menu

In the Land of Giants: A real world review of the Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 di VC USD Lens for Canon

In the Land of Giants: A real world review of the Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 di VC USD Lens for Canon

Total average

8.3/10

Size ( 8 )
Cost ( 10 )
Functionality ( 7 )

The Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di Vc Usd

The Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di Vc Usd (Ultra Silent Drive Focus Motor)

 

When Tamron announced the development of a 150-600mm VC (Vibration Control similar to Canon’s Image Stabilization), word got around quick and people’s interest really became stirred.  When the projected price of $1069 USD was announced, the hype of this lens picked up and an instant “legend” was born.  People were salivating to get their hands on this lens.  Could Tamron, who’s recently released lenses that exceeded many’s expectations, give the world of wildlife photographers an affordable supertelephoto zoom that hit 600mm?

Early first impression reviews came out and were glowing, although the images were nothing to write home about, many people still had made this lens their personal super telephoto messiah.

Pros:
Cost
Zoom range
Warranty
Fairy portable for what it is
Very quiet af
Very good is

Cons:
Af for birds in flight
Possibly weight for some

 

Overview

Personally I had my reservations, but planned on purchasing one anyhow.  In my collection now I have the Canon 70-300 IS L, two Canon 100-400mm L’s, Canon 600mm f/4 II and Canon 200-400mm f/4 with  1.4 internal extender.  The 70-300 L hasn’t seen much use and will be for sale soon, but the 100-400 is one of my favorite lenses.  I have captured so many excellent photos with that lens, in my head it would be hard for the Tamron to match or beat it.

With many things in life, there is no free lunch.

I was one of the lucky, first to get my hands on this lens the day before it was officially available. Many people put the cart before the horse with this lens before it was available and claimed it to be the holy grail for an affordable and sharp super telephoto lens that zoomed no less.

Tamron had been on a roll of quality lenses at a very attractive price, and why would this one be any different? I thought lens would be perfect for someone looking for an affordable lens for bird and wildlife photography. So many times I’ve been in an expensive trip and people are using a point and shoot or the very cheap 75-300mm. I have never understood why someone investing thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars on a once in a lifetime trip wouldn’t invest in their photographic experience on the said trip.

When people started receiving their lenses, photos of dollar bills taken on tripods with mirror lockup (a camera mode to reduce camera vibration and image blur). These images where sharp indeed, but let’s be honest, is this really how end users would be using this lens in the real world? I would certainly hope not. It’s definitely not how I roll. I also don’t put too much weight into controlled lab tests of various charts as well. This is just not how a lens is used in the real world.

My 1st images with the Tamron where of my dogs, Gracie the whippet and Emma the doberman. The images where decent at web size, but at closer inspection at full resolution the images where lack luster. I posted my results with my disappointment of the Tamron (the auto focus most specifically) and was lambasted from some of the IPC (Internet Photography Community – some of which expertise is based on folklore more so than fact).

 

Emma the Doberman

Emma the Doberman

Camera: Canon EOS 70D
Exposure Time: 0.001s (1/1000)
Aperture: f/5.6
ISO: 1000
Focal Length: 150mm

 

Emma the Doberman

Date Taken: 2014-01-16 14:16:49
Camera: Canon EOS 70D
Exposure Time: 0.0025s (1/400)
Aperture: f/5.6
ISO: 1000
Focal Length: 300mm

 

So the next day I went yo the zoo and photographed the lions and tigers. Out of many many photos only a few were acceptable. The keeper rate of this lens was very low and in my opinion unacceptable. One image however turned out pretty fabulous after some of my patented editing and even ended up in our local camera store as a 4′ x 6′ print. All was not lost but another disappointing day the the 150-600mm. I once again posted my results and thoughts for the IPC to see. A few of those folks not only discredited not only what I posted but also my skills and abilities as a photographer.

Captive Lion at the Zoo

Captive Lion at the Zoo Not tack sharp, but pretty decent after some editing

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark III
Exposure Time: 0.0025s (1/400)
Aperture: f/6.3
ISO: 500
Focal Length: 600mm

 

Others had began receiving their lenses and where in the same camp as me. Despite the few who were drinking their own poisoned kool aid, the general consensus was that the tamron was not living up to the hype.

Photographers began returning the lens due to the poor AF. Interestingly enough even those who had been so critical of me and my findings had quietly returned their lenses as well. The joy in Mudville had ran out.

I decided to hang onto mine and see how it played out. I mean Tamron has that 6 year warranty right (wait…warranties always remind of that line from Tommy Boy about garuntees)? I did make a decision that I would not be taking this lens on any important photographic trips, including my upcoming tiger trip that was in March. The lens was just not reliable enough and I didnt have the confidence for the lens.

I took the lens to Le Claire IA to photograph bald eagles.  There are lots of eagles there and some opportunistic bird in flight photos.  The lens did ok on the stills, and the only half way decent in flight photo I captures was a little above subpar.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle Photographed in the Quad Cities area.

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark III
Exposure Time: 0.0012s (1/800)
Aperture: f/8
ISO: 800
Focal Length: 600mm

Bald Eagle

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark III
Exposure Time: 0.0006s (1/1600)
Aperture: f/6.3
ISO: 1000
Focal Length: 600mm
Bald Eagle in Flight with the Tamron 150-600mm VC

Bald Eagle in Flight with the Tamron 150-600mm VC

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark III
Exposure Time: 0.0002s (1/4000)
Aperture: f/8
ISO: 1000
Focal Length: 600mm

 

I did take it to the swamps of New Orleans to photograph the various critters that live there. Some really great shots, but too many non keepers.

Green Anole Eating a Dragonfly

Green Anole Eating a Dragonfly in the Louisiana Swamps, USA

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark III
Exposure Time: 0.005s (1/200)
Aperture: f/6.3
ISO: 1250
Focal Length: 600mm
Green Anole, Louisiana, USA

Green Anole, Louisiana, USA

Date Taken: 2014-04-04 14:54:35
Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark III
Exposure Time: 0.0025s (1/400)
Aperture: f/9
ISO: 1600
Focal Length: 600mm

Anole

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark III
Exposure Time: 0.0006s (1/1600)
Aperture: f/9
ISO: 1600
Focal Length: 552mm
Skink in the swamps of Louisana

Skink in the swamps of Louisana

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark III
Exposure Time: 0.0062s (1/160)
Aperture: f/14
ISO: 1600
Focal Length: 600mm
Blue Heron checking things out

Blue Heron checking things out

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark III
Exposure Time: 0.0005s (1/2000)
Aperture: f/6.3
ISO: 640
Focal Length: 552mm

 

American Alligator, the King of the Swamps

American Alligator, the King of the Swamps

 

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark III
Exposure Time: 0.001s (1/1000)
Aperture: f/9
ISO: 1600
Focal Length: 273mm

 

American Alligator Basking

American Alligator Basking

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark III
Exposure Time: 0.002s (1/500)
Aperture: f/9
ISO: 1600
Focal Length: 450mm

 

Ribbon Snake

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark III
Exposure Time: 0.002s (1/500)
Aperture: f/9
ISO: 1600
Focal Length: 600mm
Ribbon Snakes Mating

Ribbon Snakes Mating

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark III
Exposure Time: 0.0062s (1/160)
Aperture: f/13
ISO: 1600
Focal Length: 600mm

And then to the Everglades, again same results, some great shots but too much inconsistency.

Snowy Egret in the Florida Everglades

Snowy Egret in the Florida Everglades

Canon EOS 5D Mark III
Exposure Time: 0.0012s (1/800)
Aperture: f/6.3
ISO: 1250
Focal Length: 600mm
Brown Pelican, Florida

Brown Pelican, Florida

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark III
Exposure Time: 0.0001s (1/6400)
Aperture: f/5.6
ISO: 1250
Focal Length: 250mm

 

Brown Pelican, He's Not Impressed

Brown Pelican, He’s Not Impressed

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark III
Exposure Time: 0.004s (1/250)
Aperture: f/40
ISO: 1600
Focal Length: 600mm

 

Baby American Alligator

Baby American Alligator

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark III
Exposure Time: 0.0166s (1/60)
Aperture: f/6.3
ISO: 3200
Focal Length: 600mm
Purple Gallinule

Purple Gallinule

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark III
Exposure Time: 0.0062s (1/160)
Aperture: f/18
ISO: 2000
Focal Length: 600mm
Green Heron

Green Heron

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark III
Exposure Time: 0.0062s (1/160)
Aperture: f/22
ISO: 2000
Focal Length: 600mm

 

People began petitioning Tamron to check out and fix the AF. Tamron replied the lens works perfectly (which was farthest from the truth). They stood by this for several months. Finally around June 2014, Tamron issued a firmware fix for the 150-600mm. They stopped short of saying it was an issue with the lens and said it was just a voluntary recall. I was told directly from Tamron since it was a voluntary recall and there was nothing really wrong with the lens, the end user would have to pay for shipping back to Tamron.

My plan was to send the lens back to Tamron before leaving for Africa in July, so it would be back in time for my August trip to South America. Sure enough it was sitting there waiting for me when I got home…and off to Brazil we go.

In Brazil the lens seemed to perform much better.  It was used in junction with the 60D and 70D.   At some points in time, the conditions were perfect at others, not so much.  So in my opinion, Brazil offered a real chance to get 1st hand real-world use and experience with the Tamron 150-600mm VC.

Here are some Brazil images with camera info:

Chestnut-Eared Aracari

Chestnut-Eared Aracari

Camera: Canon EOS 60D
Exposure Time: 0.002s (1/500)
Aperture: f/5
ISO: 3200
Focal Length: 200mm (320mm in 35mm)
Savannah Hawk

Savannah Hawk

Camera: Canon EOS 60D
Exposure Time: 0.002s (1/500)
Aperture: f/6.3
ISO: 400
Focal Length: 600mm (960mm in 35mm)
Blue and Gold Macaw

Blue and Gold Macaw

Camera: Canon EOS 60D
Exposure Time: 0.002s (1/500)
Aperture: f/6.3
ISO: 160
Focal Length: 600mm (960mm in 35mm)
Yellow Billed Cardinal

Yellow Billed Cardinal

Camera: Canon EOS 60D
Exposure Time: 0.002s (1/500)
Aperture: f/7.1
ISO: 1000
Focal Length: 600mm (960mm in 35mm)
Ringed Kingfisher

Ringed Kingfisher

Camera: Canon EOS 60D
Exposure Time: 0.002s (1/500)
Aperture: f/7.1
ISO: 2000
Focal Length: 600mm (960mm in 35mm)
Rufous-Tailed Jacamar

Rufous-Tailed Jacamar

Camera: Canon EOS 60D
Exposure Time: 0.002s (1/500)
Aperture: f/7.1
ISO: 1250
Focal Length: 600mm (960mm in 35mm)
Giant Anteater

Giant Anteater

Camera: Canon EOS 60D
Exposure Time: 0.0015s (1/640)
Aperture: f/5
ISO: 3200
Focal Length: 150mm (240mm in 35mm)
Giant Anteater

Giant Anteater

Camera: Canon EOS 60D
Exposure Time: 0.0015s (1/640)
Aperture: f/5
ISO: 3200
Focal Length: 150mm (240mm in 35mm)
Capuchin

Capuchin

Camera: Canon EOS 60D
Exposure Time: 0.0025s (1/400)
Aperture: f/5.6
ISO: 3200
Focal Length: 350mm (560mm in 35mm)
Tegu Lizard

Tegu Lizard

Camera: Canon EOS 60D
Exposure Time: 0.001s (1/1000)
Aperture: f/5
ISO: 100
Focal Length: 150mm (240mm in 35mm)
Bat Falcon

Bat Falcon

Camera: Canon EOS 60D
Exposure Time: 0.004s (1/250)
Aperture: f/6.3
ISO: 3200
Focal Length: 600mm (960mm in 35mm)
Great Black Hawk

Great Black Hawk

Camera: Canon EOS 60D
Exposure Time: 0.0012s (1/800)
Aperture: f/6.3
ISO: 1250
Focal Length: 600mm (960mm in 35mm)

 

Jabiru Stork

Jabiru Stork

Camera: Canon EOS 60D
Exposure Time: 0.005s (1/200)
Aperture: f/6.3
ISO: 3200
Focal Length: 500mm (800mm in 35mm)
Orange-Backed Troupial

Orange-Backed Troupial

Camera: Canon EOS 60D
Exposure Time: 0.004s (1/250)
Aperture: f/7.1
ISO: 1250
Focal Length: 600mm (960mm in 35mm)
Marsh Deer

Marsh Deer

Camera: Canon EOS 60D
Exposure Time: 0.004s (1/250)
Aperture: f/6.3
ISO: 400
Focal Length: 300mm (480mm in 35mm)
Jaguar

Jaguar

Camera: Canon EOS 60D
Exposure Time: 0.0012s (1/800)
Aperture: f/10
ISO: 2000
Focal Length: 428mm (684.8mm in 35mm)
Capuchin

Capuchin

Camera: Canon EOS 60D
Exposure Time: 0.0012s (1/800)
Aperture: f/11
ISO: 2000
Focal Length: 600mm (960mm in 35mm)
Savanna Hawk

Savanna Hawk

Camera: Canon EOS 60D
Exposure Time: 0.0012s (1/800)
Aperture: f/11
ISO: 1000
Focal Length: 600mm (960mm in 35mm)
Plumbeous Ibis

Plumbeous Ibis

Camera: Canon EOS 60D
Exposure Time: 0.001s (1/1000)
Aperture: f/11
ISO: 2000
Focal Length: 600mm (960mm in 35mm)
Giant River Otter

Giant River Otter

Camera: Canon EOS 60D
Exposure Time: 0.0015s (1/640)
Aperture: f/9
ISO: 800
Focal Length: 400mm (640mm in 35mm)
Giant River Otter

Giant River Otter

Camera: Canon EOS 60D
Exposure Time: 0.0025s (1/400)
Aperture: f/7.1
ISO: 1600
Focal Length: 300mm (480mm in 35mm)

 

Jaguar

Jaguar

Camera: Canon EOS 60D
Exposure Time: 0.0015s (1/640)
Aperture: f/9
ISO: 3200
Focal Length: 428mm (684.8mm in 35mm)
Big Yawn from a Jaguar

Big Yawn from a Jaguar

Camera: Canon EOS 60D
Exposure Time: 0.002s (1/500)
Aperture: f/9
ISO: 3200
Focal Length: 600mm (960mm in 35mm)

 

Jaguar

Jaguar

Camera: Canon EOS 60D
Exposure Time: 0.0025s (1/400)
Aperture: f/8
ISO: 3200
Focal Length: 600mm (960mm in 35mm)
Jaguar Scouting Area for Food

Jaguar Scouting Area for Food

Camera: Canon EOS 70D
Exposure Time: 0.001s (1/1000)
Aperture: f/5.6
ISO: 500
Focal Length: 226mm
Capybara and Jacaré Caiman Coexisting

Capybara and Jacaré Caiman Coexisting

Camera: Canon EOS 70D
Exposure Time: 0.001s (1/1000)
Aperture: f/5.6
ISO: 200
Focal Length: 165mm
Black Skimmer

Black Skimmer

Camera: Canon EOS 70D
Exposure Time: 0.0005s (1/2000)
Aperture: f/6.3
ISO: 500
Focal Length: 600mm
Jacaré Caiman

Jacaré Caiman

Camera: Canon EOS 70D
Exposure Time: 0.0005s (1/2000)
Aperture: f/6.3
ISO: 640
Focal Length: 483mm
Jabiru Storks on Nest

Jabiru Storks on Nest

 

Camera: Canon EOS 70D
Exposure Time: 0.0005s (1/2000)
Aperture: f/6.3
ISO: 640
Focal Length: 483mm
Jacaré Caiman

Jacaré Caiman

Camera: Canon EOS 70D
Exposure Time: 0.0008s (1/1250)
Aperture: f/6.3
ISO: 320
Focal Length: 375mm
Toco Toucan

Toco Toucan

Camera: Canon EOS 70D
Exposure Time: 0.0062s (1/160)
Aperture: f/5.6
ISO: 6400
Focal Length: 256mm
Amazon Kingfisher

Amazon Kingfisher

Camera: Canon EOS 70D
Exposure Time: 0.0025s (1/400)
Aperture: f/6.3
ISO: 800
Focal Length: 400mm
Lineated Woodpecker

Lineated Woodpecker

Camera: Canon EOS 70D
Exposure Time: 0.0025s (1/400)
Aperture: f/6.3
ISO: 1600
Focal Length: 600mm
Greater Potoo

Greater Potoo

Camera: Canon EOS 70D
Exposure Time: 0.0025s (1/400)
Aperture: f/6.3
ISO: 250
Focal Length: 500mm

Size Rating: 8

The lens weighs 4.3 lbs and is approximately 4.15 x 10.15 inches. Extending out the zoom function makes it even longer.  The filter diameter is 95mm, which can not only be a pain but get expensive if replacing the front cap or purchasing filters.

The size may be an issue for some, mostly hobbyist photographers looking to get something longer or take on their once and a lifetime trip. On my South America trip one person at a lodge I was staying, commented that she knew I was a professional photographer because of the size of the Tamron 150-600mm. I suppose some street cred from the non photography masses for some is worth owning this lens alone.

For what it is, the size isn’t to hard to manage, some will want to mount it on a tripod. I think most will think its fine to handhold.

Cost Rating: 10

A company introducing a 600mm lens that not only zooms but also has Vibration Control for under $1100? Are you kidding me? Is this even possible? Tamron did it and got a lot of people excited. When comparing this lens on paper nothing comes close to it. Sigma has dropped their pants on their 150-500mm OS lens just to compete. At the current time of writing, Canon’s closest lens, the 100-400 L is over $600 more.

Functionality Rating: 7

Does the Tamron 150-600mm do what it’s advertised to do? Yes. Does it do it well? Not always, but it is definitely doing it better after the firmware fix. The keeper rate is up significantly, images are sharper. The lens is more accurate in less than ideal situations as well.  If only the lens could’ve been like this from the beginning. So why the 7 rating?

AF in aiservo mode is still less than desirable in certain conditions. If birds in flight and fast sports (track and field, football, etc) are your thing,  you are on a budget and you need the length then I would take a hard look at the Canon 300mm f4 IS, 400mm f5.6 or  maybe the 100-400mm IS. If you are going to be photographing slower moving wildlife and/or stationary birds then this lens may be the one for you. It is a great safari lens and if your are using a crop camera, your are getting a maximum effective focal length of 960mm!

Before the firmware update there is no way I would have recommended the Tamron over the Canon 100-400mm, but now it really depends on your specific needs. Unless your are doing small to midsize birds in flight, I would probably grab the Tamron, just for the convenience of having that much zoom. Your keeper rate may not be as high as the 100-400, but you should have plenty of keepers as long as you understand the limitations of this lens.

Also note the Tamron reverse zooms compared to the typical Canons lens. This isn’t a detrimental characteristic, but can be confusing when your are trying to get that shot and you are use to a lens zooming the opposite way.

The Tamron also compliments many of the kit lenses that come with entry level cameras these days, and if you have two crop bodies you can go for the Tamron 1-2 punch, with the Tamron 18-270mm VC lens on one and this one on another.

Conclusion:

Tamron, with their updated firmware has produced a decent super telephoto zoom lens at a very low price. This lens can not compete with the big whites, nor should it be expected to, costing 1/10 of the price. It is a great lens for the aspiring photographer who wants to get closer to the action. It is also a great lens for hiking and trekking to remote places if you don’t want to lug a big lens around. As long as you understand the limitations of this lens, with some patience, it will get the job done.

Other options to check out, include the Canon 100-400mm, Sigma 150-500mm OS, Sigma 50-500mm OS.

Sigma has also recently announced two new 150-600mm lenses with optical stabilization, a sport and contemporary model.  Both are heavier than the Tamron and are currently unavailable, but with Sigma’s recent track record, may be a viable option as well.

Anyone that travels with us will have the option to try out the Tamron 150-600mm along with a variety of other lenses. You check out destinations here and feel free to contact us with any questions. Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed and we’ll see you down the photo road!

 

Sunset in Brazil

Sunset in Brazil

Camera: Canon EOS 60D
Exposure Time: 0.004s (1/250)
Aperture: f/5
ISO: 200
Focal Length: 150mm (240mm in 35mm)
admin

No specifications defined
Go to top
'