Having shot with the Tamron G2 lens for two weeks now I feel that I can draw a conclusion about its performance for nature and wildlife photography. Unfortunately eye catching subject matters such as nice little birds were not available around my corner of the woods this time of the year, most of them migrated south by now. However, I managed to test the lens on some seagulls and cormorants and some wasps that were extremely agile collecting their food on golden rods. Static subject matter was restricted to flowers, plants and some signs, however, they were just as useful as any prettier photographic target would have been. I posted a number of various images at Digital Photo Review, dpreview.com as known on the web. I received a good number of positive comments alongside with the usual negative ones. You cannot please everyone even though you volunteer a lifetime of experience.
Anyhow, the enclosed images were all taken this morning around my house. I shot them at those distances that I encounter most often when I work in nature. Most of my butterfly images are taken around 4-5 metres or less. When I photograph small birds I am often shooting in the 18-25m range. Then my distance shots from herons, egrets and waterfowl are usually taken from 30-50m distance. The enclosed “garden variety” images were taken at these respective distances. I’ll promise to post “real wildlife” images as I’ll manage to encounter them in the future.
So, how would I rate this new lens? How would I rate its against its A011 predecessor? How would I rate it against the optically excellent Nikkor 200-500mm f5.6 lens?
When Tamron introduced their 150-600mm A011 lens I got two copies to test. I was reasonably satisfied with the A011 model, especially since it was the only offering of this type of zoom at the time. However, I was disappointed by the poor performance of the lenses at 600mm. Images were soft with some slight hazy feeling. Both of the copies I had exhibited the same issue at 600mm. I have seen very nice images from others taken at 600mm later. The consensus about the A011 version was that there was a strong sample variation of this model. It was a good luck bad luck situation, you either got a good or a bad copy.
I didn’t adapt the A011 version since the two lenses I tested were flawed at 600mm. I opted for the soon introduced Nikkor 200-500mm lens that exhibited very good optical qualities. I was not impressed with its AF performance but as of image quality and VR performance the lens was outstanding.
Now, the new G2 version was introduced by Tamron as an improved lens in every aspect. Optical formula was changed by adding another element to the rear group, the lens also got new fluorite coating, VC and AF was said to be improved too. Furthermore Tamron implemented weather and dust sealing and Arca Swiss compatibility on the lens foot. Weather sealing was a major thing since the A011 version had serious issues in sucking in dust if it was used in a dusty environment. Tamron also stated that they introduced a strong SP worthy quality control
My findings are that all the claims of Tamron seem to be valid. First of all, this time I had one copy to test and it was sharp out of the box at 600mm without the haze tat I found in the A011 version. Then I was pleasantly impressed with the AF speed of the lens. It was faster and more positive than my Nikkor’s. Without lab tests I could not say whether the lens’s optical performance is better than the Nikkor 200-500mm zoom’s. However, I can say that every image I took was well detailed and rendered with pleasing bokeh.
I do not judge a lens by looking at the images at 100% as many so called “pixel peepers” do. Although I do zoom in to 100% from time to time. What I look for is the final print quality that I can achieve with a lens. I work on a regularly calibrated 4k monitor. When I want to pre visualize how a printed image would look I zoom in to print size in PS6 then hit the + button twice. The extra 2x + gives an “overkill” size to judge the image on screen. It does not bring out artifacts it just shows the image a bit larger than its printed size. I can get a very good judgement formed of the quality of the image this way. By zooming into 100% one can see some artifacts or noise that will never will show up in the printed image. So why bother finding flaw if in real life it will not be present in a well printed large image? My conclusion is that The Tamron G2 will deliver excellent image quality if the photographer does his/her job well. Proper exposure, subject matter, direction of light, good atmospheric conditions and so forth have to be in place to get a well detailed and pleasing image. The lens will not be the bottleneck in order to get the image right.
Of course I cannot confirm Tamron’s claim about more stringent quality control in manufacture. Time will tell us based on people reporting their findings. However, it seems like that Tamron has stepped up their game in the super telephoto arena. The G2 lens performs very well in every aspect and it is much easier to handle than Sigma’s 150-600mm Sport lens. Therefore I expect that many new adopters of super zooms will lean towards this new Tamron lens when they’ll make their purchasing decision.
I was so much pleased with the performance of the test copy I received that I purchased a Tamron G2 for myself. It seems like that my Nikkor 200-500mm lens will be replaced with this Tamron. Yes, I would prefer a constant f5.6 aperture lens, however, AF speed and the extra 100mm reach votes strongly for the Tamron G2. It will be a good light birding lens on my D500 when I do not want to carry my 500mm f4E FL prime.