Tamron 100-400mm F/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD Review

Introduction

The Tamron 100-400mm F/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD is a new super-telephoto zoom lens for Canon and Nikon full-frame and APS-C DSLR cameras. The Tamron 100-400mm lens features an optical construction comprised of 17 elements in 10 groups, an iris diaphragm with nine rounded aperture blades, a magnesium lens barrel and a moisture-sealed construction, a minimum focus distance of 1.5m, a zoom lock mechanism, a Vibration Compensation system offering up to 4 stops of compensation with two distinct image stabilisation modes, and an optional removable rotating tripod collar (priced at £109.99) with an Arca-Swiss compatible foot. The Tamron 100-400mm F/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD lens officially retails for £799 / $799 in the UK and USA respectively. It is compatible with Tamron’s 1.4x tele-converter, extending the telephoto reach to 560mm.

Ease of Use
The Tamron 100-400mm F/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD is relatively light and compact given the telephoto focal range on offer, measuring 20cms in length and weighing in at just over 1.1kg, making it the lightest 100-400mm lens in its class. While you can use it on a smaller APS-C body, it won’t balance very well (and the focal length will also change) – as demonstrated by the images below, it’s a much better match for a professional full-frame camera like the Canon EOS 5DS R.
Build quality is excellent. The Tamron 100-400mm F/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD feels solid in your hand yet not too heavy, with the outer barrel made from magnesium rather than from plastic.
The Tamron 100-400mm F/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD lens mounted on a Canon EOS 5DS R
The Tamron 100-400mm F/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD lens mounted on a Canon EOS 5DS R
The Tamron 100-400mm F/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD lens mounted on a Canon EOS 5DS R with the supplied lens hood fitted
The Tamron 100-400mm F/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD lens mounted on a Canon EOS 5DS R
The Tamron 100-400mm F/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD lens mounted on a Canon EOS 5DS R with the supplied lens hood fitted
The zoom ring is generously wide and has a ridged, rubberised grip band. The lens extends when you zoom out from 100mm, reaching nearly 27cms in length at the 400mm setting. The filter ring doesn’t rotate, good news for filter users.
The focusing ring is narrower, making it a little more difficult to locate in a rush, but it is well damped. There’s a distance scale that runs from the closest distance of 1.5m to infinity, but no depth of field scale.
The Tamron 100-400mm F/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD lens alongside the Canon EOS 5DS R
Side of the Tamron 100-400mm F/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD lens
Side of the Tamron 100-400mm F/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD lens
Side of the Tamron 100-400mm F/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD lens, extended to 600mm
The AF/Limit/MF switch on the side of the lens makes it easy to switch between the two focusing systems, while the Limit setting sets the AF focue range to either 7m to infinity or 1.5m to 7m (this can be set using the optional Tamron TAP-In console).
The Tamron 100-400mm F/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD features a USD (Ultrasonic Silent Drive) that allows near-silent auto-focusing. Importantly, this solution allows instant manual override even when the focus mode switch is in the AF position. In use, we found the focusing to be very quiet, and also very fast with the lens mounted on a Canon EOS 5DS R body.
Side of the Tamron 100-400mm F/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD lens
Side of the Tamron 100-400mm F/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD lens, extended to 600mm
Front of the Tamron 100-400mm F/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD lens
Rear of the Tamron 100-400mm F/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD lens
The Tamron 100-400mm F/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD features a Lock button which fixes the lens at its 100mm setting and prevents it from extending when it’s pointed downwards.
The final control is the VC (Vibration Compensation) Mode switch, which selects between the 2 different VC modes or turns it off. Mode 1 balances between stabilizing the viewfinder image and the capture image, while mode 2 is exclusively used for panning. In practice we found the system reliably offered around 4 f-stops of compensation, obviously dependant upon your own particular hand-holding technique, making it much easier to use the lens in low-light conditions.
Front of the Tamron SP 100-400mm F/5-6.3 Di VC lens
Rear of the Tamron 100-400mm F/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD lens
The Tamron 100-400mm F/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD lens in-hand
The Tamron 100-400mm F/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD with the optional tripod mount (A035TM) fitted
The Tamron 100-400mm F/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD benefits from a moisture-resistant construction which helps to prevent moisture from penetrating the lens, although we’d hesitate to use it in the rain for a prolonged period.
The lens is supplied with lens caps and a large circular lens hood (HA305), but there’s no bag included. The filter size is 67mm.
Chromatic Aberrations
Chromatic aberrations, typically seen as purple or blue fringes along contrasty edges, are well controlled with this lens – the examples below show the worst-case scenario.

Focal Range
The Tamron 100-400mm F/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD offers a 4x focal range of 100-400mm for full-frame DSLR owners – 24°24′ at 100mm and 6°12’ at 400mm (15°54′-4°01′ for APS-C cameras).
100mm
400mm
Light Fall-off
With the Tamron 100-400mm F/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD wide open, you can see some light fall-off in the corners at both ends of the zoom range. Stopping down helps, although to completely get rid of this phenomenon, you will need to use an f-stop of f/8 or smaller at 100mm and f/11 at 400mm. There’s also some slight pincushioning distortion apparent at the 100mm focal length.
Vignetting at 100mm
Vignetting at 400mm
Macro
The Tamron 100-400mm F/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD is not a macro lens. The close-focus point is at 1.5m from the film/sensor plane and the maximum magnification is 1:3.6. The following example illustrates how close you can get to the subject with the lens set to 400mm to aid magnification.

Bokeh
Bokeh is a word used for the out-of-focus areas of a photograph, and is usually described in qualitative terms, such as smooth / creamy / harsh etc. Tamron was apparently very much aware of this requirement, as they employed an iris diaphragm with 9 rounded blades for a pleasing rendering of the out-of-focus highlights. Based on what we have seen, we can say that they definitely succeeded. Below you’ll find some examples, but you are also encouraged to check out our sample images.

100mm @ f/4.5

 

200mm @ f/5.6

 

300mm @ f/6.3

 

400mm @ f/6.3

Sharpness
In order to show you how sharp this lens is, we are providing 100% crops on the following pages.

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