2014-07-29

The Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD lens - a user report

Unpacking the Tamron 150-600mm you are stuck by just how well constructed this much sought after and anticipated lens from Tamron is.

The lens is supplied with a substantial removable tripod collar, and a deep lens hood - no case. Weight 1.95kg and around 26cm long it is a solid piece of kit.

To test the Tamron out, I coupled it to my Nikon D7100 and shot two airshows in two days - Royal International Air Tattoo on Friday the 9th July followed by Flying Legends at Duxford the next day.


RIAT had plenty of fast jet action to test out the AF speed and handling of the 150-600 whereas Duxford was mainly propeller driven aircraft requiring a slower shutter speed to create some propeller blur so would be a good test of the VC system.
  
The 150-600 is quite a handful and extends considerably when you twist the zoom control all the way out to 600mm. That said, it does handle beautifully and is a lot easier to manage than a 500 or 600mm fixed lens - as well as being a lot cheaper of course!

I used the D7100 in Continuous AF mode with 9 or 21 point focus tracking and am pleased to report that the combination produced an extremely high hit-rate of in focus images. The Tamron focuses fast and silently using its Ultra Sonic Drive system and combined with the D7100 was able to make the tiny adjustments in focus required when photographing a jet fighter travelling at nearly 700 mph using the full 600mm reach. And of course, with the D7100 being a DX/APS-C camera the effective maximum focal length is multiplied by 1.5 so effectively shows the field of view of a 900mm on full frame!

The D7100 never lost focus on my subjects so there was no need to engage the focus limiter which lets you force the lens to only focus between 15m and infinity - handy for difficult low contrast distant subjects. A minimum focus distance of 2.7m is fine for the subjects this lens will normally be aimed at!

So focus was excellent - how about the optics? Again I was impressed. Shot at full aperture images were sharp but stopping down from f/6.3 to f/8 produced an increase in sharpness to truly excellent levels so for many shots at RIAT I set the camera to auto ISO and manual 1/2000th shutter speed and f/8 aperture. It was a bright day so the camera only had to vary ISO in a relatively small range to keep exposures correct.

The only soft results I got were pictures of aircraft taxiing after their display due to the heat haze rising up from the scortching hot runway.

With a 600mm maximum and effectively 900mm with the D7100 I got some great candid shots - including one of a singer inside a vintage area.

The ability to pick out small details from the generally large distances you are kept away from aircraft was really great too- reaching the 600mm focal length really does make quite a difference compared to the usual 400mm or 500mm maximum.

Then to Duxford!

A hazy morning soon gave way to another roasting hot day with extremely bright conditions. At Duxford the sun is generally right in front of you as you shoot towards the flying display so it is a tough test for any lens not to produce flare and for any camera not to produce under-exposed images.

Again the Tamron passed the test with flying colours ( as did the D7100!). 

This time, with the display being prop driven aircraft I selected shutter priority on the camera and a shutter speed of between 1/320- 1/500th letting the camera set the aperture. 

Having seen the results from the previous day I knew the lens was sharp at any aperture so was happy for the camera to set maximum aperture if that was required.

Again the AF system was fast and effective and the VC (vibration Correction) system came in to its own effectively stabilising the lens at the relatively slow shutter speeds in use for aircraft travelling anything up to 400mph.

With VC on, the image in the viewfinder is stabilised as soon as you take half pressure on the shutter release - there is a small 'wobble' of the image as the VC system kicks-in so just watch your framing and frame properly once you have half pressure and VC is engaged.

Testing the VC system I got sharp results consistently at 1/250th, about 50% sharp at 1/125th and 30% or so at 1/60th - all with the lens set at 600mm - a great result.

Please note that if you shake the lens you can hear a slight rattle - this is the VC system so nothing to worry about.

If you are hand holding the lens then you can remove the tripod ring which reduced the weight quite a bit and makes access to the zoom ring easier too.
 
None of the images showed any loss of contrast or flare spots at all - extremely impressive in the prevailing conditions.

A quick set of test pictures taken with a Nikon D800 confirmed that the resolution remained extremely high on a full frame camera right to the edge of the frame - again an excellent performance.

Tamron have produced a quite exceptional lens here and value for money is truly excellent.

It is probably a lens you will want to add to your kit to use four specific occasions or events as its not really a carry anywhere walkabout lens.

So what are the positive and negative points of the Tamron 150-600mm?

Positive:
  • Fast and silent AF
  • Effective VC system helps with sharpness
  • Optical performance is excellent throughout the range - especially used at f/8
  • Compact and lightweight for the range and 600mm focal length
  • Range is ideal for Sports, action, Aviation and Wildlife
  • Tripod ring is very sturdy and can be removed to save weight
Negative:
  • Maximum aperture only f/5-f/6.3
  • Quite big and heavy compared to say a 70-300 lens
  • No case supplied
  • Large 95mm filters needed!
So to conclude, the Tamron 150-600 sets a new standard in super telephoto zooms and for under £1000 represents exceptionally good value for money.

The Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD is available in Canon, Nikon and Sony Alpha fits, although at the time of this blog entry, it is in extremely short supply. Stock is expected to be better at some stage in August 2014. 

If you are visiting the British Birdwatching Fair at the Rutland Water Nature Reserve (Friday 15th - Sunday 17th August 2014), visit Park Cameras at stand #8 in the Outdoor Display and you can try this lens out for yourself.  Alternatively visit www.ParkCameras.com where you can get full details on this lens. 


If you've got a question about the Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD, why not post a comment in the box below and we’ll do our best to answer them for you.

Steve
Park Cameras

1 comment:

will kaye said...

do i need to do any settings on the nikon d7100 when i use the tamron af 150-600 mm lens ,,because i cannot get af to work on it

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