150 – 600: Edinburgh Zoo

After a long hiatus, the 150-600 was given a good airing this week with a trip to Edinburgh Zoo.
Initially I had started with a monopod, but eventually gave up and hand-held the lens for flexibility. It’s surprisingly manageable for the size, not least of all because of the excellent stabiliser. I dropped the shutter speed to 1/15s for this shot to get the background effect I was looking for. Even at 150mm, that’s a tenth of the recommended speed for hand holding.


To get the shot I wanted, I had to sacrifice some sharpness on the tiger’s head due to motion blur, but the details captured on the log shows just how good the lens is at maintaining a steady image, and it didn’t detrimentally affect the image.  I did wonder if perhaps the lens collar should be detachable, but it makes for a good hand rest for manual readjustment when needed, so the only real advantage would be the reduction in diameter for packing into a bag.


A bit of directional light (even if it’s not very strong) makes all the difference to the quality of images produced by the 150-600. These rhinos had quite a dark enclosure, but the lens handled the conditions with ease.


I saw two ways of photographing this rock hyrax, as a frame-filling portrait and an environmental study, and the range of the 150-600 allowed for both.


The long end of the lens made it possible to “see through” several fences at once, producing some soft focus shots of some of the animals.


Of course, the high reach of the lens made for some lovely closeups of some of the shier creatures as well.



A quick note about my other kit chosen for the day: a Fuji X100T for quick-fire wide angle work (and family shots); and the highly dependable Tamron 70-200 F/2.8 for indoor enclosures where the maximum aperture of the longer lens was too limiting.
This meant I always had a telephoto on the camera, and didn’t miss an opportunity.

150-600: Back in the wild

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Since our baby was born, I’ve not had much opportunity to get out with the Tamron 150-600. It’s fair to say that it’s not the sort of lens you just carry around with you for family album shots!

Today though, I’ve managed to bag a couple of satisfying robin shots (and who doesn’t love a robin?), and used the extreme range to make the most of the winter colours in the trees. In strong sidelight, the 150-600 really does do a great job of capturing all the details, although at closer ranges, you will have to stop the lens down in order to preserve your depth of field, which obviously helps to hit the sweet spot.


150-600: Yorkshire Wildlife Park

We took our first big family trip to Yorkshire Wildlife Park last week, which gave me a chance to try out the Big Ron on some more unusual animals. The most salient point of the day is that every image that I took that day was hand held. For a lens with a maximum focal length of 600mm, this is kind of a big deal. Yes, it’s weighty, but I managed to use it all day, unsupported. Without the Vibration Compensation feature built in to this lens, I couldn’t even have considered leaving the house without a tripod. Bear that in mind. 


Black swan, 350mm


Ring tailed lemurs, 460mm

One thing that’s very clear is that this lens is very crisp at 350-480mm. Beyond that, there is some noticeable (though still manageable) loss of sharpness. On something like a D600, it’s not going to be as obvious. However, it’s important to note that the speed of the lens will have a larger effect on image quality for certain applications. 


Tiger, 600mm


Giraffe, 600mm

If your current choice of lenses includes something like a 70-300mm F/5.6, then the extra reach of this lens, with a maximum aperture of F/6.3, is going to feel like a blessing without sacrifice. If you use a 70-200 F/2.8, even a stabilised lens, then your choice is a little harder. By tripling the focal length, you triple the length of shutter speeds you need to use to maintain a sharp image. So when you consider that the 150-600mm is two stops slower, you’re going to find yourself working with higher ISO’s even in reasonably good light. 


Scops Owl, 450mm


Scops Owl, 450mm

With the optics being as sharp as they are, I wonder if Tamron have missed a trick here. I’m no optical technician, so I can’t comment on the practicalities of lens design, but I wonder if something like a 150-450mm F/4.5 would have been the perfect compromise, and would make purchasing a no-brainer for more people. Fast glass fanatics may struggle to make the adjustment to a lens of this type, since the hit rate is likely to be lower than you’re used to. 


Scops Owl, 460mm

However, I can still see a strong argument for having this lens as part of my kit. It resolves well enough to keep up with the D800’s detail-packing sensor, and it’s a long-range wildlife lens that you can carry. Which makes it perfect for days out with the kids, without depleting their college funds. It’s certainly whetted my appetite for wildlife photography. 


DSC_4334_crop Macaque, 300mm.

150-600: The long game



The Tamron 150-600mm is a very different beast to the lenses I’ve used before. Even the 70-200 F/2.8 is a fairly versatile lens with the right mindset, but there’s no escaping the fact that this is a lens with a very clear agenda. You don’t just walk around with this one in the hope of finding something to photograph.

So I’m starting to see how and why twitchers can kill hours waiting for something to come along. Take the following example. I’ve been going to the same nature reserve almost daily for about three years now, rarely photographing anything other than insect life. I’ve never seen a kingfisher there, even as a fleeting glance. So I was a bit surprised to find one sat on a stick over the water, and for the first time in my life I’m holding a lens long enough to shoot it with.

But I wasn’t expecting to see it, so the camera was slung over my shoulder, and by the time I brought it down and locked focus on its perch, this happened:


The one that got away. I’m still kicking myself for this one.


Hardly a winning image, but it’s my first kingfisher image, and it’s identifiable. I think you’ll agree, it’s a beautifully sharp image of a stick ;)

I did go on to get some more images of the bird. They’re very distant, but it’s reassuring that details are still possible over a distance of about one hundred meters.


Cropped down from a larger image. I couldn’t even see this without the camera.


The complete frame

As an entry level lens for wildlife photography, the Tamron is ideal. It’s extremely affordable, and has enough reach to help you see things that you can’t see with the naked eye. The stabiliser comes in handy if you’ve got a general purpose tripod which doesn’t have the rock-solid hold of a specialist model (which is likely if this is the lens you’ve chosen to buy), and it still leaves plenty of room for gear fiends like myself to move on to faster glass once you’ve got a taste for the new range of subjects you’ll be looking at.


Little Egret


Little Egret with fish


a reed warbler trying to be sneaky


Young Great Crested Grebe

24-70: It’s a burrito!

Here’s the reason for me having fallen off the radar this month; the reason why the 150-600mm reviews have been on hold; and my new reason for being. 

Our daughter was born just over a week ago, eight days early, and if you’d have blinked, you’d have missed it. Since I have a small house, I can’t really get the required nine feet from her to take her photos with my current test lens. Normal service should resume some time this week, but for now, we’re just enjoying the thrill of having a new personality in the house. DSC_3348 DSC_3355

150-600: getting in there safely

It’s been a bit of an eye opener to try the  Tamron 150-600. For years now, I’ve made do with lenses of 200mm or shorter, and added a teleconverter when I had to.
This has always had an effect on subject choice though. I’ve never really given any serious effort to bird photography, since any attempts to do so would require ninja-level stealthiness that I just haven’t got (a few weeks ago I fell ten feet down a nettled embankment trying to get close to a damselfly).
And there are some things that you just can’t approach safely with a shorter lens. Today’s gallery is one such example.
One of my local wildlife reserves is home to a family of horses. Normally, they stay well away from people, but on this particular trip, they were all grouped together on the path, and seemed stressed. One of the stallions was galloping up and down, and was asserting a boundary.


Looking closer, one of the foals appeared to have collapsed from the heat. Using the Tamron’s incredible reach, I was able to follow the action from a safe distance.


Happily, the little one regrouped after a little nudge from its mother, and all moved on after a few minutes. It was delightful to watch the foal come round, and how the others reacted to it.


The penultimate frame of the set really shows the advantage of the Tamron lens, and was taken from the same vantage point the others. The thing about this lens is that you don’t have to rack it out to get close. It breaks the all-important 400mm barrier, which seems to be the point at which serious efforts become possible. At 450mm, the results are very considerably sharper than at 600mm, and still magnify well enough to identify things when you can’t get close enough to see for yourself. Being honest, the quality of results at the more modest focal lengths would still be enough to justify the price of this lens.


Yes, it’s a slower aperture than I’m used to, and it feels it. But when limiting the focus switch to the longer reaches (15m – infinity), the focus speed seems surprisingly snappy (I can’t quantify this, but when I tried the Canon fit earlier in the year, it seemed a little more responsive than the Nikon model I’m using now). But if you aren’t shooting crepuscular subjects or spending hours in a cramped hide on wet days, I’m not sure you’ll see the need to blow an extra two grand on the next alternative.

As an entry level, or “compact” telephoto for good light, the 150-600mm is an absolute godsend.


24-70: ready for the new addition


I’m pretty sure that the Tamron 24-70 is about to push itself to the top of my most-used list. This is a nine shot stitch of the fruits of my labour over the last month. I didn’t think to take any “before” photos, but it used to be blue, and a guest bedroom.
We’ve less than a month until our little girl is due, and I’m stockpiling sleep now while I still have the chance!