Wild Places

The Art of Landscape and Travel Photography

Nikon 2.8/300mm vs. Tamron 5-6.3/150-600mm

Since I was not 100% satisfied with the performance of the Tamron 150-600mm (see my last blog post for details) I decided to return the lens and try the Nikon AF-S 2.8/300mm G ED VR II together with the teleconverter TC 20e III instead.

2.8/300mm

The 2.8/300mm is a real beauty. Build quality and mechanical construction are very good. A quick AF focus test showed that nearly no micro adjustments were necessary on both of my D800E (one stayed at 0 and the other one was adjusted to -1). The AF is extremely fast on this lens and the VR seems to work very well. Nearly all images shot handheld at 1/125 sec with VR on were sharp and I even got some very sharp images shot at 1/30 sec. Here is a 100% crop of an image shot handheld at 1/125 sec and ISO 1600 with VR on:

VR Test

I did a quick sharpness test of the lens both with and without the TC. To be able to compare the results to the images shot with the Tamron 150-600mm I used the same subject (a house wall) for the first test. The light was slightly different but after adjusting the WB a direct comparison should nevertheless be possible.

Since I described my test procedure in detail in my blog post of the Tamron test I won’t repeat it here. The Nikon was tested in the same way (for example AF and VR were switched off). Here is an image of the whole test subject:

Test Subject

The best way to compare the sharpness of two lenses is to have a look at the center and corner crops at different focal lengths and apertures.

Nikon 2.8/300mm, f/2.8, center:

300mm, f/2.8, center

Nikon 2.8/300mm, f/4, center:

300mm, f/4, center

Tamron 150-600mm, @300mm, f/5.6, center:

150-600mm, @300mm, f/5.6, center

Tamron 150-600mm, @300mm, f/8, center:

150-600mm, @300mm, f/8, center

Nikon 2.8/300mm, f/2.8, upper right corner:

300mm, f/2.8, corner

Nikon 2.8/300mm, f/4, upper right corner:

300mm, f/4, corner

Tamron 150-600mm, @300mm, f/5.6, upper right corner:

150-600mm, @300mm, f/5.6, corner

Tamron 150-600mm, @300mm, f/8, upper right corner:

150-600mm, @300mm, f/8, corner

Nikon 2.8/300mm, with TC 20 @600mm, f/5.6, center:

300mm, TC20, f/5.6, center

Nikon 2.8/300mm, with TC 20 @600mm, f/8, center:

300mm, TC20, f/8, center

Tamron 150-600mm, @600mm, f/6.3, center:

150-600mm, @600mm, f/6.3, center

Tamron 150-600mm, @600mm, f/8, center:

150-600mm, @600mm, f/8, center

Nikon 2.8/300mm,  with TC20 @600mm, f/5.6, upper right corner:

300mm, TC20, f/5.6, corner

Nikon 2.8/300mm, with TC20 @600mm, f/8, upper right corner:

300mm, TC20, f/8, corner

Tamron 150-600mm, @600mm, f/6.3, upper right corner:

150-600mm, @600mm, f/6.3, corner

Tamron 150-600mm, @600mm, f/8, upper right corner:

150-600mm, @600mm, f/8, corner

At 300mm the Tamron is stopped down to f/8 in the center even a bit sharper than the Nikon. The real strength of the Nikon is (besides the extremely fast AF) the even sharpness over the whole image wide open. The corners are already sharp at f/2.8. Stopping down to f/4 improves only slightly the contrast in the center area. The corners of the Tamron are at 300mm focal length never as sharp as the corners of the Nikon, even stopped down to f/8. Whether this matters or not depends on the subject. For wildlife photography a sharp center area is often sufficient but I would not use the Tamron for landscape images.

Surprisingly at 600mm the Tamron is much better than the Nikon with TC. While the Tamron is quite useable in the center area (although clearly not as good as at 300mm) the Nikon is even stopped to f/8 unacceptable soft even in the center (at close distances).

If you mainly shoot at 500mm or don’t need any sharp corners/edges I would recommend to get the Tamron 150-600mm. It is significantly cheaper and lighter. And at that focal length and in the center area the sharpness of the Tamron is very good. You just have to live with it’s shortcommings (corner sharpness above 500mm and below 400mm).

In addition I did some tests at infinity (only with the Nikon since I already had returned the Tamron). This is the test subject followed by some 100% crops of this scene:

Infinity Test

Nikon 2.8/300mm, f/2.8, center:

300mm, f/2.8, center

Nikon 2.8/300mm, f/4, center:

300mm, f/4, center

Nikon 2.8/300mm, f/5.6, center:

300mm, f/5.6, center

Nikon 2.8/300mm, f/2.8, corner:

300mm, f/2.8, corner

Nikon 2.8/300mm, f/4, corner:

300mm, f/4, corner

Nikon 2.8/300mm, f/5.6, corner:

300mm, f/5.6, corner

Nikon 2.8/300mm, with TC20 @600mm, f/5.6, center:

300mm, TC20, f/5.6, center

Nikon 2.8/300mm, with TC20 @600mm, f/8, center:

300mm, TC20, f/8, center

Nikon 2.8/300mm, with TC20 @600mm, f/11, center:

300mm, TC20, f/11, center

Nikon 2.8/300mm, with TC20 @600mm, f/5.6, corner:

300mm, TC20, f/5.6, corner

Nikon 2.8/300mm, with TC20 @600mm, f/8, corner:

300mm, TC20, f/8, corner

Nikon 2.8/300mm, with TC20 @600mm, f/11, corner:

300mm, TC20, f/11, corner

At infinity the IQ of the Nikon 2.8/300mm with the TC20 is much better, especially stopped down.

I’m not sure whether the bad IQ I got at close distances with the TC20 attached is normal for this lens/TC combination or whether there was something wrong with the TC or the lens. If possible I will try another 2.8/300mm and TC before making any decisions regarding my long lens for the next years.

4 Responses to “Nikon 2.8/300mm vs. Tamron 5-6.3/150-600mm”

    • Boris

      Yes, the Nikon is much more expensive (by the way in Europe 5100€ vs. 1300€ for the Tamron). But I think it is still a valid comparison since the Tamron is much better than the cheaper alternatives. The only other options in that focal length range with very good IQ are the Nikon 80-400G for 2500€ and the Sigma 120-300 for 3500€. If you would compare the Nikon 2.8/300mm with the new 2.8/400 the price difference would be even greater (5100€ vs. 12000€).

      Reply
  1. Ad

    Those pictures done with Nikon 2.8/300mm, + TC 20 @600mm, f/8, center: are some kind of a joke, right?. They are obviously out of focus, or you have something wrong with your TC.
    I have results, miles better, on my Nikon 300mm f/4 + TC 2.0IIIe at f/8.

    Reply
    • Boris

      No joke and clearly not out of focus since I used MF with LV at max zoom. It could be that either the lens or the TC were out of spec. Since I could not really identify the root cause I returned both the lens and the TC.

      Boris

      Reply

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