But I Digress – Tamron 16-300mm Zoom Lens

Tamron-1

Fargo, North Dakota

Disclaimer 1: If you are looking for a good technical review of the Tamron 16-300 lens, you are in the wrong place. My objective is simply to share how this lens works for me. One place for a complete technical review can be found on the web here. If you stopped by to look at photos, I have included a gallery of images at the end of the article.

Lynn and I are doing some travelling this week, as a result our normal Travel Tuesday is on hold so we can gather more photographs of interesting places in future weeks. In its place, I thought I would share with you a simple users review of my latest photo gear acquisition.  This Tamron 16-300mm lens replaces the Tamron 18-270mm lens I used for the last two years. The Tamron lens is available in Sony, Canon and Nikon mounts. The opening photo shows my new lens attached to the Nikon D7000 camera I use in my daily photo shoots.

Disclaimer 2: I work in Lightroom 6 mostly. I will identify in each image where I used Lightroom to modify the image as downloaded from the camera. All images in this article have been compressed to a maximum width of 1024 pixels to take up less space on the blog server. Where indicated, the pixel dimensions are for the final image I might process for printing.

The lens is designed for cameras with APS-C sensors. It will work on a full frame sensor camera, but the image will be automatically cropped to the smaller sensor size. Chances are, if you own a full frame camera, you probably wouldn’t be looking for a lens in this price range anyway. Since photography is my hobby, I don’t derive income that I could use to purchase my camera equipment. There is no doubt that the Nikon 18-300mm lens is faster and I’m sure has sharper focus. However it would set me back around a kilobuck. Regular retail on the Tamron I bought is $639, and I got a rebate bringing it under the $600 mark.

The sharp-eyed reader might wonder why I would plunk down a bunch of money for a 16-300mm lens when I already have a Tamron 18-270. Good question. Three reasons:

Tamron-10

f/6.3 1/80 sec. ISO-800 300 mm. Final image processed in Lightroom. 4928 x 3264 pixels.

Number 1, the 16-300 has sharper optics. I was never completely satisfied with the sharpness of the 18-270, especially at full zoom.

Tamron-6

f/6.3 1/60 Sec. ISO-3200 300mm. Image processed in Lightroom for high ISO noise reduction. Cropped to 2585 x 3903.

Number 2, the 16-300 allows me to tweak manual focus even in automatic focus mode. I can’t count the number of times I got home from a shoot to find my subject just a bit fuzzy and the blades of grass in front or behind were in tack-sharp focus. If I get lazy and don’t check focus, this can still happen, but if I notice auto-focus isn’t dead on, I can tweak it. With the older lens, I had to take my eye from the viewfinder and shut off auto-focus before I could manually adjust.

Number 3, the 16-300 has a macro capability. At 300mm, the front of the lens can be only about 3-4 inches in front of the subject. With the lens’s long throw, that’s about 15 inches from the front plane of the camera’s sensor. Not a dedicated macro, but as my gallery shows, it works quite well for the occasional butterfly or flower picture.

The real Number 3, because I wanted it. I traded in my 18-270 and got a still lower price of acquisition, though I know I could have sold the 18-270 outright and saved a bit more.

Dragonfly

f/14 1/200 sec. ISO-800 300mm. Processed in Lightroom. Cropped to 2405 x 1593.

Macro

There is plenty of resolution available on a 16 megapixel camera to crop in an editing program. I was afraid to approach this dragonfly any closer than I was. From memory, I believe that the front of the lens was probably 3 feet (1 m) from its resting place.

DragonflyCrop

Lightroom screen grab showing the original image size and final crop dimensions.

My original 18-270 lens could get close, but not this close, nor was the final result quite as sharp. The detail on the dragonfly’s wings in the final image demonstrate the sharpness of this lens.

Zoom Range

Tamron-3

f/22 1/60 sec. ISO-560 16 mm. Minor tweaks not affecting lens performance in Lightroom.

The wide angle range of this lens is pretty amazing. The scene above is in Medora, North Dakota at the Burning Hills Amphitheater. From the waiting area at the top of the hill, the wide-angle lens gives a sweeping landscape view.

Tamron-2

F/14 1/320 sec. ISO-100 300 mm. Lightroom tweaked to remove chromatic aberration. Cropped to 2934 x 1944.

Just before the performance, two bull elk appeared at the top of the ridgeline just behind the set buildings in the wide angle image. I was standing in approximately the same place shooting these two images, though they were taken about 30 minutes apart.

Chromatic Aberration

Tamron-7

F/16 1/60 sec. ISO-110 300 mm. Lightroom correction for Chromatic Aberration. 4828 x 3264.

Probably the most noticeable flaw that I saw in this lens is that it has much more noticeable chromatic aberration distortion than the 18-270 lens. Fortunately, Lightroom has an easy one-click fix in the Develop module’s Lens Correction tool.

ChromaticThe image above is a closeup screengrab of the Lightroom screen display of the two horses. The image has noticeable green and magenta fringing around the horses’ muzzles. This chromatic aberration is most noticeable around the nostrils of the horse on the right. After simply checking the “Remove Chromatic Aberration” box, Lightroom de-fringes the image nicely, as shown in the image below. I’ve taken to checking that box on every picture, not just on the images where zoom is set to maximum. Maybe someone can tell me why I shouldn’t do this on all images.

NoChromatic

 

All zoom lenses are a compromise. I have the two kit lenses from Nikon that came with my first DSLR, a Nikon D5100. Even when I carried both lenses, which was not always, it seemed I had the wrong lens on the camera for the image I wished to capture. My original Tamron 18-270 solved that problem by giving me a single “walk-around” lens. Whenever I wanted the sharpest image, though, I used to swap out the Tamron for the appropriate Nikon (if I had them with me.)

The Tamron 16-300 lens is now by all-purpose “walk-around” lens and I don’t fret not having the Nikon lenses handy. I had the option of “un-trading” after a short trial. I soon found that they would have had to pry this lens from my cold, dead hands. The gallery contains some of my recent photos taken with this lens. All are final images, fully processed in Lightroom, some are three-exposure HDR. Click on an image to enlarge it and to scroll through the gallery.

 

John Steiner

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7 thoughts on “But I Digress – Tamron 16-300mm Zoom Lens

  1. Great review. I own the 18-270mm. The range of zoom afforded by these types of lenses is handy, but as you noted, there are some limitation – such as chromatic aberration. The biggest issue is also the biggest draw to the lens in my opinion – the wide focal range. Images can be pretty soft at either extreme of the focal length unless stopped down considerable (F/11 or >). If you are working with plenty of light that isn’t much of an issue. Even stopping down doesn’t solve the softness in all situation. Great walking around lens. As long as your expectations are inline with its capabilities you are golden.

    • Good point. The 18-270 has served me well with its wide zoom range. The softness of focus issue is improved on the 16-300, but any lens with a wide zoom range is going to be a compromise.

      Thanks for your comment!

  2. I also used a Tamron 300mm lens fitted to my Canon for over 4 years and never had much to complain about! (Not that I consider myself a “photographer”, as long as my photos shows off the beautiful places we visit I’m more than happy)

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