257mm)||77mm||1993|
|Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II USM Lens||74.1 oz||(2100g)||5.0 x 9.2"||(128 x 232.7mm)||DI 52mm||2014|
|Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM Lens||138.4 oz||(3920g)||6.6 x 17.6"||(168 x 448mm)||DI 52mm||2011|
|Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G AF-S VR Lens||55.4 oz||(1570g)||3.8 x 8.0"||(95.5 x 203mm)||77mm||2013|
|Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM C Lens||68.1 oz||(1930g)||4.1 x 10.2"||(105 x 260.1mm)||95mm||2015|
|Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS Sports Lens||101 oz||(2860g)||4.8 x 11.4"||(121.9 x 289.6mm)||105mm||2014|
|Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC G2 Lens||71.0 oz||(2010g)||4.3 x 10.2"||(108.4 x 260.2mm)||95mm||2016|
|Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC Lens||68.8 oz||(1950g)||4.2 x 10.1"||(105.6 x 257.8mm)||95mm||2013|
For many more comparisons, review the complete Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 Lens Specifications using the site's Lens Spec tool.
Here is a visual comparison of a selection of the above lenses, including the 600mm f/4L II towering over the rest.
Positioned above from left to right are the following lenses:
Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM
Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary Lens
Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 Lens
Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports Lens
Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM Lens
The same lenses, sans the supertelephoto, are shown below fully extended with their hoods in place.
Use the site's product image comparison tool to visually compare the Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 Lens to other lenses.
That this big lens accepts filters is a positive feature, but the 95mm filters it accepts are both large and expensive. A circular polarizer filter can be a valuable addition to a kit with this lens in it, but the hood (included) is so large that, if in place, a protection filter is seldom needed on this lens.
The seemingly durable molded plastic hood is semi-rigid with a ribbed interior.
The large Tamron center-and-side-pinch lens cap can easily be installed and removed even with the big hood in place for use and light gloves on. Your entire hand will (probably) fit into the hood.
With a long focal length in use, vibrations must be guarded against and the big lens hood is quite adept at catching wind. For this reason, you might consider removing the hood in windy conditions (and a protection filter will be a bigger consideration).
Tamron includes a simple lens pouch with a padded bottom in the box, but how to carrying this lens is something to consider. As it is larger than 70-200 f/2.8 and 100-400 f/4.5-5.6-class lenses, the same carry solutions may not work. For example, I don't have any toploader-syle cases large enough to carry the 150-600 mounted to a camera. Most will likely find a medium-sized backpack such as the Think Tank Photo StreetWalker to be the ideal solution. With the lens hood reversed, this combo consumes most of the length available in this case. I ran over 3 miles (5K) one evening with this lens' predecessor in this pack with no discomfort.
The Tamron Lens Case LA011 was custom designed for this lens' predecessor and should work nicely for the G2 as well. It appears to provide good protection.
The 150-600 G2 comes packed in the somewhat unique and quite protective plastic carrier insert shown above.
The 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 Lens is Tamron's 5th TAP-in Console-compatible lens. The TAP-in Console is basically a USB dock in the form of a robust lens mount cap with electrical contacts and a USB port that enables the lens to be connected to a computer.
Once the lens is attached to the dock and the dock attached to the computer, the TAP-in Utility software app communicates with the lens and then checks for any available firmware updates. If an update is available, a dialog box is presented, providing the option to update the lens. There have been a number of Tamron lens firmware updates release recently, addressing compatibility and other issues. Having the TAP-in Console makes those updates very fast and easy, especially compared to the alternative of shipping a lens to a service center.
Within the TAP-in Utility app, most will find the first tab, Focus Adjustment, to be the most important. Autofocus adjustments can be made for 6 focal lengths. With 3 focus distance adjustments available at each focal length, there are a somewhat-daunting 18 total adjustments available. Note that I simply made up the adjustment numbers in the example shown above. The focus Limiter tab provides the ability to customize the autofocus distance range selected by the two non-full focus limit switch settings. The last tab, Miscellaneous, provides control over full time manual focus override and the VC mode.
The Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 Lens hit the street costing about 30% more than its predecessor. The original lens was and remains a bargain and the difference between the two lenses must be considered whether the same descriptor applies to the new lens. We all value our money and gear differently, but based on all of is improvements, including one-shot AF accuracy and build quality, I think the G2 will be worth the difference for many photographers. So, I'll call the G2 a very good value lens as well. Among those considering this lens is going to be the cost-conscience crowd and some will likely choose the lower-priced model over the G2.
The Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 Lens is available in Canon EF (reviewed), Nikon F and Sony A (sans VC) mounts. My standard disclaimer: You should be aware that there are potential issues with third party lenses. Since Tamron reverse engineers (vs. licenses) manufacturer electronics and algorithms, there is always the possibility that a DSLR body might not support a (likely older) third party lens. Usually a lens can be made compatible by the manufacturer via a firmware update, but this cannot be guaranteed. There is also the risk of a problem that results in the lens and body manufacturers directing blame at each other. Compatibility with the Tamron TAP-in Console greatly reduces the effort required to update firmware versions. Tamron USA's 6-year warranty is very comforting.
The reviewed lens was acquired online/retail.
When considering the purchase of any 150-600mm lens, the long end of the focal length range should be a relatively high priority criteria for the selection. If the 301-600mm range is not needed, there are many smaller and lighter lenses that may be better choices.
When the original Tamron 150-600 VC lens was introduced, many of us were very enthusiastic about the image quality it delivered, especially for the price. Since that time, Canon introduced the ultra-high resolution Canon EOS 5Ds R and the totally impressive Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens. New gear does not change the level of performance of the old gear, but the bar has certainly been raised.
This Canon lens is on the next-higher price tier, but it also takes image quality to the next level over the entire shared range. Though the Canon does not have the last 200mm of focal length range of the Tamron, it is optically superior even with a 1.4x extender used to create the 560mm vs. 600mm comparison. And, with a 2x attached, the Canon is still performing at least similarly to the Tamron at the near-comparable focal lengths.
In the with-extender comparisons, the Tamron retains a max aperture advantage and having the longer focal length range built in is always an advantage. With the use of teleconverters, the Tamron can go to a much longer focal length overall, but ... with the image quality reduction and lack of AF, the 2x teleconverter combination is not much of an advantage. The Canon has a 1/3 stop wider aperture at the wide end and holds the f/5 aperture to a longer focal length than the Tamron does. The Tamron has a better/stronger tripod ring/foot and has the built in Arca-Swiss plate feature. The Canon is lighter, considerably smaller, has a higher MM (0.31x vs. 0.26x, but obtained at a much closer focus distance), uses 77mm filters (vs. 95mm) and I have had considerably better success with the Canon's AI Servo AF accuracy.
The waters become muddier when comparing the various 150-600mm options. I've discussed the original Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC Lens throughout this review and consider the G2 to be a substantial upgrade. Whether or not that upgrade is worth the cost differential is the key to this decision-making process. The G2 model features better contrast and sharpness wide open at 150mm. The two lenses even out with similar performance in the middle of the focal length range until the G2 version once again regains a sharpness advantage at 600mm (noticeable in the corners).
Sigma has a pair of 150-600mm lenses worth considering. These are the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary Lens and the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS Sports Lens. Shared differences include: The Sigma lens' zoom rotation is in the same direction as Canon's; the Tamron's zoom rotates in the opposite, Nikon-standard, direction. Tamron's warranty is 6 years vs. the Sigma's 4 year warranty (in the USA). The Tamron pushes the max aperture step-down slightly toward the long end, gaining a 1/3 stop advantage over some focal length ranges. The Tamron's greater maximum magnification (0.26x vs. 0.20x) is to its advantage. The Tamron has roughly .5 - 1 stop less peripheral shading at wide open apertures, but shows more lateral CA.
The Sigma 150-600 Contemporary lens is priced similarly to the Tamron 150-600 VC G1 and noticeably less than the G2. It appears that Tamron took a look at the G1 bullet point differences I shared in the Sigma 150-600 C review took an eraser to a significant number of them.
The Sigma is sharper wide open at the shorter focal lengths (through rougly 250mm). The playing field is essentially leveled at 300mm and image sharpness remains similar through 500mm. At 600mm, the Sigma holds a very slight edge in the corners, but... the difference will not likely be noticeable in real-world imagery.
Physically, these two lenses are very similar. These lenses are essentially the same weight with the Tamron's slightly larger hood giving it a slightly longer overall length. The Tamron takes a point for its greater maximum magnification (0.26x vs. 0.20x), another point for the better tripod ring and one more for the weather sealing. I slightly prefer the build and appearance of the Tamron and its metal barrel, but the Sigma takes a few points back with its review-time-lower price.
The Sigma 150-600mm VC Sports Lens is a higher end model than the Contemporary version and features a more-rugged build quality. The Sports lens is modestly larger, considerably heavier and noticeably more expensive than the Tamron G2. As far as sharpness is concerned, you would be hard pressed to tell the difference between the two lenses wide open at 150mm. By 200mm, the Sigma Sports version holds a small sharpness advantage but with a 1/3 stop narrower maximum aperture. After 200mm, the Tamron bests the Sports lens at 300mm but is slightly softer at all the other common focal length we tested. Note that the Sports lens has less pincushion distortion. The Sigma Sports lens tripod ring is non-removable and the Tamron utilizes smaller filters than the Sigma (95mm vs. 105mm).
Those wanting a zoom lens, having a substantial budget and not minding a larger size and heavier weight should also consider the Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Lens. This lens is superior in most regards, but ... it is in a different class. As usual, those not requiring a zoom range have a wide variety of lenses to choose from and the Tamron 150-600 is a nice complement to very long focal length primes such as a 600 f/4.
I have to admit that I didn't expect to see the second generation of Tamron's first 150-600mm VC lens arriving this soon. And, I didn't expect the upgrade to be such a substantial one. While I can't say that image quality was dramatically improved, the form and function of this lens definitely were.
Getting outdoors is great for us, for both mental and physical reasons. Getting outdoors is much more fun with a camera in hand and this lens has a big outdoor photography entertainment factor. It has the focal lengths needed to capture a huge range of the people and wildlife subjects you find photogenic in the outdoors. In addition, the Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 Lens’ versatility is reinforced by its attractive image quality from a relatively compact, relatively light and very well-designed package, including Vibration Control, at a very reasonable price.
Bringing you this site is my full-time job (typically 60-80 hours per week). Thus, I depend solely on the commissions received from you using the links on this site to make any purchase. I am grateful for your support! - Bryan