I have never been terribly interested in wildlife photography, quite frankly the price of the lenses required are out of this world, $10-13k for a lens? No thank you! When Tamron introduced a 150-600mm lens for just a hair over $1000 I knew I had to get my hands on it.
The build quality of this lens is fantastic, it is solidly built and comfortable to use. It is also surprisingly light, I could actually hand hold this lens for a long time! I know this will not be the case for most people, but I found it quite easy. The lens weighs in at 4.3 lbs, compare this to Nikon’s 70-200 f/2.8 which weighs 3.39 lbs, 1 lb more for an extra 400mm!
Let’s be real though, it is a slow lens with a maximum aperture of f/6.3 on the long end. To compensate for this Tamron uses a very effective Vibration Control, I had no problem hand holding this lens with less then preferred shutter speeds.
I found the lens to be extremely sharp even when shooting at 600mm when shooting a subject that was relatively close to the lens, meaning less than infinity for the lens. Below is an image taken at 600mm, along with a crop of the same image.
600mm f/6.3, 1/800 sec. ISO 3200, Handheld, Canon 6D Crop of above image, you can count the eyelashes….not to mention the eye boogers! 500mm f/7.1, 1/1000 sec. ISO 640, Handheld, Canon 6D
Of course one problem with a slower lens is achieving a fast enough shutter speed for moving subjects. I came across this bald eagle in the Wind River Range, the shots with the bird not moving were sharp, but in movement it was blurred, BUT this was my mistake. I was in shutter priority with only 1/1000 selected, my ISO was only 640 so I could have easily increased the shutter speed to 1/4000 to keep the bird sharp in movement. I only bring this up because it can easily become a problem in low light.
600mm f/6.3, 1/1000 sec. ISO 640, Handheld, Canon 6D 600mm f/6.3, 1/1000 sec. ISO 640, Handheld, Canon 6D Crop of above image, you can see the branch was nice and sharp but the moving bird is blurred, my fault though.
Below is a comparison of size to the Canon 70-300. It is a big lens but would fit in most backpacks. For 600mm I would consider it quite compact!
There was a bit of softness at 600mm when the subject was at infinity, I personally found it to be acceptable for my needs.
600mm f/6.3, 1/320 sec. ISO 3200, On Tripod, Canon 6D Major crop of above image, I can’t complain about this. My beautiful Emmie girl posing for some sharpness! 600mm f/8, 1/2000 sec. ISO 3200, On Tripod, Canon 6D
Overall this lens is an incredible value and I had a blast using it. Sharp at 600mm for 1/10th of the price, who can argue that? It’s no f/4 lens, but you won’t have to take out a 2nd mortgage to buy this. Keep in mind that I was using this with a Canon 6D which is a full frame camera with mediocre AF. If I were really interested in getting into wildlife photography for very cheap I would get a Nikon D7100 which has 51 AF points and 6 fps, with the cropped sensor you have a 225-900mm! Or the Canon 7D which has 19 focus points and 8fps. For just over $2000 for either system, that’s game changing.
Note: B&H sent me this lens to review and the links in the article are affiliate links, these cost you nothing extra and help to support me to keep doing these reviews!