My dream come true
The Bronx and Central park zoo's have been my testing ground for all my new camera equipment for almost a decade now, since getting back into photography in 2007, and buying my first DSLR plus accompanying lenses back in 08'.
This week they have been my testing grounds for perhaps my most monumental lens acquisition to date, Tamron's 100-400mm zoom. From the start I have been using zoom lenses Nikon never intended anyone using for nature subjects, because I couldn't afford any of the many lenses they made specifically for such shots, as they all cost $6,000 and up (WAY up in many cases).
This lens even with the optional tripod collar weighs in at a modest $930. To this point, for the image quality, I've constantly been using my 30 year old 300mm nikkor. No slouch by any standard of measure, it is supremely well made, superbly designed, and probably produces the finest images of any 300mm lens Nikon has EVER made, which is really saying something. It has taken every one of the hundreds of shots of that Great blue heron's nest that you see in my nature gallery from over the past 2 years.
The static shots where the birds hardly moved of course were a breeze. The ones of the parents taking off and landing were another story entirely. It easily took over a thousand attempts just to capture the 8 or 10 good images you'll find there, as guessing the precise launching and landing points was no easy task, and hence the problem with that lens. Predating auto focus it is really of no practical use with most moving subjects.
My 55-200mm Nikon lens is great at capturing everything I throw in front of it, nature included. But its' 200mm maximum focal length is too short for most wild animal shots, and it is a cropped sensor lens that I can't use on the D810 that I purchased last year (and oh how I love that camera!)
My 70-300mm nikkor has more length and is a full framed lens that I have been using to take most of the action shots in my nature gallery for the last 8 years, as I had no other practical option. But it has several down sides. Over time I aggravatingly came to the inescapable conclusion that it delivers soft focus above 275mm, and soft focus at all focal lengths from medium distances on out to infinity. And since most nature subjects are skittish I was constantly shooting them at 50ft on to infinity at 300mm and getting dreadful images as a result.
Add to that it was much too slow at tracking moving subjects. Now if you use this lens on typical people shots, especially on a full frame camera, you will never experience any of these issues, and in fact think this lens was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Using it on my D300 and D300s to capture nature shots however was giving me ulcers.
Paring it with my D500 greatly improved my shots both image quality wise and auto focusing on fast moving subjects. But it was still FAR from perfect. While at least now I was capturing shots that I never came close to getting in focus on either D300, these shots were still not tack sharp on my D500, and I could tell pairing it with the 70-300mm was like putting cheap balding tires on a Porsche.
I did find an old auto focus 80-200mm nikkor zoom in my basement that I don't even remember ever buying (hence why it was in my basement - the worst place to ever store a lens). Turned out it is one of the sharpest (and oldest) auto focus zooms Nikon ever made, and it did help my nature shots considerably, except at 200mm it was still too short for most nature shots, and being old, was slow to auto focus, and pre-dated any attempts at image stabilization. Plus it's a huge lumbering beast to carry around, but I sure do love the constant F2.8 aperture, and superb image quality, but it's just not up to taking most action nature shots.
Now after so many years of making do with whatever I had to work with I was quite excited to put this new Tamron to the test. Having taking over 1500 shots during the last 4 days, I can say that it has past every performance test I have thrown at it thus far, and my complaints have been far and few between. So , with this lens attached to either of my two new Nikon's at last I'm capturing scenes that for years I only dreamt of.
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