Tamron 150-600 G2 + Canon 6D Combo : some thoughts after 10 months of use.

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bharathmsk Forum Member • Posts: 89
Tamron 150-600 G2 + Canon 6D Combo : some thoughts after 10 months of use.
5

Everyone,

First post in this forum, but have been a regular user. I thought I would share my experience with the Canon 6D + Tamron 150-600 G2 combo, which I have been using for around 10 months. Hopefully it helps someone when considering the lens/combo to purchase.

TLDR: My experience generally mirrors what’s said about the dynamic range of old sensors, and linking third party lenses on a camera body with few AF points on its own. I would not recommend the original 6D for wildlife. The lens, however, I do 100% recommend if you want to play around with 600mm focal lengths for a year or so and learn the methods of wildlife photography, at a substantially lower cost. If you can spend twice the money for the lens, it is definitely worth renting and comparing against a native 100-400 type lenses for before you make a purchase decision.

Now, the details:

  1. It is well known that 6D’s AF with its 9 points (one cross type) is a problem for moving subjects. Third party lenses are in general not as fast with AF as native counterparts, and coupling the Tamron G2 with the 6D for such shots did not work out for me. The combo hunts, hunts and hunts to achieve focus of moving subjects. So I almost always just end up shooting static subjects.
  2. Rather unfortunately, the copy of the Tamron G2 I received was in terrible need of auto focus micro-adjustments (AFMA) in a very inconsistent manner - i.e., front/back focus at different distances/aperture combinations. I spent days trying my best to work out this AF situation myself. Many a day, I would feel like I adjusted my lens, only to return back from field with serious front/back focussed photos. During this time, I had also interacted with another fellow Tamron G2 user of the DPReview forums, and after spending a bit of time with the images, he also thought my copy was softer than what he is used to. I realized these issues only well after my return period (I would have sent the lens back!, but read on). Some examples (links to my 500px) of particularly soft images due to front/back focus/overall softness: https://goo.gl/K6YUSg, https://goo.gl/1Rmmog, https://goo.gl/CDVppG, and https://goo.gl/BB3U7p.
  3. Even though the above images have been helped a little by post-process sharpening, it took quite a bit of trouble and time to take these pictures, so it was an overall terrible experience after having shelled out some ~$1100 for the lens. During this period, not a day passed when I didn't wonder whether I should have spent 2X more money for the 100-400, but then I would have to spend more on the teleconverter for the reach on my old full frame body and then the combo would not AF on the original 6D at f8. With not much choice, I sent the lens back to Tamron complaining. They made the adjustments, quickly returning the lens back in 3 days. So: (a) I have experienced no serious concerns with the Tamron service. (b) I have been suggesting renting a comparable native counterpart (like the 100-400 II) against third party lenses in field, before making a purchase decision.
  4. Since getting the lens back here are the some more results, the focussing accuracies vastly improved: https://goo.gl/HohBSK, https://goo.gl/bama93, https://goo.gl/Lk7bYs . The bokeh is pleasant too: https://goo.gl/ZW6p7z, https://goo.gl/k7S7ru .
  5. I gain a lot of noise in the shadows when images are taken in high dynamic range settings at base ISOs, due to relatively low dynamic range of the 6D (for e.g., when a white bird is sidelit by a not-so-soft setting/rising sun ). This has often been the biggest problems for me with the 6D.
  6. As a short-rough real life comparison to big primes, in shots of static/slow moving subjects, in “sufficient light” (say morning sun after 6.00/7.00am in summer times), in relatively close distances (say 10-20 ft) I also had a chance of comparing the images output by the corrected lens with an old 500mm f/4.0 Nikon lens from a friend, and I personally couldn’t spot much of a difference when shooting wide open at maximum focal lengths ( f6.3 at 600mm for the Tamron on my 6D, against 500mm at f/4 on a Nikon D5 body, so not an exact apples to apples comparison but I think these gave me a rough idea). As expected, there were a few places, where the Nikon combo out-shined.
    1. In high dynamic range settings, at base ISOs, in shadow regions, the grain/noise of my combo (partly due to smaller minimum aperture on the lens, and relatively older sensor) was quite unpleasant when compared to the Nikon combo. This is similar to point 5 mentioned above.
    2. The AF on the Nikon combo was miles and miles ahead of the 6D-Tamron combo, which is expected.
    3. There was more subject separation with the f4 for a given distance when the backgrounds are closer to the subject.

In summary, with regards to the lens: with the image qualities I am currently getting when shooting close, and in lighting conditions I more or less like, and on mostly static subjects, I am a happy guy and I am thankful that I did not end up returning the lens! But I should also mention that there is a nagging thought that I should have rented and compared against the 100-400 II in field myself before purchasing. With regards to the body, I would not recommend the 6D for wildlife shooting at all - both because of the AF, and the relatively low dynamic ranges. Sensor technology has clearly improved in the last few years, and it is definitely worth looking at other bodies (even within the Canon ecosystem too) before making a purchase decision.

Here are my suggestions given my experience to interested buyers of this lens / combo:

  1. If you think you can spend one or two years playing around learning the various aspects of wildlife photography, with ~600mm focal lengths for wildlife before making the jump to expensive native primes, I can definitely recommend the G2.
  2. If you can spend relatively more money, before making the jump to big primes, it might also be worth considering native 100-400 f4.5-f5.6, or a 300-f2.8 series lenses along with a teleconverter (just make sure the camera body AFs with a teleconverter on.) I don’t have any experience with these lenses but the AF will be fasst, leading to more keepers in any action/birds in flight shots!
  3. If you like low light images, the lens can only go down to f6.3 (instead of comparable f4 on expensive primes), so a good body with good low light performance will do great. Better AF systems on the body should help too, especially with action shots, so keep that in mind as well, when choosing the body.
  4. If you have any focus issues, I would recommend just sending it back to the manufacturer for focus adjustments instead of dealing with it yourself.

I guess at this point it is also natural to ask what would my upgrade from this kit be: I do intend to invest in a Used Canon 500mm f4 lens (or the 600 if I can afford it) and upgrade the body at some point for faster AF and better low light images, but there are at least two things apart from the expense that are keeping me from upgrading:

(a) given its price point, doubts raised by the community for the 5D4’s specs, and real life dynamic range.

(b) a clear understanding of the lens mount change with future mirrorless Canon offerings. Hopefully by the end of this / beginning of next year, these doubts will be cleared, at which point I can hope for an upgrade.

Thanks to the DPreview community; I learnt a lot from you all, and I really hope this rather long post helps someone with their expensive purchase decisions. Of course, feel free to add your own thoughts / make corrections to the aforementioned points depending on your experience. Cheers!

 bharathmsk's gear list:bharathmsk's gear list
Canon EOS 550D Canon EOS 6D Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Canon EF 24-105mm F4L IS II USM +1 more
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