Back in November of 2016, I placed an order with my area dealer for one of the new Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2. For this page, I’ll simply refer to it is as a G2.
In short, I had a lot of problems with the G2 lens. It took me a while to realize I could set the AF Fine Tune at the 600mm end, but it was severely out of focus at 150mm with the same settings. I sent it in for service and adjustment to make the lens “focus neutral”. A couple of weeks later, the lens came back to me here in Jackson Hole. It was better, but I kept getting a high percentage of out of focus images. I’ve owned the original Tamron 150-600 for quite a while, so it wasn’t like I was having to learn to use a telephoto lens from scratch.
On April 4th, Tamron exchanged the G2 I purchased last November.
If you are returning to this page after reading the version I wrote in February of 2017, I can now say, “Nevermind!” I simply received a bad copy of the lens. The replacement lens is working much, much better—like the first G2 should have worked! Too bad I had to deal with the other one for so long. I still need to do a lot more shooting with the new lens, but the shots I’ve taken over the past week have been far superior. It also appears the new one is sharper than my original “G1”.
If You Are Having Problems
The rest of this page might help you. I learned a lot over the four months and will try to document them here.
First and foremost, I would suggest that you read the manual. In reality, the US section of the manual is short. The most important section if the one dealing with the various VC (Vibration Compensation) modes. I scanned that section and included it below.
If you totally understand what that says, you probably don’t need to continue reading this post!
The #1 point above is “Don’t use VC if you are shooting on a tripod”.
I don’t know how much failing to observe this rule will affect photos, but Tamron tells us the “lens may not perform sufficiently”.
“Don’t use VC unless you need it!”
That’s NOT specifically spelled out in the manual, but several readers gave the same information. Some of the info was attributed to Thom Hogan.
“Don’t use VC at shutter Speeds faster than 1/500th second.”
This rule is NOT in the manual either. Others suggested not using VC if over the “one over the focal length” formula. For example, at 400mm, don’t use VC at speeds faster than 1/400th second.
“Use Mode 2 for panning.” (but remember the fine print)
Don’t use it for panning when on a tripod, and don’t use it when shutter speeds are faster than 1/500th second.
“Use Mode 1 for standard VC situations”.
As you press the shutter button slightly, you will be able to see the effects of VC through the viewfinder, or via Live View.
“For most non-panning, slow shutter speed, non tripod shots, consider using Mode 3.”
Actually, that’s not in the manual. I had a lengthy conversation with Marc Morris, a regional Tamron Sales Representative. The rule above is his recommendation. In VC Mode 3, pressing the shutter button down half way does not seem to do anything while looking through the viewfinder. Only when the shutter button is fully depressed does the lens lock down the VC effects.
Read the Manual!
I own a Nikon 200-400mm VR lens. On the side of the barrel, VR has two settings imprinted on it. Besides the slider to turn VR Off, One option is Normal and the other is Active. I wouldn’t need to read the manual to have a clue which one to use.
I own a Nikon 200-500mm VR lens. Similarly, it has Normal and Sport.
I own the original Tamron 150-600mm VC lens. It has one option. It is either On or Off.
With the Tamron G2, you simply see On/Off and another slider for Mode 1, 2 or 3. If you didn’t read the manual and are panning in Mode 1 or 3, you may not be getting optimum results. And, if you are not panning in Mode 2, your shots might be inferior.
For a shot like the owl taking off, I will often be shooting on a tripod, so VC would be OFF. If I am not on a tripod, the odds are high that my shutter speed will be 1/1000 or faster, so again, VC is OFF.
In this case, I was hand holding the gear, but my shutter speed was at 1/1250th second. VC was OFF.
I shot this one out the window of my truck after the sun had gone down. I did one set of shots at a 1/640th second, but the ISO jumped to 4000. VC OFF. I adjusted the shutter speed down to only 1/60th second and set the lens to VC Mode 3 ON. ISO dropped to 720. Of the three examples, this is the only one that needed VC.
VC and Fast Shutter Speeds
I don’t know if image quality actually suffers if you leave VC ON while shooting at fast shutter speeds, but leaving it ON compromises the frame rate. If I inadvertently left the VC ON, I can hear my frame rate being considerably slower.
AF Fine Tune
Immediately after purchasing a new lens, AF Fine Tune adjustments should be performed on each camera body. Nasim Mansurov at Photography Life covers this topic very well. I used a Lens-Align on my bodies and lenses. Marc Morris (Tamron Rep) suggested adding FoCal and a TAP-in Console to really dial the G2 lens in with each body. Tamron will perform this operation, but it requires sending the lens and body in to Tamron. In my case, I have three bodies and would have to do it three times.
I ordered a TAP-in Console to dial in the len’s internal adjustments. Apparently, it takes a little time to enter the settings for each lens, but after tuning it, the settings can be saved on a laptop computer via the USB cable. From what I now understand, the custom settings can be entered into the lens at any time using the computer, but it needs to have an Internet connection at the time of input. The lens would need to be calibrated for each body—in my case—three times. Each would have a saved set of values. If there are substantial differences in the settings for each body, the lens would need the data files downloaded to it via the computer if changing bodies. I’d like to see the ability to download the data files via cell phone, without need to connect to the internet.
Nikon bodies allow me to set only one value for each lens. Currently, the single setting is working well with this new G2 lens across all three bodies. The FoCal software and TAP-in Console will add another $200+/-, but will work with all of Tamron’s newer lenses.
- Reikan FoCal FoCal 2.0 Pro Lens Calibration $134.88
A Week in the Field
Below, I’ll add a few shots from the week. I processed them the same as I would normally process images from the G1 and first G2, along with my Nikon 200-500mm and Nikon 200-400mm.
Most of the images I took early in the week were hand held, often with slow shutter speeds and VC ON. I typically use faster shutter speeds and over a tripod, but the tests gave me a good idea of how far I can push the lens, following all of the guidelines suggested by the comments above. I didn’t do a lot of shots “dragging” the shutter while panning in VC2 Mode, so can’t comment on that mode. When I did use VC, I was in Mode 3, as suggested by the Tamron Rep. At 1/1250th second and 1/1600th second, I was able to freeze motion shots, while hand held. At 1/1000 second or faster, I was able to hand hold landscapes and slow moving subjects with no VC. When shooting out the window of my truck, I was able to hand hold much slower without needing the VC modes.
Rainy Night In Jackson Hole: I took the lens to downtown Jackson,WY on a rainy night, shooting with a D5 on a tripod. The G2 worked amazingly well at long shutter speeds. I used a RFN4s remote trigger and 3 second shutter delay to eliminate camera shake and mirror flap.
My wife and I took a trip to Costa Rica back in January. Instead of taking the new Tamron G2, I took my original G1 lens. All the time I was there, I felt like I made a good decision. If I had this new (replacement) G2 for a week prior to the trip, I am positive I would have taken it instead. The first G2 was boxed up and sent back to my dealer and my G1 is now hanging around for a backup or loaner. The G2 was paired primarily with my Nikon D5 all week. The D500 and D810 should get a workout over the next week or two.
Keep an eye on this Daily Journal page for a lot more G2 photos: April 2017 Daily Journal for JH and GTNP
Thanks to Chris Balmer and Perfect Light Camera and Supply for going to bat for me with Tamron.
Please Note: Many of the comments below were referencing the original post in which I was explaining all of my problems with the lens. This post would have been much different if my first G2 had not been so far out of spec.