Hands-on Review of Tamron 150-600 VC f/5-6.3

For many people when the Tamron SP 150-600mm VC lens was announced it was considered a ‘game changer’. After all, in the fall of 2013 how many other zoom lenses were available on the market that gave a photographer 600mm reach on a full frame camera for less than $1,100 US? The answer was…none. (NOTE: click on images to enlarge them)

Tamron-150-600mm-f5-6.3-Di-VC-USD

Sure there were other lenses in this general zoom range that buyers could consider like the Nikkor 80-400 VR (approx. $2,700 US), or one of the two 500mm Sigma zoom offerings: the 50-500mm (approx. $1,500 US) and 150-500mm (approx. $870 US). There was some debate about the relative merits of these other telephoto zooms, or even comparisons to the Nikkor 300mm f/4 (approx. $1,370 US) when used with a tele-converter. Some people were inclined to make image quality comparisons to high end Nikkor telephoto glass costing thousands of dollars more and claim that the Tamron SP 150-600 VC was vastly inferior.

f/8, 1/3200, ISO-800, 600mm
f/8, 1/3200, ISO-800, 600mm

None of that really mattered. The truth was that the Tamron SP 150-600 VC held a unique place in the market as the only telephoto zoom available at that time that could provide 600mm reach at f/6.3 on a full frame camera (or an equivalent field-of-view of 900mm at f/6.3 on a Nikon DX body). And, it did that while still being affordable for most people. In that regard, the Tamron SP 150-600 VC opened up a new world of bird and nature photography for many people…amateurs and enthusiasts alike.

f/6.3, 1/8000, ISO-720, 600mm
f/6.3, 1/8000, ISO-720, 600mm

In late 2014 during the Photokina event Sigma announced two new 150-600mm f/5-6.3 full frame lenses. The Sport version, which was targeted at the professional market and the Contemporary model, focused as direct competition on the Tamron 150-600 VC.

At the time of writing this updated review of the Tamron 150-600 VC the Sigma 160-600 Sport version has been launched at nearly double the price of the Tamron. The Contemporary model hasn’t yet been launched. How the Tamron 150-600 will fair against these two new Sigma competitors is yet to be seen.

f/8, 1/2500, ISO800, 600mm
f/8, 1/2500, ISO800, 600mm

Lens Specifications

Main Features:
– 4x ultra-telephoto zoom lens with a focal length range of 150mm to 600mm
– World class image quality, employing 20 elements in 13 groups and boasting an advanced optical design
– Achieves a 600mm focal length in a compact easy-to-handle package
– Beautiful background blur effects thanks to a 9 blade circular diaphragm
– VC (Vibration Compensation) mechanism creates greater opportunities for sharper handheld photography
– Comfortable autofocus featuring a USD (Ultrasonic Silent Drive) motor
– New elegant, high-class external finish
– Easy-to-use tripod mount

f/8, 1/1250, ISO-400, +0.7, 600mm (efov 900mm)
f/8, 1/1250, ISO-400, +0.7, 600mm (efov 900mm)

Technical Specifications
1) Mount Type: Nikon F-Bayonet (also available for Canon and Sony mounts)
2) Focal Length Range: 150-600mm
3) Maximum Aperture: f/5-6.3
4) Minimum Aperture: f/32-40
5) Angle of View (DX-format): 10°38’ – 2°40’
6) Angle of View (FX-format): 16°25’ – 4°8’
7) Lens (Elements): 20
8) Lens (Groups): 13
10) Compatible Format(s): FX, DX, FX in DX Crop Mode, 35mm Film
11) Diaphragm Blades: 9
12) LD Glass (Elements): 3
13) Autofocus: Yes
14) USD (Ultrasonic Silent Drive): Yes
15) Minimum Focus Distance: 106.3 in (2.7m)
16) Focus Mode: AF/MF
17) Filter Size: 95mm
18) Accepts Filter Type: Screw-on
19) Length: 10.1 in (257.8mm)
20) Weight (Approx.): 68.8 oz (1,951 g)
21) Lens Hood: Flower-shaped HA007 lens hood

8 thoughts on “Hands-on Review of Tamron 150-600 VC f/5-6.3”

  1. Good afternoon Thomas …. your work is stunning! I am considering buying a 160-600mm lens a cannot find any comparisons between the Tamron VC and the new Sigma contemporary lenses. The Sigma Sport is out of my range …. cameras Nikon D700 and D750. I would appreciate your advice and guidance. Thanks a million. Regards JJ (South Africa)

    1. Hi Johan,
      Thank you for your kind words, they are much appreciated! I haven’t seen anything on the Sigma Contemporary yet so I don’t have much guidance to provide on that particular lens. As far as the Tamron 150-600, I don’t think you should have any issues with your D750…your D700 may have a bit of focus lag since it is an older body. The Sigma Sport is a very nice lens, but at almost twice the price as the Tamron I really didn’t see enough of a difference in image quality to warrant the additional money, especially if both lenses are shot at f/8.
      Tom

  2. cjbayliss, I have both the Nikon 500 f4G and 600 f4G but I had the 500 f4D. You’ll love that lens as it is only a bit slower than the G series. I’m also now looking into the 300 f4 newest edition as I understand its performance with all three Nikon TC’s are great.

    With that in mind, Thomas, this is a great practical review with real photos instead of MTF charts. I particularly enjoy your writing style because it is most like sitting with another photographer just shooting the breeze about something fantastic he found. I work with students and this is the way I like to teach; except for a few basic fundamentals.

    I like zooms and was going to pull the trigger on the Tamron as I’ve only heard good things from realistic photographers regarding this lens. However, I am waiting for the Sigma 150-600 to come out to see if there will be a significant difference.

    1. Hi Mike,

      Thanks for the positive comment – much appreciated! This is the approach I intend on using for all of my articles here…folks can find MTF charts on lots of other sites.

      Sigma has two 150-600 zooms that you can consider. The Sport version was introduced first and Sigma is positioning it as ‘pro’ glass. It is about double the price of the Tamron 150-600 and also weighs about 1 Kg more…a little over 2 pounds heavier. I haven’t seen many reviews of the Sport lens yet as Sigma called back their early production due to some quality issues that have not been detailed. The other Sigma 150-600 lens is the Contemporary version. The price hasn’t been announced but it appears to be targeted directly at the Tamron offering in terms of size, and I would imagine closer in price as well. Since I really don’t like to use tripods I think the Sigma Sport would be too heavy for my style of shooting.

      Here is a link to one of the few comparisons that I’ve seen: http://www.kruger-2-kalahari.com/tamron-vs-sigma-150-600.html

      The new Nikkor 300mm f/4 looks like it could be a really great lens. Small, light, sharp, and likely works very well with teleconverters…what else could a shooter want?

      Tom

  3. G’day Thomas!

    I’ve read this article before, but I’m glad I read it again. Currently I’m looking at getting a Nikkor 500mm F4D AF-S, and I’ve been a bit unsure. But now I think I’ll get it. It is super clear, and F4 at 500 is really nice.

    Anyway, I like your blog! It looks great on my iPhone.

    I really appreciate your photography, and the time you spend helping people. Keep it up mate! 🙂

    Christopher

    1. Hi Christopher,

      Glad you like the new blog! The 500mm f/4 sounds like an amazing lens…I’m sure you’ll do some cracker-jack work with it. I just read that Nikon announced a 300mm f/4 today that sounds like a superb lens as well.

      Tom

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