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

Lens Sharpness and Contrast
In my two ‘preview’ articles I showcased a number of images taken with the Tamron 150-600 with my D800. If you missed those preview articles or would like to view them again they can be found under the ‘Tamron’ category on this web site.

I found the image quality to be very good for a lens of this type. There is some softness at the 600mm end of the range, but it is quite common for a zoom lens to lose some sharpness at its longest focal length so this is not unexpected. Stopping down to f/8 does help to increase sharpness on the long end of the lens. The vast majority of people shooting with the Tamron SP 150-600 VC will shoot in RAW and apply some sharpening in post.

To give you an idea of jpeg sharpness, here is an out-of-camera jpeg taken at 600mm (EFoV 900mm) with my D800 in DX crop mode at f/8, 1/1600th, ISO-800. No adjustments have been made to this image, or the crop that follows it.

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And, here is a crop from the image above. Keep in mind that this level of cropping represents less than 5% of the total image area of my D800’s sensor.

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As a comparison here is an image taken at 600mm with my D800 in DX crop mode (EF0V 900mm) at f/8, 1/2000th , ISO-800. This image, as well as the crop that follows, were processed using the RAW file.

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Image quality does improve when the lens is used below the 600mm maximum. Here is an image of a black crowned night heron taken in its nest with my D800 in DX crop mode. It was shot at 460mm (EFoV 690mm), f/8, 1/2000th, ISO-800.

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Here are two 100% crops from the above image.

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Here is a night heron in flight that I captured with my D800 in DX crop mode. It was shot at 240mm (EFoV 360mm) at f/8, 1/1600th, ISO-400. The image was processed from a RAW file using DxOMark OpticsPro 8, CS6 and Nik Suite.

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To see more images of black crowned night herons taken with the Tamron SP 150-600 VC you can check out this YouTube video:

For those of you wondering about the image quality when using a cropped sensor body, here is a photo taken with a D7000 at an EFoV of 570mm, f/8, 1/640th , ISO-400.

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This is a 100% crop from the above image.

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This peacock image was taken with a D7000 at the Metro Toronto Zoo at an EFoV of 900mm, f/6.3, 1/200th , ISO-200.

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If you are wondering how well the Tamron SP 150-600 VC can capture fine detail, have a look at this image taken with my D800 in FX mode at 600mm, f/8, 1/1600th , ISO-400, -1 EV. You’ll notice a fly on the white flower.

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Now have a look at a 100% crop taken from the image above. The fly was 8.4 meters, or about 27.5 feet, away from me.

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This photograph of a dandelion seed head was taken with my D800 in DX crop mode, EFoV of 900mm, f/6.3 1/1250th, ISO-3200.

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Here are a few more images of birds taken with the Tamron SP 150-600 VC using my D800 in DX crop mode. This next image was taken at an EFoV of 900mm, f/7.1, 1/2000th, ISO-800.

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This cormorant was shot at an EFoV of 450mm, f/8, 1/2500th, ISO-800.

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The flying gull photo below was taken at an EFoV of 450mm, f/8, 1/200th, ISO-800.

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This stationary gull was shot with an EFoV of 900mm, f/8, 1/6400th, ISO-800.

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The majority of users should find the image quality of the Tamron 150-600 VC to be more than acceptable. Obviously having realistic expectations of a lens costing about $1,100 US is needed, and not being an obsessive pixel peeper would also be a plus.

f/8, 1/2000, ISO-400, 500mm (efov 750mm)
f/8, 1/2000, ISO-400, 500mm (efov 750mm)

The Tamron 150-600 does incorporate eBAND and BBAR coatings to help reduce lens flare and ghosting. I did shoot the Tamron quite a bit without the lens hood and I did not find any issues with lens flare. Overall, I found the image quality to be quite good in terms of colour rendition and contrast.

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

  1. Based on this review, I was convinced about buying the lens second hand last month. I had 3 weeks of fun shooting wildlife and birds on my Nikon D500. I do tend to use f9 to f13 to achieve top sharpness, especially for very small subjects at 600mm that I need to crop further. I realize I did not explore th VR at it best: Having it on all the time swallowed my battery lifetime, the more I used shutters shorter than 1/1000 as I had mostly plenty of light. Let me follow the advise of the review and come back. Really great review!

  2. 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.

  3. 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?


  4. 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! 🙂


    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.


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