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.
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.
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.
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.
Photo by Sheen's Nature Photography
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.
Photo by Sheen's Nature Photography
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!