Tamron 150-600mm Lens: A Nature Photographer’s Delight

By Sheen Watkins / November 12, 2014

The Tamron 150-600mm announcement and availability was met with enthusiastic interest from bird and nature photographers across the globe. With a price point of $1069 for Canon, Nikon and Sony, that’s a lot of reach at a reasonable price.

I met Bob Zeller, a 40-year photographer and now a dear friend in West Texas this past spring while out on a travel photography trip. He was using his 150-600mm Tamron lens. Bob is an avid nature photographer and has worked with the Canon 500mm f/4 prime and 100-400mm L-series for birds and other wildlife. His insight was very helpful.

IMG_9656-LS-owl-horned-bob-zeller
Photo by Bob Zeller

As a result of his experiences, I put my name on the waiting list for the Nikon version at my local retailer, Woodward Camera in Birmingham, Michigan. One day out of the blue in August, I got the call. The Tamron 150-600 for my Nikon was in the house. The long lens I had been using to this point was a Sigma 150-500mm.

This review shares both of our perspectives (Canon and Nikon) on the lens and why would we recommend it to others. If there are any readers who have the Tamron for Sony lens, we hope you’ll add your feedback in the comment section below.

Amazing Reach Plus It's Compact

For Bob, he does a lot of his bird and nature photography from the car. He finds the size and weight (4.3 Ib or 1.95 kg) allows him the flexibility to quickly reach, aim and start shooting from the window. He’s captured beautiful nature images that literally pop off the page. He also gets sharp, hand-held images at shutter speeds of 1/500 seconds right out of the camera before post processing in Photoshop.

IMG_9630-LS-bobcat-bob-zeller
Photo by Bob Zeller

Cropping and Image Detail

As many of the bird images are taken from a distance, image cropping is required. The quality of the lens holds true when cropping in to show off the bird’s detail.

What he really likes about this lens is that he does not experience a loss of quality when the lens is pushed all the way to 600mm. The aperture he goes to mostly with this lens is f/5.6 – 7.1. In low-light conditions the autofocus can be a bit slow.

IMG_9055-LS-finch-house-bob-zeller
Photo by Bob Zeller

While he’ll be the first to say that his Canon 500mm was an excellent lens, he recently sold it. The Tamron 150-600 better suits his very active, wildlife photography lifestyle.

Minor Drop in Sharpness Beyond 550mm

My observations of the Tamron for Nikon are similar to Bob’s with a few minor differences. I have found that it’s sharp to about 550mm with a minor amount of loss in quality at 600mm. In bright light, the white can be so bright that adjustments with exposure, highlights or whites in post processing don’t look that great. What needs to happen with a bright white is to remember to work with Exposure Compensation and take it down 1/3 stop.

The settings used for the Loggerhead Shrike photograph below were ISO 250, 550mm f/7.1, 1/1000 sec. A tripod was used.

The Lens Sweet Spot

The aperture sweet spot is also f/5.6 – f/8 on the Nikon. I use this lens primarily with my Nikon D7100.

Bird images pop off the page, and the overall bird looks great. The crisp, eye-ring detail on a bird that I prefer requires more work, more shots right now as I’m learning the lens. I have captured a few images with that detail so I know I can get it.

The bokeh or blur at f/5.6 to f/8 is very pleasing to the eye, complimenting the subject nicely.

The settings for the black-crowned night heron were ISO 800, 600mm, f/8 at 1/100 sec. The green blur was created by a fairly stiff wind as that's from the movement of the leaves. The heron was perched on a heavy branch, standing very still. A tripod was used.

Switching from Sigma 150-500mm or 50-500 mm Lens?

As there are many Sigma 150-500 or 50-500mm users out there, would I recommend switching? If birds and wildlife are a primary focus for you and reach is important, there’s an additional 100 – 150mm length on the Tamron vs. the Sigma. At 450mm, and for some even 400mm, Sigma users have experienced that this is the distance where the quality starts to fall off.

I’ve had a terrific experience with the Sigma at 450mm and at times 500mm. It will serve as a backup lens.
If you don’t have a long lens, I definitely recommend going for the Tamron 150-600mm. If you have a Sigma 150-500mm, it really becomes a question of what the additional 100 – 150mm will add to your specific photography goals.

While chatting with Bob for this article, I asked him for a personal photography tip that would be useful and helpful to other photographers. There are times when we are out in the field and need a tripod and circumstances are not suitable for carrying one. His tip? A dog leash! Attach the leash to the plate that’s on your lens, step on the leash to create tension for stable support of the lens. Now that is something that I have to try!

You can read more about Bob and follow him on his blog, Texas Tweeties and his SmugMug site too. By the time this article is posted, this spry guy will have just celebrated his 80th birthday!

In summary, the Tamron 150-600mm is an excellent price performer and provides solid results on the field. B&H, Amazon – both have pre-order and wait list options.


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About the author

Sheen Watkins

Sheen Watkins is a bird, nature, wildlife photographer and photography writer. You can follow her photography on Facebook, Instagram and her website. A long term birder and nature enthusiast she is Vice President of Saving Birds Thru Habitat, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating others about the importance of protecting our natural habitat for migrating birds. She also has a travel and photography blog.

  • mike says:

    Nice article, thanks.. I dont have a long lens and would love to give
    this a try.

  • I LOVE this lens! I rented it from LensRentals.com for use on Angel Island (in the San Francisco Bay) for photographing deer, as well as San Diego for surfing.

    You can see the results here:
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/freshphotolive/15504688206/
    and here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/freshphotolive/15322001918/

    I HIGHLY recommend this lens! And at only $1k, it’s a steal!

  • Critternut says:

    Ordered the Nikon mount last week. Est. delivery is 11-17-14 Super excited ! 🙂

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  • Gail Chastian says:

    I have been on back order for over 4 months now and no one can tell when I’m getting the lens. So to hear rave reviews, just makes me more unhappy. Got any suggestions on how to get this lens?

    • Hi Gail – I went on the waiting list with my local camera dealer. I was also on the waiting list with B&H and Amazon. My camera guy called in August when it came in…would recommend checking locally and get on the list with multiple suppliers….good luck!

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  • burrtp says:

    can it be used with Pentax K mount?

  • Clair Russell says:

    I just bought this lens yesterday. I’m using a Canon 70D which is why I was able to find one at a dealer close to home. He said he had 25 Nikon owners on his wait list for it. Fortunately he had one on the shelf for a canon mount. It is a bit heavy but not unmanageable and I did get a nice monopod with it. I’m very much looking forward to getting out in the wild with it. The few test shots I took from my back yard tell me the lens is going to be just fine for me but also that I need some practice with it.

  • John Humphreys says:

    I waited 3 months for my Nikon mount Tamron 150-600 rec it on the 1/12/2014, I have a D7100 & have only had a chance to take few shots around home so far, (Tenambit, NSW, Australia), I love it already, the shots I took were at the softest 600mm FL @ 6.3, I was impressed & for a lens of this length & quality imho the price is amazing! I am looking forward to having a great deal of fun shooting creatures great & small with this lens.

  • Steven Wilson says:

    I’m just wondering if you had to do any focus fine tuning with the Tamron on the 7100 I seem to be having issues with getting tack sharp eyes with this lens on smaller birds

  • Bambi says:

    Tamron 150-600m vs Sigma 150-600mm SPORT ? ? ? ?
    I’m currently considering the Tamron 150-600mm for a NIKON D7100.
    I really enjoyed the feedback on the TAMRON 150-600mm
    Looking forward to your comments.
    Photography regards.

    • Archie says:

      Hi Bambi;

      Better late than never…..

      I use the Tamron 150-600 on my Canon 5d Mk3 and have been very pleased with the resultant images I’ve managed to capture – HOWEVER – like any lens, you have to consider it will have limitations.
      The limitations I’ve experienced have been that it’s fickle in low light conditions and generally too slow in AF to capture BIF images.
      My friend has the Sigma 150-600 Sport on his Nikon D610 and we’ve compared images side-by-side and generally can’t separate the difference between both outfits – HOWEVER – the Sigma seems to lock focus on BIF easier and is built to a higher standard and is weather sealed – but costs x2 over the Tamron, weighs considerably more and might be harder to hand-hold for some folk.
      Hope this info helps.

      Regards,
      Archie.

  • JANE says:

    The weeks of research about which telephoto lens to purchase for my Nikon D7100 came to an end yesterday.
    I purchased the Tamron 150-600mm!
    It is a FANTASTIC lens… now I wish I hadn’t waited so long in the decision. Straight out of the box, I am wowed again and again by the photos. Many are keepers with no need for any further editing.

    The lens does get a bit heavy for hand-holding, but once on a tripod… photography could last as long as the photographer wants to keep shooting 🙂 I have a Manfrotto 055 aluminum tripod with a Manfrotto 054magnesium ball-head. These are working very well with my camera/lens setup.

    With all the positive Tamron reviews, I decided not to wait for the Sigma competitor. I decided to go with the tried and true, instead.

  • I have just bought the Tanron 150-600 for my Nikon D300s . I have had some very pleasing shots but some not so good. I’m a bit unsure of the best setup for my camera with this lens for bird photography in Apaerture priority regarding . I wonder if I might trouble you for some advice please.

    Many thanks

    Mr M A Cain
    Lincoln
    England.


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