Tamron 150-600 mm Lens - Field Test and Review

by Dr. Robert Berdan
November 28, 2014


Tamron 150-600 mm lens attached to a Nikon D300S camera body by Robert Berdan ©


The Tamron 150-600 mm lens and lens hood with a Nikon D300S camera body. The lens feels similar in weight 4.3 lbs (1.95 kg) to Nikon's 70-200 mm VR lens 3.4 lbs (1.54 kg) with a teleconverter attached.


Every now and then a product appears that opens up new opportunities for photographers. The Tamron 150-600 mm lens is one of them. I don't often review equipment as there are many web sites that specialize in doing so , but I believe this lens is a game changer for nature and wildlife photographers for four reasons.


1. Relatively low cost approx $1200 CDN

2. Wide zoom range from 150-600 mm (on APS cameras up to 900 mm on Nikon 960 mm on Canon)

3. It's low weight allows almost anyone to carry it and shoot hand held even at 900 mm in good light.

4. This lens is capable of producing professional quality images that are sharp




$1200 isn't cheap until you compare it to other super-telephoto lenses. A 300 mm f/2.8 lens will set you back about $6000, a 200-400 mm f/4 Nikon lens about $7,000, a 500 mm f/4 lens about $8,000 and 600 mm F/4 lens about $10,000. Both Canon and Nikon make a compact 300 mm f4 lens in the $1.500-$2000 range and both lenses provide high quality sharp images. Nikon and Canon also offer zoom lenses in the 80-400 and 100-400 mm range. But these are even more expensive and still a long way from 600 mm. Having ~600-900 mm focal length ( magnification 600 mm about 12X - 900 mm 18X) is equivalent to attaching a telescope to the front of your camera and allows closeups of birds and other wildlife. Of all the wildlife I photograph, small birds are the most challenging and they usually require lots of magnification to fill the frame even if you can get close. The Tamron lens fits the bill nicely and I believe it will become a popular wildlife lens in the near future.


Coyote photographed with Tamron 150-600 mm lens by Robert Berdan ©


Coyote photographed with Tamron's 150-600 mm lens, Nikon D300S, ISO 1600 hand-held, f/6.3 @420 mm (630 mm equivalent).


The ability to zoom from 150-600 on a full frame camera or 240 mm to 900 mm on a Nikon DX -crop body (adds 1.5X magnification) is amazing. I owned a 50-500 mm lens by Sigma over a decade ago, but sold it after a few months and was never satisfied with this lens because of poor optics and slow autofocus. On the other hand when Tamron first introduced an 18-200 mm lens this lens rocked the photo world because it became possible to travel with a DSLR (digital single lens reflex) camera and just one lens to capture wide angle views and closeups. I still use the 18-200 mm lens primarily when ocean kayaking because it takes up less room and I don't have to continually change lenses which can be tricky in rough water. The new Tamron 150-600 mm lens is going to appeal to bird, wildlife and travel photographers. Even professional photographers owning super-telephoto lenses may be interested in owning this lens if they need something easy to handle and carry. In places where your lens might be stolen or damaged, it is easier to recover from a $1200 loss then a $10,000 loss. Also travel by air restricts the amount of equipment and weight you can carry on board and the Tamron lens is a lightweight alternative to prime super-telephotos. One thing about prime super telephoto lenses is that they are heavy, expensive, require a commitment to bring them along as well as certain fitness level when hiking.


Snowy owl photographed with Tamron 150-600 mm lens by Robert Berdan ©


Snowy owl in low contrast light taken with Nikon D300s, Tamron 150-600 mm lens @ 600 mm (900 mm equivalent) using a monopod. If I enlarge the snowy owl head, you will see that details in feathers are missing in this low contrast lighting. ISO setting was set to 1600.


Closeup of Snowy Owl photographed with Tamron 150-600 mm lens by Robert Berdan ©


Enlargement of the snowy owl head from the photograph above. The lens produces sharp images, but I would like to see more detail in the feathers. The lack of detail may in part be due to the low contrast lighting and high ISO speed (ISO 1600) I used.



Snowy owl - cropped image, Nikon D300, 300 mm f/2.8 lens + 1.7X Teleconverter - 765 mm equivalent @ (f\4.8), ISO 400 on a tripod. In part the better lighting and lower ISO speed are helpful but some of the quality is almost certainly due to better and more expensive Nikon lens.




In similar lighting, photos taken with the Nikon 500 mm f/4 lens (750 mm equivalent) on a monopod show more detail in the birds feathers. Considering the Nikon 500 mm f/4 lens costs over $8000 I would expect the image quality to be better and it is. Photographed with a Nikon D300s, 1\1000 sec, f/6.3, ISO 400. Male and female Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis).




Snowy owl photographed with a Nikon D300s, Tamron 150-600 @ 600 mm (900 mm) equivalent, f/6.3, ISO 500, 1\8000 sec hand held. The image has been cropped. The Tamron lens focus had to hunt on this snowy owl even in bright sunlight light. Autofocusing speed decreases with all lenses as they are stopped down. Some cameras are unable to autofocus past f/5.6 and at 900 mm the Tamron lens wide open is at f/6.3. With larger subjects like vehicles and houses the lens is able to lock focus more quickly. I found I could improve focusing speed and accuracy if I kept my hand on the focus ring to make small adjustments manually. Also if the focus limiter is set to 15m - infinity the lens tends to focus a little bit faster, however if you suddenly need to focus on something closer than 15 m - autofocus will not work at all.


Hungarian Partridges photographed with Tamron 160-600 mm telephoto lens by Robert Berdan ©


Hungarian Partridges, Nikon D300s, Tamron 150-600 mm @ 600mm (900 mm equivalent), f/6.3, ISO 400, 1`\2500 sec. from car window. In bright sunlight, the birds were sharp and there is some detail in the feathers - see enlargement below.



Enlarged view of Hungarian Partridges cropped from the image above. Note that the feathers lack fine detail. This could be due to camera movement during the exposure and\or the lower resolution of the Tamron lens at 600mm.



I took my first test shots with the Tamron lens after taking a client out to photograph in Kananaskis. I asked if I could borrow his lens to take a few shots. I used my Nikon D800 camera body and the resulting images shown below inspired me to take a closer look at this lens. You should realize that viewing low resolution images on a web site is not the best way to evaluate lens sharpness unless the images include enlargements or links to the original files. At the end of the article I attach several full size .jpg files you can download and inspect and compare with the Nikon 500 mm f/r4lens. Keep in mind that apparent sharpness depends on other factors: 1) the photographers technique (use of additional support) 2) lighting - things look sharper with high-contrast lighting or with a flash and 3) wind and air turbulence can cause the image to appear less sharp. 4) Post processing also can be used to enhance image sharpness, however a poor or soft image can not be significantly improved this way. I took most of my images with the Tamron lens set wide open in order to get better autofocus performance and be able to use higher shutter speeds. Most lenses produce sharper images when stopped down one or two f-stops, but that's not always practical when photographing wildlife in low light.



Tamron 150-600 mm lens on the Nikon D800 Camera



Mountain landscape in Kananaskis taken with Nikon D800 at 150 mm ISO 200 at 1\1000 sec hand-held.



Mountain peak photographed at 600 mm with the Nikon D800 hand held, f/11 at 1\320 sec. As with most lenses closing down improves the sharpness, however even wide open at f/6.3 the image was sharp.


Above is an enlargement taken from the image directly above to show the detail visible in the mountain side at 600 mm - Nikon D800 camera body, Tamron 150-600 mm lens hand-held..


TIPS for Purchasing any Lens

Before I consider buying a lens, I usually read several reviews on the Internet. I have found that most photo magazines are unreliable when it comes to pointing out lens weaknesses less they offend their advertisers. On the Internet I can read a diversity of opinions and most of them are honest. However, as with any information on the Internet, it's important to consider the source of the information and how reliable it might be.


When I first picked up the Tamron lens and took a few shots my initial impression was - WOW, how could they make such a light-weight powerful lens for such a low cost.. One of my friends, Dr. Wayne Lynch, also got hold of a copy of the Tamron lens and mentioned how impressed he was with the lens and that he wanted to keep it. Pretty good endorsement from Canada's most well known wildlife photographer. Other serious photographers I know also purchased this lens and shared their images with me and I was pleasantly surprised at how good they were.


Dr. Sharif Galal holding the Tamron 150-600 mm lens searching for a snowy owl that "disappeared" into a field. The Tamron lens is easy to carry and maneuver in the field.



snowy owl in flight by Dr. Sharif Galal ©


Snowy owl in flight by Sharif Galal taken with the Tamron 150-600 mm lens



Snowy owl in flight by Dr. Sharif Galal ©


Snowy owl in flight taken by Sharif Galal with the Tamron 150-600 mm lens



Male Pine Grosbeak photographed with Tamron 150-600 mm lens using fill flash by Halle Flygare.


moon by Bhaskar Bhowmik using Tamron 150-500 mm lens.


Moon photographed by Bhaskar Bhowmik using the Tamron 150-600 mm lens, Nikon Camera body, Tripod



With large subjects like this old house near Beiseker, the Tamron lens autofocus was quick. However when I zoom into the image and view the texture on the wood - it appears soft even in this bright light. Monopod used for support.


After purchasing the Tamron lens as a gift for my father, I tested it with my Nikon D300 cameras and went out into my backyard. A variety of birds are attracted to my bird feeders and I thought they would be a good place to start . I found that it was pretty easy to capture stationary birds with the autofocus, but birds in flight were another matter. Small birds are challenging for any lens, the Tamron 150-500 mm lens autofocus seems to be effective with big birds, but I wasn't able to capture the smaller birds in flight. If you are trying to get birds in flight with this lens start with big birds like eagles, owls, swans etc - also see article by Thomas Stirr for more tips.


House sparrows photographed in my backyard with the Tamron 150-600 mm lens@ 600 mm on Nikon D300s, f6/3, 1\2000 sec ISO 800.


Looking up in my backyard I could see the moon and decided to see how sharp of an image I could take at 600 mm (900 mm equivalent with D300s) by hand holding the camera. For comparison I used my Nikon 500 mm f/4 lens hand held (750 mm equivalent). The results are shown below. The Tamron image appears slightly sharper to my surprise. I began to wonder why and believe it's because I was able to hold the lighter lens steadier. I probably should have carried out the tests with a tripod as well. but the most attractive feature of the Tamron lens is that it can be hand held even at 900 mm to get reasonably sharp pictures.


Above, moon photographed in my backyard, hand held, Nikon D300s, Tamron 150--600 mm (900 mm equivalent), f/6.3, 1\1500 sec, ISO 800. This is a cropped photo showing an enlargement of the craters on the moon. The low weight of the lens and Image stabilization feature made this image possible. It's a great way to test how steady you can hold your camera and lens, but for best results use a tripod.


Above is a photo of the moon taken with Nikon D300s and Nikon 500 mm f/4 lens hand held, shutter speed 1\6400 sec. f/4. The lens has an equivalent of 750 mm focal length so the resulting picture of the moon was smaller then the photo I took with the Tamron at 600 mm (900 mm equivalent). I enlarged the image so it is approximately the same size as the top photo. To my surprise, both images show similar detail though I think I was able to hand-hold the lighter weight Tamron lens steadier and the Tamron enlargment shows a little better detail in the craters.


Factors that influence sharpness of a photograph include:

1. How steady the camera and lens is held which is why best results will be obtained using a tripod or monopod

2. Lighting also influences apparent sharpness, objects look sharper in high contrast lighting i.e. bright sunny days.

3. The quality of the lens design, coatings and optics - they increase contrast

4. The camera, sensor resolution and noise suppression

5. Shutter speed, higher shutter speeds tend to have less vibration. Mirror lock up can also help reduce vibration.

5. Post processing software, sharpening and other modifications can make an image appear sharper



The images above show that the Tamron lens is capable of taking sharp, publishable images at all focal lengths including at 600 mm if the lens is held steady. It's a relatively easy lens to use and hand hold and when combined with high ISO speed and high shutter speeds can achieve sharp photos of wildlife. The images are not as sharp as the Nikon 300 mm f/2.8 lens or 500 mm F/4 lens even after attaching a 1.4X or a 1.7 X teleconverter. Images with the Tamron lens look more like images taken using 2X teleconverters on the 300 and 500 mm prime lenses - which are still very good. (see my article on Nikon's 500 mm lens).


Lens Distortion with the Tamron 150-500 is minimal

Lens distortion can be significant with some zoom telephoto lenses like the Tamron 18-200 mm lens. In general I don't worry too much about a little bit of barrel or pincushion distortion because it can be fixed easily in Photoshop, but I still want to know if its there. The best way to do this is to photograph a grid in the pattern of a checker board. However, I often setup my camera on a tripod and photograph the aluminum siding on my house - the resulting images show a slight amount of pincushion distorsion in the mid zoom range (250 mm) otherwise it looks pretty good at both the 150 and 600 mm. For a more accurate assessment of distorsion see the review by popular photography in the links below.

Aluminum siding photographed at 150, 260 mm and 600 mm with Nikon D300S. The same test with the Tamron 18-200 mm zoom lens reveals significant barrel distortion at the long end. The Tamron 150-600 mm lens shows a small amount of pincushion distorsion in the middle zoom range. The pictures above also show there isn't much light fall off at the edges.


The most important considerations in a lens to me are1) how sharp is the lens 2) cost - is it affordable 3) build quality and weather sealing. 4) lens coatings and ability to suppress flare when shooting directly into the light. For all of the shots in my tests I left the lens hood on to protect the front element and suppress flare. I tested the lens at -20 C an it performed well, but did not test it in rain or other adverse conditions so can't comment on how weather sealed it is.


I think if you can afford and carry larger prime lenses you will achieve higher quality images most of the time and have a faster autocous. However, if you would like to get closer images of wildlife and you are considering a longer lens, but can't afford more than $2,000, then the Tamron 150-600 mm lens is a great deal. I found that I was using the Tamron lens at the long end most of the time because I was trying to capture elusive wildlife like snowy owls, and coyotes which often take off as soon as you open the car door. When it comes to traveling by air or hiking the Tamron lens is going to be much easier to take a long. No matter how good your equipment might be its of no use if you leave it a home.


Pros of the Tamron Lens


1. Relatively low cost around $1200

2. Quality build, light-weight making it easy to travel or hike with

3. Amazing focal length range - images are sharp at 600 mm though not as sharp as 300 to 600 mm prime lens

4. Available for Nikon, Canon and Sony Cameras

5. Manual focus over ride - this allowed me to fine tune the focus

6. Tripod collar mount is essential for a lens like this, but it can be removed if you want for easier hand holding





1. Lens hood seems longer than it needs to be - remember to remove the hood if using on camera flash

2. Autofocus speed is slow especially at f/6.3, it often hunts and I found it had difficulty tracking small to medium  sized birds in flight.

3. I would like to see the tripod foot just a little bit longer so it would be easier to carry in one hand in the field

4. For sharp pictures I often had to use high ISO speeds to achive faster shutter speeds



Mule Deer buck, photographed with Tamron 150-600 mm @ 600 mm (900 mm equivalent), Nikon D300s, f/6.3, ISO 1600, 1\200 sec. on a mono-pod.



To get the best results with this lens try to use fast shutter speeds which may mean you may have to boost your ISO speed higher then normal. Alternatively set your camera to a fast shutter speed e.g. 1\1000 of a second and activate Auto ISO so the camera keeps the shutter speed constant in different light. Use a support such as a monopod or tripod when ever possible. Avoid putting any glass filters on the front of the lens (I never attach UV or skylight filters to my telephoto lenses unless I am ocean kayaking). Instead use your lens hood to protect the front glass. For hand holding - practise your stance, hold your breath when taking a shot and steady yourself against a fence, post, wall or anything that

offers support. Of course nothing beats a sturdy tripod to achieve the sharpest pictures.


Tamron 150-600 mm Technical Specs

Format Compatibility

35mm Film / Full-Frame Digital Sensor

Camera Mounts

Canon EF, Nikon F, and Sony A

Focal Length


APS-C Equivalent Focal Length

Canon: 240-960mm
Nikon: 225-900mm
Sony: 225-900mm

Maximum Aperture


Minimum Aperture


Angle of View

16° 25' - 4° 8'

Minimum Focus Distance

8.86' (2.7 m)

Maximum Reproduction Ratio


Lens Construction

20 elements in 13 groups

Aperture Blades


Tripod Collar

Yes, removable

Image Stabilization

Canon, Nikon: Yes, Vibration Compensation
Sony: No


Ultrasonic Silent Drive Motor

Filter Thread



4.2 x 10.2" (10.6 x 25.8 cm)


4.3 lb (1.95 kg)


Vibration Compensation - equivalent to about 2-3 shutter speeds


Ultrasonic Silent autofocus drive

Di - Lenses

Di Tamron's 'Digitally Integrated' lenses have a full-size image circle, so they are suitable for full-frame and crop-factor SLRs. Di II Tamron's second-generation Digitally Integrated lenses are designed for use on popular crop-factor SLRs, and are not suitable for full-frame models.



Snowy owl on fence in soft light. From the road this owl almost faded into the background and was extremely difficult to spot. The Tamron lens, however was able to focus on the owl though I used the focus ring to fine tune focus.



If you ever wanted a super telephoto lens for wildlife but couldn't justify or afford several thousands of dollars, then this may be the lens for you. Even pro-photographers will find this lens an ideal companion when you want to travel light or don't want to worry about theft or damage to a $6,000-10,000 lens.


If you are not convinced of the worthyness of this lens check out the other 150-600 mm lens reviews in the links below. If you have an opportunity to try the lens before you buy this will help you make a decision of whether or not it meets your needs. I think this lens will allow more photographers to engage in wildlife and bird photography, Sigma also offers a 150-600 mm zoom lens for about $2,000 but I have not seen a copy yet. See the additional links and reviews below. The bottom line - if you always wanted a super-telephoto at an affordable price, that's light-weight and produces quality images check out the Tamron 160-600 mm lens at your local camera store.



Alternative Options to the Tamron 150-500 mm lens


I mentioned above that Nikon makes a 80-400 mm lens, Sony has 70-400 II lens and Canon has a 100-400 mm lens with a new100-400 lens model coming out soon. These lenses are suitable alternatives although they are significantly more costly. Another option is to use a 70-200 mm f/2.8 lens and attach a brand name teleconverters (1.4X, 1.7X or 2X). The 70-200 mm f/2.8 lenses will cost over $2000 for Nikon or Canon models and each teleconverter about $500 each. The quality of the pictures however will be high, autofocus will be faster, but you will still be limited to 600 mm on a crop body with a 2X teleconverter. I can see the Tamron lens becoming very popular on trips to the Arctic, Safaris and anyone interested in photographing birds. For the price of the lens you owe to yourself to check it out. Sigma's version of the lens is heavier and more costly - see below and check out the links for reviews on this lens. RB


Sigma 150-500 mm lens


Sigma's version of 150 -600 mm lens - cost about $2,000. Weight 2.9 Kg, about 1 kg heavier than the Tamron -
see reviews of this lens in the links below.


Download and view full size images - no post processing or sharpening has been applied to these images strait from camera Nikon D300. Compare the coyote shots to see the difference in quality of images between Nikon's 500 mm lens and the Tamron lens at 600 mm. All images are copyright by RB



CLICK on Thumbs to View Full size Images Taken with the Tamron 150-600 mm lens & Nikon 500 mm lens


Old hourse with Tamron 150-600 mm lens

Coyote full frame taken with the Tamron 150-500 mm lens by Robert Berdan ©

coyote full frame image taken with Nikon 500 mm f/4 lens by Robert Berdan ©

Tamron Lens 600 mm ©

Tamron Lens 600 ©

Nikon Lens 500 mm ©


    1. Download full image - Tamron 160-600 Nikon D300 @ 600 mm, ISO 800, 1\4000 sec - Old House 2.6 MB
    2. Download full Image - Tamron 160-600 @ 600 f/6.3, ISO 1600, 1\250 sec - Coyote in field 1.9 MB
    3. Download full Image - Nikon 500 mm Nikon D300 (750 mm equivalent), f/4 1\8000 sec ISO 1600 3.17 MB


Other Reviews & Opinions on the Tamron and Sigma 150-600 mm lenses


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