A 'Game-changer': That’s How This Reviewer Describes the New Tamron 50-400mm f/4.5-6.3 Di III VC VXD

"Game-changer" is an oft-used buzzword these days, but seldom does the product live up to the hype. See why this photographer is adamant the new Tamron 50-400mm f/4.5-6.3 Di III VC VXD lens is indeed a game-changer.

I've long been an advocate for third-party lenses. As I got more serious about my photography and started earning a little more money, I began collecting all sorts of third-party lenses alongside my native lens lineup. I have lenses from the likes of Sigma, Tokina, Tamron, and Rokinon, but if I'm being honest, I've always felt that Tamron was at the top of the third-party totem pole. To be clear, I have no affiliation with Tamron and am receiving no sly brown paper bag kickbacks. I simply love the lenses they create, particularly their zoom lenses that have a huge focal range.

And that brings us to this great video by Dustin Abbott, in which he introduces and reviews the new Tamron 50-400mm f/4.5-6.3 Di III VC VXD for Sony E mount mirrorless cameras. When I initially saw him describe the lens as a game-changer, I cringed a little because it's a word used far too often, usually with little justification. But as he makes his case for this Tamron lens, it's hard to argue with his genuine enthusiasm. With its huge focal range of 50-400mm, its outstanding image quality at all lengths, and its relatively affordable price of $1,299, Abbott makes some pretty good points. The only downside is that it's only available (for now) on Sony E mount mirrorless cameras. What do you think? Is it a genuine game-changer?

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Iain Stanley is an Associate Professor teaching photography and composition in Japan. Fstoppers is where he writes about photography, but he's also a 5x Top Writer on Medium, where he writes about his expat (mis)adventures in Japan and other things not related to photography. To view his writing, click the link above.

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Iain Stanley asked,

"What do you think? Is it a genuine game-changer?"

I wouldn't go so far as to say it would be a game changer for me. And I can't see it being a "genuine game changer" for anyone else, either, according to the literal definition of the term.

"Game changer" is thrown around too casually. Taken literally, it doesn't mean that it changes the way you play the game, but rather that the game itself is now different.

Would photography itself now be an entirely different activity if I had a 50-400mm on my camera body? No. It would mean that I only have to carry two lenses instead of three, for many of my shoots. But a product that makes photography more convenient doesn't actually change photography - it just makes it easier.

So the answer would have to be "no", a 50-400mm does not change photography itself, it just makes it a bit easier and more convenient. You still photograph the same subjects in the same conditions that you photographed when you didn't have a 50-400mm, and produce images that are very similar to what you would have produced if you had used a short zoom along with a 100-400mm.

I recently obtained a Sigma 60-600mm f6.3 lens. With its 10x zoom capability, prime-like sharpness and clarity, and being small and light enough to handhold, it has changed the way I do photography. But it is not a game changer, because it has not changed the game. The game itself remains the same. It is only the way I play the game that has changed, hence not a game changer by literal definition.

There have been very few genuine game changers in photography over the last 100 years. Things that actually changed photography itself. Here are the ones I can think of:

1. autofocus

2. digital sensors

3. flash / lighting

4. infrared imaging

That's all ... only 4 actual game changers in photography in the last century. Can you think of any actual genuine game changers that I have missed?

I intentionally did not include Photoshop or any other editing software or processes because editing is not actually a part of photography itself - it is something that is done after the actual photography is completed.


A few more from the past hundred years:

The adaption of 35mm cinema film to stills photography by Oscar Barnack in the original Leica.
The introduction of Kodachrome in 1935.
The modular design of the Hasselblad 500 series.
A dozen game changers by Polaroid and instant film throughout the 20th century

IMHO the biggest two "game changers" were the transition from glass plates to film and the later transition from sheet film to rolll film