With the Tamron 100-400 mm F/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD, Tamron has the world’s lightest 100-400 mm for full frame and APS-C SLRs. It is available in Canon and Nikon mount, and of course it can also be used in combination with an adapter on mirrorless cameras from Sony. The Tamron 100-400 mm F/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD weighs only 1115 grams thanks to the use of magnesium alloys. That is indeed very light for a full-frame lens. Thanks to this low weight, you can work longer with this lens without getting tired.
Light and long: Tamron 100-400mm F/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD
The new 100-400 mm has Tamron’s Eband (Extended Bandwidth & Angular-Dependency) coating. The lens has 3 LD glass elements and VC, which stands for Vibration Compensation. So it is stabilized. The 100-400 mm can be used with the 1.4x converter from Tamron and is – of course – compatible with the Tap-In Console. This allows firmware updates to be installed on the lens, and the focus can be adjusted. As an accessory, a tripod collar is available with an Arca-Swiss model tripod base. You do not have to screw on a separate quick coupling. The Tamron 100-400 mm F/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD is not only light, but also very complete.
The housing of the Tamron 100-400 mm F/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD is largely made of a magnesium alloy. It is therefore solid, and it feels that way. In combination with the modern design, you have the feeling of having a quality lens in your hands. The lens is also dust- and moisture-resistant. The same applies to the 1.4x converter, which also has extra seals on the mount. The front lens element of the Tamron 100-400mm also has an extra fluorine coating so that moisture and dirt are less easily attached to the glass, and the lens can be easily cleaned. The zoom ring of the Tamron 100-400 mm F/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD is at the front. It is the wider of the two rings, and you really can’t miss it. It has a zoom lock with which you can secure it. The focus ring is closer to the body and is slightly narrower. It’s really nice that the lens has a window on which you can read the set distance. The shortest setting distance of the Tamron 100-400 mm F/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD is 1.5 meters. For a long telephoto like this, that’s pretty reasonable, but do not expect macro performance from the Tamron 100-400mm F/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD. The lens has a switch to change between autofocus and manual focus. This switch also has a middle position with which you can limit the focus range. You can program this mode as desired with Tamron’s optional Tap-In Console. The same applies for the image stabilization switch, the VC. That switch has two positions and the option of switching off the image stabilization.
The image quality of the Tamron 100-400 mm F/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD is excellent. Without the lens corrections, you can see in RAW that it performs slightly less well in the two extreme positions than in the middle range, from 200 to 300 mm. With the corrections, it improves nicely, and the performance is very good and very even. Actually, it is not necessary to stop down with this lens; the difference between full aperture and one stop smaller is negligible. From f/11, you see that the sharpness decreases a little bit due to diffraction, but that is also minimal. If we are very critical, we also see a slightly larger gradient to the corners in the extreme zoom position, so at 400mm. But the center sharpness remains good at 400mm, and we usually see a different story with these kinds of long zooms.
The Tamron 100-400 mm F/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD does have a visible amount of vignetting. It reaches the maximum value at 100mm at full aperture, and then it’s two stops. That’s quite a lot for a telephoto lens. For portraits and nature shots, such vignetting can work pretty well, but if you want to get rid of it completely in the post-processing, you have to pick up the corners two stops, with the risk that you will see noise sooner. If you don’t want that, you can zoom in or stop down. In both cases, the vignetting then rapidly decreases.
Distortion is also something that can be seen in the shots with the Tamron 100-400 mm F/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD. Whereas the vignetting is mainly present at the shorter focal lengths, the distortion increases when you zoom out. A maximum value of almost 1.5% pincushion distortion at 400 mm is something that will certainly be visible if, for example, you photograph architecture or other subjects with straight lines along the edge of your shot. You can correct this afterwards, but then frame it a bit more loosely so that no important parts of your image drop off the image in the post-processing. The distortion is an optical fact and does not decrease with stopping down. Because it is actually already visible from 200mm, only the shortest zoom position is nearly distortion-free.
Chromatic aberration is negligibly low in practice, and the sensitivity to backlighting is also pretty good. The Tamron also had little trouble with glare, flare or loss of contrast with the sun fully in frame.
The Tamron 100-400mm F/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD is not the brightest 100-400mm. There are those starting at f/4 at 100mm and that reach f/5.6 at 400mm. That’s not exactly a direct competitor, because the lenses with those specifications are all in a different price range. It does matter for the bokeh, even though it isn’t very much. Of course, a half stop extra brightness would be nice, but at 400mm, it doesn’t matter much whether you’re at f/5.6 or f/6.3. Especially if your subject is close, you will get a beautiful background blur at f/6.3. At slightly longer distances where the relative difference between your subject and the background is smaller, that becomes more difficult. However, a half stop more brightness does not resolve that either. If you also want a lot of background blur in those kinds of shots, you should start thinking about a 400mm f/4 with a fixed focal length. But then we are talking about much more weight and especially a much higher price. Relative to the direct competitors, the Tamron 100-400mm doesn’t do badly at all.
The image stabilization of the Tamron 100-400 mm F/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD does fine. Tamron claims that due to a number of modifications to the VC, Vibration Compensation, you should be able to pick up about four stops. In practice, this turned out to be correct, and we were indeed able to take sharp pictures by hand with times that were slower by up to about four stops than would be possible without image stabilization.
RELATIVE TO ITS COMPETITORS
One direct competitor of the Tamron is the Sigma 100-400 mm f5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary. That lens is also a bit less bright and also slightly heavier than the Tamron. The Sigma is a slightly older lens, and that has a favorable influence on the price, which is a lot lower that of the Tamron. Just as with Tamron, a Dock is also available for the Sigma. In terms of image quality, they do not differ very much from each other in practice, but if we have to choose, the Tamron wins by a nose. The Sigma has approximately the same amount of distortion and slightly less vignetting. If there is a difference visible in practice, then that’s at 100 and 400mm, so the extreme zoom positions, where the Sigma at full aperture is just a bit less sharp in the center and also has a slightly larger gradient to the corners.
Tap-In Console AND teleconverters
The Tamron 100-400mm can be fully adapted to your wishes with the Tap-In Console from Tamron. With this handy accessory, updating the firmware is very simple, you can fine-tune the sharpness at three distances and multiple zoom positions on the camera, and you can make adjustments to the different focus ranges. Read more about the Tap-In Console here. You can also combine the Tamron 150-600 mm f/5.6-6.3 VC USD G2 with the new TC-X14 1.4x and TC-X20 2.0x teleconverters from Tamron. With these, you can extend the range of the Tamron 150-600 mm f/5.6-6.3 VC USD G2 to a whopping 1200 mm. Keep in mind that the autofocus of most cameras fails because the brightness even at full aperture is no longer sufficient for the AF system.
The importer of Tamron in the Benelux, Transcontinenta, offers the ability to experience the lens through the Transcontinenta Probeerservice (Try-Out Service). Through this service, it is possible to get 100% reimbursement within 14 days after the end of the trial period if the lens is purchased at one of the selected dealers. For more information, visit www.probeerservice.nl
ConclusiON: REVIEW Tamron 100-400mm f/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD oN Canon 5DsR
- Good sharpness
- Good finish
- Competitively priced
- Brightness a half stop lower than on a number of competitors
- Tripod collar not included
- Slight distortion from 200 to 400mm.
The image quality is actually quite good over the entire range and gives nothing, or almost nothing, up to more expensive lenses with this range.
The Tamron 100-400 mm F/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD is an excellent telephoto zoom. It is lightweight, reasonably compact, attractively priced and sharp. What else could you want? The image quality is actually quite good over the entire range and gives nothing, or almost nothing, up to more expensive lenses with this range. The ability to fine-tune the lens with the Tap-In Console and the option of using it with Tamron’s 1.4 converter make it extra attractive.