Tamron 150-600mm f5-6.3 G2 on Sony A7riii

For anyone interested in very long telephoto lenses, I thought I would give a brief overview of the new-ish Tamron 150-600mm.

This model came on the market around 2018-2019 as the G2, or 2nd generation, of these Tamron lenses. As of mid-2019, the current price is $1299 new but can be gotten for a few hundred dollars cheaper used. What do you get for all that coin? A very good zoom that extends all the way to 600mm on a full frame camera, or 900mm on an ASP-C sized sensor. I wanted to run through a few test shots and see what this means for a real-world application.

In the first photo, we’re looking into my back yard at 24mm. I just wanted to give an overall view as if you’re standing on the porch and looking into town.

Shot @ 24mm f/2 -  Sony GM 24mm f/1.4

Shot @ 24mm f/2 - Sony GM 24mm f/1.4

If you look into the dead center of the photo, you can see a cell phone tower. Through Google Maps I’ve determined this tower is 0.24 miles away (0.39km).

Now lets connect the Tamron and see what this looks like at 600mm. I have this connected to my Sony A7riii with the Sigma MC-11 adapter to give me autofocus and to record the lens metadata.

Shot @ 600mm -  Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 G2 on a Sony A7riii with a Sigma MC-11 adapter

Shot @ 600mm - Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 G2 on a Sony A7riii with a Sigma MC-11 adapter

At 600mm, the cell tower definitely doesn’t look like it’s a 1/4 mile away. This shot was taken at f/7.1, ISO 200, 1/200 second, on a tripod, with a 10-second delay.

But that’s not all! This was taken with a 42 megapixel sensor, so we can heavily crop this photo. Straight out of the camera, we have an image of 7952x5304 pixels. If we “zoom” in 2X, we effectively are using a 1200mm lens on a sensor outputting 3976x2652 which is still larger than most monitors can handle. If we Crop all the way in to make a 1920x1080 photo, we’ve digitally zoomed into the image 4.1x showing what the field of view would look like on a 2400mm lens. Not bad! Here’s what that looks like…

Shot @ approx 2400mm digitally zoomed -  Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 G2 on a Sony A7riii with a Sigma MC-11 adapter

Shot @ approx 2400mm digitally zoomed - Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 G2 on a Sony A7riii with a Sigma MC-11 adapter

I just want to emphasize how ridiculous this is. We are resolving wires that are 1/4” in diameter from a 1/4 mile distance. This photo has a bit of JPEGging going on, but in the original I could read a hand-written tag on one of the white boxes.

The first question this brings up is why does anyone need a zoom like this? Bird watching? Airplanes taking off? Checking the gas price at a service station from 3 miles away?

This is where I want to talk about usability. This lens has incredible resolving power, but only under the most ideal conditions! Let’s look at what it takes to get the above image:

  1. To get the wires in focus above, I had to digitally zoom in at 12X using the LCD screen of my camera and manually focus. The autofocus wasn’t accurate enough, and continually missed focus. The focal plan is comparatively small at these lengths.

  2. The tripod I was using was very steady, and I could see shaking from the slightest wind - or even my dog walking within 10ft of the tripod.

  3. The camera had to be on a timer of at least 5 seconds to dampen after hitting the shutter button. One could also use a hand held shutter remote.

  4. The shutter speed has to be fast enough to cut out blur of even the most minor shakes.

  5. The day cannot be too hot (clouds help) because at long distances the effects of hot air rising is enough to completely blur your image.

The next problem I ran into was the changing focal planes at different focal lengths. If you dial in focus perfectly at 500mm then move it to 600mm you will have to re-focus.

Finally, regarding the Sigma MC-11 adapter I would give an overall rating of 8/10. This is a Sigma adapter mounting a Canon lens onto a Sony body. I cannot expect that it will be perfect. At the shorter telephoto end you will get responsive autofocus that works well. Towards the farther end you can’t expect the same. You will need to manually focus it close to the right focal plane, then let the lens take it from there. Without cropping, the focus was pretty good. But once you zoom in and pixel peep you’ll notice that the autofocus never hit spot on. It will always need manual focusing while doing a digital zoom.

If you need absolute resolution power and have a sturdy tripod available then you can take some incredible shots. Just don’t expect to be able to catch that cardinal before it flies away.

Shot @ 150mm -  Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 G2 on a Sony A7riii with a Sigma MC-11 adapter

Shot @ 150mm - Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 G2 on a Sony A7riii with a Sigma MC-11 adapter

Shot @ 430mm - Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 G2 on a Sony A7riii with a Sigma MC-11 adapter

Shot @ 430mm -Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 G2 on a Sony A7riii with a Sigma MC-11 adapter

Comparison Between Sony 90mm f/2.8, Carl Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8, and Sony 70-200 f/4 Zoom

This is a review for the pixel peepers, looking to maximize everything they can out of all 42MP in their Sony a7rii. If you're doing some digital zooming, a good lens can go a long way. So what is the difference between the top-of-the-line lenses for the FE-mount system? As you'll see below, very little. 

I'm going to compare the amazing Carl Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 to the gold standard Sony 90mm f/2.8 Macro lens. For fun, I've also thrown in the Sony 70-200 f/4 lens to compare the quality of this zoom lens at approximately 90mm. 

For the first photo, I would like to compare bokeh on the Zeiss at f/1.8 VS. the f/2.8 maximum aperture on the Sony. 

Left: Sony 90mm @ f/2.8 --- Right: Carl Zeiss 85mm @ f/1.8

Left: Sony 90mm @ f/2.8 --- Right: Carl Zeiss 85mm @ f/1.8

As you can see in the photos, there is a difference, with the Zeiss creating a more pleasing blurred background. The difference is subtle, but is noticed.

The next set of photos we'll go into pixel peeping. We'll compare the two lenses at their matching apertures as well as the Sony 70-200 zoom option.

...

Left: Carl Zeiss 85mm @ f/1.8    --- Right:   Sony 90mm @ f/2.8

Left: Carl Zeiss 85mm @ f/1.8  --- Right: Sony 90mm @ f/2.8

Left: Carl Zeiss 85mm @ f/2.8    --- Right:   Sony 90mm @ f/2.8

Left: Carl Zeiss 85mm @ f/2.8  --- Right: Sony 90mm @ f/2.8

Left: Carl Zeiss 85mm @ f/8    --- Right:   Sony 90mm @ f/8

Left: Carl Zeiss 85mm @ f/8  --- Right: Sony 90mm @ f/8

Left: Sony 70-200mm @ f/4    --- Right:   Sony 90mm @ f/2.8

Left: Sony 70-200mm @ f/4  --- Right: Sony 90mm @ f/2.8

For fun - Left: Sony 70-200mm @ f/8 at 200mm --- Right: Sony 90mm @ f/8 blown up to be roughly the same 200mm field of view

For fun - Left: Sony 70-200mm @ f/8 at 200mm --- Right: Sony 90mm @ f/8 blown up to be roughly the same 200mm field of view


Bonus Photos!

Sony Zeiss 35mm f/2.8 taken @ f/8

Sony Zeiss 35mm f/2.8 taken @ f/8

Sony 90mm f/2.8 macro photo of Jameson bottle label

Sony 90mm f/2.8 macro photo of Jameson bottle label

So who wins for the ultimate in image quality? Well, that depends. At their maximum apertures, the Batis takes down the Sony 90mm. When the Batis is stopped down to f/2.8, it's actually a fair bit better than the Sony!  After going down to f/8, the Sony comes out on top for pure resolution (although difficult to tell on the uploaded comparison photo). Coming in a very close third is the 70-200 which when stopped down has amazing resolution for a zoom lens. I've heard - but not tested - that the Sony 90mm can out resolve the Sony 24-240mm super-zoom, so I had to test whether it could miraculously out resolve the 70-200. Not by a long shot. 

As far as pricing goes, the Sony 90mm is currently the cheaper of the two prime lenses and comes with the macro feature which I've found to be very useful. It also comes with the push-pull AF-MF switch, as well as sliders on the side to control AF/MF and Focus range. I have noticed that the focusing has been a bit slow at times, but when it hit focus, it's spot on.

The Zeiss Batis is VERY stylish, a bit smaller, but has no button controls like the Sony model. Also, to the credit of the Batis, the focus knob is the smoothest I've ever felt, and the LED screen makes manual focus a bit easier. Auto focus has been fast and accurate.

Final conclusion: If you're buying a prime lens for your Sony a7x body, you won't be disappointed regardless of your choice. They all come very close to matching the resolution of the sensor.

*A few side-notes on testing: All shots were outside on a beautiful day at iso 100. With tree and clouds, the shots do have slightly different lighting. Also, all shots were cropped from the center of the image. If there's interest, I might do a comparison of sides and corner resolution. All shots were taken with a tripod set to shoot after 2 seconds to reduce blur. All lenses had their optical lens stabilization turned off. Finally, all shots you are seeing are un-edited RAW photos, not JPEGs.

 

Thanks for looking. I hope this could be of some service to the people trying to decide between lenses. 

-Aaron