My post about my one night stand with the Tamron 150-600mm generated a lot of comments. A lot of people bemoaned the fact that they couldn’t get one because it was backordered at B&H, Adorama and the like. In 10 days, I’m departing on an exciting 18-day raft trip down the Grand Canyon and didn’t want to lug my expensive 500mm down the river in the raft. Nevertheless, I really wanted to shoot the wildlife down there and felt the more compact Tamron would be ideal. So yesterday, while out shooting ospreys, I ordered one and will have it in a couple days.
Maybe my self-esteem was dipping that day or maybe I was just feeling like seeing how the little people lived. Whatever the reason I decided I needed to humiliate myself a bit so I decided to slap a third party lens on my Ferrari, er, I mean Nikon D4s. The choice – the Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 VC USD. For the last 30 years I’d never shot anything but Nikon glass – no cheap third party lens would dirty up my cameras.
This is a detailed review of the Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD, an ultra-telephoto zoom lens that was announced in November of 2013 for enthusiasts and professionals that are looking for a high quality, versatile zoom lens for a variety of needs, including wildlife photography. Although many DSLR lens manufacturers have been making telephoto zoom lenses that cover long ranges, whether looking at Sigma’s 50-500mm / 150-500mm lenses, Canon’s 100-400mm or Nikon’s 80-400mm, none of them can reach the focal length of 600mm natively without teleconverters. And as we have discovered in our Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G VR review, attaching teleconverters on slower zoom lenses is generally not a good idea, since there is a bit too much of sharpness loss / image degradation, or even potential loss of autofocus capability. Thus, the Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 is a rather unique lens in this group, which is why our team at Photography Life has been anxious to get a hold of the lens for a while now.
For whatever reason most of the wildlife photography I do ends up being in less than desirable conditions. Its rare that I get that perfect light, with the animal perfectly posed and the weather just right and me in the right place and time to capture it. A lot of times I am in the right place, but all the other elements needed seem like they are on the extreme limits of what is needed for quality photography. I recently had the opportunity to photograph black bears here in New Hampshire and one thing that a person not from NH must understand is that this is not like going to Yellowstone or some similar place where the bears are more receptive to humans. Here in NH they are the ghosts of the woods, the animal you never hear while hiking or rarely see unless its by accident and then its for seconds before they disappear. I was able to use both the D800 and D4s during this time and I found out some disappointing things about the D800 which has me regretting purchasing it.
Nikon has announced a new Nikkor 400mm f/2.8E FL ED VR lens which will be loved by wildlife and sports photographers. As you know from Nasim’s review of the previous version of the Nikkor 400mm f/2.8G lens, this is one sharp lens but weight was a big drawback. Nikon has taken action to reduce the weight by almost 2 pounds and is now actually 3 ounces lighter than the 500mm f/4G, making it hand-holdable for many of us! Some of the weight savings is from using 2 Flourite lens elements. The new 400mm f/2.8E is also lighter than the legendary Canon 400mm f/2.8L IS II.
This article is written in response to “The Question of 18-300mm Lenses” article written by Romanas Naryškin. I used to like my 18-300mm zoom – I called it my Guilty Pleasure Lens (GPL). It was hands-down the most fun lens I ever shot with. When I wanted to just go out on an adventure outside and had no idea what I’d run into, instead of grabbing my FX body, my 16-35mm zoom, 50mm prime, 105mm macro, 80-400mm zoom and of course a manservant to carry all that gear, I’d grab GPL and my D7000 and blast on down the trail. Sure GPL wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, but neither am I. In our shared ignorance we’d shoot grand vistas or cool nature abstracts or maybe even crawl through the dirt for a close-up or two. What a fool I was thinking I’d found a partner that liked to do all the things I liked to do.
I hope the idea I have in my head for this wildlife photography series of articles turns out on paper the way I imagined it and you find some useful tips that will help you on your photographic journeys. This first part comprised of a number of tips will briefly touch on light, weather and lens \ focal length selection. Like in my other articles, I will start with a simple disclaimer: what I present here is what works for me and you have to find your own way to what ultimately makes you happy.
My D7000, Nikkor 500mm and I have had some wonderful times together – the shots of a Peregrine chick jumping off the ledge for the first time, the yoga-stretching Osprey that made Audubon’s Top 100, and who can forget the Night Heron flying past with a baby alligator in it’s mouth. But like all relationships, it seemed the initial pizazz was fading. I began to notice how she had trouble staying focused and got noisy when I pushed an issue. Furthermore, with 190,000 clicks under her belt, well, let’s just say her shutter curtains were starting to droop a bit. It was time to move on, but don’t get me wrong, we’ll always be friends. Now I hate to admit it, but I’d been having an online affair with the new Nikkor 800mm for almost a year – I’d link over to her B&H page and run my finger gently around her buy now button. Oh how we teased each other… Then one day we went all the way.
Before everybody kills me about hand-holding, I just have to say this – I was doing some personal testing / photography and wanted to see what this combination could do for me. So please be kind to me :) Let me be clear, the Nikon D4 is a dream camera and I loved that camera to death. I got the D4s, because a friend wanted my D4, so this deal worked out for both of us. Upon purchase, I found it hard to believe the D4 could be improved upon and it’s still too early for me to make a conclusion on that, as I have only had the camera for 2 days. I feel there is an improvement in ISO noise at higher levels, however, the new focusing system got me interested in this camera and today’s trip to the coast to shoot some owls was all about giving me a feel for what was possible. I hand-held this combination a lot today, because I tend to do that when shooting and I wanted to know if I could do it with the 800mm and also get a feel for the D4s abilities. Anyway, here are some real world shots from me, good or bad, it was awesome fun and I got some shots I am very happy with.
I thought I would post this short and sweet article with my experiences so far with the new Nikon 800mm f5.6 Lens. This lens is just an engineering marvel, but then that is not the purpose of this short article. I mainly just wanted to share my experience with it so far and a few sample photos taken with it in the field. I have actually hand held this lens in a couple instances where the action happened in such a manner there was no time to tripod it or the bird was moving way to erratically.