The Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 VC USD is a specialist optic that doesn't break the bank. Read the Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 VC USD review
Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 VC USD review – In use
Image: On a bright sunny day, the camera and lens combination struggled a bit with fast moving gulls, though I did manage to catch this one in action
I used this lens with a Canon EOS-1D X to tone the muscles in my right arm and to ensure I was allowing the lens a premium AF system with which to display its worth. And it did well.
What we need to be careful of when buying a lens like this, and others that close to small maximum apertures, is that we don’t forget what we are using, what our cameras need, and the laws of photography. AF systems are not usually operating at maximum efficiency when they have only an f/6.3 aperture’s worth of light to work with, and inevitably they will find life hard. The EOS-1D X picked out stationary subjects nicely enough, but found flying geese quite a challenge when the lens was used at its longest focal length.
As well as a good AF system, you will also need a camera that doesn’t mind shooting at high ISO settings. When we set the lens to 600mm we need a shutter speed of at least 1/600sec, and if our aperture is f/6.3 we will need ISO 600 even on a bright day. Of course, few lenses perform at their best wide open, and with this model we need to close to f/10 for the neatest edges, so once more the ISO needs to head in the more sensitive direction. I found that long-end shooting meant settings of ISO 1600 to maintain a safe shutter speed without the use of a tripod – and that is on a nice day. That’s the physics and maths of the specification, before we get to how well the lens has been designed.
The built-in optical stabilisation system is of course a great help in the matter of reducing the ISO setting and keeping shutter speeds longer, but for best resolution at that long end, especially when photographing finely textured subjects, we should err on the side of safety, not risk.
It is some time since I used a focal length as long as 600mm, and I was surprised once more that it doesn’t actually get as close to small creatures as I had expected. Last time I was shooting lions and wildebeest, so blue tits and robins featured really quite small in the frame from a distance of five metres. Extenders are not really an option with super-zooms such as this, unless you are happy to focus manually through a dark viewfinder, but for cars, bikes, foxes and larger wildlife, the reach of the lens will be perfect.
Zoom lenses tend not to offer exactly the stated focal lengths marked on the barrel, and I was interested to compare the difference between the angle of view of this lens at 600mm and of Sigma’s 150-500mm optic at 500mm. The results show that there really is a difference between the two, and whether either is accurate or not, you gain significant extra reach with the Tamron.