Tamron 16-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD Macro Lens

3rd February, 2015

I remember the time when photography became a hobby of mine. I was not happy with the images my bridge camera was producing and I wanted something better. I decided to sell my Panasonic FZ18 and bought a Panasonic G1 with the 14-42mm lens and the 45-200mm lens. I really liked the camera, but changing the lens to get different zoom level was not to my liking, so I decided to return the lenses and went with the GH2 + 14-140 (28-280mm) lens. I was happy with it.

It was a good decision I made then. I am by no means a professional, and I wanted to avoid certain things. I did not want to have the hassle of keep changing the lens, exposing the sensor and not being able to capture the moment I wanted to because I was busy changing lens. This was back in 2010, and I used that lens even after I changed the camera, and most of my photos from my GH2 was taken using that lens.

Super-zoom lenses:

Super-zoom lenses are like an "all-in-one" lens. It covers from wide angle focal range suitable for landscapes and cityscapes, to mid-tele for a walk-around and tele for portrait and all the way to super-tele for long zoom photography. They have the ultimate convenience as once you bought one of this lens and attach it to your DSLR, you do not have to take it off again. It will simply cover you for a massive focal range, and also keeps the camera system lightweight and makes it easy to carry around, for a day out doing photography or to take the camera for a holiday.

Super-zoom lenses compromises on image quality, because the manufacturer has to made it in a way where it is possible to have such a long focal range, and that is not possible without making some compromises. To some people, the compromises are too much, and to some, the convenience outweighs the compromises. Lets see if the new Tamron lens can re-write that history.

Tamron 16-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD lens is one of them. The lens covers a massive range of up to 300mm. I have been using the Tamron 16-300mm for my Scotland trip and I am sharing my experience with the lens here with you, and how it worked for me when I am out taking photos.

The lens

The Tamron lens has a range of 16-300mm. On 35mm equivalent, that translates to 24mm to 450mm (1.5x crop factor for Nikon) or 25.6mm to 480mm for Canon (1.6x crop factor for Canon). The aperture ranges from f/3.5 at wide and f/6.3 at the telephoto range. Which is not bad at all when considering a standard kit lens usually has an aperture range of f/3.5-5.6 while only being a 18-55 lens. The Tamron is also quite handy for macro work. It is not a true macro lens, but it has a minimum subject distance of 0.39 meter, which is quite good to have. The magnification ratio is 1:2.9, where a true macro lens has a 1:1 ratio. Considering the type and application of the lens, these figures are quite good. It weighs 540g and takes a 67mm filter.

The lens carries the new Tamron design and has a gun-metal color ring instead of the old golden ring, and the built is quite good. It feels solid in hand, and the internal barrel did not wobble when the lens is extended.

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The size of the lens is quite deceptive when its at 16mm, however the barrel extends to almost twice the length when zoomed to 300mm.

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The lens has a good build, mostly made of solid plastic, and a metal mount. There is a thin rubber gasket around the metal mount, which to some extent, should prevent dust and moisture from getting in. The lens weighs about 540g, and it balances nicely with the Nikon D7000 I used it with.

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There is also a lock switch to prevent zoom creep. You can use the lock switch to lock the lens at 16mm so that it does not extended on its own. A couple of times when the camera was hanging from my Blackrapid straps, and the lens slowly extended to its 300mm position. But then it wasn't doing it at other times, so I guess it is the movement that makes the lens creep. So its probably best to use the lock switch and lock it in place when not using.

I have used the lens with Nikon D7000, which was my second camera for the Scotland trip. I mainly used my Nikon D810, but quite often I was using my Nikon D7000 with the Tamron lens. I know of the compromises a super-zoom makes, but I think knowing that the lens covers a massive range, made me use this lens to take the photos I otherwise won't be able to take with my 24-70 mid range zoom.

Weather Resistance:

I was a bit worried about the lens to be honest. I was going to Glencoe, and my concern was whether the lens would be able to handle adverse temperature. Once I got dropped off at Glencoe, I was immediately under attack by heavy snow storm. I was wearing black trouser and jacket, and before I could take my backpack out of the coach luggage area, they turned white and covered in snow. The wind was quite strong, and the snow were hurting my face a little. I started taking some photos on the other direction so that snow does not hit the front filter. It was -4 C at that time. The lens worked fine at that temperature without any issues. After a mile or so of walking, it also faced rain.

The next day when I climbed up The Etive Glades, where the temperature was -16.5C, it also survived that which surprised me because the lens is not built like a pro lens and I did not think it will operate that temperature. So I think the lens is quite well built and should handle normal and slightly adverse weather with ease.

Focus speed:

The lens focuses at a good speed, specially in good light. It takes very little time to focus from infinity to a subject at a close distance, but takes almost two seconds when focusing from the other way. At wide angle, the focusing is quite fast, but is slow when extends to 300mm. It did hunt couple of times at low-ish light, and eventually focused, but took its time. The focus times are close to that of a 18-55 kit lens, other than at 300mm where it took a little longer.

Vibration Compensation (VC):

VC worked great. It takes a little time (less than a second) for VC to engage, but once engaged the viewfinder image stops moving erratically, makes it easy to frame and take a shot. I took some photos at 300mm and at around 1/100th and found them to be sharp. Keeping in mind 300mm is actually 450mm equivalent, I'd say that's a good days work for VC.

Enough about the lens talk, lets see some images I took using the lens. Glencoe looked amazing, and it was completely white due to the recent heavy snow fall. The weather was mostly on the good side, so I managed to grab some shots.

You can click on any of the photo to open in full-screen, and if you hover the cursor on the photo, you will see some button appeared at the bottom right of the photo where you can share, see Exif data, and see the photo in different sizes. Most photos are GPS tagged so you will be able to see from where they were taken.

From the photos that you can see above, it is clear that the main reason to get this lens is because of the convenience of such long focal range. Super-zoom lenses such as this compromises on image quality, but from the images above, it seems that Tamron managed to squeeze out a decent performance from this super-zoom lens. The image quality is certainly good, and I think the lens is a very good alternative to kit lenses, for some extra money.

Most lenses of this type usually suffers from poor image quality at tele range. That is where most compromises are usually made. I took some shots at 16mm, and then at 300mm to find out if the lens manages to keep a decent level of quality, if not the same.

Below are some examples of photos at 16mm and at 300mm to show you the range the lens can cover.

I have to say I am quite impressed at the image quality of the lens considering its an all-in-one lens. Tamron managed to turn around from the common compromises and made this lens quite useable. It is not without fault though. The lens suffers from distortion throughout the most useful focal ranges, a little bit more at 16mm. Purple CA is also visible at longer focal lengths, but both these issues can be corrected at post process.

Nikon has a 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 lens with which this lens competes on the market. I have not used the Nikon one and I do not know how it performs. There are two different Nikon 18-300mm currently on the market. A quick check at www.wexphotographic.com shows that the old one costs £669 and the new one costs £599. Tamron costs £479, which is £120 cheaper than the new Nikon 18-300mm. Tamron also starts at 16mm (24mm equivalent) which is good if you are into landscape photography, where Nikon starts at 18mm (27mm). Tamron also provides a 5 year warranty once the lens is registered within two months of purchase which is also a bonus.

What I like:

* Very good performance considering the type of the lens

* Focal range starts at a wide 16mm (24mm in 35mm equivalent)

* Good build quality and weather resistance, survived -16.5C, rain and snow storms

* VC works really good

* Cheaper and wider than competitor lens

* Five year warranty with Tamron UK once registered within 60 days of purchase

What I don't like:

* Some distortion at wide angle

* Focus is a little slow from close range to infinity

I like the lens and it performed quite good in the three days that I have used it. I got some nice photos from it, and it proved to be quite reliable in bad weather, and it performed well. This is a very good lens and is a good buy for someone who does not want the hassle of changing lenses and would like to have such a massive focal range at their disposal.

Thank you for reading, and I hope it helps you to decide if you are in the market for a super-zoom lens for your APS-C camera.

Manzur Fahim

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