On November 25 last, Tamron announced the launch of the successor of its venerable 200-500mm f/5-6.3 ultra tele-zoom (test), the Di SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 VC USD.
What does that letter-soup stand for?, do you wonder.
Di means “Digitally Integrated”, Tamron speak to indicate that this lens is specifically designed and optimized for digital cameras, be that FX (Full-Frame) or DX (APS-C) crop-sensor models.
SP (Super Performance) indicates that the 150-600 is part of Tamron’s top-of-the-line – akin to Sigma’s EX-Series – while VC is the companies’ term for vibration control or -reduction, VR in Nikon speak, and called OS (optical stabilization) by Sigma.
Finally, USD (Ultrasonic Silent Drive) indicates that the lens is motorized, again akin to Nikon’s Silent Wave Motor (SWM) and Sigma’s HSM, which means that it can auto focus on all Nikon cameras, including the “Baby Nikons” – such as the D3000 and D5000 series – which lack a built-in focus motor.
Moreover, AF motors built into lenses are generally faster than the one inside the camera; thus, even Nikon motorized cameras ought to benefit and focus faster with this monster.
Keep in mind that, although this lens focuses internally, it is not IF, which means that it extends considerably when zoomed. With the lens hood attached, it virtually doubles its length at the 600mm end.
|© Bryan Carnathan, the-digital-picture.com|
Tamron has improved this tele on various points in comparison with its predecessor, most ostensibly in the extension of its focal range: minus 50mm on the short end and – more importantly – plus 100mm on the long end, leaving it still at a modest 4x zoom factor.
Taking into consideration that more elevated zoom factors result in more complicated optical designs, the latter ought to be a guarantee that this lens optically performs at least as good as the old 200-500, and likely better, even if we still have to await reviews to confirm this assumption.
Another important new feature is the VC vibration reduction, which the 200-500 lacked.
Independent of brand, vibration reduction typically renders about two, sometimes three stops of handhold ability, which is especially important on very long, slow and heavy lenses, such as this one.
The lens weighs in at slightly under two kilos, which is heavy. Even the 50-500 Sigma “Bigma” weighs almost 200 grams less, while my own 100-300 f/4 Sigma is half a kilo slimmer.
If you want a long lens, you’ve gotta carry that weight, even though this Tamron is considerably lighter than the super-duper Nikkor 600mm f/4G prime, which costs USD 11,000 and weighs a whopping 5 kilos.
In spite of VC and given its relatively slow aperture, in most situations this lens ought be used in combination with at least a monopod, not only to reduce motion-blur but also to avoid strain on your hands and camera wrist.
Ideally a tripod would be in place, however, given the kind of subject we would typically be shooting with this lens, a tripod is most likely too limiting, which is why I’d recommend a monopod plus ballhead.
That is, unless you can afford a gimbal head, which is the best solution for shooting heavy, long lenses with virtually total liberty.
However, such liberty comes at a price: from 300 to about 800 dollars...
Fortunately, the latest generation cameras can go up to 800 or even 1600 ISO without significant IQ deterioration, which – in combination with VC – is a great help when shooting this lens hand-held during day light hours, where available light might be sufficient to shoot it at the long end, slightly stopped down, at high(er) ISO’s and at around 1/1000 sec., which can be done without significant image deterioration, because abundant light has a very positive effect on high ISO performance, in general.
Keep in mind that the rule of thumb says that a hand-held lens ought to be shot ideally not below the exposure equivalent of its focal length, which, in the case of the 150-600 at the long end would probably mean not dropping to under 1/800 sec., while at the short end not to under 1/250 or even 1/500, given its considerable weight.
The 150-600 features 3 low dispersion (LD) glass elements, marked in yellow in the below illustration – one more than its predecessor – while Tamron also implemented a new, so called “eBand” lens coating, which employs a nano-structured layer of ultra-low refractive index and is – apparently – conceptually very similar to Nikon’s Nano-Coating (N).
This treatment ought to reduce internal reflections, ghosting and flare, in turn resulting in sharper, crisper images.
With the 150-600, Tamron has clearly pulled ahead.
Currently no other manufacturer produces a decent 600mm lens in the “afficionado” price bracket, for which alone Tamron gets my kudos.
If the lens is even on par with the optical performance of the old 200-500, it will clearly outscore both the below average $ 1.000 50-500 “Bigma” and the average $ 3.000 80-400 Nikkor.
Even though for Canon users the $ 1.400 EF 400mm f/5.6L USM is likely still a better choice, Nikonians are currently not being offered anything at all in this focal range and price bracket, given that the 150-600mm Tamron can be had at B&H for $ 1.069.
While this lens gives FX users finally a – likely – decent performer beyond the 300mm range, for DX users it is a total boon: cropping to the optical best center of the lens, it renders a FX equivalent FoV of 225-900 mm, while on the D7100 in 1,3 crop mode a whopping 300-1200mm.
As you can imagine, this baby ranks high on my wish list!
Manufacturer Web site (Tamron USA)
Update (24/07/2014): Dpreview test report
Tamron Di SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 VC USD Tech Specs
|Groups - Elements||13 - 20|
|Angle of view (AoV)
150mm - 600mm
|16°25' - 4°8' (FX)|
|10°38' - 2°40' (DX)|
|Minimum Object Distance [m]||2.7|
|Maximum Magnification Ratio||1:5|
|Filter size [mm]||95|
|Diameter x Length [mm]
(@150mm, without lens-hood)
|105.6mm x 257.8mm|
|Focal Length [mm]||150-600|
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Sigma discontinues the 100-300 f/4. Time to call upon Nikon for an affordable 400 and 500.
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