Writer's Favorite Wildlife Lens - Tamron 150-600mm

Writer’s Favorite Wildlife Lens – Tamron 150-600mm

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Writer with Tamron 150-600 on his Nikon D7100 in Le Claire Iowa. Photo by: J. Todd Polling

Writer Bruce Wunderlich with Tamron 150-600mm on his Nikon D7100 in Le Claire, Iowa. Photo by: J. Todd Poling

One of my favorite subjects to photograph is wildlife. In the past, great wildlife images were very difficult for me to shoot because my close presence usually meant disturbing the wild creature I had my eye on. I began looking for a longer lens with plenty of reach that wasn’t going to break my piggy bank. So, after much patient and thorough research, I purchased the Tamron 150-600mm SP F/5-6.3 Di VC USD zoom lens for my Nikon D7100.

The reach of this lens gave me some great results right out of the box, but I will have to admit that it takes some practice to photograph moving subjects, such as birds in flight, with this lens. Tamron 150-600mm does have some limitations, but one thing you will find with any telephoto lens is that no matter how much you have, you will always want more.

Technical Specifications:

  • Focal length: 150-600mm (equivalent to 225-900mm on a cropped sensor)
  • Maximum aperture: f/5- f/6.3
  • Available mounts: Nikon, Canon and Sony
  • Minimum focus distance: 8.86′ (2.7 m)
  • Weight: 4.3 lb (1.95 kg)

Compared to Prime lens

Of course, this lens I purchased doesn’t match the quality of a prime lens like the Nikon 6oomm f/4. But besides costing around $8000 less then the Nikon lens, it has a few other advantages over its prime equivalent. Besides the heftier price tag, the Nikon prime weighs in at over 11 pounds compared to just over 4 pounds  (1.95 kg) for the Tamron. Unless you are a body builder, hand-holding the prime for an extended period of time is nearly impossible. The Tamron 150-600mm can easily be hand-held, though I recommend using a Gimbal head on your tripod for smoother panning. While the Nikon Prime is a fixed 600mm focal length, the Tamron zooms from 150-600mm, great for those opportunities when you unexpectly get very close to the wildlife, and you can quickly adjust and zoom back.

Be Prepared

The best way to get great wildlife images is to always be prepared. This lens is small enough that I leave it on my camera all the time in my camera bag, so if I happen onto a sudden wildlife encounter I don’t lose time switching out my original lens to the Tamron and miss the opportunity to get the image.

Eagle Shoot in Iowa

Recently, I had the opportunity to take a road trip with friends to Le Claire, Iowa, to photograph bald eagles on the Mississippi River. This was the perfect chance for me to put my Tamron 150-600mm to good use. Here are a few of my favorite images captured with the Tamron on the trip.

Flying into the Sunset  Focal Length: 600mm 1/1000 of second, f/6.3 with ISO 400

Flying into the Sunset
Focal length: 600mm, 1/1000th of second, f/6.3, ISO 400

Focal Length 360mm 1/2500 of a second, f/6.3, ISO 1000 im Aperture priority mode.

Focal length 360mm, 1/2500th of a second, f/6.3, ISO 1000 in aperture priority mode.

Sweet Spot

From 150-450 mm, images shot with this lens are really sharp. From 450-600 mm, the results are a little softer, but in most cases it still captures very useable images. In good light the autofocus performs quickly and accurately, while in low light it is some what slower. But for the price, this is a very nice lens.

Image of Eagle on left was captured at 600mm and image on right was captured at 450mm. Image on right has a little more detail in the feathers.

Image of the eagle on left was captured at 600mm and image on right was captured at 450mm. Image on right has a little more detail in the feathers.

Focal Length: 600mm. 1/800th of a second, f/6.3, ISO 320

Focal length: 600mm, 1/800th of a second, f/6.3, ISO 320

This juvenile Bald Eagle was captured in bright mid day light. Focal Length: 450mm, 1/1000th of a second, f/6.3, ISO 320

This juvenile bald eagle was captured in bright midday light. Focal length: 450mm, 1/1000th of a second, f/6.3, ISO 320

 Conclusion

In my opinion, if you are in the market for a versatile wildlife lens and are on a budget, the Tamron 150-600mm would be a very good choice. I’ve been pleased with the wildlife images I’ve captured with mine, and am looking forward to getting even better ones with practice. That’s why it’s my favorite wildlife lens.

What is your favorite wildlife lens?

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Bruce Wunderlich is a photographer from Marietta, Ohio. He became interested in photography as a teenager in the 1970s, and has been a passionate student of the art ever since. Bruce recently won Photographer’s Choice award at the 2014 Shoot the Hills Photography Competition in the Hocking Hills near Logan, Ohio. He has also instructed local classes in basic digital photography. Check out Bruce’s photos at Flickr