New to bird photography, need advice with D600 and Tamron 70-300mm

Started Jan 13, 2013 | Discussions thread
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KingSpence
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New to bird photography, need advice with D600 and Tamron 70-300mm
Jan 13, 2013

I've had my D600 since December and have been shooting nearly every day. Did landscapes up in Yosemite, portraits on the beach during sunset, astrophotography, and now, birds.

At first I just shot birds in my backyard. There isn't a ton of variety here in downtown Long Beach, but it was enough to pique my interest. I've recently begun to check out parks, nature preserves, etc. that are known for a wide variety of birds. I found one that MANY photographers go to and it's been a blast learning about the subject. However, I've noticed that most bird photographers use Canons and not Nikons. Why?

I've been getting decent results with Osprey, Kestrel, Vultures, Hawks, etc. with my D600 and Tamron 70-300mm. I'm not sure what the problem is but many of my photos are not tack sharp. I'll shoot a still subject 10 times and maybe 2-3 of the pictures are tack sharp. Also, because my lens is only 300mm I have to crop A LOT and the details begin to look muddy/fuzzy. Would this be rectified with a longer lens or am I doing things wrong? I've only been shooting with S priority 1/1000sec, ISO100-200, f/5.6-6.3. Here's an example below. This male Kestrel looked tack sharp in my camera, but on my Retina Macbook I find out it's not. Another possibility is that I'm shooting nearly wide open, would stopping down to f/8 have made this tack sharp or given me better results? Look how much I have to crop.

View: original size

View: original size

I'm at a crossroads. I absolutely do not want to spend $5000+ on a lens right now. I would feel more comfortable spending $1500 on a Sigma but would regret it if the AF is bouncy and not accurate. What do you guys recommend? I'm also considering switching to Canon for slightly more lens selection, but that likely will not happen.

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Nikon D600
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