I’m always a little hesitant when it comes to using all-in-one cameras. But Tamron’s 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 for Sony E-mount has subsided my concerns. It’s the best all-in-one lens I’ve used to date.
When you travel or want to carry light, an all-in-one lens is probably on your short list of things to pick up. Tamron’s 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 is a joy to use, providing fast, accurate autofocus and a surprisingly good sharpness. While I used the lens on my full-frame Sony a1, it’s designed for APS-C cameras. If you have a Sony a6xxx series camera, this lens should definitely be on your list.
- Small and well-balanced
- Surprising sharpness
- Quick, accurate autofocus
- Great focal length to capture all sorts of scenes
- Zoom ring is a bit stiff
- Warmer color tones might cause some colors that look slightly off
Tamron 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 — Technical specifications
All technical specifications for the Tamron 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 have been taken directly from the product listing page on the Tamron website:
- Four low dispersion elements
- Three hybrid aspherical elements
- Maximum aperture: f/3.5–f/6.3
- Minimum aperture: f/22–f/40
- Rounded 7-blade diaphragm
- Filter size: 67mm
- Minimum focus distance: 5.9″ (wide) / 39″ (tele)
- Dimensions: 3 x 4.9″
- Weight: 21.9 oz / 620 g
- Image stabilization: Yes
Tamron 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 — Ergonomics and build quality
If you’ve used any of Tamron’s other lenses for E-mount, the design and feel of the 18-300mm won’t be surprising. And that’s a good thing. I’ve always found that Tamron’s mirrorless lenses feel great in the hands. They’re quick to operate, despite having the zoom ring move in the opposite direction as Sony’s native lenses.
I did find the zoom ring to be a little stiff, meaning that you had to apply more pressure than expected to get it to move. Contrast this against Tamron’s 70-180mm f/2.8 and 28-200mm f/2.8-5.6 for E-mount, and you’ll find it’s a bit more difficult to move. It’s by no means a deal-breaker, but it’s something to keep in mind if you plan to photograph a lot of action.
The Tamron 18-300mm is definitely a well-construction lens that feels well-balanced and right in the hands.
Tamron 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 — In the field
I used the Tamron 18-300mm a few different times, photographing both nature at Frederick Meijer Gardens, and a few walking events downtown (to specifically test the autofocus). As I walked around, the lens felt very sturdy. It wasn’t heavy, but wasn’t extremely light, either. It was a great balance.
Throughout my experiences, I found the lens very easy to use. There’s only one switch on the lens, to lock the zoom ring.
Having used all-in-one lenses before, I wasn’t anticipating great autofocus. But the Tamron 18-300mm blew me away here. It was quick to focus, and focusing was spot-on. Using my a1, I was able to track bees as they landed on various flowers, and even fish as they swam underwater.
The lens also performed well during the walks I photographed, one of which had a tricky light situation with some weird shadows and highlights present. Despite this, the Tamron 18-300mm was rock solid, providing me with in-focus, sharp photographs.
The only time I ran into an issue was where there were similarly shaded colors. In the close-up of the sculpture above, it initially had problems focusing on the sharp edge of the sculpture, instead wanting to focus on the part behind it. This can be a common trip-up for some lenses, but a quick physical movement on my end solved this problem.
Tamron 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 — Image quality and characteristics
A note to be said abut using the Tamron 18-300mm on a full-frame camera. Whenever you use an APS-C lens on a full-frame camera, your megapixel count will drop in half. This gives you a little less room to work with in terms of post-processing and cropping down your images.
That said, on my a1, the 25-megapixel images I captured had very good image quality. When cropping down and viewing at 100%, I noticed some noise, but nothing that wasn’t fixable.
Distortion control, vignetting and chromatic aberration
One of the things I kept an eye out for, especially on the wide end, was any distortion. I photographed a small building at Frederick Meijer Gardens, and saw no distortion in the image at all. Lines were perfectly straight.
Likewise, photographing close to a subject also didn’t cause any bowing effect.
In terms of vignetting, the Tamron was pretty clean here too, with only some minor vignetting at the edges. I happen to like a slight vignette in my images, so this isn’t something I would correct for.
Finally, I also tested for chromatic aberration, both with the building and with a sculpture. The lens did not show any signs of it.
One thing I’ve learned about Tamron is they control those potential problem spots very well, making it easier to focus on being creative in-camera.
In addition to my impressions with the autofocus, the sharpness was also a delight with this lens. While at the gardens, we stumbled upon some mushrooms back in the woods. The 18-300mm not only allowed me to get a close-up view of these, but it also provided a very good look at the texture that they presented.
And that bee from earlier? Zooming in told me that it was perfectly sharp.
Wide-open, the lens has really nice sharpness. But even shooting at f/6.3, it was very, very crisp across the view. I showed very little signs of any softness in the corners, and the center was spot-on.
The bokeh that the Tamron 18-300mm produces is pretty round, which I appreciate. As you close on your aperture, this makes it a bit more life-like, instead of the cat eye bokeh you often see with other lenses.
In the above portrait of my friend Dan, and a few subjects, the bokeh had a soft, pleasing effect to help separate the subject from the background. This is something I just did not expect to experience with the Tamron 18-300mm, and I’m glad I did.
At f/6.3 (with the mushroom photos above), you can see it can get a little muddied at times. But it still is a pleasing effect, to me anyway.
I’ve always found that Tamron lenses produce beautiful colors, and the 18-300mm is no different. While Sony is often mocked for its green hues in the way that its cameras produce photographs, I’ve found that Tamron actually shifts these to be slightly warmer, and more pleasing.
While some find this an inconvenience, I find that it helps to balance that green look, especially with skin tones.
For some of the photos throughout this article, I pushed it a bit, giving it a Shade preset. This was done in order to accentuate the fall colors (and to deal with the conditions at hand). Overall I was very happy with the colors that this lens produced.
A great, everyday workhorse for APS-C mirrorless cameras
If you’re looking for an everyday mirrorless lens for your crop-sensor body, look no further. The Tamron 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 for E-mount outperformed my expectations. The Fuji variant is due soon as well, so stay tuned for our thoughts on that.
The lens is well-built, fast to focus and has so many things going for it. It’s well-balanced no matter what camera you put it on, and the picture quality is superb. Add in image stabilization and weather sealing, and Tamron has made a winner here.
Tamron 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di III-A VC VXD (E-mount)
The 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 is an all-in-one zoom lens for Sony E APS-C mirrorless cameras. It’s the first lens in the world for APS-C mirrorless with a zoom ratio of 16.6x and 18-300mm focal length range. Zooming from wide-angle to ultra-telephoto, it covers a broad array of shooting situations. The mirrorless lens has a compact design that makes it easy to carry every day, and it is ideal for travel and family activities.