Another worthy contender enters the ring. Tamron has just released the 50-400mm f/4.5-6.3 Di III VC VXD. With this lens in my bag, I am freshly back from a whirlwind trip to Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico. Check out what I saw and my thoughts on how the lens performed.
As a full-time nature photographer, I love supertelephoto zooms. The drawbacks to the big telephoto lenses, however, tends to be their hefty size and weight, aperture, and image quality. With the new 50-400mm f/4.5-6.3 Di III VC VXD, Tamron has hit a sweet spot of sharpness in a light lens (40.7 oz / 1.2 kg) that you can carry about without breaking your back. Let’s take a look at the specs and features, then I will show you why I enjoyed using this lens.
- E-mount Lens (Full-Frame Format0
- 1:2 Magnification, 9.8" Minimum Focus Distance
- Rapid Zoom Ring
- Zoom Lock Switch
- VXD eXtreme-Torque Drive Linear AF Motor
- Focus Limiter Function
- VC Image Stabilization
- Moisture-Resistant Construction
- 67mm Front Filter Size
- Connector Port for Tamron Lens Utility
Design and Features
The Tamron 50-400mm f/4.5-6.3 Di III VC VXD has a few unique aspects that set it apart from many other telephoto lenses. The first that I will mention is that it has macro capabilities in a telephoto. Yes, you heard that right. The Tamron 50-400mm has a minimum focus distance of 9.8" / 24.9 cm and a macro reproduction ratio of 1:2. This means that you can be less than a foot away from your subject and capture sharp detail. The lens feels light but not cheap, sturdy, and the zoom ring is grippy and smoothly rotates. It feels like quality in your hands. One aspect that I want to mention is just how quiet the vibration compensation and focusing is, which I appreciate as a wildlife photographer.
Another helpful feature is the USB Type-C connector port, which allows you to use the Tamron Lens Utility software to customize the lens to your needs as well as keep the firmware up to date. The main customization that I found useful is the new Focus Set Button. This allows you to set a limit to the focus search range of the AF to toggle on with that Focus Set Button. This way, if you lose focus on a subject, you can toggle on the limited search range to speed up latching back onto your subject. This can really make a difference for birds in flight, auto, sports, and anytime when your lens has to work hard for your subject.
In the Field
So, how did the Tamron 50-400mm f/4.5-6.3 Di III VC VXD do in the field? I was honestly impressed at how such a petite lens could be so powerful. I raced through over four states in two and a half weeks, photographing everything from fall color to wild horses and rutting elk to the red rocks of the American Southwest. This tiny powerhouse lens was nimble and so fast to focus on that I want to buy one for myself now!
My trip started in Colorado, where I tested the lens on landscapes and the famous golden autumn aspen trees and wildlife. I then ventured to Utah to see the sanguine red rocks, a stark contrast from the forests of Colorado. I spent a bit of time in New Mexico, did a few circles, and ended up in Arizona, where the north rim of the Grand Canyon was also dripping in golden aspens. The Tamron 50-400mm f/4.5-6.3 Di III VC VXD was a steadfast companion and captured it all without missing a beat. With stormy skies during parts of my trip, I was also able to test the lens in varies types of light, especially low light. At f/6.3, even on overcast days, it still captured strong photographs. In times of bright or dappled light, it was at its best, capturing the detail and vibrant hues way beyond what I could have expected.
What I Enjoyed Most About the Tamron 50-400mm f/4.5-6.3 Di III VC VXD Lens
As a photographer who travels, this lens was a joy. I hate missing a moment because I have to change lenses. Even with two camera bodies, it can happen. To have a lens that is sharp at both 50mm and at 400mm and everything in between is wonderful. My friends, we are living in the future. I took landscape photos with this lens, and they are sharp. I photographed wild horses on beautiful Navajo land with perfect clouds in the sky, and the colors and clarity just pop off the screen. Without the fatigue of lugging a giant lens, I honestly think that I created more photos. It was just so easy to hike with. At times, I would see dappled light hitting the distant mountains and wonder how it would look up close. Zoom in and just snap the photo. Or I would be photographing the elk rutting and notice the aspens behind were glowing in the light, so I could just zoom out to capture those real quick then pivot immediately back to the elk. That is the ability of 50mm and 400mm in one lens.
What Didn’t Work for Me
While the Tamron 50-400mm f/4.5-6.3 Di III VC VXD is such a small lens that it does not need a tripod foot, I must say that I missed having one. When hand-holding, I prefer holding the bottom of the foot for stability. Also, a tripod foot balances a bit better on a ball head of course. Tamron’s website does list the Tamron A035TM Tripod Mount as an optional accessory, so that might be a great choice to pair with this lens.
The only other nitpick that I can give this lens is probably actually a good thing. The lens mount to the camera body is tight to screw on. It may be due to the moisture-resistant engineering, but it is a tight fit to install the lens. I was almost worried for a second the first time I put the lens on, but it does smoothly screw in and is very solid once attached. All in all there is a lot to love and very little to dislike about this lens.
Learn more at Tamron's website.