There are so many telephoto lenses on the market today; how do you decide which one is right for you? The best telephoto lens will depend on what type of photography you do, and which lens mount you use. Of course, budget is also a factor, and let’s not forget your willingness to carry around a big, heavy lens! In this article, we will share our favorite (five) Tamron telephoto lenses for mirrorless cameras. This list will cover almost every genre of photography that uses a telephoto lens, from action sports and wildlife, to travel and landscape photography.
Tamron’s lineup in particular is something we are always interested in because they offer a great combination of performance, portability, and affordability. In other words, they are as good as (or better than) camera-brand lenses, yet often are lighter weight and more affordable! With that being said, let’s dive in!
Best Telephoto Lenses for Mirrorless: Tamron 70-300mm F/4.5-6.3 Di III RXD
The first of the telephoto lenses for mirrorless cameras on this list is also one of the most useful, practical, and affordable telephoto zooms available. The Tamron 70-300mm F/4.5-6.3 Di III RXD is also the first Tamron lens to be available on the Nikon Z mount, a full-frame (and APSC) mirrorless mount! In addition to the Sony E mount, of course. (The lenses are priced at $699 and $499 respectively.)
The Tamron 70-300mm F/4.5-6.3 Di III RXD is perfect for all kinds of photography, such as action sports, wildlife, travel, and landscapes. Its zoom range is more useful than the popular 70-200mm focal range, plus, the Tamron’s modest aperture makes it incredibly lightweight and portable.
This makes the 70-300mm one of the best travel zooms available for any photography subject that involves walking/hiking a lot with your gear in a backpack or camera bag. From family vacations to mountain adventures, this is one of the most travel-ready telephoto lenses on the market.
Of course, its Achilles heel is extremely low light, as it lacks optical stabilization and has an f/6.3 aperture at the 300mm end. This isn’t a problem for most cameras with sensor-based stabilization (IBIS) and for most daytime subjects, but in truly dark conditions I would instead recommend the Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8. However, since 180mm can’t compare with 300mm for many types of telephoto photography, I definitely prefer the Tamron 70-300mm for any subject in daylight conditions.
Tamron 150-500mm F/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD
For photographs who are looking to go “super-telephoto”, of course, a lens that reaches well beyond 200mm or 300mm is ideal. In the past, however, telephoto zooms that reached 400mm or 500mm were usually significantly more expensive, and much bigger/heavier than a 70-300mm.
Furthermore, in the early days of mirrorless cameras, it was believed by some photographers (myself included) that although wide-angle and normal lenses would benefit greatly from mirrorless optical formulas, telephoto optics would see almost no benefit. Thankfully, this has been proven very wrong!
An excellent example of this great potential is the Tamron 150-500mm F/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD. Unlike similar lenses from the DSLR era, the Tamron is impressively portable yet also optically excellent. The Tamron 150-500mm is a full-frame lens available on the Sony E-mount, and it is also available for Fuji’s X-mount, which makes it an impressive 225-750mm equivalent focal length (priced at $1,299 and $1,499, respectively). Again, truly an unheard-of possibility, especially considering the modest price and weight of the lens!
Furthermore, the 150-50mm has a modern VXD autofocus motor which enables snappy and silent AF. This is extremely critical for action sports and wildlife photography!
Simply put, the Tamron 150-500mm offers unprecedented results, in a portable package, for any photographers who wish to have access to the 400-500mm focal lengths.
Best Telephoto Lenses for Mirrorless: Tamron 50-400mm F/4.5-6.3 Di III VC VXD
If you’re looking for a telephoto lens that is as versatile as possible, then you might be hesitant to consider the 150-500mm because its widest focal length makes it, admittedly, a bit of a specialty lens.
That is where this impressive 8X telephoto zoom comes into the picture: the Tamron 50-400mm F/4.5-6.3 Di III VC VXD. With a standard 50mm as its widest focal length, this range is truly the most versatile full-frame telephoto lens on the market.
Having this much range is extremely useful for all sorts of subjects, from air shows to adventure landscape photography, or any outdoor action such as extreme sports.
With incredible sharpness available at both ends of the zoom range as well as throughout, it makes an excellent pair with a wide-angle zoom lens for landscape photography, especially if you add the (not included) tripod collar for rock-solid stability at such long focal lengths. This lens is available for the Sony E-mount for $1,299.
Tamron 50-400mm | The Jack-Of-All-Trades (And Master Of Quite A Few) Lens
Honestly? As a landscape photographer and nature/wildlife photographer myself, the Tamron 50-400 is probably my new all-time favorite telephoto lens for what I’d consider “general work”. With not only an amazing zoom range but also an impressive macro reproduction ratio, it’s by far the most versatile full-frame mirrorless telephoto lens!
Tamron 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2
So far, we’ve talked about Sony mirrorless, Nikon mirrorless, and even Fuji mirrorless. You might be wondering, “what about Canon mirrorless”? Unfortunately, for now, Tamron’s mirrorless-optimized lenses are not available on the Canon RF mount.
However, here is some great news: Canon’s mirrorless RF mount is actually the most similar to its older (DSLR) EF mount! In other words, the nearly identical electronic communication between lens and camera will allow an EF-mount lens to perform even better when adapted to Canon RF mirrorless!
For this reason, our top recommendation for the best telephoto lens for Canon mirrorless is, in fact, a Tamron DSLR lens: the Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2.
As it turns out, a lot of the best lenses for Canon RF mirrorless are… EF-mount lenses!
While mirrorless telephoto zooms for the Canon RF mount max out at 400mm or 500mm, this Tamron 600mm lens offers the longest-possible telephoto zoom range for Canon mirrorless, at an affordable price point of $1,199. (When the $200 instant savings is available)
More importantly, of course, the Tamron 150-600mm achieves incredible sharpness at its 600mm end. It’s a bit bigger and heavier than mirrorless telephoto zooms in its class, of course, but it’s still far more portable and affordable than most 600mm primes. Also, f/6.3 is pretty respectable in terms of aperture brightness, among other modern 500-600mm options that are as slow as f/7.1 or even f/11.
Of course, Sony mirrorless users can also adapt this Canon EF-mount lens, and the Nikon F-mount version can easily be adapted to Nikon mirrorless with the FTZ adapter, too.
This lens may not be right for everybody, of course, despite its relatively affordable price. The size and weight of this lens mean it is really only meant for serious wildlife or action sports photographers. Honestly, in my personal opinion when photographing all kinds of subjects from birds in flight to surfers on the beach, I do prefer the more portable Tamron 150-500mm. 500mm is more than enough for me, and when I need that extra bit of reach, I don’t mind cropping my 40-60-megapixel images to 1.5x Having said that, if you really do need 600mm, this Tamron is the way to go.
Best Telephoto Lenses for Mirrorless: Tamron 18-300mm F/3.5-6.3 Di III-A VC VXD
Last but not least, what about all you travel photographers, vacation-goers, and all adventurous folks who want more than just a telephoto zoom? Many of the all-around “superzoom” lenses do not reach farther focal lengths than the equivalent of 200mm, or 300mm in some rare cases.
A 24-200mm or even 24-240mm (or equivalent) lens is really awesome for many types of travel and adventure, but it can still feel limiting to anyone who is maybe used to having a lens that reaches the equivalent of 300mm, 400mm, or 500mm.
This is why the Tamron 18-300mm F/3.5-6.3 Di III-A VC VXD is such a unique and attractive option among telephoto lenses for mirrorless cameras. Its APS-C sensor format makes it equivalent to a whopping 27-450mm zoom range. Available for both the Sony E-mount and now also the Fuji X-mount, (both for just $699) …the 18-300mm is in a league of its own.
Not only does it have the most impressive telephoto reach of any lens we’ve ever used in the superzoom category, but it accomplishes this feat with very impressive image quality throughout its generous focal range.
It is important to note this because, historically, the “superzoom” was just plain not a good idea from an optical perspective. Older superzooms were almost always very soft at one end of the zoom range, or throughout much of the middle. This is now a thing of the past, as Tamron has already proven with other superzooms such as their full-frame 28-200mm, which I also love for hiking and backpacking adventures where I need a full-frame sensor.
While the category of superzoom lenses usually starts with an 8x or 10x focal range, this Tamron 18-300mm offers a staggering 16.6X zoom range. At the 300mm end, I honestly found myself doing a double-take at first. It feels surprising to experience such a super-telephoto view with such a lightweight, portable lens! Simply put, 450mm (equivalent) is a level of reach that I usually associate with much bigger, heavier, dedicated telephoto lenses such as 100-400mm or 150-500mm zoom.
Best Telephoto Lenses For Mirrorless | Conclusion
Whatever your photographic subjects may be, clearly, there is a lens that is perfect for you. Just ask yourself, what are your priorities, and what conditions will you be working in? If you’re traveling light and moving fast, you’ll probably want a highly portable telephoto lens that suits your adventurous lifestyle, or you may not even want to have to change lenses at all! Alternatively, if you’re truly dedicated to a specific subject, such as birds in flight or a specific sport or racing subject, then you might find yourself opting for a more “dedicated” telephoto lens.
We hope this comprehensive guide for Tamron’s telephoto lenses for mirrorless cameras helps you find the exact lens that suits you best! If you have any questions or thoughts, please leave a comment below.