Tamron just released the 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD lens for Sony E-mount cameras – but while it seems impressive, is it the right lens for you?
In a hands-on Tamron 150-500mm review, we’ll go over the specs, first impressions, and sample photos taken with this zoom lens. It’s Tamron’s first Sony full-frame E-mount lens with Vibration Compensation (VC), and thanks to the built-in image stabilization and the impressive zoom range, it sounds like a wildlife photographer’s dream. But how does it actually perform?
Let’s find out.
Tamron 150-500mm: overview
The Tamron 150-500mm telephoto zoom lens is designed for full-frame Sony E-mount cameras, but it also works with APS-C cameras (for an effective 225-750mm focal length). The lens features a variable aperture of f/5-6.7 to f/22-32 and a front filter size of 82mm.
Solid design and build
Considering its extreme zoom range, the Tamron 150-500mm is relatively compact. It weighs in at 60.8 ounces (1725 grams) and is 8.3 inches (21 centimeters) long. Like many other telephoto lenses, it extends when zooming. There are several physical switches on the lens, including a focus range limiter, AF/MF switch, VC switch, and VC mode switch. The lens comes with a removable hood and a tripod mount.
Built-in tripod mount
The tripod collar was one of my favorite features, thanks to its Arca-Swiss compatible tripod mount. You can quickly and easily mount the lens to a tripod without fiddling around with the usual tripod plate. Also incorporated into the tripod collar are strap attachment loops. And for those who want to save on some weight, the tripod collar is removable.
The Tamron 150-500mm offers moisture-resistant construction for shooting in inclement weather conditions. There are leak-resistant seals on the mount and throughout the edges of the lens. And the front lens element includes a fluorine coating to deter dirt, dust, and fingerprints.
Historically, the biggest drawback to buying a Tamron lens has been the lack of image stabilization (i.e., Vibration Compensation). Thus, Tamron’s decision to add VC to the 150-500mm is a big deal and goes a long way toward reducing blur caused by camera shake. There are three VC modes on the lens, including Standard (Mode 1), Panning (Mode 2), and Framing Priority (Mode 3). In fact, the inclusion of VC makes this lens more viable not only for still photography but also for video.
Good macro capabilities
Despite being a super-telephoto lens, the Tamron 150-500mm can shoot at impressively high magnifications. It features a minimum object distance (MOD) of 23.6 inches (59.9 centimeters) at the 150mm end and 70.9 inches (180 centimeters) at 500mm. The lens also offers a magnification ratio of 1:3.1 at 150mm. In other words, you can maintain a reasonable shooting distance when capturing macro and close-up images with this lens.
Compatible with Sony in-camera features
Though it’s a third-party lens, the Tamron 150-500mm plays well with Sony cameras, especially when it comes to autofocus. Not only is the focusing snappy and accurate, but eye autofocus is available on relevant Sony cameras. All in all, the Tamron offers a very similar shooting experience to native Sony lenses.
The Tamron 150-500mm costs $1399 USD, and while this might seem steep, it’s actually a fair price considering the competition (more on that below).
The Tamron 150-500mm uses a variable aperture, which means that the maximum aperture changes based on the focal length. This can be a dealbreaker for those seeking a constant aperture throughout the zoom range – namely, those shooting in low light. However, a constant aperture telephoto lens would cost significantly more and be much larger in size.
The Tamron 150-500mm has a flex zoom lock that holds the zoom at any focal length by simply pushing the zoom ring forward. Some users might appreciate the convenience, but I found it too easy to activate the flex zoom lock by mistake. My preference is to keep the zoom switch instead, which does the same thing, but is much harder to trigger on accident.
Cannot be used with teleconverters
Many who shoot with telephoto lenses like to add teleconverters for additional focal length reach. Unfortunately, teleconverters are not currently available for use with the Tamron 150-500mm.
Overall, the photos produced with this lens are crisp and sharp (with peak sharpness at f/8). Shooting at such a slow aperture does require ample lighting, and this can potentially affect image quality if you need to raise the ISO in dark shooting conditions.
Because the lens is long and heavy, it is best to use it with a monopod or tripod for maximum sharpness. Vibration Compensation does help when shooting handheld, but the lens is still hard to stabilize without additional assistance.
Tamron 150-500mm alternatives
The closest competitors to this lens are the Sony 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 and the Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3. Of these lenses, the Sony is the most expensive (at $2,398 USD), and the Sigma is the cheapest (at $949 USD).
Both the Sony and the Sigma offer a slightly wider focal length compared to the Tamron but lose out by 100mm on the long end. The Sony 100-400mm’s higher price tag is likely due to lens build, performance, and overall optics. The Sony is also compatible with teleconverters.
Who should purchase the Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7?
The Tamron 150-500mm lens is ideal for wildlife, nature, and sports photographers. You’ll need ample light and a monopod or tripod to get the best performance and image quality – but its flexible focal length range and reasonable price tag make this a no-brainer zoom lens for Sony E-mount shooters.