Post by David McKay. PPA M. Photog, Cr. CPP
March of 2015 took myself, my wife Ally , and our McKay Photography Academy team to Tanzania to lead 3 ten day, back to back photography tours. Spending 32 days in this magnificent country was an experience I will never forget and I would count as one of the greatest photographic experiences to date in my life. In fact, it was one of the greatest experiences ever in my life as a whole! Fortunately, we are able to return in August of 2016 and I am incredibly excited to be returning and sharing this beautiful country, the people and of course photography opportunities and education with others!
Spending this kind of time photographing wildlife and out in the “bush” requires a large amount of pre planning. When planning the photography aspect, of course gear in general, and lens choice becomes critical. There are many variables to consider especially as you are limited in weight restrictions on flights within the country. The idea of carrying all of your gear and choosing what you will want or need once there, is not possible.
In choosing what I felt would be best for myself; I went with the new Tamron 150-600mm lens. Many of you seasoned photographers may be wondering, WHY? Why go with an off brand (I shoot Canon) lens with a maximum aperture of f/5.0- f/6.3? Why not choose a faster lens, with better glass, and with tried and true results?
Here is what I found in a nutshell, I am extremely happy with this lens for what it has to offer. Here’s why.
- Remarkably affordable. At a price of just over $1000, you get a decent lens that works great for wildlife and sports photography in most light.
- 150mm-600mm range. With a range like this, you can get 95% of the wildlife shots you need from your Range Rover vehicle. Whether wildlife is in close or at a distance, this range gets you what you need on Safari!
- Weight. Weighing in at just 4.3lbs, this became crucial when carrying gear and on flights. Also great that you can hand hold if need be and actually get away with the shots!
- Quality. Ok, so this is where it really has to matter. No this lens is NOT the Buy the Canon 400mm 2.8 for the low, LOW price of $9,999 in quality. Yet, it is not 35lbs nor $9,999! In my experience, this lens did everything I needed it to and more. I honestly was blown away at the results for the price. I did not expect it to be as good as it is. Sure, it is not a low light lens. Nor is it the fastest in focusing, but it handles well, it offers great quality ( especially at 500mm or less) , has Vibration Reduction, and captured 98% of all images I shot in 32 days on Safari! About the only wildlife that was difficult to capture at reasonable ISO, was Monkeys in trees in low light. Other than that, I am very happy with the results. I did find that at 600mm it was not quite as sharp but still very acceptable.
On safari, my wife Ally shot with the Buy the Canon 100mm-400mm Mark II from B&H and the results were great from that lens. Although she could not get the reach of the 600mm, she was able to crop in for what she needed and this lens was very sharp and also faster focusing. BUT, it comes at twice the price. I still preferred the Tamron for my images especially when I needed that extra reach. One of our clients shot the Buy Sigma 150mm-500mm from B&H. This lens is heavier and as we compared, we found this lens to be the least sharp in our results. It is also more expensive.
So in the end, for price, weight, quality, and focal distances, this lens was excellent. Would I use the Canon 400mm fixed 2.8 if available? Absolutely! However, this lens is not meant to compete with that nor should it. This lens does exactly what it is supposed to all at a price that is very affordable for what you get. Tamron has a winner here for someone on a budget and looking for a good lens with a great focal length.
Ready to go on an African Wildlife Safari?
JOIN US for the trip of a lifetime! In August of 2016 we will return to Tanzania. We are leading two tours and the first is sold out. The second has 2 spots left! Join David and Ally McKay and McKay Photography Academy as we photograph the action of the Great Migration Mara River Crossing as thousands of Wildebeest and Zebra cross the crocodile filled river. We will be scouting and photographing TONS of wildlife including Lions, Leopard, Cheetah, Elephants, Hippo and more. Also we will be visiting the local Maasai for a cultural experience.
We work to give you the most amazing photographic safari available with a 5 to 1 client/instructor ratio, private specially equipped for viewing and photography Range Rovers with a maximum of 4 people to vehicle, incredible camp accommodations with 5 star service, and serious hands on personalized instruction to ALL levels of photographers. No need to feel intimidated if you are a beginner. We have your back! The serious photographer will find they gain valuable experience from the McKay’s’ and their professional team. If you want adventure, this is a MUST do photographic tour!
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