Tamron AF 100-400mm F4.5-6.3 Di VC USD

This is a first impression review of the Tamron AF 100-400mm F4.5-6.3 Di VC USD telephoto lens, adapted to the Sony A7 III with the MC-11 adapter.

Technical specs:

  • focal length range: 100 – 400mm (4x zoom)
  • max. aperture: F4.5 – F6.3
  • closest focus distance: 1.5m
  • lens elements and groups: 17, 11
  • sensor compatibility: APS-C and full frame
  • mount: Canon EF (also available for Nikon)
  • dimensions: 20 x 8.6cm
  • weight: 1135g

A lens hood is included in the box.

For Sony E-mount, there is currently just one true telephoto lens available: The 100-400mm GM. Due to the high price, I wanted to try out a cheaper alternative first. The most popular among the affordable long telephoto lenses are probably the 100-400mm lenses from Tamron and Sigma.
In terms of image quality, the Sigma and Tamron are supposed to be very close. I decided to give the Tamron a try because it is just a more complete lens overall: it offers weathersealing, has a slightly faster aperture at the wide end and there’s an optional tripod collar. Also, I got a special offer for the Tamron lens (540€ new!).

 

Build quality

The build quality of the Tamron 100-400mm lens is very decent, although most parts are made of plastic. It feels solid, nothing wiggles or feels cheap and it actually looks very nice.

Even though this lens is far from compact and lightweight in absolute terms, it is probably the smallest and lightest 100-400mm full frame lense on the market.

The zoom ring is relatively smooth and there seems to be no significant lens creep. To be sure the lens doesn’t extend accidentially, there’s a lock button to fix the lens at 100mm.

As already mentioned, the lens is fully weather resistant and there’s a large rubber gasket around the lens mount.

Mechanical quality rating: 8/10

 

Features & versatility

The Tamron 100-400mm covers a wide focal length range and is just long enough for wildlife photography. The only downside to such a portable telezoom lens is its slow max. aperture (F6.3 at the long end).

mounted on the A7 III, at 100mm, with lens hood
mounted on the A7III, fully extended at 400mm

There are two switches on the lens: one for the stabilizer mode and an AF/MF switch.

The lens is equipped with optical image stabilization, or vibration compensation (VC) as Tamron calls it. It works pretty well but isn’t quite as effective as on other lenses that I’ve used in the past. I was able to get sharp shots at 400mm with ~1/60s, that’s about 3 stops better than the 1/fl rule.

A remark before I continue to discuss the autofocus capabilities: I have tested this lens with the MC-11 adapter on my Sony A7III. I am aware that an adapted lens will never perform as well as a native lens. So I have only assessed the performance of this combo, not the lens itself!
The autofocus works fine in good lighting conditions, but that’s just about as far as positive news go in this department. The autofocus often hunts and completely gives up in low light situations. Even in bright daylight, it sometimes struggles to acquire focus of low contrast subjects.
This comes a bit as a surprise to me since I already used the Canon 200mm F2.8 L lens with the same adapter without any issues.
I don’t think it’s the fault of the Tamron 100-400mm lens since other reviewers who used the lens on a Canon camera praised its AF performance.
In terms of noise, the AF motor is acceptably quiet, but definitely not silent.

The focus ring is very smooth to turn and focusing manually is quite convenient despite focus by wire.

A tripod collar is not included but can be purchased separately (for ~130€). Not a cheap accessory, but definitely a necessary one when using a lens of this caliber on a tripod.

Features & versatility rating: 8/10

 

Image quality

Sharpness in the frame center is excellent throughout the zoom range, even wide open.

400mm F6.3, close focus (~1.5m)
crop of the image above
400mm F6.3, infinity focus
center crop
corner crop

Note that the cell tower is about 1.5km away, so the hazyness is due to atmospheric effects.

At 400mm, the edges (and obvously the corners) are significantly less sharp and require stopping down to F8 for decent results. Also apparent from the example above is the amount of laterial chromatic aberration. Stopping down also helps in this aspect.

LoCA (bokeh fringing) is visible in some photos, but mostly too subtle to be intrusive. Coma correction seems to be quite good as well.

LoCa is quite low

As expected from a telephoto lens, distortion is not an issue. Vignetting is noticable wide open, but nothing to be worried about.

The out-of-focus rendering (bokeh) is smooth and pleasant.

400mm F6.3, achievable background blur at ~30m object distance


Image quality rating: 7/10

 

Summary

Positive:

  • good build quality, weathersealed construction
  • light and compact design for such a lens
  • great sharpness in the center throughout the zoom range (wide open)
  • good sharpness levels up to ~300mm accross the frame (wide open)
  • relatively low longitudinal CA
  • optical image stabilization
  • small 67mm filter thread
  • 10 years warranty (region specific)
  • excellent price

Negative:

  • relatively slow max. aperture of F6.3 at 400mm
  • AF performance on the A7 III (with MC-11)
  • soft edges and strong lateral CA at 400mm F6.3
  • tripod collar is not included and quite expensive

The Tamron 100-400mm is a great choice if you are on a budget: you get good image quality in a weather resistant, durable construction and with a well-rounded set of features, what more could you ask for at this price point? A no brainer for Canon and Nikon users, but due to the autofocus issues in conjunction with the MC-11 adapter maybe not the best choice for Sony E-mount.

Rating:  7.5/10    highly recommended! (for Canon and Nikon)

Value:  10/10    (reviewed at 540€)

Link to Amazon.de.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *