First Impressions :: Tamron SP 150-600mm Di VC USD LENS

Coastal Hills and Dual Oaks

Coastal Hills and Dual Oaks – Tamron SP 150-600mm @ f/11 – 160mm

I have had the pleasure of working with the new Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5.0-f/6.3 for the past 10 days and have now had enough experience to say this lens will become a permanent part of my landscape bag!

Initially I thought, “No way. There has to be a portion of the zoom range that just won’t be sharp enough for my standards!” Well guess what, I was wrong. As I have been telling my fellow pro colleagues, it is tack sharp from 150mm to 4500mm, then sharp all the way out to 600mm.

Tack sharp is a term pros use to describe an incredibly sharp lens. These are images sharp enough that just a bit of sharpening in the RAW converter would be all it takes. Sharp focus means the lens is still sharp, but could benefit from more sharpening in RAW.

This is not a blog focused on tests of stationary subjects and wall charts; rather, this is real world shooting and 40 years experience of looking through a bevy of camera and lens combinations. In other words, this is just my opinion.

Moreover, this is not a piece that compares and contrasts similar lenses from Nikon, Canon, and Sigma. Instead, I am just going to show and talk about a variety of subjects and lighting conditions and how I felt this lens held up to the challenge.

All images in this blog were captured with the Sony version of this lens on a Sony a7II camera. I also used a Sony A-Mount to E-Mount Adapter with a translucent mirror.

NOTE: I plan to write a separate review of the Sony A7II shortly. CLICK ON ANY IMAGE FOR A LARGER VIEW.

First off, what is hard for me to understand is how Tamron designed this lens at an incredible price point of $1,069.00. Have we really come this far in lens technology? Don’t look now, but 600mm f/4 Canon and Nikon’s run in the range of $9,800.00 – $12,000! Here is a viable option for 1/10th the price!

The image leading off this blog was captured about 30 minutes prior to sunset. This image was at the lower end of the zoom range (160mm) and was razor sharp.

It was my first indication that this lens was a serious contender for pros and not just an amateur lens.

Product Highlights

  • Sony A Lens Mount
  • Aperture Range: f/5 to f/40
  • Three Low Dispersion Glass Elements
  • eBAND and BBAR Coatings
  • Ultrasonic Silent Drive Autofocus Motor
  • Full-Time Manual Focus Mechanism
  • Nine-Blade Circular Diaphragm
  • Removable Tripod Mount
  • Includes SILKYPIX Developer Studio

The aperture range on the Tamron is of course variable, but in a very manageable range of f/5.0 – f/6.3. This makes it a perfect lens for landscape photographers, and a reasonable range for serious sports and wildlife photography.

I will admit, as good as cameras are nowadays in terms of limited noise at higher ISO ranges. I plan on testing further for sports (I don’t photograph wildlife) and will update this blog when I do. With my limited testing, I’d say don’t hesitate, this lens is up to the task!

Here are a couple images of my son Aaron during a recent practice session. Aaron is a serious golfer:

Aaron 4

Tamron SP 150-600mm @ 600mm, f/6.3, 1/1000th sec., ISO 200

Aaron 2

Tamron SP 150-600mm @ 600mm, f/6.3, 1/1250th sec., ISO 640

I photographed PGA golf tournaments for over 15 years. I would put these images up against anything I ever shot with my Canon’s and Nikon’s. The ISO on the Sony a7II is very clean up to 1600, allowing me a fast shutter. As you can see on both the front and backlit images, they are extremely sharp.

Aaron Blast

Tamron SP 150-600mm @ 600mm, f/6.3, 1/1250th sec., ISO 800

The front lit shot required very little post sharpening, while the backlit shot just a tad bit more. I had the lens mounted on a Gitzo monopod. This was actually my first attempt with shooting anything with this Sony and Tamron combination, and later found out, that by default, the in-camera stabilizer was turned on.

The autofocus worked flawless, and captured frame after frame o sharp images. It was also surprisingly quick coupled with the Sony a7II. Moreover, it was sharp on backlit images such as the one above of Aaron hitting out of a trap. This impresses me because autofocus relies on contrast, and backlit subjects are not contrasty, but as you can see, the lens’s autofocus worked beautifully.

I was also impressed with the sharpness of these images shot with a wide open aperture of f/6.3 through f/16! I would say the lens performed at its sharpest at f/11, but I would need many more tests to say that with 100% confidence.

Sony has confirmed that for images captured while the lens is on a tripod, the stabilizer should be off. It should be noted that the Tamron SP 150-600mm lens with the Sony mount does not have a built-in stabilizer. The Canon and Nikon versions do have a stabilizer built in to the lens. Interestingly, there is no difference in price between the three lenses! Without a stabilizer, I would think the Sony mount lens would be a bit less in price – not sure why that is.

Coastal Hills and Oak Sunset

Tamron SP 150-600mm @ 360mm, f/11, 1/125th, ISO 100

It should be noted that I am using the Sony A-Mount to E-Mount Adapter with the translucent mirror. According to Sony the LA-EA4: Attach Alpha A-mount lenses to your E-mount full frame camera body and enjoy full-time continuous Phase Detection AF while capturing stills and video with world’s first full frame mount adapter to be equipped with Translucent Mirror Technology™. Plus, aperture drive mechanism enables Auto Exposure with compatible A-mount lenses3.

When shooting landscape images, I like to manual focus, and the lens manual focus ring moves in a very smooth fashion. I generally blow a portion of the image up in my EVF, and focus is easy and produces sharp edges in the viewfinder (assuming yo are focusing on elements that have sharp edges).

Here is a sequence of images starting at 200mm and progressively zoomed at 100mm increments out to 600mm. These were RAW files, with white, black, and midtones set to the same values. No sharpening was added in RAW – other than the tonal adjustments, no other adjustment were made. My focus point remained constant and was placed along the tree line:

200mm

Tamron SP 150-600mm @200mm

300mm

Tamron SP 150-600mm @300mm

400mm

Tamron SP 150-600mm @400mm

500mm

Tamron SP 150-600mm @500mm

600mm

Tamron SP 150-600mm @600mm

I realize it’s hard to make a final decision based on JPEG images. But you should be able to see by the above sequence that the focus holds along the tree line beautifully all the way through the zoom range.

Personally, I love this lens and highly recommend it.

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16 Comments on “First Impressions :: Tamron SP 150-600mm Di VC USD LENS

    • Hi Henry – I have to honestly say that unless you are shooting with a native mount camera, it is slow. For example, with all my Sony’s, regardless of the adapter (I’ve tried the Metabones), the focus is too allow for wildlife or sports. However, with a Canon 1Dx it works fine.

  1. Thanks for the review Don, I enjoy following your blog. I have a Sony A7 and use it almost exclusively for landscape shots and use a tripod the majority of the time. My understanding of what you said makes me think this lens (w/out image stabilization) would be fine on my camera since I would have it on a tripod. Is that right? Thanks.

  2. Hello,

    I have the Tamron, the Sony Alpha 7 II and LA-EA4, but i have (back or front) Focus problème, i cannot have a perfect images exept if is make Manual focus, i have also the same problem with my Sigma 70-200 F2.8, i have sent my Camera, Adapter and Sigma objective for control and adjust, it’s now back, but the problem is not resolved, I dont know if i need to resend objective to seller ?

    What is the problem?

    • Hi Etienne, wish I could help you but I am not a camera tech – sounds like you are doing all the right things by sending it in. I rarely use autofocus when making my landscape images – I am always focusing manually, but it’s not specific in your response as to where the problem is most notable. Sony may point the finger at Tamron and Sigma, but those lenses should work. Wish I could give you a definite answer. I would send the camera, LA-EA4, and both lenses to Sony so they have the entire package. I’m assuming that you have tried adjusting the front/back focus problem for each lens yourself?

      • Hello,

        Yes i have set micro AF setup, but is only valable if you have a Fixed Focale lens (or if you use only the 600mm on the objective) that make if you are on an other focal lengt, the Micro AF setup will mak AF not correctly focusing.

        I have already sent the SIgma lens + the Alpha body and LA-EA4 to Sigma , after return (on the sheet it said have maked many things like recalibration, etc…) but i have always back/front focus

        I have sent a mail to Sony and if i short his answer is:

        “We cannot help you because is no Sony lens”

        The thing i can try if i can is testing lens with Sony Body with A mount at my Local Photo Dealer and if it’s working, i think the problem can be from the Adapter and Dealer (if can) will resend the Adapter for change with an other.

        But i am not sure if it’s possible, and i will not buy an other adapter, his price is high and not will loos more Money for nothing.

        In your side, it is posisble to trying to make AF test ?

        For make easy test, take 7-9 DVD box with the same width, placing them next to each other, with an offset of 1cm depth starting from the first dvd (first DVD is at 0CM and DVD 9 is 9CM depth) and photography the DVD at the middle (tha’ts i have maked for seeing if the AF have Back or front focus)

        if the DVD is next to the middle are blurring the same intensity but the DVD mileu is sharp, as normally there is no problem

        On my test, DVD next time are vaguer one side than the other, and at certain focal lengths and aperture, it is sometimes the DVD side of the middle or sharpness was made

        The best if try on a professional testing pattern, but i doens have this.

        (Sorry for my language, i speak french )

  3. Thanks for the very informative article! I’ve been considering this lens for the A7ii, via the LA-EA4 adapter.

    I wondered about how it works with the in-body stabilization, in particular, whether or not the IBIS system automatically reads the focal length. Or do you have manually set the focal length?

    • I’m not an engineer Mike, but that is the combination I use and it works fine as long as you are using Sony/Zeiss lenses. With the Tamron SP 150-600mm, I got a bit better results setting the focal length manually, especially when I was in the 500mm-600mm range.

  4. Just got back from a workshop with Joe Rossbach in South Florida and had rented the Tamron for use on my D750 and was amazed how sharp it was-so amazed that I ordered my own copy. Glad to read that a guy who knows so much more than I agrees.

    • Hi Mike, I have t be honest, it shocked me also that this lens was this sharp! I keep trying to figure out what made Tamron price it at $1069.00?, Autofocus is really good (but that goes and-and-hand with your camera). Incredible lens for an incredible price!

  5. i walked around the National Zoo in Washington with the lens racked out to 600 mosty of the time on a 5D Mk III and handheld all shots. It was after sunset under an overcast sky. It focused well and gave me at least 40 percent extremely sharp shots. Must have one heck of a stabilizer.