Tamron 150 - 600mm vs Sigma 50 - 500mm for nature photography?

Started 7 months ago | Questions thread
tclune Senior Member • Posts: 1,205
Re: Tamron 150 - 600mm vs Sigma 50 - 500mm for nature photography?

I went on a photo safari to Yellowstone with Road Scholar a couple of years ago. I'm certainly no master photographer, but perhaps my experience will be relevant to your situation. I had the old Sigma 150-500 and the Tamron 28-75. I have a small album of the trip here. You can see the focal lengths used for each photo. When shooting wildlife, I was mostly racked all the way out on the Sigma and would have been happy to have twice the reach. For the scenic views, I often needed as wide an angle as I could get.

The thing that would be attractive about the Bigma is that you could try to use just the one lens -- I was constantly changing lenses, and sometimes missed shots because of it. When you have two lenses with you, you will always want the one that isn't on the camera for the shot you want to take. However, 50mm may simply be too long for some of the shots. If you're going to take two lenses anyway, the Tamron is a noticeably better lens.

With any lens longer than 300mm, you will discover that shooting is a very different thing than what you are used to. Hand-holding -- especially with wildlife, where you may be holding the camera still for a long time waiting for the animal to appear or reposition itself -- is just not practical. The lens is heavy and the long distances at high magnification make any movement too much for a sharp image. Keep in mind that you will likely seriously crop the final image, so your "effective" focal length may be 2000mm or more in your final image. Any movement will be a blur, even if the atmosphere cooperates enough to give you a sharp image with perfect technique. So you will need to get and learn to use a monopod. This blog gives good advice on how to use one, and the other pages shown on the left of the page give good advice on selecting the equipment. Get the long lens and monopod well before you go on the trip and practice using them. Use manual mode with auto-ISO and set your shutter speed for at least 1/1000 to lower the effect of motion -- both yours and the animal's. Even the Tamron is not great wide open, so stop it down to somewhere around f/7.1 or f/8. You will end up with high ISOs on your shots, but Nikons are OK with that and your shots will be worse if you try to keep the ISO down, at least in my experience. When you are shooting early morning or around dusk, you'll have to give on some setting because the ISO just can't go high enough, but for the rest of the day you should be fine just letting the ISO go where it has to.

Finally, I really like back-button focusing with wildlife photography. Again, practice before you go on the trip. Good luck, and have fun!

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