The Tamron 100-400mm f/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD lens is an excellent telephoto zoom lens. I purchased this lens in January 2018 because I needed a longer telephoto lens for a few landscape photography trips to Yosemite National Park and Iceland that I had coming up.
After a year of owning it, I think it’s time that I write down a few thoughts I have about this lens. Spoiler alert, I don’t have anything negative to say about this lens. It is a wonderful lens that I am very, very happy with. Tamron does it again!
As with all the other lens reviews I wrote, this is not going to be a summary of MTF charts or photos of brick walls and charts. There are plenty of other review sites out there if you are looking for that kind of information. This will just be my thoughts based on my real-world use of this lens out in the field.
Also, you’ll see that this will be a fairly glowing review but this is not a sponsored post. I was not paid to write this by Tamron or anyone else.
Telephoto Lens for Landscape Photography
When I travel with my Nikon gear, I usually will only take 3 lenses. In my travel kit was the “Holy Trinity” of lenses that include my Tamron 15-30, Nikon 24-70 f/2.8, and Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 VR II. These 3 lenses allowed me to capture just about any image that would present itself. That’s super nice if you are traveling around in a place you might only visit once, like a foreign country or a National Park. I have no problem admitting that I would feel pretty bummed out if I missed out on a shot because I didn’t have the right lens with me. Having the Trinity with me meant I would be able to get any shot.
Usually, when you think of landscape photography, you think of views of grand vistas or close-ups of foreground elements taken with wide angle lenses like my Tamron 15-30. However, I think there is a place in every landscape photographers bag for a telephoto lens. Landscape images with a telephoto lens are a great way to add variety to the shots you go home with after a shoot. You can get in close to parts of the landscape that are out of reach for a wider lens. Like this shot of a snowy morning in Yosemite National Park:
The only thing missing from my existing kit was super-telephoto focal lengths. So I looked at the Tamron 100-400 to replace my Nikon 70-200 in my landscape kit.
These trees were way at the top of the cliffs surrounding Yosemite Valley but the Tamron 100-400 allowed me to get in super close.
Another reason for landscape photographers to have a telephoto lens is the compression you get from longer focal lengths. Check out this shot of Door County’s famous “Winding Road.” At roughly 300mm the curves in the road are compressed beautifully.
This kind of compression is also beautiful when zooming in on mountain ranges or hills.
Great Focal Range
This lens has a very useful focal range. At 100 on the wide end, I am able to get a nice shot of subjects that are far, but not too far. Then with 400mm on the long end, I can get in as close as I need to on all but the most faraway landscapes. Comparing this to my 70-200, I do lose 30mm on the wider end. This never seemed to be an issue for me though since I can just crop in on my 24-70 or make a simple two shot panorama at 100mm with the Tamron.
Then with 400mm on the long end of the focal range, I get 200mm more reach than with my Nikon 70-200. This means that the Tamron is more useful in more situations than the Nikon.
Size and Weight
Adding the Tamron 100-400 lens to my travel bag meant that the Nikon 70-200 lens had to go. The nice thing about the Tamron is that it is pretty much the same size as the Nikon.
As you can see, I added a much larger telephoto focal range without adding any size to my kit. In fact, the Tamron might be smaller than the Nikon.
In addition to adding a larger focal range, another advantage of the Tamron is its weight. The 100-400 weighs in at 2.45 lb ( 1115 g) while the Nikon weighs in at 3.39 lb (1540 g). The Tamron lightens up my bag by almost 1 pound. That’s significant when lugging my gear on airplanes, through airports, and while on hikes.
This lens is super sharp. At all focal lengths, this lens offers very good sharpness from edge to edge and corner to corner. There’s not much else I can say about this. It’s really sharp.
In order to keep the Tamron 100-400 relatively compact, it’s designers has to make the perfectly understandable decision to make this lens with a variable aperture. The largest aperture of this lens is f/4.5 at the wide end. That’s not too bad but it closes down to f/6.3 as you approach the maximum focal length of 400mm.
This makes this lens not ideal for portraits in low light, but I’m writing this as a landscape photographer and we (generally) don’t care about bokeh or low light. When shooting with this lens, I am usually at f/8-11. So the maximum aperture of f/4.5-6.3 is a non-issue for me.
Tamron is very good at implementing image stabilization (or vibration compensation as they call it) in all their lenses that have it. This lens is no different. Tamron included two VC modes. Mode 1 is the general all-purpose VR while Mode 2 is for panning shots such as birds in flight. Admittedly, I almost always shoot on a tripod so I don’t use it much. However, there is no doubt that if I needed to get a quick shot that I could count on the VC to help me out.
The Tamron 100-400 lens is weather sealed. This is extremely nice for landscape photographers as we are often out in inclement weather. It’s good to have the peace of mind when shooting out in the elements.
Of course, weather sealed, or “moisture-resistant construction” as Tamron calls it, doesn’t mean weatherproof. It just means that sealings are in place to help prevent water and dust from getting inside your lens.
Optional Tripod Collar
This lens does not include a tripod collar. It’s light enough that is really doesn’t need one. There is an optional collar you can purchase. I chose to buy one because I feel like it makes the lens more stable on a tripod by balancing the weight of the lens and camera better.
On a side note, I LOVE Tamron’s new tripod collar design. On the foot of their collars is a built-in arca-swiss plate! This is such a simple thing but you wouldn’t believe how useful it is. With Tamron, the days of searching everywhere for a tripod plate are gone. I don’t know why all manufacturers don’t do this.
Perhaps the best thing about this lens is its price. It is very reasonably priced at $799. For a telephoto lens with such a useful focal range, this is a bargain!
Tamron 100-400 Lens
All in all, I am extremely happy with the Tamron 100-400 and would highly recommend this lens. It’s perfect for someone who wants an inexpensive, relatively lightweight telephoto lens that gives you great pictures.