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Question of the Month

September 2017

Tamron 150-600 f5.6-6.3 lens


On my August trip to the Pantanal I had the chance to check out the new Tamron 150-600mm lens. Up to this point in my career I've either used Canon or Nikon lenses. I started with Canon -- the old FD manual focus lenses, then switched to Nikon when Canon introduced pretty pathetic auto focus and abandoned support for their FD line of lenses, and then I returned to Canon when IS lenses were perfected. Over the years I've owned 500, 600, 400, 800, 100-400, and 200-400mm Canon telephotos, and presently I still have the 500, 800, 100-400, and 200-400.

So I've certainly been a Canon man. Full Disclosure here, in October I'll be doing a PSA talk, and Tamron agreed to be a sponsor for this event. That led to Tamron wanting me to try out the lens on some of our trips that would occur before the conference. That said, my comments about the lens are unbiased and honest -- I'd have quietly returned the lens and not given it the exposure I have if I didn't LOVE THE LENS.

Yep, I love the lens. On the Pantanal trip, Mary and I took turns using it, she shooting with the lens one day, and me the next. On our off days I used either my 800mm or my 100-400, depending on the subject's size or distance, while Mary used her 500mm and 100-400 on the off days.

After our first Pantanal trip Mary had to return home to lead our trip to Alaska for Brown Bears, which was scheduled earlier. I kept the 150-600 with me, and we ordered one from Hunt's Photo for Mary! So, right now we have two, and we'll be taking both to Rwanda in just a few days, and back to the Pantanal later in the month.


How much 'action' did my 800mm or 100-400 see in the Pantanal for my second trip? Almost none. I never used the 800r, and did all my shooting with the 150-600 except for one long jungle hike and a boat shoot. The 100-400 was a bit lighter and smaller for moving through the jungle, and for the boat, I wanted to compare results with very challenging subjects, so I used the 100-400 one day, and the 150-600 on another.


Composite of a Black-collared hawk swooping down on a fish. AF worked great for this relatively easy AF challenge, but also for the image above -- the hawk swooping in, directly at me. That is an AF challenge, and the lens (150-600) worked perfectly.

In contrast to Canon's big lenses, the image stabilization feature on the Tamron is so quiet I sometimes thought it wasn't working. To check, I'd turn it off and then look at my subject ... big difference! The image stabilization does work. Even with my Canon lenses I almost always used mode 1 with IS, and I found that the same mode, 1, of three choices, worked well.

The zoom was smooth, although at one point I pushed the zoom ring forward - which slows the zoom rotation considerably. I didn't know I could even do this, and for a few moments I thought the lens had conked out on me. Then I looked at the ring, and saw that it could be slipped backwards, towards the camera, and normal, smooth zoom functioning followed.

Minimum focus is 7.4 ft -- wonderful for a 600mm, and there are 3 focus limiters to minimize annoying focus tracking.

My only complaint is a small one. Although the lens hood locks on firmly, both Mary and I somehow twisted the hood so that at some point it was not locked on firmly to the lens. Both of us, on separate occasions, had the hood fall off. Since we were doing a lot of our shooting off a small boat, dropping the hood into the drink would have been a disaster. As it was, both times our hoods fell into safe ground.

I've had Canon hoods fall off, too, even with my 800mm when the tightening screw loosened, so I'm not considering this a big deal. However, to make sure that the hoods stayed on, regardless of operator error (our's), we wrapped a band of Gaffer's Tape at the base of the hood, securing it to the lens itself. Problem solved for paranoid over-the-water shooting!

At 100% the images were sharp -- here's the Coqui Heron as shot, and a crop. This was shot at ISO 2500 -- so the detail is saying something!


Here's two shots at ISO 800, and both are cropped. The closeup of the Ocelot really so!

Here's the actual image.



In the Pantanal I was most concerned at times about shutter speed, since I was shooting action, sometimes in low light, from a boat -- and not always a stable one. So ISO's were high - this one was ISO 4000, but the images were sharp.


Well, it should be obvious. We bought the lens for Mary immediately, and we're taking both on all of our forth-coming trips. It has completely become our go-to lens for wildlife photography.

Hunt's Photo has offered our readers a great discount. Check that out! See below.


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