The Good. The Tamron 100-400mm F4.5-6.3 captures colorful and contrasty images, focuses quickly and quietly in bright conditions, offers a useful zoom range for a variety of scenarios, and produces lovely bokeh that makes your images feel almost painterly… all in a light, durable, weather-sealed package that costs less than $800.
The Bad. When you compare it to the Nikon and Canon offerings, the Tamron 100-400 is a touch slower and not quite as sharp. We also experienced some noticeable vignetting and, if you need a tripod mount, it’s a $129 optional accessory.
The Bottom Line. The Tamron 100-400mm F4.5-6.3 Di VC USD Telephoto Zoom Lens gives you 95% of the corresponding Canon/Nikon lens performance at half the price. While we wish it was a little faster, it’s a terrific lens that captures film-like photos in our modern digital world.
Pick This Up If… You need a light, affordable telephoto zoom lens for shootings sports, weddings, wildlife, travel, or portraits in conditions with ample lighting.
The Tamron 100-400mm F4.5-6.3 Di VC USD (Model A035) is a weather-sealed telephoto zoom lens for full-frame or APS-C Canon and Nikon DSLRs. With a 100-400mm zoom range on full-frame systems, and a 150-600mm native zoom range on crop-sensor systems, this light-weight and relatively compact zoom is also compatible with Tamron’s 1.4x and 2.0x teleconverters.
Housed in a magnesium body, this lens features 17 elements in 11 groups with 3 LD (Low Dispersion) glass elements, eBAND (Extended Bandwidth & Angular-Dependency) Coating, and Fluorine Coating. VC (Vibration Compensation) is built-in and worth 4 stops of exposure compensation in low-light. Multiple processors ensure speedy AF tracking, while the Ultrasonic Silent Drive (USD) motor keeps everything quiet.
Compatible with Tamron’s (optional $59) TAP-in Console, it’s easy to update this lens’ firmware as well as calibrate its AF and VC system to your needs.
As you can see from our comments above, we had a great time with this lens and think there will be a big market among Nikon and Canon owners who want to shoot sports or wildlife. Our only question, after having such a good time with it, is how quickly Tamron can make one for Sony’s E-mount cameras.
We shot this review on the Canon EOS 6D Mark II, which was the first time we revisited the camera since its debut last summer. Though less impressive than the similarly MSRP’d Sony A7 III, it was great to spend time with the 6D Mark II. It captures wonderful still images, fits nicely in the hand, and could be a fantastic vlogging camera for anyone who doesn’t need 4K video. It might not be a go-to camera for pros, but it’s a nice stepping stone for those who want to experience a full-frame 35mm camera system.
(Courtesy of Tamron-USA.com)
- Model: A035
- Fits: Canon, Nikon
- Focal Length: 100-400mm
- Maximum Aperture: F4.5-6.3
- Minimum Aperture: F32-45
- Angle of View (diagonal): 24°24′ – 6°12′ (full-frame), 15°54′ – 4°01′ (APS-C)
- Lens Construction: 17 elements in 11 groups
- Minimum Focus Distance: 1.5m (59 in)
- Maximum. Magnification Ratio: 1:3.6
- Filter Size: Φ67mm
- Maximum Diameter: Φ86.2mm (3.4 in)
- Length: 199mm (7.8 in) Canon, 196.5mm (7.7 in) Nikon
- Weight: 1,135g (40 oz) Canon, 1,115g (39.3 oz) Nikon
- Diaphragm Blade Number: 9 (circular diaphragm)**
- Image Stabilization Performance: 4 Stops (CIPA Standards Compliant)
- Standard Accessories: Lens hood, Lens caps
(100mm vs 400mm)
If you’re familiar with Tamron SP primes, you have a good idea what the Tamron 100-400mm F4.5-6.3 looks and feels like. The magnesium barrel is much lighter than it would first appear, while the satin black finish is clean and elegant. The zoom and focus adjustment rings are smooth and easy to grip. VC Mode, Barrel Lock, and MF/AF switches are sturdy and click firmly into place. Plus, Tamron has designed this lens with at least eight strategically-placed leak-proof seals.
That said, as with any telescoping barrel, it will be easier for moisture and dust to build up over time. It’s also a bit of a disappointment for the tripod mount to be a $129 optional accessory. Don’t get me wrong; the $800 price-point is an excellent value and you can handhold this lens in most situations, even with heavier full-frame camera bodies, but if you plan to use a tele-converter, you should probably pick up the tripod mount as well.
Despite a couple nitpicks, the Tamron 100-400mm F4.5-6.3 is a well-engineered, high-quality lens that looks and feels a lot more expensive than its MSRP.
Save for those who used to Micro Four-Thirds camera systems, the Tamron 100-400mm F4.5-6.3 feels like a small lens for such a far-reaching telephoto. It’s less than 8-inches long and weighs under 40 ounces, which make it relatively compact for travel and easy to hand-hold during a day of adventuring. Attached to the 6D Mark II, the pair fit great in my hand — no cramping or sore muscles after any session. Button and dial placement are good and easy to reach, and the lens clicked into the Canon EF mount with ease.
I’m less of a fan of the lens’ 1.5m minimum focusing distance, which makes it hard to get tighter shots at 100mm F4.5 (a macro lens this is not!). This lens isn’t meant to be a portrait lens — it’s designed to bring you closer to faraway subjects — but I sometimes wanted to get closer to my human subjects and sometimes my toddler moved too close to get a shot. Also, due to the telescoping barrel, you have to be careful extending out to a full 400mm focal length; if you’re in close quarters or behind glass, you may have to take a step back.
Not deal killers, by any means. It’s just that the lens is SO good these ergonomical-nitpicks stand out because they would have made the experience even better.
SPEED & FOCUS
The Tamron 100-400mm F4.5-6.3 AF system is terrific IF you’re shooting with enough light. Thanks to Tamronʼs Dual MPU high-speed control system, you get a Micro-Processing Unit (MPU) with a built-in Digital Signal Processor (DSP) that allows you to track moving subjects at high speeds. There’s also an extra MPU dedicated to the lens’ Vibration Control (VC) system, which gives you an extra 4-stops of exposure compensation. With all of these systems in place, I had no troubles tracking subjects moving along the X, Y, or Z axis, in relation to my position, in bright light. Yet, despite the VC, which is excellent, if you take this lens into a low-contrast, low-light situation and you need a 200-400mm focal length, the lens starts to do some hunting (at least it’s silent?).
When you think about F4.5-6.3 lenses, creamy bokeh isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. That said, once you’re into telephoto lenses, focal-length compression helps make up for slower glass. Plus, Tamron’s engineers stuck a nine-blade aperture in here and the results are wonderful. I didn’t get to do the typical bokeh shots in front of lights, but I shot a lot of birds at 400mm and the backgrounds simply melt away. They look like paintings, they’re so smooth and filmmic. If you’re the type of photographer who likes to isolate a subject in a dreamy bokeh-background, you’re going to love shooting with this lens.
I’m quite taken with the imagery the Tamron 100-400mm produces. Photos and videos are quite colorful, contrasty and, thanks to the aforementioned bokeh, achieve an almost film-like quality. With some lens-camera combos, it takes extra processing to get the right look to your photos, but this lens required only minor tweaks. For those in a rush, you could even share your .jpegs right out of the camera.
While my experience was very positive, there are a few flaws we should discuss. While perfectly sharp at frame-center across a variety of focal lengths, the edges are less than perfect if you start pixel-peeping. There’s also noticeable vignetting when shooting wide open — it’s more visible with solid backgrounds and exaggerated as you process your images. This too appears across a variety of focal lengths. In terms of fringing, my industry colleagues appear to have experienced more than I did while shooting in high-contrast scenarios, but I feel this lens wasn’t bad at all.
At the end of the day, the Tamron 100-400mm F4.5-6.3 did everything I wanted it to do. If you want to get close to the action or the animals or the people in your life, this is a fantastic lens to have in your kit.
- Strong Value
- Weather sealing
- Creamy Bokeh
- Contrasty images
- Full-frame or APS-C Canon & Nikon bodies
- Telescoping barrel
- AF hunting in low-light
- Minor vignetting
- Less sharp around edges
- No Sony option
With excellent image stabilization, creamy bokeh, crisp, contrasty imagery and sub-$800 pricing, the Tamron 100-400mm F4.5-6.3 Di VC USD is an excellent value for Canon and Nikon DSLR owners who want to shoot sports, action, weddings, wildlife, travel, or even portraits. Yes, it’s a little slower and not quite as sharp as the Canon/Nikon 100-400mm/80-400mm versions, but they cost twice as much. With that savings, you could pick up a couple Tamron SP primes and have a really nice kit. Honestly, the saddest compromise about this lens is that the Sony users don’t have one (yet?) for the E-mount.
If you own a Canon or Nikon DSLR and need a light, affordable lens for shootings sports, weddings, wildlife, travel, or portraits, you NEED to check out the Tamron 100-400mm F4.5-6.3 Di VC USD.