Built-in 25x Optical Zoom vs separate Tamron 18-400mm lens

Started Jun 9, 2020 | Discussions
MannyDMG New Member • Posts: 1
Built-in 25x Optical Zoom vs separate Tamron 18-400mm lens

I am a relative newbie to the world of photography. I am interested mostly in bird photography and from what I've read on the web, it is recommended that we use a telescopic lens of at least 400mm to be able to take good close-ups of birds on trees, etc. A good camera like the Nikon D5600 + the Tamron 18-400mm lens will set me back about $1400 or thereabouts. However, I noticed that there's a Sony RX10-M4 which features a 25x optical zoom (24mm-600mm) lens and costs about $1600. So, my question is: Is the 600mm max of a built-in lens as featured in the Sony camera actually going to be as good or better than the separate Tamron 400mm lens? Are separate camera lenses somehow built more "professionally" or with greater quality/precision than the ones that are built into the camera body (like in the case of the Sony)?

Nikon D5600 Sony RX10 IV
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QuietOC
QuietOC Veteran Member • Posts: 6,238
Re: Built-in 25x Optical Zoom vs separate Tamron 18-400mm lens
1

MannyDMG wrote:

I am a relative newbie to the world of photography. I am interested mostly in bird photography and from what I've read on the web, it is recommended that we use a telescopic lens of at least 400mm to be able to take good close-ups of birds on trees, etc. A good camera like the Nikon D5600 + the Tamron 18-400mm lens will set me back about $1400 or thereabouts. However, I noticed that there's a Sony RX10-M4 which features a 25x optical zoom (24mm-600mm) lens and costs about $1600. So, my question is: Is the 600mm max of a built-in lens as featured in the Sony camera actually going to be as good or better than the separate Tamron 400mm lens? Are separate camera lenses somehow built more "professionally" or with greater quality/precision than the ones that are built into the camera body (like in the case of the Sony)?

I expect the Sony RX10m4 lens might be somewhat better quality than that Tamron. The actual focal length of the RX10m4's lens is only 220mm. It also has less pixels than the D5600, but the systems are roughly equivalent. I would forget about birds in trees with either, unless those trees are more like bushes. The Tamron/Sigma 100-400 zooms should be give better results than the 18-400. The 150-600's should be better options. Budget for the USB console for whatever lens you buy since the D5600 lacks focus adjustments.

Right now I have a Minolta AF 500mm F8 which I use on my A7III, A77II, and even my Pentax Q7. It has some big drawbacks, but it is sharp and light and stabilized on all those bodies.

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ericbowles
ericbowles Senior Member • Posts: 1,925
Re: Built-in 25x Optical Zoom vs separate Tamron 18-400mm lens
2

MannyDMG wrote:

I am a relative newbie to the world of photography. I am interested mostly in bird photography and from what I've read on the web, it is recommended that we use a telescopic lens of at least 400mm to be able to take good close-ups of birds on trees, etc. A good camera like the Nikon D5600 + the Tamron 18-400mm lens will set me back about $1400 or thereabouts. However, I noticed that there's a Sony RX10-M4 which features a 25x optical zoom (24mm-600mm) lens and costs about $1600. So, my question is: Is the 600mm max of a built-in lens as featured in the Sony camera actually going to be as good or better than the separate Tamron 400mm lens? Are separate camera lenses somehow built more "professionally" or with greater quality/precision than the ones that are built into the camera body (like in the case of the Sony)?

A 25x zoom simply means the longest focal length is 25 times the shortest focal length.  So a 24-600 means that 600/24=25 times.  The 18-400 is a 22x focal length, but the effective focal length is 27-600mm on the Nikon camera.  But the sensor on the Nikon is much better in lower light or at higher ISO levels - something that is common with bird photos unless the bird is in full sun.

The Nikon D5600 is a pretty good camera.  It's an upper end consumer model.  The step up - a D7500 - has some improvements in controls and compatibility with more lenses.

The Tamron 18-400 is a good all purpose lens, but all purpose lenses tend to sacrifice quality for convenience.  There are a lot of lens combinations that can get your better quality than the Tamron lens, but it would mean giving up the convenience of a single lens and needing to change lenses.  The D5600 is often sold with an 18-55 VR kit lens - a good all purpose every day lens (available at B&H as a refurbished kit for $499).  That would free you up to buy the birding lens of your choice.

There are several very good longer lenses for that camera.  Tamron and Sigma both have 150-600mm lenses that are reasonably priced around $1000.  Nikon has a 200-500 that is a little better in low light and a little better quality.  The difference in focal length at the long end is about 10% of your frame - relatively minor overall - if you wanted to crop to equal views.  There are lots of options in the Nikon lineup for whatever price point you want.  There are some relative bargains in lenses - like the Tamron 200-500 or the Sigma 150-500 or 50-500 that are available used for $500 or less.  Nikon has good sales right now on the D5600, kit lens, and the 200-500.  For used gear, look at KEH.com (largest used dealer in the world)

The Sony combination is quite difference.  It's not really 24-600 - it's got a very small sensor and is the equivalent of 24-600.  The lens is actually 8.8-220mm.  This is a pretty good one size fits all camera, but what happens if you want to upgrade?  You have to replace your entire kit.  I don't think the Sony camera is the best option for birding, or the best bang for your buck.

There is a lot of potential discussion about focus systems and other factors, but for the next couple of years the weak link will be your skill and technique.  I'd save the extra money and get a few books about bird photography.  Just practice and take lots of photos.  If I was going to get just one book, I'd get Arthur Morris's Birds as Art II - a digital book for around $50.

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Eric Bowles
BowlesImages.com

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