Lens Review: Tamron 100-400MM F/4.5-6.3 DI VC USD

May 15, 2018

By Greg Scoblete

Like many of us anxiously contemplating the approach of beach season, Tamron has sought to shed pounds. Unlike many of us (okay, us) Tamron has actually succeeded: Its new telephoto zoom lens is among the lightest in its class.

We turned the 100-400mm f/4.5-6.3 (model A035) over to N.J. commercial photographer David Patiño  to see what it could do.


Autofocusing and vibration reduction are driven by Micro Processing Units (MPUs) for enhanced performance. The AF system uses an ultrasonic drive motor for high-speed operation. VC delivers up to four stops of correction, per CIPA standards, and is available in two modes. Mode 1 balances between the stability of the image in the viewfinder and the final capture while Mode 2 stabilizes the lens during panning.

You’ll find Tamron’s eBand coating and three low-dispersion glass elements to minimize optical aberrations.

The 100-400mm can focus on objects as close as 59 inches with a magnification ratio of 1:3.6. There are nine circular aperture blades that stop down to f/32-45, depending on the focal length.

You can use Tamron’s 1.4x teleconverter with the 100-400mm as well as the TAP-in Console for firmware updates and other lens tweaks.

As with all new Tamron lenses, the Nikon mount features an electromagnetic diaphragm (long a standard on Canon lenses) for more accurate exposure during continuous shooting.


One of the major selling points of the new 100-400mm is its weight, or lack thereof. At 40 ounces, it’s significantly lighter than Canon’s EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM and a tad lighter than Sigma’s 100—400mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM.

Despite its light weight, you’ll still enjoy moisture-resistance in the body and fluorine coating on the front lens element which makes it easier to clean. There’s no tripod collar included with the lens, so you’re out an extra $130 if you want one.

You’ll enjoy a nice, wide, rubberized zoom ring and a smaller focus ring. There are switches for manual and autofocusing plus full-time manual focus override if you need to adjust focus manually during autofocus. There’s also a focus limiter to set the lens to focus from 7m to infinity or from 1.5m to 7m. You can change these default settings, but only with the optional TAP-in Console.

© David Patiño

While it may attract birders, our co-tester was impressed with the lens’s performance shooting studio portraits. © David Patiño

Image Quality & Performance

A 100-400mm may be more at home in the woods and reeds than in the studio, but Patiño, long a fan of 100mm for portraits, found it made a surprisingly good portrait lens. Mounted to his Canon 5DS, the lens held excellent details even as we zoomed into a model’s hair. It was also fairly sharp out to the corners, with minimal light loss. There was very little visible distortion.

Patiño tells us he was impressed with the image quality considering the cost of the lens. “It was really sharp and does a solid job,” he says.

“The stabilization is great, I had no trouble shooting handheld,” he adds. Focusing was also relatively swift, though at times he says it would search a bit more than he was expecting.

Bottom Line

With its variable aperture, the 100-400mm lens isn’t the fastest telephoto you can buy, but it offers a compelling combo of features and image quality for the price. It lacks the weather sealing and close focusing capabilities of its costlier and heavier Canon counterpart, but does offer closer focusing than the Sigma lens it competes with (though the Sigma is less expensive).

Tamron 100-400mm f/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD


PROS: Inexpensive; great image quality for the price; very lightweight.
CONS: Tripod collar not included.
PRICE: $799

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