Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD (Canon EOS) - Review / Test
Lens Reviews - Canon EOS (Full Format)

Review by Klaus Schroiff, published May 2016

Introduction

Let me begin this review with an apology. For more than a year, the Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD (and a similar Sigma) had been sitting on my desk. It was staring at me every time I entered the office and I tried to sneak my way around it by finding a variety of excuses. There are difficult lenses for testing and there are very difficult ones ... but extreme super-tele zoom lenses are my personal nemesis. Eventually I had to give up ... also because my spouse told me multiple times to get over it. So here we go ... finally.

Honestly, Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD is actually a very interesting one. It was the first of the 150-600mm gang to hit the market and it is a surprising affordable option at less than 1000 US$/EUR. Of course, the comparatively low price tag doesn't come for free so while you can enjoy the benefits of extreme tele settings, you also have to live with a fairly slow speed - a max. aperture of f/5-6.3 is nothing to write home about. It isn't Tamron's first attempt in this market segment. The lens was proceeded by the Tamron SP 200-500mm f/5-6.3 Di LD (IF) - a good lens albeit limited by the lack of image stabilization and slow AF. Nowadays "Vibration Control" (VC) and ultrasonic drive (USD) are part of Tamron's technology stack and as such also part of the feature list of the Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD. Tamron added some further goodness such as partial weather sealing as well as improved "eBAND" and "BBAR" coating to reduce flare and ghosting in difficult light situations.

The Tamron lens has a very good build quality although it still stays a little short of professional grade lenses here. The lens body is made of a combination of metal and plastic parts. It extends substantially when zooming towards the long end of the range but the inner lens tube doesn't wobble even at the most extreme setting. The lens is quite a sight at its 600mm especially when attaching the deep lens hood - see below. Our sample showed no significant amount of zoom creeping but Tamron was still so smart to implement a transport lock because zoom creeping may develop over time. The broad, rubberized zoom ring is located in front of the focus ring. This may be a little unusual but there's nothing wrong with this anyway. The zoom action is a slightly stiff which is no surprise given the heavy lens groups that have to be shifted. The focus ring operates smoothly. A detachable tripod mount is included and also needed when using the lens on a tripod.

As mentioned, the Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD features an optical image stabilizer ("Vibration Control" in Tamron terms). I wasn't able to find an official figure regarding its efficiency. However, based on real world experience with the lens, it seems to do a good job till about 500mm which an equivalent gain of up to 3ish f-stops. The VC struggles somewhat at 600mm though. It seems as if the shake amplitude is too much at this setting - well, at least mine - causing the VC to "jump" at times. Thus unless your shake rate is better, you shouldn't bet on those 3 f-stops at this setting.
Tamron's USD (Ultrasonic AF) is very fast and virtually silent. You may expect that the slow f/6.3 (>450mm) setting may have a negative effect but the AF remains pretty fast. It is worth to mention that Tamron updated the lens' firmware in the meanwhile. Our older sample doesn't provide live-view AF (contrast AF) on the latest Canon EOS cameras although this doesn't feel like a substantial limitation anyway.

The Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD may be a very large lens by mortal standards but it is worth to mention that it's not all that big when compared to the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG HSM Sports lens - see below.

Specifications
Optical construction20 elements in 13 groups inc. 3x LD elements
Number of aperture blades9 (circular)
min. focus distance2.7m (max. magnification ratio 1:5)
Dimensions257.8x105.6mm
Weight1951g
Filter size95mm (non-rotating)
Hoodbarrel-shaped, bayonet mount, supplied
Other features
  • tripod mount
  • VC
  • partial weather sealing
  • eBAND Coating
  • zoom lock