MINI TESTS: We rate Tam­ron's new 150- 600mm zoom, a gad­get bag and bud­get light strip

Premium su­per- tele­photo zoom with Vi­bra­tion Com­pen­sa­tion. A ver­sa­tile range of fo­cal lengths make it ideal for wildlife & ac­tion pho­tog­ra­phy

Digital SLR Photography - - Gear - Test: DANIEL LEZANO

WHEN THE UL­TI­MATE in pulling power is re­quired to fill the frame with a dis­tant sub­ject, noth­ing beats a tele­photo lens. While prime tele­pho­tos boast the ben­e­fit of a fast max­i­mum aper­ture, their ex­or­bi­tant price tags mean they're the choice of pros – or en­thu­si­asts with deep pock­ets. For us mere mor­tals, when pulling power is re­quired, we've the choice of tele­photo zooms. While most of us opt for the likes of a 70- 200/ 300mm or more pow­er­ful 80- 400mm, there are a small num­ber of elite su­per- tele­photo zooms like this Tam­ron, boast­ing a more ex­ten­sive range and premium op­tics.

This zoom is the se­cond gen­er­a­tion of the SP 150- 600mm, with the orig­i­nal ap­pear­ing in 2013 and prov­ing to be an ex­cel­lent lens, pop­u­lar in par­tic­u­lar with wildlife pho­tog­ra­phers. This G2 ver­sion has been re­designed from scratch and claims a num­ber of im­prove­ments, rang­ing from bet­ter AF to im­proved sta­bil­i­sa­tion and op­tics, as we'll cover in more de­tail later.

Like all lenses cov­er­ing such an ex­ten­sive fo­cal length range, the Tam­ron is larger and heav­ier than your typ­i­cal tele­zoom. But that doesn't mean that it's cum­ber­some and awk­ward to han­dle. True, at 2kg it's not the sort of lens you'll want to hand­hold for too long, but it's rea­son­ably com­pact con­sid­er­ing its range and bal­ances nicely.

Build qual­ity is first rate and com­pares favourably against mar­que brands – the lens feels solid, the con­trol switches have a pos­i­tive ac­tion and the zoom and man­ual fo­cus­ing rings are large, with a nice­ly­grooved rub­berised fin­ish. The zoom ring cov­ers a wide area to­wards the front of the lens and is easy to find while look­ing through the viewfinder. It has a smooth ac­tion but I found it rather stiff to ro­tate – this is most likely as it's a new lens and will loosen with time. A lock but­ton on the bar­rel just be­hind the zoom ring pre­vents the lens from ex­tend­ing ac­ci­den­tally.

The man­ual fo­cus ring is found around half­way up the bar­rel and while slim­mer than the zoom ring, is a good size. It has a very smooth, pre­cise ac­tion and can be used to man­u­ally fine- tune the fo­cus even when the lens is set to AF.

Be­hind the zoom ring is a fo­cus­ing win­dow that dis­plays dis­tance in both feet and me­tres. To its left are a set of func­tion but­tons. There are two for Vi­bra­tion Com­pen­sa­tion – one switches VC on and off, the other sets it to one of three op­tions: VC1 is for nor­mal use, VC2 for pan­ning and VC3, which pri­ori­tises the sta­bil­i­sa­tion of the cap­tured im­ages over the viewfinder. Next to these are the AF/ M switch and the fo­cus lim­iter, al­low­ing you to have AF cov­er­ing the whole fo­cus­ing range, 2.2m to 10m, or when shoot­ing dis­tant sub­jects, from 10m to in­fin­ity. Be­hind these con­trols is lo­cated the tri­pod col­lar, which se­cures the lens on a sup­port, rather than hav­ing the lens mount take the strain.

Within the fea­ture- packed bar­rel, the Tam­ron uses 21 el­e­ments in 13 groups, which in­cludes three Low Dis­per­sion ( LD) el­e­ments to min­imise chro­matic aber­ra­tions. Tam­ron hasn't scrimped on anti- re­flec­tion coat­ings ei­ther, with the SP 150- 600mm boast­ing EBAND ( Ex­tended Band­width and An­gu­lar- De­pen­dency) Coat­ing and BBAR ( Broad- Band An­tiRe­flec­tion) Coat­ing to im­prove light trans­mis­sion and re­duce in­ter­nal re­flec­tions. The front el­e­ment has a Flu­o­rine coat­ing that is wa­ter- and oil- re­pel­lent, of­fer­ing extra pro­tec­tion when us­ing the lens in poor weather.

As with the orig­i­nal lens, an Ul­tra­sonic Si­lent Drive ( USD) ring- type mo­tor takes care of aut­o­fo­cus, with im­prove­ments

made to AF speed and track­ing of mov­ing sub­jects. With the lens aimed pri­mar­ily at wildlife and ac­tion pho­tog­ra­phers, this is a par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant en­hance­ment.

The re­sponse of the AF sys­tem was cer­tainly im­pres­sive in our tests, with the lens quickly lock­ing on static sub­jects, while with mov­ing sub­jects it did of­fer a good degree of track­ing suc­cess. Not only is it faster than the pre­vi­ous ver­sion, it's qui­eter too.

Im­age qual­ity is ex­cel­lent – show­ing im­prove­ments over the orig­i­nal in ev­ery way. Sharp­ness is high through­out the zoom range and across the aper­ture range, with f/ 8- 11 pro­vid­ing the sharpest results. At max­i­mum aper­ture sharp­ness is bet­ter than ex­pected and while at min­i­mum f/ stops dif­frac­tion has an ef­fect, sharp­ness is still good. Bokeh is nicely recorded too, thanks to the use of rounded di­aphragm blades.

Above: The Tam­ron's tri­pod mount pro­vides a very sta­ble plat­form, which is es­sen­tial when used at the longer fo­cal lengths. A re­lease knob al­lows you to switch the cam­era from land­scape to por­trait for­mat with speed and ease. Right: The ex­ten­sive range of fo­cal lengths is re­flected in the length of the Tam­ron. At 150mm, it mea­sures around 26cm in length, but zoom to 600mm and it in­creases to around 34mm.

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