The Tamron lens reveals its considerable quality in this Common Loon photo when you note the highlights of the head plumage showing a plush or satin-like quality with added hues of green, blue, and even pink evident in the morning light (zoom 600mm, aperture f8, shutter speed 1/320, ISO 400).
Your camera and lens are paramount for bird photography. There are many options, and many variables including price, quality, and features that are especially important for you personally. While cameras are important, for bird photography I would argue the lens you use is all important. Bird photography is quite specialized in that it is often difficult to get close to the birds we wish to photograph. We rely on adequate magnification from our primary bird lens to provide a larger image of birds, and create a quality photograph of them.
For decades I used a fixed 400mm f5.6 Canon telephoto lens, which provided great photos of the full variety of birds I encountered and sought out. Part of my interest in using this lens was that I did not need to use a tripod to keep it steady. Lenses with greater magnification required using a tripod, and long ago I realized that using a tripod was not only cumbersome, but it took the fun and free-form aspect out of taking photos of birds. I couldn’t act and react as quickly, if at all, to birds in flight for example; following their flight and other activities was among my favorite forms of bird photography.
Surrounded by a natural bouquet of wild chokecherry blooms, this tiny male Yellow Warbler and individual flowers show a high level of detail provided by the ultra-zoom Tamron lens (zoom 550mm, f7, 1/640, ISO 400).
About 15 months ago, while photographing at High Island, Texas, I began asking other bird photographers what telephoto or zoom lens they were using and how they liked it. Some were mounted on tripods, others were photographing with handheld lenses. One lens that caught my attention a few times was the Tamron 150-to-600mm ultra-zoom lens, which photographers explained had an internal Image Stabilizing mechanism that allowed them to handhold the lens, even when using it zoomed to 600mm.
The details of the oversized eye and rictal bristles that surround the tiny beak of a Common Nighthawk are impressive, while the photo also shows the intricacies of its cryptically-colored feathers (zoom 600mm, f8, 1/800, ISO 400).
That interested me in a big way, and about a month later I began using my own Tamron SP 150-to-600mm (Model A022) ultra-zoom lens. After the first day of photographing a variety of birds, ranging from sandpipers on the beach to skimmers and terns in flight, ducks and gallinules on the water, and warblers and tanagers in tree branches – I was a believer. The lens performed smoothly in my hands, I steadied and braced it however possible, yet photographing in good sunlight, I had no obvious problems with hand-holding the zoom lens at magnifications beyond 400mm and up to 600mm.
Not only that, I was immediately impressed with the quality of the photos I took with this lens – in the beginning and through the seasons of birds that have passed since then. The quality of images has become more and more impressive to me, and it’s been underlined during the past 3 months, which led me to write this article and re-share some of the photos that most obviously emphasize the quality of this lens and its versatility in taking photos of large birds in flight, family groups on water, small birds surrounded by vegetation, and any other options that have presented themselves within the range of 600mm.
Frankly, I most often use this zoom lens at its highest magnification – 600mm – but I have certainly utilized the opportunity to use the full range of zoom options from 150mm to 600, which provides another dimension and better photo compositions when I’m able to change the focal length in a moment. Anyone would agree that a zoom lens provides a lot of nice options in the field, but the wide range of zooming capabilities along with its extreme magnification at 600mm truly underlines the idea that this is an “ultra-zoom” lens.
This Dickcissel’s plumage shows a blending of colors, a detail that’s impossible to see in the field without the aid of high-quality optics, such as those provided in the Tamron ultra-zoom lens. The sharp division between the bird and its background help to emphasize the outline of this prairie singer in full voice (zoom 600mm, f8, 1/1000 shutter speed, ISO 400).
Now this is not meant to be a marketing promotion of this fine lens; it is merely me sharing my experience with this lens, and providing an example of an impressive bird photography lens that birders may be interested in learning more about. The lens certainly has other important features too, including a fast auto-focus system, but getting quality photos with a high-magnification lens that provides a wide range of zoom options – without the need for a tripod – that’s headline news as far as I’m concerned. And the bottom line, the price, is affordable. It’s not cheap, but it’s affordable; especially if you compare what high-quality telephoto and zoom lenses cost.
Good lenses will last many years if we take care of them, and they have a resale value. But the last lens I had, the Canon 400mm, I obtained as a much-used second hand lens, and I used it another 20 years. A new Canon 400mm f5.6 lens was priced about the same as the Tamron 150-to-600mm, which is available for about $1,200. That’s $100 per month for a year to purchase an invaluable piece of equipment for a bird photographer that will serve any birder for decades. I’m not trying to sell any lenses today, or any day, but I do want to share my considerable satisfaction with this new Tamron lens, and if you are looking for a new camera lens, give it a second look at Tamron 150-600 G2 Canon & Nikon - SP 150-600mm F5-6.3 Di VC (tamron-usa.com)
In the meantime, I’m thrilled with many of the photos I’ve taken with this lens, and it has been instrumental in making me a better photographer during the past year as I seem to be taking a higher level of photos each season. So please appreciate the photos that I share with you here are among the best and favorite photos I’ve taken – and it feels pretty good to be able to say that. Funny what a collection of a few photographs can do for your personal satisfaction. Good luck as you search out photo opportunities in advance of and during the coming migration season!
This photo is one of the favorite images Paul has taken this year. Although these Western Grebes were a considerable distance away, the details of the birds held up after cropping extraneous background in the original photo, another testament to the high-quality images the Tamron ultra-zoom lens is capable of recording (zoom 600mm, f7, 1/1000 shutter speed, ISO 400).
Article and photographs by Paul Konrad
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