Review: Tamron 100-400mm F4.5-6.3 Di VC USD (Canon EF)

Using the Tamron 100-400mm f4.5-6.3 Di VC USD is nice, but I’ve seen and used better.

When the Tamron 100-400mm f4.5-6.3 Di VC USD is mounted to something like the Canon 6D Mk II, the hobbyist photographer is bound to get a great lens for capturing wildlife. Tamron’s record for creating stellar lenses over the years continues in many ways with the Tamron 100-400mm f4.5-6.3 Di VC USD, but it also still isn’t a perfect lens. There are a lot of wonderful things about it though such as the weather sealing, relatively light weight of the lens, smallish size when it comes to being stuffed into your camera bag, and of course the image quality. But to be honest, I’ve seen and used better lenses.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Weather sealing
  • Nice colors
  • Nice image quality
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Autofocus is rather unreliable at times.

Gear Used

The Tamron 100-400mm f4.5-6.3 Di VC USD was used with the Canon 6D Mk II and the Sony a7r III with the Metabones adapter (the latest one).

Tamron 100-400mm f4.5-6.3 Di VC USD Tech Specs

Taken from the Tamron website

Model A035
Focal Length 100-400mm
Maximum Aperture F/4.5-6.3
Angle of View (diagonal) 24°24′ – 6°12′ (for full-frame format)
15°54′ – 4°01′ (for APS-C format)
Lens Construction 17 elements in 11 groups
Minimum Focus Distance 1.5m (59 in)
Maximum. Magnification Ratio 1:3.6
Filter Size Φ67mm
Maximum Diameter Φ86.2mm (3.4 in)
Length* 199mm (7.8 in) Canon
196.5mm (7.7 in) Nikon
Weight 1,135g (40 oz) Canon
1,115g (39.3 oz) Nikon
Diaphragm Blade Number 9 (circular diaphragm)**
Minimum Aperture F/32-45
Image Stabilization Performance 4 Stops (CIPA Standards Compliant)
For Canon: EOS-5D MKIII is used / For Nikon: D810 is used
Standard Accessories Lens hood, Lens caps
Compatible Mounts Canon, Nikon

Ergonomics

The Tamron 100-400mm f4.5-6.3 Di VC USD, as you can see, really isn’t that large of a lens when fully zoomed out. With the lens hood removed, it is an even smaller package when connected to your camera. When you look at it from the top down, you notice the main controls. What you see is the metal exterior, the zoom ring, the focus ring, the essential text, and the distance scale.

The front of the Tamron 100-400mm f4.5-6.3 Di VC USD has a 67mm filter thread (you know, just in case you need an ND of some sort). However, a polarizer could be better suited for even more poppy colors.

With the lens hood on, the Tamron 100-400mm f4.5-6.3 Di VC USD doesn’t become much larger overall. That’s great for when you go out shooting!

Turn the Tamron 100-400mm f4.5-6.3 Di VC USD on its side and you’ll find the controls. There is the VC switch and the very important AF/MF switch. Plus there is a focus limiter. Now, you also get a better view of the Tamron silver ring on the bottom, which signifies that it’s one of their higher end lenses.

Zoomed all the way in, the Tamron 100-400mm f4.5-6.3 Di VC USD almost doubles in size. This is when the lens can seem a bit too big. But in practice, it really isn’t.

Build Quality

The Tamron 100-400mm f4.5-6.3 Di VC USD is designed with weather sealing built into it. With that said, feel free to take it out into the rain when it’s mounted to an appropriately weather sealed camera. Otherwise, you may not want to bring it out. What’s also worthy of noting is how lightweight it is. Of course, there are lighter lenses, but when toting it around for an entire day my wrist and arm didn’t get tired at all. Still though, I’d recommend using a strap or a tripod with your camera rather than something like the Peak Design Capture Clip.

Ease of Use

The Tamron 100-400mm f4.5-6.3 Di VC USD is as simple as mounting it to your camera, focusing, and shooting. That’s it. What you may want to consider is ensuring that the vibration compensation is always activated when you’re hand-holding the lens and shooting. If you’re using Canon, then shooting with focusing areas, AI Servo, and try to pan with your subject. Now, while the lens is pretty straightforward in use, what holds it back is the autofocus performance.

Autofocus

If it weren’t for the less-than-reliable autofocus performance of the Tamron 100-400mm f4.5-6.3 Di VC USD, I’d give this lens stellar marks. To start, with the Sony a7R III, it wasn’t very effective at focusing. I figured that it was the Metabones adapter, so I updated the firmware, but the same performance issued occurred. Then I tried it on the Canon 6D Mk II. To say the autofocus performance of the Tamron 100-400mm f4.5-6.3 Di VC USD sometimes felt akin to that of a camera and lens around 10 years ago is pretty accurate. However, it was also able to lock onto moving subjects as they came in closer to the camera sometimes, and even with panning. Still, I’ve seen better.

Image Quality

Where the Tamron 100-400mm f4.5-6.3 Di VC USD really excels the most is with its image quality. Tamron’s optics have always been stellar and quite saturated with their output. This lens is no different. Being a telephoto lens, it’s going to deliver beautiful bokeh. It’s also quite sharp, although not as sharp as some of Tamron’s prime lenses. Unlike many of their earlier lenses, there also is very little in the way of chromatic aberration.

Bokeh

Look at that bokeh. It’s pretty beautiful. In the right situations, the Tamron 100-400mm f4.5-6.3 Di VC USD can create images that look almost like a painting with its combination of color and bokeh. This is really where I can’t fault the lens. If you looked at images from this compared to that of Sigma’s lens and Sony’s lenses, you most likely wouldn’t be able to tell the difference if they’re all sized for the web.

Chromatic Aberration

The Tamron 100-400mm f4.5-6.3 Di VC USD doesn’t suffer from any sort of color fringing or major problems with distortion. When the images were run through Capture One, the program didn’t detect or try to fix any aberrations.

Color Rendition

Where I think the Tamron 100-400mm f4.5-6.3 Di VC USD excels most is with its color output. All the images are nice, saturated, vibrant, and rich with colors. It’s beautiful. At the same time though, Sony, Canon, and Sigma can match the Tamron’s colors.

Sharpness

The sharpness from the Tamron 100-400mm f4.5-6.3 Di VC USD is really there. I wish that I could’ve tested this lens with the Canon 5DsR, but unfortunately Canon didn’t have one available for loan. With all this said, I think the Sony version of this lens is a bit sharper. Tamron’s version, however, wipes the floor with Sigma’s.

Extra Image Samples

Conclusions

Likes

  • Light weight

Dislikes

  • Autofocus variance

The Tamron 100-400mm f4.5-6.3 Di VC USD has a lot going for it. It’s got great weather sealing, it’s lightweight, and it can deliver beautiful images. But more so than anything else, the autofocus is what’s important here. Unfortunately, I feel like the Tamron 100-400mm f4.5-6.3 Di VC USD under-performs. It took me a long time to work with this lens to get images I liked and that were in focus. But as it is, I’d honestly say it can do a great job in some situations. But in most of said situations, you’re probably better served with other lenses.

The Tamron 100-400mm f4.5-6.3 Di VC USD receives four out of five stars.

Recommended Cameras

Canon 5Ds: I think I’d choose this camera for the resolution and because, for a traveling landscape photographer who won’t need great autofocusing, this lens could work well.

Nikon D850: I mean, why not?