Tamron 150-600 vs Canon 400 5.6


Tamron 150-600 vs Canon 400 5.6

Latest update: Canon 100-400 II compared

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This is not a technical comparison of these highly popular wildlife lenses just my ideas about these two lenses. You can see my reviews about both lenses at the review section. I very much interested in birds/wildlife photography and wildlife photography equipment as well. My interest started when I realized that the quality of my pictures highly depend on the quality of equipment, especially the lenses I use. I checked both lenses and read anything available about this lenses on the internet as well. I wanted to learn about other people’s opinions as well, if they see some other aspects and have different experience which I do not have. I think about these lenses a lot lately.

Basic Informations about these two lenses
Canon 400 f/5.6 L lens

tamron 150-600 vs canon 400 5.6
very old, very popular, highly regarded, not so heavy, excellently build, super fast focusing prime lens, the cheapest really good quality super telephoto, bird in flight lens
Specs: 1339 dollar(the price nicely increasing year by year), 400mm f/5.6 1260g, 77mm filter, Minimum focusing distance is 3.5m

Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 lens

tamron 150-600 vs canon 400 5.6
The newest longest telephoto zoom lens with excellent performance even wide open up to 400-500mm, with excellent stabilizer, fast autofocus, excellent price, must wait months to have one, in Canon, Nikon and Sony mount, Canon Nikon already available (in a sense you can pre order and some time you can get) don’t hear about Sony yet, perhaps because of the huge demand. The Tamron is a fantastic deal compare to other lenses in the market, even more for Nikon and Sony.
Specs:1069 dollar,150-600mm f/5-6.3, 1950g, 95mm filter, MFD: 2.7 m

Common characteristics

Both of them is the cheapest really good category wildlife lens, huge and heavy, quick focus, very good build, neither of them really bright, mostly good in sunshine, and because of long focal length high shutter speed or tripod is needed.


Canon 400mm f/5.6 L
Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 vc
Canon EF Canon EF
Filter size:
77 mm 95 mm
Lens elements / groups:
7 / 6 20 / 13
Exotic Lens elements:
1 Super UD and 1 UD 3 low dispersion elements
1340 g ( oz. ) 1951 g ( oz. )
90 x 256.5 mm ( x ” ) 257 x 105.6mm ( . x . ” )
Close focus distance:
3.5 m ( “) 2.7 m ( “)
USM ring-type ultrasonic USM ring-type ultrasonic
No yes
Manual focus autofocus, stabilizer on-off Manual focus autofocus, stabilizer on-off
Lens Mount:
Metal Metal
Full frame Full frame
0.12 x 0.2 x
Reproduction ratio:
1 : 8 1 : 5
Aperture blades:
8 9
Distance scale:
yes yes
Manual focus override:
yes yes
Focal length:
400 mm 150 – 600 mm
Telecoverter compatible:
Yes No
Max Aperture:
constant f/5.6 f/5 -f/6.3
Min Aperture:
f/32 f/32-f/40
Angle of view:
6° 10′ on Full frame / °’ °16 25′ – 4° 8′
Focus limiter:
yes 8.5m yes 15m
Front element rotates?:
No No
FTM (Manual focus override):
yes yes
User experience

Both lens is perfectly hand holdable. The Canon is significantly lighter though. With the lens hood attached both lens is huge. The Canon has built in hood which is preferable and more comfortable. The zoom is a much more fun lens with it’s wide range and long focal length, compare to the prime which is like look through a pipe, not zooming and much limited scope. On the other hand the prime is much better build. The 400mm focal length is very good for wildlife, but 600mm is more preferable.

The Canon is sharper at 400mm at f/5.6, especially has better contrast. The Canon build quality and autofocus is more reassuring for me. On the other hand the Tamron is a zoom lens. I checked several Sigma zooms and at the long end I don’t like the result. I also tested the Canon 100-400mm zoom lens, and to my surprise I would say the Tamron is better. The difference is minimal, the Canon perhaps better contrast but fuzzier image, the Tamron’s image looks more natural for me. At shorter distances the Tamron is very sharp, sharper at 300mm than at 150mm, but very sharp at 400mm wide open as well. Not bad at 600mm wide open f/6.3 as well, but obviously here is the weakest. If there is enough light is better to stop down to f/10-f/11 the depth of field is more as well.
The Tamron has an advantage over Canon has much wider range and you can frame the subject as you like, if you want a landscape with a bird it is possible, tight head shots are also possible, or anything between. With a Canon you have what you see, it is not realistic to go back and forth a lot in wildlife photography in order framing differently because you don’t have time for it and scare the subject away with any movement. The Tamron is heavier(1950 vs 1260g) but has stabilizer for non-moving or slowly moving subjects. The Tamron is black. I am not sure that high pixel bodies how good with the Tamron. Current 18 megapixel cameras has a diffraction limit around f/7. For a 600mm f/8-f/11 the ideal aperture depending on subject distance as well. I mostly prefer primes for long telephoto because of simpler optical design, better build quality, lesser dust issues, and better usage with teleconverters.

Which is better at 600mm

With a Kenko attached the Canon 400mm f/5.6 become an 560mm f/8. The Tamron is f/6.3 at 600mm, so the Tamron has an advantage. If you use the viewfinder as usually I do the difference in brightness is quite important. f/8 is quite dark in the viewfinder. I don’t have the chance yet to compare the two combination to each other, but I would be really surprised if the Canon would be better than the Tamron at 600mm a little stopped down. at f/8-f/11. The results can be different for different cameras bodies depend on pixel density.

Little optical insight

Although I compare these two lenses here, they are completely different kind of lenses. The Canon 400 f/5.6 prime has few lens elements(7 elements in 6 groups) included one super UD lens element, while the Tamron features many lens elements (20 elements in 13 groups). What does this tells? The prime lens is usually superior in terms of contrast and colors because of the few lens elements. Obviously most people interested in the optical performance at the long end, nobody will bring a huge beast for 150-300mm range, where it is possible to find much lighter alternatives.

What is more appealing in the Tamron for me the following things: 150mm wide end for landscapes, great versatility, no changing lenses converters etc, cheaper price, I can put it on a Nikon Dx camera, which is much better in terms of dynamic range, resolution and high ISO performance, but the pictures looks differently, which is one people like other don’t. Regarding the color for me it is hard to decide like it or not, I like very much the lack of noise, better colors, and especially higher dynamic range, but like the look of the Canon camera pictures. The most interesting thing would be to put the Canon lens on the Nikon camera, for example my Canon 200mm, I would be very curious how the picture would look on the Nikon.

What is more appealing in the Canon: better autofocus, better image quality like contrast and colors, better stronger build, less weight.

Competiton alternatives

I wouldn’t advise any Sigma xx-500mm zooms over these lenses. Sony has a 70-400 G2 for 2000 dollar. Canon 100-400 is available for 1700. I wouldn’t prefer it over the new Tamron 150-600. The build quality of the 100-400 is better, picture quality similar, but the Tamron looks little cleaner for me.

Meantime Canon released the new Canon 100-400 II lens which is even better, than the prime according to early reviews but for significantly higher price.

Sigma 150-600mm

In the meantime Sigma produced a Sigma 150-600mm lens in two versions: a more expensive Sports version and a little cheaper version, with little simpler optical formula. Seems the Sports version is app the same as the Tamron, but the Tamron has more saturation / contrast than the Sigma. The Sigma is much heavier or better build and more expensive as well. I cannot checked the Sigma lens, just comparisons on the net, but I would certainly prefer the Tamron or the Canon 400mm over the Sigma.

Which one to buy?

I also think about it:) I thought to have a Tamron to my Nikon D7000 would be better, but don’t like to wait half year. Another thing that both lens price is 50% higher in Hungary. For 1069 dollar I would buy the Tamron in a minute, if it would be available. So is life…If I can get the Canon cheaper perhaps get that.

Further reading:
Tamron 150-600 review
Canon 400mm f5.6 review

 Posted by at 11:43 am