Is The Tamron 16-300mm The Best Walk Around Lens For APS-C Cameras?

Is The Tamron 16-300mm The Best Walk Around Lens For APS-C Cameras?

If you own a DSLR camera it means you take your photography relatively seriously. And that means you might be looking at adding to your kit lenses. But if you don’t have the budget, what’s the best walk around lens that will cover you in almost any situation?

From the start, I should mention that this relates to APS-C format cameras, or DSLR cameras which have smaller sensors than full frame cameras and have a crop factor around the 1.6x mark (in the case of the Canon 7dmkii). For me, the best walk around lens is definitely the Tamron 16–300mm. Why? Let me give you 3 reasons: versatility; design; and price.

The Tamron 16-300mm's Versatility

When I first bought the Tamron 16–300mm I was looking for a lens that I could take with me anywhere and would be suitable in almost any situation.I didn’t have the money to get the best lens in each focal range so I wanted one lens to cover me for everything from wide-angle landscapes through to shooting high action sports from a distance. The Tamron has never let me down. Below I will show you some pictures I have shot with the Tamron to show you its versatility.

This was shot on the island of Tanegashima, in the far south-west of Japan. I shot this at 18mm and got right in close to those rocks in the foreground. The sharpness and clarity of this image are fantastic, and this photo has been used in a calendar by the island’s Chamber of Commerce.

This photo above was taken during the typhoon season which hits Japan from July to November every year. I shot this at 280mm, which was effectively 450mm with the APS-C sensor. This place doesn’t allow you to get a close vantage point so having the incredible zoom capability of the Tamron 16-300mm was a huge bonus in allowing me to get this shot.

This waterfall photo was taken in Yakushima, a world heritage listed island in the very south west of Japan, just south of Kagoshima. I got down low in front of these rocks and used the Tamron 16–300 mm at 28 mm. I also used an ND grad filter to get the silky effect on the water.

I love this photo. The one car train and the lush greenery perfectly encapsulate Miyazaki, the prefecture in Japan where I live. This was shot at 120mm, handheld without a tripod. This photo has been syndicated by the prefecture in a number of promotions, and still remains one of my bestsellers in Japan.

This shrine gate on the mythical island of Aoshima, in Miyazaki, Japan, was shot at 5 o’clock in the morning just after sunset in the warm Japanese summer. I had to stand a fair distance from the shrine gate in order to get the leading lines of the water rushing across the sand. It’s a handheld photo using Tamron’s patented Vibration Control (VC) system, where I waited for people to walk under the shrine gate so I could capture their silhouette. This was shot at 180mm.

This final shot was taken at Duranbah beach, on Australia’s Gold Coast. It is a wonderful view looking down at this beach during the day and this shot was taken at 225mm, handheld (effectively 360mm). Again, I used Tamron’s Vibration Control system to stabilize the image and the sharpness throughout the frame is fantastic.

These six pictures that you've just seen demonstrate the versatility of the Tamron 16-300mm perfectly. Whether it's shooting landscapes or seascapes at 20mm or less or shooting fast moving action such as surfing zoomed to almost 300mm, the Tamron offers more options than almost any other lens. And in regards to quality, I can only judge by the fact that I've never had any editor turn away a photo I've taken with the Tamron and submitted for print or publication.

The Tamron 16-300mm's Design

One of the great things I really love about the Tamron 16-300mm is its compact design and size. Even though it has a focal range of 16mm–300 mm, it is incredibly easy to handle and has some great features that its competitors don’t have.To get a good idea of just how compact it is, take a look at this comparison photo below.

The smaller lens on top is the Tamron 16-300mm. And the giant lens below is the Tamron 150-600mm. Now don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the Tamron 150–600mm telephoto lens. However, it is big, bulky, and heavy. In this photo, you can see it is more than double the size of the 16-300 mm Tamron, and much, much harder to carry around and shoot handheld.

In this next photo below you can see how the Tamron 16-300mm stacks up against the Tamron 150-600mm and the Canon 24-105mm L Series lens.

In the photo above, the Tamron 16-300mm is the lens in the middle. You can clearly see that it is easily the smallest of the three. It is not as bulky as the Canon nor as long. It fits nice and snuggly in your hand and is incredibly compact for a lens that offers so much in terms of its focal range. The Canon lens only has a focal range of 24-105mm yet is much bigger and bulkier than the Tamron. And when you attach the Canon lens to the body of your camera, you can definitely feel the difference. So much so that I have left the Canon lens at home at times simply because I knew I could get what I wanted from the Tamron and I didn't want to bother with the bulk of the Canon.

Another design feature which I really love about the Tamron 16–300mm is the ability to lock it in place at the focal range you desire. There is a simple lock switch you can see in the picture above which, when activated, prevents the lens from involuntarily zooming out and lengthening.This is especially handy when you’re traveling or walking around and you don’t want the lens to keep lengthening and lengthening without your knowledge. You simply click the lock switch and it doesn’t move.

The same can’t be said for the Canon 24–105mm lens. You can see from the photo below how the Canon 24-105mm lens has a tendency to creep on you. For me, I only need to take a few steps when I'm out and about with the Canon lens hanging from the strap around my neck and suddenly it has zoomed out fully to 105mm. Very annoying!

You might not think this is a big deal but the photo below shows you just what a difference it makes. The ability to keep the Tamron 16-300mm locked and compact is very convenient. And vice versa applies for the Canon 24-105mm lens. In the photo below I have the Tamron 16-300mm on my Canon 7d mkii, and my Canon 24-105mm on my Canon 5d mkiv.

You can see how the Tamron is far less bulky and cumbersome simply because it has the lock features which prevents lens creeping. If only Canon lenses would follow suit!

The Tamron 16-300mm's Price

As I said at the start, I originally bought the Tamron 16–300mm lens because I didn’t have the budget to get higher range lenses in the different focal range categories. I needed one lens to cover most situations. So you'd think that a lens that is so versatile and offers such good quality throughout the zoom range, and almost eliminates the need for many different lenses would be astronomical in price. But it’s not. At just $599 it is an incredible value and is cheaper than any other lens I have used with commercial success.

So if you’re looking for a lens that you can take anywhere with you and will be suitable for almost any conditions you encounter then I can’t go past the Tamron 16–300 mm.

Please comment below if you have any experience with the Tamron or if you have an alternative which you think might be a good match.

And if you think this might help your friends or family or any other people interested in photography then hit the share button.

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23 Comments

Chris PLUNKETT's picture

Yes I really luuuuuuurve my 16-300 Tamron.I finally got rid of my gothic monstrosity Bigma 50-500 and really don't miss the extra reach at the top end but like the improvement at the bottom end.
I used to train by bench pressing a double decker bus when I was going away for the weekend to use the 50-500,now I just feast on low fat scones when I need to use the 16-300.

good article im super interested in putting one of these to work now

Iain Stanley's picture

Cheers Eddie. It hasn’t let me down in any situation and is one of those lenses that you can always count on.

Han Seoul-Oh's picture

this reads like a poorly written, paid, "testimonial" you see in ad copy.

Negativity and trolls abound no matter where you go, what the product.

Iain Stanley's picture

I don’t mind negativity if it’s from people talkig about the product itself. My experience with the Tamron 16-300mm has been nothing but good, hence my words :)

Iain Stanley's picture

Haha you’d be fun to talk to at a party.....

This may be the first lens "review" I've seen where the lens aperture isn't even referenced.

Chris PLUNKETT's picture

Sharpest at F8 and F11,not too bad down low and still reasonable at the top if that's what you mean.

Iain Stanley's picture

It’s a lens that was released a number of years ago. If you want specs they’re easy to find with a simple search. I much prefer giving a kind of ‘my experience with’ type of review.

Sounds like a great travel option to build a small APS-C combo. And you probably still have space to bring a prime or two (like a nifty 50 and a fast wide angle, like Samyang's 16mm f/2).

Iain Stanley's picture

Exactly spot on! That’s the combo I take whenever I travel with my 7d ( typically I use a 5d mk iv) - Tamron 16-300; nifty fifty, Sigma 10-20mm

the good old Guilty Pleasure Lens. I have the Nikon 28-300mm for vacationing and just spent an extended weekend in the San Francisco area with it glued to my Nikon D850. For vacation photos I'm going to post online? Unbeatable.

Iain Stanley's picture

Yeah it really does cover almost everything you need when you’re away. But I have to go further and say it’s been a great earner for me too, when you’d think other lenses might outperform it considerably.....

I bought one for about the same reasons as the OP... I've been reasonably satisfied with it's performance overall. Ditto earlier comment about taking one or two primes along as well (with their increased aperture performance in low light); provides a pretty good kit for many situations. One thing I often have to deal with in post is chromatic aberration, but that's pretty simple to address in my workflow. I did have issues with fine-tuning focus on a recently purchased 7DM2, but Canon Professional Services looked at the body and did some maintenance which resolved the issue. Interestingly, they allowed me to send this lens along with the body for their diagnosis (they obviously did not service the lens).

Iain Stanley's picture

Interesting re. the 7dmii but as you got it fixed all’s well. You’re right about the CA, but usually a click of a button in LR etc fixes that so not such a big problem. Without the quality of editing software we have today you might be a bit more concerned about it but pretty much everyone uses some form of software that can take care of CA.

I was just about to get this when the 18-400mm came out. I was blessed to get a great specimen that is crisp even at 400 wide open.

Iain Stanley's picture

18-400! Now that just takes things to a whole new level. Is that for APS-C format cameras? That’s some serious range

Yes, just for crop sensors. But that gives you an equivalent range of 600-640mm, depending on Canon vs. Nikon, which is truly insane. I stopped using my Bigma after getting this because this uprezzed 20% still gave me better results optically than the Bigma, which I really love.

"was shot at 5 o’clock in the morning just after sunset in the warm Japanese summer"

Probably meant 5 o'clock in the afternoon to be just before sunset or near sunset. Had to read that bit twice and had a bit of a chuckle. Personally I find sunrise to be a better time for landscapes at landmarks because there are fewer people to possibly interfere with the serenity. This shot was nicely done whatever the time of day.

Iain Stanley's picture

Should read sunrise! Yes it’s a far better time, especially where I live. Take my surfboards and my camera gear, there’s always one option, sometimes both. Thanks for the heads up

It's my lens of choice 90% of the time. You didn't mention it's terrific macro capability (sample attached). You can see more samples of my photos with this lens here: http://gordonpritchard.blogspot.ca/

Iain Stanley's picture

Great shot. You’re absolutely right. I left macro alone because it’s not my forte but I have seen some outstanding results. It doesn’t offer 1:1 magnification like a “true” macro but nonetheless, results are excellent. As your shot shows!