The Tamron 50-400mm F/4.5-6.3 Di III VC VXD is a versatile telephoto zoom lens with an 8x focal length range that can be used for “classic” portraits and distant subjects, for example, for sports or wildlife photography.
Tamron has become a specialist in zoom lenses with atypical focal lengths. The Japanese optician offers an excellent catalogue of original lenses, from SLRs to hybrids. After testing the 20-40mm F/2.8 Di III VXD, we face a radically different zoom, the 50-400mm F/4.5-6.3 Di III VC VXD.
An 8x zoom
Still intended for Sony’s 24×36 hybrids, this 8x zoom lens is versatile since it starts at 50mm, the classic focal length par excellence, and can reach 400mm, a focal length suitable for sports or wildlife photography.
This 50-400 mm could satisfy many photographers, who will have to deal with relatively low maximum apertures and a consequent size.
No direct competition, but some rivals
This focal length is unprecedented for Sony, even if Sigma goes one step further with its 10x 60-600mm F/4.5-6.3 DG DN OS Sports zoom. Sigma also offers a 100-400mm F/5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary.
Tamron also offers a 150-500mm F/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD. There are two great telephoto lenses on the Sony side: the FE 200-600mm F5.6-6.3 G OSS and the premium FE 100-400mm F4.5-6.3 GM OSS.
Not surprisingly, this 50-400mm remains in line with Tamron’s most recent lenses. It uses the 67mm filter holder that is used on almost all Sony hybrid lenses, except for the 150-500mm F/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD, which was bulky.
The dimensions of the 50-400mm F/4.5-6.3 Di III VC VXD are reminiscent of the Sigma 100-400mm F/5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary. Indeed, apart from the 67mm diameter filter, both zooms weigh around 1.1kg, about 19cm in length and almost 9cm in diameter.
The finish is good and gives the impression of holding a high-end lens; a small drawback, however, is the coating of the zoom lens, which is very prone to marks of all kinds, which is not annoying, but wipe enthusiasts will have plenty to do.
On the lens barrel, there are four controls:
Once attached, the zoom lens reaches 27 cm and becomes more complicated. If you want to focus the camera at full zoom manually, you should ensure you are stable.
As with many modern lenses, the travel of the focus ring is non-linear. This virtual stroke adapts to your movements and allows precise MAP. The zoom ring also has a good stroke, neither too smooth nor too stiff, and you can move from a wide angle to full zoom quite quickly.
A USB-C port
Next to the mount is a USB-C port. This allows the zoom to be updated directly from a computer or Android smartphone via the Tamron Lens Utility software. Tamron has already implemented this option on other lenses we tested, such as the 35-150mm F/2-2.8 Di III VXD, 28-75mm F/2.8 Di III VXD G2 or the 20-40mm F/2.8 Di III VXD. The application is easy to use and allows you to set up the zoom lens.
Optional tripod collar
In addition, the 50-400mm F/4.5-6.3 Di III VC VXD is protected from the elements by numerous seals. However, you will notice the absence of an optional tripod collar, a regrettable “oversight”. For our lab tests, we had to use the Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8 L IS USM collar, which fitted surprisingly well.
Tamron has always distinguished itself by offering bright and sharp hybrid zooms close to Sony’s best “rocks”. Things are more complicated with long telephoto lenses and their limited maximum apertures.
In the case of this Tamron 50-400mm F4.5-6.3 Di III VC VXD, the performance is sincere and relatively homogeneous at 50mm, with a maximum sharpness reached at f/5.6. Nevertheless, the sharpness decreases quite significantly as one zoom in.
The 100 mm focal length remains quite correct, but it is especially at 200, then 300 mm, that the sharpness is less important. In any case, the zoom does best at f/8, which implies increasing the camera’s ISO in case of low light.
Due to the depth of recoil in our lab, measurements above 300mm would not reflect the true performance of the lenses.
Against the competition
If we compare this Tamron to the Sigma 100-400mm F5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary at an equivalent 100mm focal length, we can see that the Sigma zoom is 1/3 stop brighter and offers higher sharpness, even at f/5.6; good performance for a zoom lens that sells for less than £1000.
If we try again with the Sony FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS, which is sold at almost twice the price of the Tamron, we can see that the Sony zoom is also better. It is also brighter at 100mm and offers a very good sharpness, with a maximum value reached this time at f/8.
Wide-angle lenses are usually the most prone to distortion. This 50-400mm from Tamron is an exception, with quite noticeable distortions at all focal lengths.
While they are somewhat less noticeable at 50mm, focal lengths from 100mm onwards show pincushion distortions. These distortions can easily be removed by activating the camera’s internal corrections.
In contrast to distortions, chromatic aberrations are well under control. Moreover, even when scanning the edges of all the image textures, they are almost impossible to detect.
Vignetting is hardly present with this zoom. As is often the case, it is most noticeable at wide-angle. However, as soon as you close the aperture a little or zoom in, it tends to decrease quite significantly.
Tamron has long been a specialist in long focal length zooms, especially for APS-C such as 18-300mm, 18-200mm and even 18-400mm. A versatility that was accompanied by relatively low optical performance. This type of zoom is still well marketed by the firm, and finally, the 50-400mm F4.5-6.3 Di III VC VXD is almost in this register (with better optical qualities, obviously).
We then find ourselves with a zoom that can be used for almost everything, as long as we are not exclusively an aficionado of architectural photography, and even then.
From street photography to wildlife
The 50mm focal length is well known for its versatility and will not confuse the regulars or the neophytes. Beyond this focal length, you can count on a large telephoto lens that is ideal for sports and wildlife photography.
This Tamron lens fulfils these functions perfectly while remaining relatively compact, even on a bulky Sony 35mm camera. However, investment in a tripod collar will be essential to make it easier for some photographers. Note that this zoom lens can even be used for pro photography with a minimum focusing distance of 25 cm and a reproduction factor of 1:2 (at 50 mm).
Beware of low light and artificial light.
While in daylight, the zoom is ideal for many practices, and the low maximum apertures will sometimes be a disadvantage in low light or under artificial lighting.
We used this zoom at two sporting events at the very end of 2022, indoors and outdoors. Furthermore, whether it was under the lights of the Accor Arena’s floor or the spotlights of the Parc des Princes, at full zoom and at the largest f/6.3 aperture, the zoom often pushed our camera’s ISOs to their limits. A fact to be taken into account and which plays in favour of slightly brighter zooms, like the FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS.
Note that we had already encountered this with the Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1 L IS USM, which is even less open at full zoom while being a much higher end.
Suitable for portraiture
Portrait photographers can rely on the long focal lengths to isolate their subjects. Nevertheless, the background will fade into a soft blur with wide apertures.
This bokeh is also somewhat imperfect, displaying more polygons than circles, even if the latter has a reasonably smooth surface free of defects.
A very reactive autofocus
During our tests in the field and in the lab, we did not have any problems with the autofocus of the telephoto zoom. Tamron has accustomed us to a smooth and optimal performance with the AF systems of the most advanced Sony cameras. The Sony Alpha 1 (A1)’s eye tracking and burst AF (30 fps) were handled without a hitch.
The stabilisation that’s almost foolproof
For stabilisation, in addition to the mechanical stabilisation of the sensors, we can count on a two-level optical “stab”. Mode 1 allows continuous stabilisation, while mode two only compensates for panning movements. Tamron also explains that its zoom is AI boosted with the help of a specific chip. Between 50 and 100 mm, this chip would recognise movements and compensate by adapting itself as well as possible.
If this is difficult to verify, we were delighted with this 50-400mm stabilisation. The waste rate is minimal, even at full zoom and with a relatively long exposure time.
Tamron signs here a very good telephoto lens. The 50-400mm F4.5-6.3 Di III VC VXD is useful – even indispensable – in many situations and for many different practices. However, the Japanese company had accustomed us to better optical performances, but combining the versatility of a long focal range with a very high sharpness is complicated.
Tamron - 50-400mm f/4.5-6.3 Di III VC VXD - Sony FE - Ultra-telephoto zoom - Fast and precise AF - Half-macro photography - VC for stable handheld shooting - A067S, Black
|Current Price||£1,248.00||September 23, 2023|
|Highest Price||£1,289.00||February 2, 2023|
|Lowest Price||£1,097.97||September 6, 2023|
Last price changes
|£1,248.00||September 15, 2023|
|£1,097.97||September 14, 2023|
|£1,248.00||September 11, 2023|
|£1,097.97||September 6, 2023|
|£1,248.99||August 2, 2023|
Tamron 50-400mm f/4.5-6.3 Di III VC VXD Lens for Sony Full Frame Mirrorless Cameras
|Current Price||$1,299.00||September 23, 2023|
|Highest Price||$1,299.00||February 2, 2023|
|Lowest Price||$1,199.00||July 11, 2023|
Last price changes
|$1,299.00||August 8, 2023|
|$1,199.00||July 11, 2023|
|$1,299.00||February 2, 2023|