The Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens for Sony E Mount in the Big Cypress Bayou

In November 2021, I spent ten glorious days photographing in the Big Cypress Bayou and Caddo Lake area of Texas and Louisiana. I had the opportunity to do a lot of photography with Tamron's 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD lens for Sony E Mount cameras. It was a hauntingly beautiful experience, and the Tamron 150-500mm lens proved to be an excellent choice for capturing the many colors and textures of the bayou during peak autumn color.


I used the Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD lens on my Sony camera for most of my photos taken in the cypress bayous of Texas and Louisiana. Whether on land or on my small boat, the Tamron 150-500mm performed admirably, allowing me to capture sharp images of the stunning autumn color. Sony a7R IV camera, Tamron 150-500mm lens @ 150mm, ISO 640, f/7.1, 1/250 second (handheld).

Financial disclosure

Tamron has been a sponsor of Shuttermonkeys, and I have long had a personal sponsor relationship with Tamron. This is a completely independent review, however, without compensation from Tamron. Also, affiliate revenue helps support this site. We are committed to 100% transparency regarding financial relationships with equipment providers and brand partners, and we strive at all times to ensure that reviews are independent, honest, and free of bias.


The cypress bayou is at times dark and mysterious, with a splash of light and color breaking through. Sony a7R IV camera, Tamron 150-500mm lens @ 150mm, ISO 4000, f/11, 1/200 second (handheld).


About this review

This review is a "general impressions" review based on almost two weeks of use of the lens while visiting the bayou. This is not intended to be a fully comprehensive review of the lens, nor does it contain objective lens tests. Rather, this gives you my hands-on impressions of the lens, how it is best used, and how you can use it creatively.


About the Bayou

The Big Cypress Bayou is a series of wetlands at the western edge of Caddo Lake, which straddles the border between Texas and Louisiana. The Bayou is part of the largest cypress forest in the world. The bald cypress trees of the bayou may look like evergreens, but their feathery "needles" turn orange and red in autumn before falling off for the winter. The trees are covered with Spanish moss, which glows when backlit by the sun. Typically, the best time for autumn color is during the second and third weeks of November, but the bayou is a fascinating place to visit any time of year.


Autumn color typically peaks in the bayou during the second and third weeks of November. Sony a7R IV camera, Tamron 150-500mm lens @ 171mm, ISO 400, f/14, 0.5 seconds (tripod).

About the Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD lens

According to Tamron, the 150-500mm lens is an "astonishingly compact ultra-telephoto zoom lens with image stabilization specifically designed for Sony E-mount full-frame mirrorless cameras." I'm not sure I would agree that the lens is "astonishingly" compact, although I do think that it is relatively compact and lightweight for its focal range. In absolute terms, however, I would characterize this as a beefy lens with a solid construction. You won't need to work out to be able to lift the Tamron 150-500mm lens, but it is a full-frame telephoto zoom that goes to 500mm, so certainly don't expect it to be a featherweight; with the tripod collar attached, it weighs in at just over four pounds.


The Tamron 150-500mm lens. This lens has a relatively compact size (for its focal length range) that allows reasonably comfortable handheld shooting.

The lens features a variable maximum aperture (f/5 at 150mm going to f/6.7 at 500mm). This means that you'll need higher ISOs when shooting in low light, and also that less light comes through the lens, which can degrade the camera's autofocus performance. Because this lens doesn't have particularly large maximum apertures, it is more difficult to get a pleasingly blurred background when selectively focusing on a subject than when working with an f/4 or f/2.8 lens. While larger maximum apertures would be better, this would result in a dramatic increase in the size, weight, and cost of the lens. But, as a result, this lens won't likely be a first choice for serious wildlife or portrait photographers, where wide maximum apertures are critical for capturing fast action or artistically blurred backgrounds.


The Tamron 150-500mm lens has three Vibration Compensation modes for effective image stabilization, and AF/MF and focus limiter switches.

One thing I really like about the build of the lens is that is has a "Flex Zoom Lock" feature that allows you to quickly lock or unlock the focal length at any position simply by sliding the zoom ring. Photographers can shoot at any angle without the lens extending unintentionally (otherwise known as the dreaded "lens creep"). The video below demonstrates this feature.


The Flex Zoom Lock feature in action. I find this feature to be really useful, as "lens creep" can be annoying when trying to make photos when the camera is pointed up or down.

As noted above, the Tamron 150-500mm is only available for Sony E mount cameras. It is designed to work on full frame cameras; if used on a Sony E camera with an APS-C sensor, remember to adjust your effective focal lengths by applying a 1.5x crop factor (the resulting effective focal range is 225-750mm when used on an APS-C camera).


Although the Tamron 150-500mm gave me the option of zooming in tight to capture this egret, I preferred to zoom out instead to show the egret in the context of its environment. Sony a7R IV camera, Tamron 150-500mm lens @ 150mm, ISO 8000, f/5, 1/800 second (handheld).

That said, the Tamron 150-500mm gave me the flexibility to zoom in when I wanted tighter portraits. Sony a7R IV camera, Tamron 150-500mm lens @ 500mm, ISO 100, f/6.7, 1/1000 second (handheld).

Best uses of this lens

I would personally characterize the Tamron 150-500mm as a general purpose ultra-telephoto zoom. As noted above, if your primary interest is super-serious portrait, sports, or wildlife photography, you'd probably be better off with much more expensive lenses that are specifically made for those purposes. It is, however, a good lens to chose if you are interested in shooting any of these occasionally, casually, or on a budget. It is also excellent for intimate landscape photography that requires longer focal lengths, which is primarily what I used it for when photographing the cypress bayou. And although the Tamron 150-500mm isn't specifically designed for any of these uses, it is nonetheless a solid performer; you can still easily make great photos with this lens, but depending on your subject, just be aware that you might have some limitations.


The Tamron 150-500mm is best used for intimate landscapes, wildlife, portraits, and travel photography. Although it handles all of these well, if you're super serious about fast-moving action shots or portrait photography, this lens isn't really the optimal choice for either. Sony a7R IV camera, Tamron 150-500mm lens @ 201mm, ISO 5000, f/5, 1/160 second (handheld).

Sharpness

I am very impressed with the optical performance of this lens. Wide open, the lens performs very well, especially between 150mm to 300mm. From 400mm to 500mm, the results are somewhat softer in the corners and image edges, but still very good overall. When stopped down to f/8 or f/11, performance across the entire image frame is impressively sharp, except fully racked out to 500mm, where the extreme corners remain a bit soft even when stopped down.


Optical performance is impressive, especially when stopped down. I was able to capture the tiniest details and textures of the bayou landscape. Sony a7R IV camera, Tamron 150-500mm lens @ 201mm, ISO 640, f/5, 1/200 second (handheld).

Chromatic aberration (color fringing) is extremely well controlled, I saw virtually no evidence of it in any of my photos. I made a lot of photos with backlighting, and flare generally wasn't a problem, although I didn't shoot directly into the sun to rigorously test the lens.


I love photographing the Spanish moss-draped cypress trees when backlit at sunrise or sunset. Sony a7R IV camera, Tamron 150-500mm lens @ 150mm, ISO 250, f/5.6, 1/250 second (handheld).

Performance

Tamron's VC (Vibration Compensation) actually works quite well, and when coupled with the Sony camera's internal image stabilization, I had very few of my handheld photos that weren't completely tack sharp. That said, I didn't aggressively push my shutter speeds, preferring instead to try to keep a shutter speed that was fairly close to the reciprocal of my focal length (that is, if I was shooting at 200mm, I'd aim for a shutter speed of at least 1/200 second to ensure sharp images). When light got low, I'd sometimes drop my shutter speed somewhat to avoid pushing my ISO too far, but even then, I was getting mostly sharp images. I probably could have dropped my shutter speeds even lower, but I was mostly focused on getting good photos, rather than testing the limits of the Tamron VC system.


In the dark and mysterious recesses of the bayou, I often found myself shooting in low light. Tamron's Vibration Compensation helped me get tack-sharp photos. Sony a7R IV camera, Tamron 150-500mm lens @ 150mm, ISO 2500, f/5, 1/250 second (handheld).

The Tamron 150-500mm delivers quick and accurate autofocus (of course, the camera controls autofocus, but lens characteristics can affect the optimal function of the camera's autofocus system in terms of both speed and accuracy). I wouldn't say that this lens handles autofocus as well as an expensive, fast telephoto prime, but for what it is, it does remarkably well. I didn't have any issues while photographing the bayou, and I found the autofocus to be fast and reliable.


I didn't have any problems locking on to my subjects in the bayou using the Tamron 150-500mm lens, even when working in tricky light. Sony a7R IV camera, Tamron 150-500mm lens @ 385mm, ISO 500, f/5.6, 1/500 second (handheld).

Final thoughts

The Tamron 150-500mm lens is designed to offer impressive optical performance across a useful range of focal lengths, all while keeping weight and cost down. No compromise is going to please everyone, of course, but for me, I found that the lens did a great job doing what it was designed to do. I'm very pleased with the image quality of my photos taken with this lens, and I think the Tamron 150-500mm will be an excellent choice when I know that I will be shooting a mix of intimate landscape and wildlife photos.


That said, this lens is relatively slow compared to fast telephoto primes, and this can limit its ability to shoot handheld in low light or with fast shutter speeds. Often, while in the bayou around sunrise, sunset, and especially during twilight, I found myself shooting at very high ISOs (I think the highest I noticed was 12,800). Fortunately, my Sony camera capably handles high ISOs, and any high-ISO noise that resulted was mostly lost in the fine details of Spanish moss and feathery cypress leaves. If I had been on a serious wildlife photography shoot in low light, however, this lens wouldn't have been my first choice.


Also, I didn't like that I couldn't go wider than 150mm; personally, I think this lens would have been more useful if it went from 100mm-500mm instead. I found myself wishing for a wider focal length many more times than I wanted to zoom in to 400mm or 500mm, but that arguably has more to do with what I was shooting and my personal approach to photography.


But, with its impressive optical performance and useful focal length range, I can definitely recommend this lens for Sony shooters looking for a high-quality, multi-purpose telephoto zoom lens, especially if you don't want to break the bank.


The Tamron 150-500mm proved to be an almost perfect choice for photographing the bayou. I was able to effectively capture the colors and texture of the autumn season. Sony a7R IV camera, Tamron 150-500mm lens @ 225mm, ISO 1600, f/11, 1/200 second (handheld).

P.S. You can see more of my bayou images here.


Where to buy

Please help support this site by buying the lens through the affiliate links provided in this review. We earn commissions from qualifying sales. Thanks!


B&H Photo: https://bhpho.to/3FBbPF2


Amazon: https://amzn.to/3oSwuOb


About the author

Whether hanging over the rim of an active volcano, braving the elements to photograph critically-endangered species, or trekking deep into the wilderness to places most people will never see, world-renowned professional photographer Ian Plant travels the globe seeking out amazing places and subjects in his never-ending quest to capture the beauty of our world with his camera. Known for his inspiring images and single-minded dedication to creating the perfect photo, Ian has reached hundreds of thousands of people around the world in his mission to inspire and educate others in the art of photography. Ian is a frequent contributor to many leading photo magazines, the author of numerous books and instructional videos, and founder of Shuttermonkeys.



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