Tamron’s update to its ultra-telephoto lens promises an enhanced capability with faster focusing and improved optical performance – so how do these new features fare?
As any sports or wildlife photographer will tell you, an ultra-telephoto lens is an invaluable part of their kit bag. Pros demand a lens that brings them closer to the action while rapidly focusing on fast moving subjects to capture the action.
The Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 lens – also referred to as Model A022 – fits that bill perfectly. This new telephoto builds on the success of its more affordable sibling – Model A011 – which was first released in December 2013. A number of improvements have been ushered in with this new generation superzoom, including enhancements to the optical performance, focusing speed, image stabilisation and the handling of the lens. Priced at £1340 (RRP) it’s just over £500 more expensive than its forerunner, but do the new improvements make it a more worthwhile investment?
The A022 is both bigger and heavier than the A011. It measures just a few millimetres longer, but tips the scales by a further 60g. Despite this increase it’s still surprisingly light for a lens of this calibre – many telephoto zooms send the arm into a tremble within moments of being held aloft. And although it’s not too demanding on your bicep, it has a rotating collar ring with tripod mount to affix it to a support device, which is preferable for longer shoots or for added stability to cut back on motion blur.
Camera shake is still less of a concern with this lens as Vibration Compensation (VC) has been enhanced. It now offers stability of up to 4.5 stops, and comes with three types of VC mode. There’s the standard setting which offers a balance between the stability of the viewfinder and the stabilisation effects, there’s a mode which is exclusively designed for panning and the third setting assigns priority to the image and forgoes stabilisation in the viewfinder.
The 150-600mm lens has 21 elements in 13 groups, and three LD (Low Dispersion) elements to help combat chromatic aberration. The internal glass also comes with specialist coatings (eBAND and BBAR) to minimise any flare and ghosting for clearer images.
The lens also now offers a Fluorine coating on the outward surface of the front element, which is water and oil repellent making it easier to clean, and also less vulnerable to dirt.
To set the focus the A022 features a USD (Ultrasonic Silent Drive) ring-type motor, and Tamron claims it offers an improved AF speed when compared to the first generation. Also new to this update is the Flex Zoom Lock, which lets you lock the lens at any focal length by sliding the zoom ring so you don’t accidentally alter the field of view.
At 150mm the lens displayed some minor pin-cushion distortion throughout the aperture range. We also detected very faint traces of chromatic aberration – but nothing we would be concerned by – especially after applying lens corrections in post processing. At f/5 there was some vignetting, but as soon as we closed the aperture down a stop it had gone. With the aperture fully open the lens was impressively sharp in the centre, with detail getting softer towards the edges. Sharpness improved as we stopped down with the sweetspot sitting at f/11, and then getting slightly softer as we stopped down past f/22.
At 375mm the results were similar, with minor pin-cushioning throughout and a subtle vignette with the aperture wide open. At this middle setting of the zoom, we weren’t able to detect any chromatic aberration. At f/5.6 the image became slightly soft towards the edges, however this improved as the lens was stopped down, with good sharpness throughout at f/11 but getting softer at the edges again after f/22.
At the long end of the zoom, we found the same pin-cushioning, vignetting when wide open and the chromatic aberration made a repeat appearance; but still it didn’t pose any serious problems. Once again results were similar with the sharpest results at f/11, getting gradually softer as the lens was stopped down through the settings to f/40.
We found the lens to be impressively fast to focus – even in dim conditions it quickly locked onto a range of subjects with accuracy.
The Tamron 150-600mm is a great option for any sport and wildlife enthusiasts looking for a quality lens to deliver impressive results. It’s competitively priced too, as the rival from Sigma – the 150-600mm SPORT lens – costs £1199 but is nearly a kilogram heavier.