Nikon D500 and Tamron 100-400mm

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vcxz Regular Member • Posts: 100
Nikon D500 and Tamron 100-400mm

Like many, I've been struggling to find the "perfect" setup for wildlife. Granted I'm just a hobbyist and not worried about extra large prints. Also my standard for sharpness is probably lower than most people on the forum. I was more concerned with finding the right balance of image quality and portability. I think I've finally settled on the D500 and the Tamron 100-400mm.

Zoom versus prime

I started out using a D850 and the 500mm PF and I still love it. But the prime is less flexible. I actually feel more comfortable taking it out in everyday situations like a local park because I'm less concerned about "missing" shots. If I'm making a special trip somewhere, I would like the flexibility of a zoom. For instance, the shot below of the small heron on the railing is at 100mm, I would have missed it or would have had to run very quickly to get it with the 500mm PF.

I picked the Tamron 100-400 because I already had the tap-in console, it was relatively cheap, and I had good experiences with their other lenses. The whole setup is small and fits into a small camera backpack, whereas the 500mm PF is just an inch or two too big. It's actually smaller than my old Fuji 100-400mm setup, has much better autofocus, buffer, battery life, and in my opinion image quality.

D850 versus D500

Cropping and buffer

I switched to the D500 for wildlife partly because I was always in crop mode in the D850. When I was shooting small birds, I would generally not come close to filling the frame, so I'd switch to DX mode to save on memory card space, which can fill up fast with burst mode. But it was annoying always having the "useless" borders in the viewfinder and switching between DX and FX was one more thing to worry about.

I also enjoyed the D500's superior buffer. Frequently I'd see a bird take off, get it in my viewfinder, spam the shutter button and hit my buffer just as I've locked on autofocus. Not a problem with the D500. The 10 FPS versus 7 FPS is nice to have too but I think the endless buffer is more important.

100-400mm versus 150-600mm

So assuming I'm going with the flexibility of the zoom, there's a choice between effective focal length of 100-400mm with the D850 and 150-600mm in the D500. With wildlife, I think it's more likely that you'll need longer focal lengths, so I don't really care as much about 100-150mm.

I know you can crop a D850, but why bother? I'd rather just zoom with the D500 and do minimal cropping in post. With a similar pixel pitch, I'm not convinced the D850 would have better image quality. I also don't have to worry about switching between FX and DX mode or always working with the cropped viewfinder in DX mode on the D850. I think the "D850 is better for wildlife for cropping" is more valid versus a D6 type camera that is ~20 megapixels full frame.

Lens roles

So after all of this, you'd think I'd sell the 500mm PF? No way! My conclusion is if you can only take one lens (I do more hiking type photography than from a gimbal), I'll take the D500 and the Tamron 100-400mm. It's small and image quality is great by my standards.

If I can have two bodies, like I could at Yellowstone where I was traveling mostly by car, I will try to take shots first the the 500mm PF and D850 because if you can fill the frame, the images are amazing, like the bald eagle below. Then I'll have a zoom for backup.

D500 and Tamron 100-400mm image samples

D850 and 500mm PF

D500 for general travel

Not too bad! I guess the body is a little big and you could probably get similar image quality with the D5600 or equivalent. But it's also easier to just bring one body. I think DX is fine for general city travel if you're not doing some world famous landmarks.

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 vcxz's gear list:vcxz's gear list
Nikon D500 Nikon D5600 Nikon D850 Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm F1.8G Nikon AF-S Micro-Nikkor 60mm F2.8G ED +16 more
Nikon D500
21 megapixels • 3.2 screen • APS-C sensor
Announced: Jan 5, 2016
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