Exclusive Review of the Tamron 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC HLD
In recent times Tamron has come to be known well for its zoom-telephoto lenses. For instance, there was a considerable amount of success that the Tamron 16-300mm enjoyed before the launch of its successor. TheTamron 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC HLDwas launched recently in India and is the company’s evolution from the 16-300mm F3.5/5.6.
The 16-300mm had a zoom ratio of 18.8x and with the launch of the new 18-400mm, Tamron has launched the ‘world’s first ultra-telephoto all-in-one zoom lens that offers a 22.2x Zoom Ratio’. This means it offers the best of an Ultra-wide 18mm in a combined body with a 400mm telephoto option. The manufacturer has launched this at an extremely affordable price of Rs. 55,000 and aims to target any enthusiasts who are looking for one single lens to fulfil all their shooting needs.
The 18-400mm is an APSC lens which means it features a crop factor of 1.6x on a Canon mount and 1.5x on a Nikon mount. This means effectively it turns to a 29-640mm zoom lens on the Canon mount which we have used for the review. And for our readers who don’t follow what this means, then in simple words when you put this lens on a APSC body then it gets converted from a 400mm lens, which is its maximum range x 1.6 times on a Canon body giving us a farthest reach of 640mm. And a focal range of 620mm on a Nikon body with a 1.5x multiplication.
Look, Body and Feel
When it comes to the design, structure and the body of the lens then there are certain pluses and minus. For the sort of range that the lens provides it is housed in a very compact structure, and Tamron deserves much credit for the same. It seems pretty light as compared to the other telephoto zoom lenses in the same category and also the everything about the materials used in making the product screams tough, durable and rich.
It features a Design that houses 16 elements in 11 groups. The lens is divided into 3 structures in order to make it light and compact. The 3rdstructure houses the lens when its contracted and on extension the 2ndand the third housing is extended. But while Tamron has used this technology to make the lens compact it also acts as a small spoiler for the lens that we received for the review. The lens seems a little stiff when you are extending and using it in a real-world shooting scenario and this can pose a major challenge. I regularly found myself having this issue while zooming into the subject. But in time with the constant use of the same, it did tend to get slightly smoother in operation.
The lens is also weather sealed and comes with a ring lock in order to stop it from accidentally extending when not in use. A feature that many photographers/enthusiasts will surely appreciate.
There are number of key features that the lens provides and they are below:
World’s first 22.2x Zoom ratio:
The lens is the world’s first lens to provide a zoom ratio of 22.2x with a max focal length of 400mm and beats the other options in the same category which includes popular manufacturers like Canon, Nikon and Sigma to name a few, all of whom have a 300mm lens in their portfolio.
Perspective flattening effect
Another feature that the lens provides is the Perspective flattening effect. Under this effect the background tends to draw closer and the effect appears stronger as the focal length gets longer. This makes the image look more dramatic, something similar to how the Portrait Mode on the new iPhones work. Now this isn’t different from any telephoto lens ideally, but this seems more pronounced with the Tamron lens.
The 18-400mm also features the HLD (High/Low Torque Modulated Drive) motor developed by Tamron and is used for AF movement. With less mechanical contact compared to DC motor, both noise level and reliability are improved in HLD motor according to the manufacturer. The motor also has also enabled the company to minimise the size of the lens.
In terms of the performance we checked the lens for the overall image quality, zoom ratio, chromatic aberration, distortion, flare and ghosting and bokeh among others.
We shot subjects at different focal lengths of 50mm, 200mm and 400mm and the performance of the lens in daylight conditions were very good. As seen in the sample images, the results are very sharp even on zooming in at 100% and there doesn’t seem to be much loss of detail. The lens produces well saturated colours and also doesn’t provide any issue while Focus Hunting.
But as good as the lenses performance is in daytime, it seems to lag slightly in low-light conditions. There tends to be loss in details in the night time, but we can’t really hold this against Tamron since most lenses in such situations are almost the same.
In terms of Chromatic Aberration, we ran the images through a benchmarking software which gave us an output of 3.22 pixels, which is fairly average for the telephoto lenses in this category.
We checked the distortion by shooting images at both 18mm as well as 400mm. The images showcased a high amount of distortion. As seen in these images the building appears to be leaning instead in a straight line which means it has a high amount of distortion.
Anti-Flare and Anti-Ghosting:
We pointed the lens to a light source to check its performance in this department and the lens performed well in this department displaying very minimal flare and ghosting. Most lens in such categories display a high amount of flare and ghosting.
Quality of Bokeh:
The quality of bokeh in the lens is pretty good and the reason why this is an important point is because when you are using a longer focal length and clicking subjects a good quality bokeh gives you a well-rounded circle which makes the pictures really stand out.
In conclusion, there are number of things that the new 18-400mm from Tamron has going for itself. It delivers excellent performance in day-light conditions with sharp and detailed images combined with a decent low-light performance. The images are well saturated with the lens focusing really fast and the quality of bokehs are good.
But while it has some great things about itself there are also certain cautions when it comes to buying this lens. It has an average level of Chromatic Aberration but a high-level of distortion. And we would’ve liked that zoom ring to be a lot smoother.
So this brings us to the question whether you should by this lens or not? This ideally boils down to the what you are planning to use this lens for. If you are looking for an all-in-one lens that is a decent performer, then this is the perfect lens for you.
But if you are looking for a lens which delivers professional level performance then this might not be the lens for you. But if you are looking for that level of performance then be ready to shell out lenses which might cost nearly 2-3 times the Tamron 18-400mm.
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