Quick Review: Tamron 200-500mm f/5-6.3

#45 Adam Dressler

Trying Out the Tamron 200-500mm Lens

Early in the spring I tried out this long Tamron lens. I had not bought a long lens yet, and I just wanted to see what I could do with this lens. I knew that I had a baseball game coming up with some wildlife that I could shoot. This would be a good chance to rent the lens from Camera Outfitters to see what it could do. I was going to rent this lens to shoot the bald eagles that migrate into our area, but I did not see any this past year. Baseball players would have to be the first test.

I took this lens to the Purdue baseball game at Butler. This was my first baseball game of the season so I would be using my normal gear for most of the game. During warm ups though I needed some close up shots of the players for baseball cards that would be released later in the season. This lens really got me right in where I needed to be, and where my 70-200mm lens could not take me. I shot this lens with my Canon 60D giving me a bit longer reach as well. I found that I could focus easily on a stationary player, but the lens would not track them very well. I broke it out during the game, and I started missing shots that I knew that I could get. Something just did not feel right with the lens.

Before taking this lens back to Camera Outfitters I took it out to the Wabash River as well as Fort Ouiatenon to see what I could do with it. While at the Wabash River I spotted a Heron walking along the shore. The lens did very well once I found focus with it, and I tracked the bird as it moved down the shore. In the air I had the auto focus right on the bird, but the images seemed soft. It seemed as if I was just a bit behind in focus. At the fort I saw a woodpecker as well as some horses just down the road. With plenty of light in both situations I was able to make pictures that I liked. The horse and heron pictures from this day even made it to this blog as pictures of the day.

I only tested the lens for parts of two days, but I quickly found out that it was not for me. I really need something a little easier to use to shoot sports. On an overcast day for baseball it was borderline to use. I couldn’t imagine shooting this lens at a night game. As for wildlife you get some of the reach that you want, but you really sacrifice a lot with the slow autofocus. If you have a subject that is not moving you are good. If the subject moves then you are risking the lens not being able to keep up.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Great reach for the price (200mm-500m)
  • Lens is very light compared to a Canon fixed focal length
  • With no wind can handhold easily at 500mm
  • Did I mention the price?

Cons

  • Slow autofocus
  • Length of lens at 500mm
  • The light has to be very good
  • Canon 1.4x tele has to be put on when lens is at 500mm as it will hit the element at 200mm
  • 86mm filter diameter
  • With lens hood in the wind it feels like a huge sail
  • Awkward zoom
  • f/6.3 at 500mm makes it hard to use in low light
  • Tripod mount does not click-in at horizontal and vertical positions

Final Verdict

This lens is not for everyone. If you are just getting into photography and/or you have fairly stationary subjects then this lens could be for you. When fully extended it is a beast to keep still in the wind. Tracking moving objects with the long lens combined with a slow autofocus is not easy either. Tamron has recently released a 150-600mm lens that would make this lens obsolete. The 150-600mm is about $500 more, but at $1,500 it is still a steal for the focal length. I think that for the right price I would buy this lens. That eagle perched in a tree would be an easy target with it. It would have to be a very low price though as my Sigma 300mm with the 2.0x tele can reach farther with about the same results.

Sample Images

Here are a few sample images that I made with the camera.Click on any of them to view a larger version of the image.




#17 Sean McHugh
#14 Kyle Wood

2 Replies to “Quick Review: Tamron 200-500mm f/5-6.3”

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