Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Lens Review: Tamron SP 150-600MM F/5-6.3 Di VC USD

Image courtesy Tamron

I recently had the opportunity to try out Tamron’s new super-telephoto zoom lens, the SP 150-600MM F/5-6.3 Di VC USD. It was mated to my Canon EOS 5D Mk II in place of the Canon EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM lens that I’d generally use in the same situations. My primary objective was to photograph the Tule Elk herds at Point Reyes National Seashore, and I also stopped by Piedras Blancas on my way up the California Coast to shoot the elephant seals that haul out on the protected beach above San Simeon.

The Tamron lens feels larger and heavier than the Canon 100-400, and it is. It weighs in at 4.3 lbs., about 1.26 more than the Canon gun, and it’s also almost 3 inches longer. Theoretically, it’s a slower lens, with a maximum aperture range of f/5.6-6.3 versus the Canon’s f/4.5-5.6, but if you want to get out close to 600mm with the Canon, you’ll have to use the 1.4x extender, which costs you a full stop.

The narrow overlook at Piedras Blancas was crowded with people on a Sunday morning, so I went handheld and relied on the lens’ Vibration Compensation (VC) system to help deliver steady shots. This female elephant seal was shot at the far end of the range, a full 600mm. Exposure was 1/640 at f/11 at ISO 400 in manual mode. I found that there’s just a hint of softness that comes in beyond 550mm, but it’s only noticeable at the pixel level.

The elk was shot at 309mm, 1/800 second at f/11 and ISO 400. The eye is tack sharp. (This was a tripod-mounted shot.) Only minimal Lightroom adjustments have been applied to these two images. Overall, I was quite happy with the images the Tamron lens was giving me, and I’ll use it again on an upcoming wildlife shoot.

There’s nothing wrong with the Canon glass. I’ved used it for several years and it always delivers tack sharp images and quick performance. The Tamron gave me greater range without needing an extender, and it’s $1,069 price is a great value.

See more images at DBZphoto,com