I recently made a big investment in my wildlife photography gear. Big both in size and dollars! It’s a Tamron 150-600mm G2 lens.
Until now, my wildlife lenses included a 70-300mm and a 400mm lens, both of which are great, but I really wanted that extra reach that a 600mm lens would give me.
I was so excited about this new addition, but unfortunately, the first Tamron 150-600 I received was just awful! There seemed to be nothing I could do to get a sharp shot. I even brought out my LensCal Calibration System and attempted to calibrate the lens for front or back focussing issues, but the lens was so far out of whack it was impossible.
I sent it back for a warranty replacement.
Now I’ve received the replacement, used it for a few days, and in the video below I’ll show you some comparisons between the photos I get with my Canon 400mm f/5.6L lens and the Tamron 150-600mm G2 lens.
I used my Canon 7D Mark II camera on a tripod with a gimbal head. I used the same settings in the camera as much as possible only varying the shutter speed and ISO depending on how fast the animals were moving and the lighting situation.
I set up my tripod outside the RV where we are backed onto an estuary, so all the photos were made with the camera and the animals in the same location. Many of the comparison photos have the birds landing on the exact same trees.
So I basically just used the two lenses in the field the way I normally would and compared the results.
I also cropped all of the Canon photos so the birds are the same size in the frame. This isn’t very fair to the Canon lens, but my purpose was to see if I actually get any benefit from the longer focal length or if I am just as good off to stick with the 400mm lens and crop to get the composition I want.
I found that I still had significant focus problems with the new Tamron lens. It doesn’t seem to be front or back focussing like the first one though. However, it has difficulty focussing on subjects that are a long distance away and it simply will not lock focus on subjects that are moving.
I had the image stabilization off on the Tamron lens for two reasons. First, the Canon lens doesn’t have image stabilization and second, I was using very fast shutter speeds so image stabilization should not be required. However, I did try it with all 3 image stabilization modes on the Tamron and it did not change the results.
In one comparison you will see in the video, I calculated a 20% in focus rate with the Tamron lens and a 93% in focus rate with the Canon lens in the same scenario.
Very disappointing! This lens too is going back.
I have heard from people who have this Tamron lens and say they get good results, and I’ve read positive reviews on the lens with example photos. However, in many of these cases, I have to say that the photos are not sharp! I feel that if the lens does not give me photos as sharp as what I can get with the Canon, then it is not worth it. Almost sharp is not good enough.
However, I do have one photographer friend who uses this lens with excellent results and does in fact get very sharp images.
My feeling based on my own experience with two copies of this lens, and the comments I’ve received from other photographers, is that the quality of the Tamron 150-600mm lenses is not consistent.
This experiment has reinforced how very good the Canon 400mm f/5.6L lens is! The lens is small for a 400, light enough to hand hold, and gives tack sharp images. So if you are looking for a good lens for wildlife photography, that is the one I recommend.
Here are some recent photos I made with the beautiful Canon 400mm f/5.6L lens in the estuary behind our campsite in Campbell River, British Columbia:
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