Lens review

Tamron SP 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD

16 May 2014
Arkadiusz Olech

3. Build quality and image stabilization

The following chart shows a comparison between the parameters of the tested lens, its predecessor and its direct competitors. You can notice clearly that both the number of elements and the weight increased compared to the older version. The stabilized Sigma lenses and the Tamron are very similar when it comes to the dimensions and the weight – the fact that the Tamron can offer you the 600 mm focal length should be considered an advantage because none of its rivals can do the same.

In the photo below the Tamron 150-600 mm is positioned next to the Canon 100-400L.

Tamron SP 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD - Build quality and image stabilization

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The tested lens starts with a metal mount which surrounds contacts and a rear element of the lens. That element is about 23 mm in diameter and hides inside the casing about 1.5 cm deep when the focal length is set at 150 mm. When you pass to 600 mm the element hides almost 6.5 cm deep. It’s worth emphasizing that the tube is very nicely covered from the inside, being also properly blackened and matted. It is obvious the constructors spared no efforts to eliminate unwanted flares from the system.

Tamron SP 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD - Build quality and image stabilization

The first part of the proper body of the lens is an immobile, widening metal ring which features a red mark making the alignment with a camera easier; apart from that you can find there ‘VC’ letters, announcing the use of the optical stabilization, and a place where you can attach a quite solid tripod adapter, added among the lens accessories in the box.

Further on you see a distance scale behind a window, expressed in meters and feet. On its left there are three switches. The first one is used to set the autofocus range – you can choose from two options: FULL and from 15 meters to infinity. In our opinion that value is too high – optimally it should be diminished to 6-8 meters. The second switch allows you to set the focusing mechanism mode (AF/MF) and the third controls the stabilization (VC ON/OFF).

Tamron SP 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD - Build quality and image stabilization

The next part of the lens’s tube is a manual focus ring, 25 mm wide, covered with rubber ribbing. The ring has no slacks, it moves smoothly and is well-damped. Running through the whole distance scale takes a turn through about 110 degrees.

Then you see a graphite stripe with the name and parameters of the lens which turns into a black, immobile part of the casing with two inscriptions: “Ultrasonic Silent Drive” and “Made in China”. There’s also a LOCK switch, blocking the lens at 150 mm focal length. The switch comes in handy very often because, unfortunately, the lens has a pronounced tendency for its barrel to ‘creep’ so extend due to its own weight when pointed either upward or downward. It is a serious inconvenience, and we regret that the switch works only at 150 mm, not at other focal lengths too. Still you must emphasize the fact that the same problems experiences the Sigma 150-500 mm and the Sigma 50-500 mm, both produced in Japan. A huge front element system weights a lot and keeping it in the right position is a difficult task.

The next part is a huge zoom ring, as wide as 66 mm and most of it is covered by rubber ribbing. On its surface you can find focal marks at 150, 200, 250, 300, 350, 400, 450, 500 and 600 mm.

Tamron SP 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD - Build quality and image stabilization

The last important part of the lens is a widening tube, made of plastics, which ends with a hood mount. When you pass to 600 mm that part extends on a solid, uniform pipe so, as you pass from the150 to the 600 mm focal length, the length of the whole lens increases by 8 cm.

The front element of the lens is 9 cm in diameter, surrounded by an immobile filter thread, 95 mm in diameter.

Tamron SP 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD - Build quality and image stabilization

The tested lens consists of 20 elements positioned in 13 groups. Three elements (two big front system ones among them) are made of low dispersion LD glass. Inside there is also a round aperture with nine diaphragm blades which can be closed down to values ranging from f/32 to f/40, depending on the focal length you employ.

Buyers get both caps, a tripod adapter and a hood in the box. It is a pity, tough, that the producer didn’t add a case. Sigma lenses come with stylish, hard cases and even Canon, a company known for their frugal approach, equips their 100-400L model with a good quality case. Tamron lags behind in this area. It can’t be explained by the price either – the Canon is not much more expensive than the Tamron and the Sigmas are actually cheaper.

Tamron SP 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD - Build quality and image stabilization

Image stabilization

Most of optics producers boast of using optical stabilization system as efficient as 4 EV and Tamron does the same. Time for a reality check. Let’s glance at the graph, shown below.

Tamron SP 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD - Build quality and image stabilization

It presents a percentage of blurred photos in correlation with the exposure time expressed in EV and the 0 EV point corresponds to 1/500 of a second. As you can notice the maximum distance between two curves reaches about 3.5 EV and such is the efficiency of the Tamron’s 150-600 mm stabilization. It is a very good result, not far from the official declarations of the producer, which compares favourably with the stabilization efficiency of its rivals.