Tamron 16–300mm: A Versatile Package
Can the all-in-one superzoom Tamron 16–300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD Macro lens prove itself? Natasha Desai finds out.
They say all good things come in small packages and it seems to be Tamron’s motto for the 16–300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD Macro lens. The lens weighs a mere 540g and only slightly longer that a 18–105mm kit lens from Nikon. It has a 16mm wide end that no other competing superzoom lens has and that too at the price tag considerably lesser than that of competitors. So far, so good. But what’s the catch? We find out as we test the Nikon-mount version on the D90.
There are other competing lenses proprietary lenses like the Nikkor AF-S DX 18–300mm F/3.5-6.3 VR and the Canon EF-S 18–200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM in this range. These are, however much more expensive, and it is the wide angle capability of 16mm that makes the Tamron 16–300mm unique. The lens is built for APS-C sensors and gives a zoom range of 24–450mm on Nikon and Sony, and 25.6–480mm on Canon.
The Nikon and Canon versions of the lens have Tamron’s Vibration Compensation (VC) system and the Piezo Drive (PZD) fast and silent AF motor. The Sony mount does not have VC but that is because Sony DSLT and DSLRs have inbody stablisation.
The build quality of the lens is not bad. Its body is mostly plastic, but it has a metal mount. For all the focal lengths that the lens packs in, the weight is impressively light. Of course, a superzoom lens is never really inconspicuous. The lens may look deceptively small when closed, but almost doubles in length at 300mm.
Moving from one focal length to another is easy as it only takes around half a turn to go from wide to tele and the entire action is smooth. I found that I did not need to use the zoom lock at all as the lens did not creep to the ground nor when pointed upwards. Then again, this could only be because it is a straight out-of-thebox lens. Tamron claims that the lens is moisture resistant, but whether it ought to be used in rough weather is debatable.
With such a large zoom range, one would expect a large compromise in terms of image quality, but the lens manages to hold up well. At the wide end, focusing is nice and quick, despite using an old-generation body like the D90. At 300mm, however, the lens does take a bit of time to focus, especially if the subject is moving or if the light levels are low. Even though the lens has an smooth manual focus ring at the base, it does not allow manual focus override at any point.
When shooting at the wide end, the sharpness is excellent especially in the centre. Corner sharpness improves on stopping down the aperture, and f/9 seems to be the sweet spot of the lens. At the telephoto end, sharpness suffers, but it is usable enough—a minor tradeoff, when you gain such a huge zoom range. If you are using one of the new high-resolution APS-C cameras, you may want to avoid shooting at the longest focal length, especially if detail is critical.
There is some purple fringing around the edges especially in high-contrast images. Vignetting is noticeable at 16mm, at the widest aperture. There is a fair amount of barrel distortion at the wide end, when there is a horizon or some other horizontal line in the frame. People standing towards the corners do not get distorted, so the lens’ wide end is actually quite good for street photography.
The lens claims to have macro capabilities. However, the magnification ratio is nowhere near 1:1. It does have a very close focusing distance, which helps get great close-ups at 300mm. Depth isolation at the telephoto end is very good, but the quality of the bokeh is a little harsh.
This lens is ideal for the photography enthusiast as it is extremely convenient. If you are looking for specific use like architecture or macro, then this is not the lens for you. For the price, the Tamron 16–300mm is a pretty good option. While Rs. 48,990 is by no means a small amount of money, it is still much cheaper than its direct competitors and offers 16mm on the wide end, making it a unique general purpose lens.
Good zoom range, vibration compensation, 16mm focal length
Decently sharp images, good wide end performance, some purple fringing
Sturdy, easy handling of zoom, no zoom creep in spite of zoom range
Narrow focus ring, easy to carry
Warranty & Support
Limited number of service facilities
Value For Money: 3.5/5
MRP: Rs. 48,990
Who should buy it?
The photography enthusiast who needs a range of focal lengths on a budget.
The portability even with such a zoom range, the price edge over competitors.