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).
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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).
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