Tamron has upped its game in the long telephoto zoom arena where they were the first to enter. They created a strong stir with their first entry with the original 150-600mm zoom lens but soon faced competition from Sigma then Nikon. Sigma introduced two versions of their 150-600mm lens, the Sport and the Contemporary models. The Sport model was set to be the optically professional leader with its image quality and boosted a very professional build quality. Their Contemporary model was squarely aimed at Tamron with its optical performance and price factor. Nikon was pressured to save its market share in this newly created segment and soon brought their 200-500mm f5.6 long zoom to life.
Opinions are widely differ about image quality, whose is better, what do you get for your money, etc. I have found that sample variations from Tamron put a dent into their early success, once competition evened out there were four lenses to choose from. Brand preference also plaid into some reviews, I suppose sponsorship did too but I say this quietly. The consumer suddenly was torn into different directions, depending whose review was more convincing at a given day. I do read reviews, however, I read both positive and negative ones without prejudice. Then I go out and conduct my own testing to form my own opinion. I tend to agree with those who among other issues, like dust collecting inside the lens, found that the Tamron was lagging in optical quality at 600mm. Which is not a good advertisement for a lens that you likely bought for its long reach. Others found the lens “fine for the money”. I have never liked any review that favoured optical performance on how much one saved in the pocket. A lens is either excellent or not when it comes to optical performance. Nobody can explain it to the buyer that the image “is good enough for the money”.
Anyhow seems like that Tamron felt the pinch and decided to redesign their 150-600mm f5/6.3 lens, so we have the G2 as Generation 2 coming our way. Well, I am excited and rooting for Tamron. Although my lens collection is purely made up from Nikkors I do have a soft spot for Tamron. I have used their excellent macro lenses way back when the Adaptall mount was still in use. I still have beautiful prints on display taken with their SP 90mm f2.5 lens which had a marvellous way of bringing subjects alive. So, I am to test this lens as soon as my dealer can get a copy in for me. Why do I want to do that when I am as well equipped as I am? Well, the curiosity killed the cat as the saying goes…… meaning that I might end up spending money again.
My prime interest is to have first hand comparison between the Tamron and the Nikkor 200-500mm f5.6 in optical performance. When I tested the first version of the Tamron I was not sold on its performance at 600mm. It was just a bit hazy or mushy, I am struggling for the words here. Whereas the 200-500mm Nikkor was and is a stellar performer, however, it is 500mm “only”. I also find my Nikkor to focus a bit on the slow side. Yes, I cannot expect it to focus like my 500mm f4E FL prime lens but even so, I feel it a bit too slow. So, I want to see if the Tamron would give me a bit more positive feel in the AF department. These are the two questions I am interested in, optical performance at the long end and AF speed. It goes without mentioning that AF accuracy is a part of the picture.
If I’ll find that the Tamron delivers in image quality and its AF speed would satisfy me then I would trade in my 200-500mm Nikkor. The Tamron has other “secondary” features too that make the lens desirable, the Arca Swiss compatible foot being the first among those. The lens also has a smudge resistant coating on its front element and it its weather sealing is said to be enhanced. A nice feature is its 2.2m close focusing distance, useful for butterfly and bug photography among other things.
Anyway, keep looking here and I’ll post my hands on review as soon as I can. I must confess that I really would like to “make” the Tamron to be the winner……. Just kidding, however, it would be a good lens to pair with my D500 where that extra 100mm over the Nikkor would come handy.