Shot on the Canon EOS 80D.
ISO 800 | 154mm | 1/200 sec | F5.6

The Tamron 100-400mm F4.5-6.3 Di VC USD is a well-priced ($800) telephoto lens with a useful zoom range. Available in both Canon EF and Nikon F mount, this lens is useful on both full-frame and crop bodies, offering a 150-600mm equiv. field of view on the latter. We first saw it at PPE 2017 and were impressed by its reasonable size and weight given its reach – at 1.11 kg / 2.45 lb - it is the lightest lens in its class.

See our Tamron 100-400mm F4.5-6.3 sample gallery Optically, the 100-400mm is constructed of 17 elements arranged in 11 groups, including low-dispersion elements to correct for aberrations. It also features multiple coatings to reduce ghosting and flare, as well as a protective fluorine coating on the front element. Image stabilization is crucial when it comes to long zoom lenses and Tamron's optical Vibration Correction system offers the equivalent of 4 stops of correction (CIPA rated).

Shown with the optional tripod collar attached, sold separately for $130.

Key Specifications:

  • 100-400mm zoom range
  • 150-600mm equiv. field of view on APS-C
  • F4.5-6.3 maximum aperture
  • VC Image stablization
  • Dust and moisture resistant
  • Silent AF
  • Florine coating on front element
  • Minimum focus distance: 1.5m
  • Maximum magnification ratio: 1:3.6
  • Filter thread: 67mm
  • Available in Canon EF and Nikon F mount

Wildlife and outdoor sports shooters can take solace in the fact that this lens is moisture resistant, with eight rubber gaskets, including one at the base of the lens mount. It's compatible with Tamron's TAP-in Console, allowing users to update firmware and/or fine-tune AF. It can also be used with the company's 1.4X and 2X teleconverters. An A035TM accessory tripod collar is sold separately for $130.

Shot on the Canon EOS 5DS R.
ISO 200 | 100mm | 1/1600 sec | F4.5

Design and Handling

According to Tamron the lightweight design of this lens is mostly due to its magnesium alloy internal construction, though it is worth noting the outer shell of the lens is plastic (the lens mount is metal). The lens telescopes when zoomed, increasing in length about 50%. At its most compact it is about 20 cm / 7.8 in long.

Well-constructed, solid feeling and well-balanced, nothing rattles around inside the lens when shaken (my favorite test). Zooming from 100mm to 400mm requires a one quarter turn of the large rubberized zoom ring (located at the front of the lens).

Zooming from 100mm to 400mm requires a one quarter turn of the large rubberized zoom ring

'Lens creep' is an annoying fact of life when using telescoping lenses, fortunately it was not an issue during field testing. Just in case, there is a lock on the lens barrel (which can only be used when the zoom is retracted in to 100mm).

Toward the base of the lens barrel you'll find an AF/MF switch as well as as a controller for selecting one's VC (vibration compensation) mode: Mode 1 is for normal stabilization, Mode 2 is for use when panning. Users can also turn off VC completely, which useful if you're on a tripod. Just below the focus ring is the focus distance scale window.

Performance

Hand-held at 400mm, shot using a 1/125 sec shutter because I live in Seattle and it is always dark outside. Shot on the Canon EOS 80D
ISO 800 | 400mm | 1/125 sec | F6.3

Tamron is pitching this lens as appropriate for sports and wildlife shooters, two groups that require reliable AF and effective stabilization. Fortunately, our real world usage shows the 100-400mm excelling in both areas.

The image stabilization system proved effective at helping to eliminate camera shake at shutter speeds I'd ordinarily not feel comfortable using, given the focal length used. The moment you engage AF the IS system kicks in – with one's eye to the finder the effectiveness of the compensation is immediately apparent.

Autofocus is both silent (hello ultrasonic drive) and fast (powered by two processors). Acquisition is nearly instant in AF-S and it's equally fast and impressive in AF-C. Users can expect it to maintain focus on the moving subjects they point it at, assuming their camera body is up to the challenge.

Image Quality

The lens is sharp through the zoom range, out of focus areas are also inoffensive. Shot on the Canon EOS 5DS R.
ISO 400 | 400mm | 1/500 sec | F6.3

Though this lens has a slow maximum aperture and is best used for daylight shooting, all signs point to it being optically very good. Our copy of the 100-400mm was well-centered and universally sharp across the frame at all focal lengths we shot. Ghosting and flare are rare.

[It is] universally sharp across the frame at all focal lengths we shot

Chromatic aberration is also really well controlled, though it does appears in some images. Lateral CA is well controlled in this lens, and when it's there it's easy to correct in Adobe Camera Raw and other Raw processing programs. However axial CA, which you can see as green fringing in this shot, is more difficult to correct for but generally isn't very severe with this lens. We also noted some vignetting when used on full-frame, but that is also fairly easy to correct in post.

Bokeh is about what we would expect for a complex telephoto lens. Ironically, it looks nice and smooth toward the shorter end, but as you get to the long end out-of-focus highlights show odd patterns. We expect this has to do with how smooth the glass surfaces can be polished for a lens at this price point.

Conclusion

For travel photographers looking for a casual, lightweight telephoto lens to explore with, the Tamron 100-400 F4.5-6.3 is a solid choice. Shot on the EOS 5DS R.
ISO 400 | 143mm | 1/1250 sec | F5

The Tamron 100-400mm F4.5-6.3 is a great telephoto lens for daylight photography, whether your subjects are moving or not. It offers fast, silent autofocus, good stabilization and is optically impressive at all focal lengths. All that comes in a weather-resistant package that also happens to be the lightest in its class.

We feel comfortable giving it our recommendation

Priced the same as the Sigma 100-400mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM, the most obvious difference between the two is the Tamron is faster on the wide end, F4.5 vs F5 (and it's also a hair lighter). That aside, the two offer very similar features like image stabilization, multi layer coatings and special elements for dealing with CA. We'll have to revisit the Sigma to see just how well the two compare. But having spent a good amount of time with the Tamron, we feel comfortable giving it our recommendation.

What we like:

  • Sharp, versatile zoom range on both APS-C and full-frame
  • Lightest lens in its class
  • Moisture and dust resistant
  • Impressive image stablization
  • Silent AF is fast and accurate

What we don’t:

  • Slow aperture range
  • Pricey tripod collar sold separately
  • Vignettes on full-frame (though easy to correct)