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Tamron SP AF200-500MM F/5-6.3 Di LD (IF) Review

by Bob Atkins, 2004


The Tamron SP AF200-500MM F/5-6.3 Di LD (IF) is one of Tamron's new "Di" lenses. These are lenses designed with digital SLRs in mind. This is what Tamron says about their DI lenses:

Di: Digitally Integrated Design, is a designation Tamron puts on lenses featuring optical systems designed to meet the performance characteristics of Digital SLR cameras.
Tamron's new Di (Digitally Integrated design) lens series offers users of both film and digital cameras:

  • Higher resolution
  • Control of flare and ghosting
  • Minimized peripheral light fall-off
  • Reduced chromatic aberrations

Of course it's hard to say if, or how much, "digital" lenses are better than "non-digital" lenses since there are rarely (if ever) digital and non-digital versions of the same lens. While it's true that there are some aspects of lens design that could be optimized for digital use, it's hard to say just how much better a new "digital" design would be when compared to a new "non-digital" design. There are many lenses designed before digital SLRs became popular which seem to work perfectly well on digital SLRs. On the other hand lens design has always been an evolving art and science, and improved designs may give improved performance with both digital sensors and film. It certainly never hurts for either to improve resolution, lower chromatic aberration, minimize light fall-off and lower flare and ghosting!

Here are the specifications of the Tamron SP AF200-500MM F/5-6.3 Di LD (IF) 

Tamron SP AF200-500MM F/5-6.3 Di LD (IF)  Specifications

Model Number A08
Lens Construction (Groups/Elements) 10/13 (2 LD elements)
Angle of View 12°-5°
Focal Length 200mm to 500mm
Maximum Aperture f5 to f6.3
Diaphragm Blade Number 9
Minimum Aperture f/32
Minimum Focus 2.5m (98.4") (entire zoom range)
Macro Mag. Ratio 1:5.0 (at 500mm)
Filter Diameter 86mm
Weight 1237g (43.6oz)
Diameter x Length 3.7 x 8.9in. (200mm setting, no hood)
(93.5 x 227.0mm)
Accessories Lens hood, Detachable Filter Effect Control, Carrying case and strap
Mount Canon, Minolta-D, Nikon-D

 

The lens appears to be well constructed and has a  low reflectivity black finish with a rubberized zoom control. It comes with the following accessories:

  • Plastic "bayonet" mount lens hood with ribbed interior to minimize reflections.
  • Detachable tripod mount
  • Soft zippered carrying case with detachable strap
  • Detachable filter effect control
  • Front and rear caps, instruction sheet, 6 year warranty

The carrying case is actually useful, unlike either the thin unpadded bags or cylindrical hard cases supplied with some lenses. It's well padded and has a detachable carrying strap. If I owned this lens I think I'd use this case often. I have cases supplied with some lenses I've bought which have sat on the shelf gathering dust since the day I bought the lens!

The Filter Effect Control is an interesting idea. One of the problems of using a polarizer with telephoto lenses is that when you mount the long lens hood you can't easily get to the polarizer to adjust the polarizing angle. The rotating filter effect control is a detachable adapter that allows a polarizing filter to be rotated by rotating the whole lens hood. The filter screws into the adapter and the adapter screws into the lens. The hood then bayonet mounts onto the front of the adapter which is free to rotate.

exploded_view2.jpg (17300 bytes)

The metal tripod mount is easily detachable, yet hold the lens solidly when in place and locked. There are no "clickstops" for horizontal and vertical alignment, though there is an indicator mark for horizontal orrientation. It tightens and loosens by rotating a small knob on the left side of the lens.

The zoom can be locked in the 200mm position so that the lens doesn't extend when being carried in a downwards position. The lock is only possible at 200mm. Focal lengths are marked at 200mm, 250mm, 300mm, 350mm, 400mm, 450mm and 500mm.

Focus can be switched between AF and MF with a small switch on the left, near the lens mount. Manual focus is smooth, if a little fast for delicate adjustments with about a 57 degree rotation from 2.5m to infinity. There is no depth of field scale, and this is no surprise since DOF scales are pretty useless on telephoto lenses and very difficult to design for zooms. There is no IR focus identification mark.

The image below show how the lens extends on zooming. At 200mm, without the hood, it's similar in size to an 80-200/2.8 zoom or a 300/4 prime. Add the hood and it becomes quite a bit longer and zoom to 500mm and it becomes an impressive sight! For scale, the camera attached to the lens in these shots is an EOS 10D. Note the filter effect control adapter is mounted between the lens and the hood in these images.

size2.jpg (39335 bytes)

The lens takes an 86mm screw-in filter. 86mm filters aren't cheap and you're unlikely to already own many since few 35mm camera lenses require such a large filter. For example an  86mm circular polarizer (which is probably the most commonly used filter) will cost you somewhere between $100 and $225 depending on the manufacturer. Currently the Tiffen sells for around $120 and the Hoya sells for around $145. Something to budget for if you're addicted to polarizers.

The lens does not change length on focusing (it's internal focus - IF) and the front of the barrel does not rotate when the lens is zoomed or focused. However the focus ring does spin during autofocus, so keep your hands away from it!

The lens has a close focus distance of 2.5m (98.4") at all focal lengths. Maximum magnification is 1:5 (at 500mm).

Performance Tests

Autofocus

Autofocus on an EOS 10D was positive with no "hunting" observed at any focal length under a variety of daylight conditions from full mid-day sun to evening shade. Though not silent, AF noise was low and certainly acceptable. I measured the time taken to shift focus from 2.5m to infinity (or infinity to 2.5m) at 1.1 seconds. By way of comparison, the Canon EF 300/4L USM takes 0.65 seconds to focus from 2.5m to infinity, the Canon EF 75-300/4-5.6 IS USM takes 0.9 seconds to focus from 1.5m to infinity and the Canon EF 500/4.5L takes 1 second to focus from 4m to infinity. So while 1.1 seconds isn't as fast as some Canon USM lenses, it not that much slower. All these times were measured with the lenses mounted on a Canon EOS 10D body.

Focal Length and Aperture

The nominal focal length and aperture is 200mm f5, to 500mm f6.3. I recorded the following EXIF data recorded when the lens was mounted on an EOS 10D and zoomed to 500mm

focal length.jpg (18217 bytes)

The blue data is the recorded shooting data which says 500mm, but the green data which is the lens identifier indicates a minimum focal length of 200mm and a maximum focal length of 486mm. When I compared shots taken with a Canon EF 500/4.5L with those taken with the Tamron zoom at full extension (500mm) I measured objects in the Tamron images to be about 3% smaller than those in the Canon images. I've previously tested the Canon lens and found it to be very close to 500mm in focal length, so using that as a reference the calculated Tamron focal length would be 485mm. This is very close to the EXIF value of 486mm, so I tend to believe that it probably does represent the actual maximum focal length. Note that it's still well within the usual +/- 5% standard for focal length measurement which is widely adopted (475mm to 525mm for a 500mm lens). If you look back though Popular Photography lens tests you'll see that lenses are rarely exactly as marked and that most telephotos are up to 5% shorter than their nominal focal length.

When mounted on an EOS 10D or 20D the indicated aperture at 200mm was f5, from 290mm to 450mm it was f5.6 (1/3 stop slower) and from 450mm to 500mm it was f6.3.

Image Quality

Here comes the part you've been waiting for! Just how good is this lens? Well, I performed a variety of tests, shooting both "regular" images and comparing them to other lenses (Canon EF 75-300/4-5.6 IS USM, Canon EF 300/4L USM and Canon EF 500/4.5L ISM), as well as shooting images of test targets and doing scientific (or at least semi-scientific) quantitative analysis of the results. I've been playing around with a lens/camera/printer testing software suite called Imatest, written by Norman Koren. I'm not going to present hard data in this review since I haven't used the software enough yet to fully evaluate it and get experience with interpreting the results. However at some point in the future I may incorporate such test data in reviews.

All testing was done using an EOS 10D DSLR with an APS-C sized sensor (approx 15.1 x 22.7mm).

Tests for vignetting showed none at any focal length or aperture. Illumination was very uniform across the frame. Of course this would be expected since the lens is designed with full frame 35mm coverage and was tested on a camera with an APS-C sensor which crops the center 15x22mm region from the 43mm image circle. Vignetting on a full frame camera was not tested. It's not unusual to see some degree of  vignetting in the corners of a full 35mm frame with any lens when used wide open.

zoom_range.jpg (47477 bytes)

The above sequence shows the effect of zooming from 200mm to 500mm. Of course you can't really tell much about image quality from such small images, so the following sequence of images show 100% crops from the center of each image.

zoom_range2.jpg (17906 bytes)

Here are some comparison images shot with Canon lenses as indicated.

zoom_range3.jpg (21955 bytes)

You'll probably see that there's not a whole lot of difference between any of the lenses! This is due to several factors. First the subject is low contrast and doesn't have a lot of fine detail. Second the images are all shot with an EOS 10D, which has a resolution limit of 65 lp/mm. Third all these crops are from the very center of the image, where aberrations in all lenses are at a minimum. There are differences, but they are small in this particular image sequence.

So does that mean that the Tamron 200-500 is just as good as a Canon EF 300/4L or Canon EF500/4.5L? Well, not really as you can see from the following images. These are shots of a white bar against a dark background at the edge of an image. First a sequence shot at 300mm and f11. Note that chromatic aberration isn't a function of aperture, so the color fringing will be essentially the same wide open and stopped down. These are 200% enlargements of a crop from the test images.

ca-300-f11.jpg (13191 bytes)

As you can see, the Tamron 200-500 at 300mm falls somewhere between the Canon EF 75-300 IS and the Canon EF 300/4L. The use of LD (low dispersion) elements in the lens is clearly suppressing some of the chromatic aberration, though not quite as effectively as the UD elements of the Canon prime. Below are the results at 500mm. These are also 200% enlargements of a crop from the test images.

ca-500-f11.jpg (14244 bytes)

Clearly the Tamron 200-500 at 500mm is showing some edge chromatic aberration. The Canon EF 500/4.5L is extremely clean with no visible color fringing at all. Obviously the use of fluorite and UD elements in this lens is highly effective at eliminating chromatic aberration. However the Canon lens costs around $5000, so you pay dearly for the improvement. Comparing an $875 lens with a $5000 is, of course, not really fair, however a good reason to do this comparison with the much more expensive lens is to show that chromatic aberration is not being caused by the digital sensor in the camera. It has been suggested in some publications that color fringing can be caused by sensor aberrations. Whether or not this is ever true, it appears not the case in these tests.

Here's a shot of a high contrast test target with lots of fine detail. All the images were shot at 500mm and f6.3, this time taking crops from the center of the image and a point 40% of the distance to the edge.:

500-hicontrast1.jpg (29884 bytes)

This time, even in the center of the image, the Tamron 200-500 shows lower contrast (lower MTF) than the Canon lens (again though, remember you're paying around $5000 for the Canon lens!). Note however that the resolution in the top images (taken from the center of the frame) is very similar. Both are probably limited by the resolution of the sensor in the 10D.

At 40% of the distance from the center, the Tamron lens has lost some sharpness and is starting to show some chromatic aberration. This is probably less of a problem in telephoto lens than in a wideangle lens, since telephoto lenses are usually used with the subject in the central region of the frame and limited DOF tends to render the background out of focus.

Here's another image set shot at 500mm. The upper image is the full frame shot and the lower image is a 100% crop. Again, comparision with a $5000 prime lens isn't "fair", but it does give a reference standard. The performance of the Tamron 200-500 is certainly acceptable for a 200-500 zoom costing under $1000. Remember that the 100% crop represents what a very large print would look like. The crop is 268 pixels wide, so the full image, if displayed at the same scale, would be 11.5x larger. On my monitor (17" screen, 1280 pixels wide), this would mean a full frame display which was   20" x30".

compare_1.jpg (62707 bytes)

Below are the same crops, but this time at 50% and with a little unsharp mask sharpening. It's now starting to get harder to see the difference!

compare_1s.jpg (9215 bytes)

I also compared the Tamron SP AF200-500MM F/5-6.3 Di LD (IF) to the Tamron SP 500/8 mirror lens. The 200-500 at 500mm was slightly sharper in the center of the image than the mirror lens, but showed more chromatic aberration at the edges of the frame. Of course the mirror lens is a stop slower, manual focus, isn't a zoom and has donut shaped out of focus highlights (poor "bokeh"). On the whole, the Tamron SP AF200-500MM F/5-6.3 Di LD (IF) is a much better choice for most users.

Earlier in this review I mentioned that I'd been using the Imatest program to obtain quantitative data on image quality. Actually I measured something called the system response function which is a measure of overall image quality (or system MTF if you prefer). These quantitative results ageed well with the purely visual estimates of image quality, both in terms of image sharpness and chromatic aberration. They also show that the Tamron 200-500 does sharpen up a little when stopped down and this applies at all focal lengths. The difference isn't huge, but stopping down to f8 when convenient will give slightly sharer images. At 500mm stopping down to f11 gives a little more sharpness still.

Multipliers

You might think it would be asking for trouble to use a multipler on a 200-500mm zoom, and often you'd be right. Multipliers work best on high quality (read "very expensive") prime lenses, but since I had a few multipliers around I thought it would be interesting to test them with the zoom. I found that the Canon EF 1.4x TC would fit the Tamron 200-500 as long as the lens was zoomed out. At 200mm the rear element of the zoom comes into contact with the front element of the TC. I also used a Tamron 1.4x TC, though possibly not the current version since I bought it about 10 years ago. The designation on this multiplier is "Tamron-F AF tele-converter 1.4x C-AF MC4".

My first surprise was that the Tamron TC outperformed the Canon TC, even though it cost about $200 less. I repeated the tests and got the same results. The images taken with the Tamron TC were sharper. Neither TC gave very good AF. With the Tamron AF was possible and focus lock was obtained on some subjects, but it wasn't reliable. With the Canon TC there was a tendancy to oscillate about a focus point. Of course you wouldn't expect AF. Canon AF is specified to work only at f5.6 or faster. With a 1.4x TC on the Tamron lens at 500mm the effective aperture is f9. Manual focus was fine, but as I commented earlier, with a 57 degree rotation from 2.5m to infinity, small focus adjustments were tricky - but possible.

Let me apologize in advance for the artistic quality of the test image below, but my "model" wasn't being very cooperative on the day of the test and insisted on hiding in the bushes! The upper image is the full frame shot, taken with the Tamron 200-500 lens at 500mm with the Tamron 1.4x TC added. Manual focus of course, and a focal length of 800mm at f9 (equivalent to 1280 mm on a full frame 35mm body).

500_14x.jpg (52081 bytes)

Below is a 100% crop from the center of this image. This is only 456 pixels wide, so the full image would be 6.7 times wider. As you can see quality isn't awful. It's decent considering the circumstances and, in fact, better than I would have expected.. You can see the eyelashes on the deer! I'd estimate the deer was at a distance of about 50m (165ft). Again, with the 1.4x TC, remember that this is equivalent to using a 1280mm lens on a full frame 35mm camera

500_14x_100.jpg (25092 bytes)

What about use on a full frame film or DSLR?

Well, the general conclusions will still apply. The center of the image will be the same, but the edges will be a little softer on a full frame camera and the extent of chromatic aberration will be a little greater.

Conclusions

The Tamron SP AF200-500MM F/5-6.3 Di LD (IF) is a pretty decent telephoto zoom for the price (around $875 discount). It's well made, feels sturdy, the tripod mount is stable and focus is accurate. The hood is deep and effective and the supplied filter effect control adapter is a neat idea. The supplied soft case is useful and protects the lens well. The 6 year warranty is also a plus. Most lenses only come with a 12 month warranty.

Optically the lens isn't a match for a prime apochromatic telephoto lens, but that's not a fair comparison. It's less than 1/5th the price of a 500mm f4 lens and less than a third of the size and weight, plus it zooms from 200-500mm. Zoom lenses are usually a compromise, particularly long telephoto zooms and for most users the compromises are quite acceptable. You get somewhat lower, but still accetable, image quality, but a much lower price and a lot more convenience. The "street" price on the Tamron SP AF200-500MM F/5-6.3 Di LD (IF) is around $875 from reputable discount retailers.

I could certainly recommend that those who want a fairly inexpensive telephoto zoom should look at this lens. If you're intending to make your living by selling poster size fine art prints of your work you probably need a more expensive prime lens, but if you're shooting for fun and not intending to make huge prints, the Tamron SP AF200-500MM F/5-6.3 Di LD (IF) is certainly a lens worth considering..

Where to Buy?

The following retailers are photo.net affiliates. Please consider purchasing from them if you're interested in this lens. Doing so will help support this website.

Canon EOS Mount    Nikon Mount
Adorama

© Copyright 2004 Bob Atkins (www.bobatkins.com)

Readers' Comments


Add a comment



Mark Hanson , November 27, 2004; 09:57 P.M.

Very nice review of a lens I hadn't heard of until now. It certainly seems like a terrific value, considering its reach and relatively low price.

Several times in the review you mentioned that (obviously) the 200-500/5-6.3 matches up somewhat poorly with long primes, like Canon's 500/4. So why not test this new lens against other telephoto zooms, like the Canon 100-400L, and Sigma's 50-500? I'm wondering how it stacks up against those excellent lenses.

Mark Hanson

Bob Atkins , November 28, 2004; 01:29 P.M.

I'd love to test a set of similar lenses, however I don't own either the Canon 100-400 or the Sigma 50-500 and getting simultaneous loans of several lenses from several manufacturers is very, very difficult, if not impossible!

I hope in the future to be able to present tests of Canon and Sigma lenses as well as Tamron - and Tokina too. Right now Tamron seem most open to working with Photo.net and so you can (I hope) expect to see a few more Tamron lens tests in the following weeks and months. If we can get a positive response from other manufacturers, you can expect to see reviews of their lenses too.

I'm also starting to work on a more quantitative scheme to measure lens quality and if that shows promise it might be easier to compare lenses tested at different times. However I don't like tests that are just numbers or plots of MTF. I don't think they really tell a users what to expect, so I'll also continue to compare lenses with whatever else I have available that's most similar to them, whether that's a $5000 Canon prime or a $100 consumer zoom!

Arthur Yeo , January 05, 2005; 11:16 P.M.

Bob,

How did you take the deer image with the 2 lenses without the deer moving an inch? Do you have a synched up firing sequencer attached to both cameras?

Bob Atkins , January 10, 2005; 02:42 P.M.

No, I just have deer that don't move much!

I guess it took maybe 10 seconds to switch lenses. Since the deer was resting and there was nothing to disturb it, I guess it didn't feel the need to move...

Arnab Banerjee , January 13, 2005; 10:18 A.M.

Bob, A great review. I will also love to know how this lens stacks up against the Sigma 170-500 f5-6.3 lens. These two lenses (Sigma 170-500 and Tamron 200-500) sounds similar in focal length, speed and price ($650 and $880) - I will love to see the performance comparison. I know that a lot of people bought the Sigma as it is a great value for money - I am wondering whether this Tamron lens will be considerably better for another $200 or so. As you said, it is not fair to compare these lenses with prime lenses which cost 10 times more! So I will love to see comparison between similar lenses so that it will help people to choose between them. Personally, I plan to buy a lens in that focal length range in near future and do not plan to spend $5000 - so I have a special interest here too!

Erb Duchenne , January 22, 2005; 12:53 P.M.

I seriously would like to see this lens compared with the Sigma 50-500. One is a 10x zoom while the other a 2.5x zoom.

Michael Marcus , March 07, 2005; 11:56 A.M.

Very nice review! The correct term for "edge chromatic aberration" really is "lateral color". Amazingly the Tamron outperformed the Canon zoom in this regard. Looking at your test shots, it appears that the Tamron's lateral color correction approches the fixed focus Canon 300mm.

A note about Tamron lenses: Tamron has a long history of designing the light transmission to be very neutral (some would call it slightly cool rather than warm). This design history goes back to the days of film because Tamron wanted to be sure that even deep blue colors would be accurately reproduced. Not only that, Fuji film (warmer than Kodak) is/was much more popular in Japan. Competing lens manufactures generally designed the light transmission to be slightly warm and even blocked extremely deep blue transmission to make their lenses contrastier and appear to be sharper in lens tests.

Performance Enhancement Tip For All Lenses: To get the best performance from any lens, the owner should purchase a protective skylight 1A filter which also includes UV blocking. If your lens is already slightly "warm", get just a UV blocking filter. Spherical aberration (which causes softness) is strongest in the UV with any lens. Both film and most CCDs are sensitive in UV unless the digital camera manufacturer has incorporated UV blocking over the CCD. Anyway, doubling up on the UV blocking never hurts and can only improve sharpness and contrast.

--Michael

Miklos Szorenyi , February 23, 2006; 11:59 A.M.

I was just wondering if any one has tested this lens on film cameras? I am considering to buy it but would do it only if I am sure that it works fine on both film an digital SLRs. ANy suggestion is appreciated. /Miklos

Luis Leandro , May 09, 2007; 04:04 P.M.

Hey, I make Miklos words mine... has anyone used this lens at all for film SLR? I am considering purchasing this lens for my Nikon F100, and was wondering if any of you has any experience with using this lens on a film camera. All the reviews I could find online on this lens were using digital cameras? Thanks, Luis

Robert Perman , October 11, 2007; 11:23 P.M.

Thankyou for the information on this lens. All I have read is good comments about it. Your article covered alot more of the tech aspects which is good.Thanks again. Bob

Kirk C , December 03, 2007; 02:27 A.M.

I was under the impression that the Di designation was for Digital APS-C sized sensors only, making it unusable on Film cameras. If true, it would back up why you've only seen reviews of it on Digital SLRs.

I have the Tamron 18-250 Di II lens on my 20d and it is for APS-C sized sensors only.

Felipe Pimentel , January 04, 2008; 05:45 P.M.

I have a Nikon D40X and I am interested in this lens for wildlife and nature photography. In the D40X autofocus is supported with AF-S and AF-I lenses. Anyone know if this lens (Tamron SP AF200-500 F/5-6.3) would work with the aforementioned digital camera?

david cross , January 06, 2008; 03:35 P.M.

used this lens for the first time to day,with a Nikon D200 body.most of the focusing was done manually,as the subject a little egret,is very white.both the zoom and the focus,were very positive,and easy to use,and after a bit more use,i am sure my photos will improve.

Ralph Auletta , January 07, 2008; 11:40 P.M.

Good for 35mm and FX

Good News for those of us with film cameras and FX sensors! This lens works fine on 35mm and full frame digital Cameras. To quote Tamron; Di (Digitally Integrated) "Lenses designed for superior use with digital SLR cameras and conventional cameras." The dI II series is only for the APS sized digital sensors.

david cross , January 09, 2008; 10:25 A.M.


enlarged to an A3

ps,i printed of an A3 enlargement from one of the photos,the D was set to 800asa the shutter speed was 1/800 f/16 fl 750mm because of cropped sensor.and boy was i surprise,it is a real cracker.the detail is so good, i can`t wait to get it framed.

Ben Sherman , June 25, 2009; 04:48 P.M.

I have shot this lens hand held, and using a tripod/monopod support.

IN USE:

I can definitely say, with the lens hood, it is a bit daunting to hand hold. Once the psychological issue of its size is overcome, it really is no real different to holding my EF 400mm f/5.6L USM.

The downside in using this great-ranged zoom lens is that the focus ring is in a damned awkward place. Right up near the camera body mount, behind the zoom ring (which is huge and well thought out).

Manual focussing is difficult when hand-held, due to the small rings position. I found that I had to use my pinky finger and thumb, whilst supporting the zoom ring with the other three fingers outstretched.

Minimum focus distance is amazing. At around 6ft, butterflies are easy to capture with the surrounding shrubbery. At 500mm and f/11 allows for smoothing of the background and enhancing the subject. My prime 400mm has a MFD of about 13ft by comparison. This is ghastly.

There is no zoom creep after around 6 months of weekend use. Everything is very tight and structurally sound, including the tripod mount.

OPTICS:

I found this lens to have an acceptable quality at f/9, stopping down to f/11 can produce some very sharp results (conditions permitting). This goes for 350mm and above. I have processed a 500mm f/8 shot of a sparrow hawk, and managed an equivalent A3 print. It did take some hours, and many layers to clean up the 800 ISO image after repainting the lenses detail. The better option would have been to shoot at ISO 1600 @ f/11. This would have halved the processing, needing only a little noise reduction (camera dependant), contrast boost and sharpening.

The AF performance using an EOS 30D is one of my reasons for my bias toward f/11. It's a bit hit/miss with shallower depth of field. AF behaves fairly similarly to the EF 400mm f/5.6L USM with Kenko Pro 300 DG 1.4x Teleplus converter. In bright sunlight reflecting off of bird box roofs, or from lake water, AF can be fooled, and focus can be off by about 3-5% of the distance...enough to not produce one sharp image. The EF prime can be fixed by removing the converter, the Tamron unfortunately, must be used in full manual.

Out-of-Focos ("Bokeh", "depth-of-field blur" etc) is a bit off putting, unless the background is far enough away. Unlike the EF 400mm f/5.6L, or 70-200mm f/2.8L lenses I own, which produce fading focus, the Tamron produces an almost shifted effect, whereby the out-of-focus objects tend to have a secondary edge. Stopping down to f/11 does increase dpeth of field, but also, tends to avoid this strange occurrence.

CA and flare are surprisingly well controlled. I have shot almost into the setting sun and have shot through tree cover, and there isn't really all that much of a problem. Yes there is a little of the Canon type (red/cyan) fringes, but not all that much, and easily correctable in PP.

TELECONVERTER:

Using the above Kenko Pro 300 DG 1.4x teleplus converter, there were no signs of extra image degradation. When a taped-pin converter was used at f/11 (f/16 equivalent), results were just the same as the were without the converter, only 140% larger. At 700mm f/16, it is a big problem for camera shake, but, on a sturdy tripod or monopod on a reasonably light day, the distance shots are fantastic!

FILTERS:

The 86mm thread is quite an expensive size to try and find (if you can) filters for. The lens was purchased with a Hoya UV filter (free bundle deal). I have proved to myself the Hoya Pro1 Digital UV filters are awful on my 70-200mm and 400mm lenses. I have switched to B+W filters for those lenses, and, in the case of the 400mm, I shot at f/7.1 to get consistent sharpness (Hoya installed), I can now shoot wide open consistently, just as if there was no filter present.

I have tested this lens both with and without the Standard Hoya filter. This filter does not exhibit the same image easily noticeable degredation that I experienced with other lenses. I have shot multiple test shots, and I would weight is 55:45 in favour of a naked lens, for focus accuracy. This maybe just this copy of lens. I have decided to recommend removing filters. - Which goes entirely against what Michael Marcus says:

"Performance Enhancement Tip For All Lenses: To get the best performance from any lens, the owner should purchase a protective skylight 1A filter which also includes UV blocking. If your lens is already slightly "warm", get just a UV blocking filter. Spherical aberration (which causes softness) is strongest in the UV with any lens. Both film and most CCDs are sensitive in UV unless the digital camera manufacturer has incorporated UV blocking over the CCD. Anyway, doubling up on the UV blocking never hurts and can only improve sharpness and contrast.

- A UV filter really can hurt. OnIy use a filter if you feel you need the protection. If you are one of those people (like me) who does like to use a filter, make sure it is a good one, and TEST, TEST, and re-TEST to see if it is hurting your images.

Incidentally, this lens had been sent back to Intro2020 (Tamron, Kenko, Hoya importers). Initially it was dreadfully unusable at any focal length. It was calibrated, and returned quite promptly. They suggested using a polariser to help increase contrast. Now, seeing that a 77mm B+W CPL Kaeseman was over £100, I am not in a rush to kill even more light entering the lens. I cannot comment on the use of a polariser on this lens, except to say that you will loose another 1-2 stops, resulting in a usable f/13-18...hardly action stopping.

VERDICT:

I'd say this a strong performer for those who are on a budget and want something with a lot of power. You can get around the weaknesses in use, and are more than likely going to be tripod supported. With newer camera's supporting higher ISO's with less noise, this lens becomes even more usable. The optical performance is plenty capable of A3 prints when stopped down to f/11 or more, asking for only a little processing to really make wonderful photos.

PRICE:

Price wise, when compared with the main rivals:

Tamron 200-500mm f/5.0-6.3.............£ 850

Sigma 50-500mm f/3.5-6.3..............£1060 "Bigma"

Sigma 150-500mm os f/5.0-6.3..........£ 730

Sigma 120-400mm os f/4.5-5.6..........£ 600

Canon 100-400mm IS f/3.5-5.6...........£1290 -

Canon EF 400mm f/5.6.....................£1123 -

The price may seem a little high now. When mt review copy was bought, it cost around £650, "Bigma" was about £730, and a 400mm f/5.6L was £850.

With the price of the Sigma 150-500mm, and a few test images I have seen on different sites, that may look to be the better bet.

Paul Palliz , June 26, 2010; 06:41 P.M.

Purchased this lens for use with my Nikon D80 & D90 it works beautifully with both - fast auto focus & pin point sharpness until extreme 500mm where I switch over to manual & anywhere around F8 to F11 & upwards will give as sharp an image as you would expect for a lens of this caliber & price range. For anyone on a budget & thinking about purchasing this lens DO IT! You won't be disappointed this is a wonderful lens & the lens lock switch at 200mm is a bonus. Tripod is a MUST folks!

Gopinath JVS , May 08, 2012; 12:35 P.M.

Very nice review. I was vascillating between the Sigma 150-500mm and the Tamron 200-500mm. Now I am convinced that the Tamron is good for me.

Siegfried Gust , May 11, 2013; 06:36 P.M.

Thanks for the excellent review Bob. I'm thinking of getting a used copy of this lens from KEH for my Sony a55. Any updates or new info?

Rainer Lucks , May 26, 2013; 11:17 P.M.

I think I will stick to my Tokina 150-500mm and have the image quality and do without the auto focus. Bought a Tamron ones > never again >


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