The relatively affordable price of the new Tamron SP 150-600mm F5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 might suggest that the lens is designed for the consumer market, but it’s also well suited to pros who need extra reach and the flexibility of a super-telephoto zoom lens.
While the size and weight of the lens is quite similar to its predecessor (Model A011), the new version has a completely new body design which uses more metal components and feels very solid. The lens comes with a sturdy Arca-Swiss compatible tripod collar which is made of magnesium. The tripod collar can be completely detached so that photographers not planning to use stabilisation can remove it to save 100-200 grams of weight.
Some of the super telephoto zoom lenses that I’ve used recently have stiff zoom rings which make it difficult to zoom in or out quickly, but the Tamron’s zoom ring is smooth, so it’s easy to adjust while shooting fast-moving action.
The zoom ring also has a new feature called Flex Zoom Lock, which allows you to lock the zoom easily at any focal length simply by sliding the zoom ring.
Unlike lenses that use a separate lock button, the Flex Zoom Lock doesn’t require you to move your hand away from the zoom ring. It’s fast, intuitive and I love it.
Having a maximum aperture of f/5-6.3 means that this isn’t the best lens for shooting in low light. But as long as light is adequate, the autofocus speed and accuracy are both decent. My D800 would sometimes fail to acquire the target initially when shooting fast-moving objects, but setting the focus limiter on the lens to ‘10m-infinity’ dramatically improved the initial focus-acquiring success rate.
The lens’s optical quality is good, and it’s pretty sharp overall for a zoom lens. I rarely see any nasty colour fringing or distortion in my photos. Flare is well controlled under most lighting conditions. When there is a strong light source that is just outside the frame, there can be a noticeable drop in contrast—it’s not terrible, but something photographers may want to avoid when shooting.
As result of the lens’s new optical design, the minimum object distance has been reduced to 2.2 metres, which increases its maximum magnification ratio to 1:3.9.
Tamron claims that the optical image stabliser (VC) has been improved and is now effective to 4.5 stops. My test results confirm that the new lens’s image stabiliser performance is definitely better than all previous Tamron lenses I’ve used, and very effective, especially at the longest focal length.
Tamron has also recently released two teleconverters (1.4x and 2.0x) designed to be used with selected telephoto lenses, including the Tamron 150-600 G2. With the addition of the 2.0x teleconverter, the lens’s maximum aperture becomes f/10-13, which means that the camera body’s phase detection autofocus will no longer function.
To focus, photographers will either have to rely on live view, which uses contrast detection autofocus, or manual focus. This means the 2.0x teleconverter isn’t a good choice for action photos. Instead, I would recommend the 1.4x teleconverter, as it results in minimal image quality degradation.
In summary, the 150-600mm G2 has the image quality, build quality and features to satisfy professional photographers, without breaking the bank.