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Tamron's Great Value 150-600mm Super Telephoto

This has to be a winner. Tamron's SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 VC USD zoom is everything a wildlife and sport photographer dreams about. Let's face it, whether you're following a football player around the paddock, or chasing a lion on the African savannah, you never know exactly how close you're going to be when the action happens.

Traditionally, photographers would take a 300mm and a 600mm, and maybe a 1.4X or 2.0X teleconvertor, but this required changing lenses or camera bodies. With Tamron's 150-600mm super zoom, you are ready for anything.

Here are three quick snaps taken at 150mm, 300mm and 600mm, which on the Canon EOS 60D is closer to 233mm, 466mm and 930mm equivalent.

It's a serious bit of zooming. On this particular day, it was around 40 degrees in Sydney and so I gave up trying to do any serious quality testing because the heat waves in the air were clearly visible through the viewfinder. All the straight lines were wavy - a great effect except when you're doing a product test!

Later that day out the window at home when it was much cooler, I compared the Tamron with my (ten year old) Canon L-series f2.8 lens, using a Canon EOS D60. Yes, the Canon at 300mm is better, but not by nearly as much as I expected. And when you look at the price of the Tamron - under $1400 - there is no reason not to love this lens. For website and publication work such as I do, it is nothing short of brilliant on a 20-megapixel camera.

When designing supertelephotos, there is always a compromise between weight and features. If you want the f2.8 or f4 maximum aperture (which in turn allows faster shutter speeds to freeze the action), you pay for it with a large, heavy lens.

Tamron's solution is a relatively lightweight lens and so its maximum aperture is f5.6-6.3. However, its weight is under two kilograms, whereas the supertelephotos can easily weigh twice this. And the solution for faster shutter speeds these days with DSLRs is to dial your ISO setting up, so instead of shooting at ISO 100 or 200, shoot at ISO 560 and you are effectively matching the shutter speeds you would otherwise get with the wider aperture lenses.

Of course, to get the best optical result, you should stop the lens down a couple of stops as well, but you need to remember the market this lens is aimed at and the price point. Yes, there are lenses that have better optical quality and faster autofocus, but if you create a matrix of quality, weight, performance and price, the Tamron really excels.

The Tamron 150-600mm has been released for Canon mounts first, with Nikon and Sony mounts to follow. It will work happily on both full frame and APS-C size sensors, but of course, the equivalent focal length for the latter is 233-930mm! Now that is a super telephoto!

The Canon and Nikon models include Tamron's VC (Vibration Compensation) technology, but this is not required for Sony cameras which have equivalent technology built into the camera body.

The lens uses 20 elements in 13 groups, including three LD (Low Dispersion) glass elements for improved image quality. The elements also use a new eBAND coating technology, designed to suppress ghosting and image flare.

The lens features a USD (Ultrasonic Silent Drive) motor which is claimed to be very quick and quiet, and the nine blade circular diaphragm produces a beautiful out-of-focus effect (bokeh). Add in a tripod mount collar and the new Tamron supertelephoto zoom seems to be lacking ... absolutely nothing!

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Peter Eastway Uses

Peter Uses

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