Tag Archives: Brazos Bend

A Short (and Unscientific) Review of Tamron’s New 150-600mm Lens for Canon Mount

Canon 1DX and Tamron 150-600

The Canon 1DX  and Tamron 150-600mm lens

Because this Tamron 150-600mm lens is so new, Lensrentals didn’t have it in stock for my original reservation date. So, I told them to send it when they could. One week later, it was in my hot little hands. Here’s my take on this brand new lens.

The Tamron 150-600mm  lens retails for $1069 at BH Photo and at Adorama and is available for Canon, Nikon and Sony mounts.  Right now (well, as of Feb 15), you can only pre-order the lens here in the USA.

Out of the box:

  • It weighs .03 lbs less than the Sigma 50-500mm, so both are equal in terms of heft.
  • When I first received the lens, I discovered that the lock switch did not work at the 600mm focal length. A Lensrentals tech told me that the lock switch was there only to work at the 150mm focal length to make sure the lens didn’t accidentally move out to a longer length while one was carrying the lens on their shoulder.  Really?   I should think the lock switch is supposed to work at any focal length, and not just the 150mm focal length. I may hate the locking mechanism on my Canon 100-400 but at least it works at all of the focal lengths.
  • If you have microfocus adjustment on your camera, test the lens to make sure the focus is hitting like it should. On my 1DX, it was spot-on. On my Canon 5D Mk III, it was front-focusing.

A Day at the Park

I took my Canon 1DX and this lens out for a morning spin at Brazos Bend State Park, located about halfway between my home and Houston. Btw, mornings are the best time to go out there for birdlife and for few-to-no crowds. I made a return trip later in the day and the place was packed. I got out of the car, looked at all the people and then at the full parking lot at one of my favorite stops, got back in the car and came home.   As I was exiting the park, I looked over to the entrance and saw a long line of cars waiting to get in.  No thank you.

How did this lens do?

As far as image resolution – and this is my opinion only, based upon my own photographic results – I believe this lens is as good as or better than the Sigma 50-500.  I kept the f-stop between 8 – 10 because I’d read other reviews indicating sharpness was better achieved at these apertures (same as with the reviews I’d read about the Sigma lens).   Had it been an overcast day rather than the gorgeous, sunny day that it was, my ISO would have moved from 500 up to probably 1000 – 2000.  As it was, I kept my ISO between 250-500 depending upon the light at any one spot.  My shutter speeds ranged between 200 – 800.

After reviewing the magnified images on my camera’s LCD screen, I was ready to throw in the towel concerning this lens.  Then, when I got the photos downloaded to my computer and I could get a better look at them, I was blown away at the sharpness. Yet another lesson to me that I should never quite trust what I see magnified on my camera’s LCD screen in terms of resolution clarity.

(Note:  To see high-res versions of these low-res uploads, click on each image)

Ibis

The original, cropped a little to get rid of extraneous stuff.  Only adjustments were my normal curves and sharpening – things I apply to all of my images so nothing else special was done

Ibis

65% crop of the original

BUT…. while this lens produces very nice images, it still has some quirks.

Focusing…..Oy Vey

I’d read other reviews about this lens having an issue with tracking and focusing. Yup. I had problems myself, but I don’t think to quite the extent that some reviewers experienced. Tamron didn’t do such a great job with the focus tracking, and I had a difficult time trying to get the lens to focus on anything in motion. Out of all of the photos I took while tracking movements of the birds, maybe 2 or 3 were in-focus. And I was using a Wimberley gimbal tripod head to keep things steady. I highly doubt I would have gotten those 2 or 3 decent shots had I tried to hand-hold the lens even with image stabilization engaged.  The Sigma 50-500 was much,  much better at tracking action images like birds in flight.

And speaking of focus, I discovered that it’s practically non-existent if using any of the focus points other than the ones in the middle of the screen. My 1DX has multi-focus points, and I sometimes use different points whenever I am in Servo Mode because the part on which I want to focus (like the eyes) may be in the far left, far right, upper or lower portion of the image;  to have moved the focus smack dab in the middle of the composition would have cut out a part of the subject.

Aside from the items above, focus – as long as I used the middle focal points – worked just fine and was relatively quick.

Image Stabilization (VC)

Because I kept the camera and lens on a tripod, I didn’t really use image stabilization except a couple of times. It’s just different from what I am used to with my Canon lenses.  At least the image stabilization with Tamron is not so jumpy and unpredictable as with the Sigma 50-500.

A Couple of Questions:

  1. Do I think this a good lens to use for sports (or any other type of fast action like birds in flight or bears battling for a prime spot at Brooks Falls)? No, not at this point in time. Won’t be until Tamron gets their focus tracking issues fixed – if they ever do  (Tamron, I hope you are reading this post).
  2. Would I purchase this lens for my own uses? Hell yeah! I’m gonna get one….AFTER waiting awhile in the hope that Tamron gets all that focus stuff fixed. It’s a fantastic lens for getting stationary or reeeeaallllly slow-moving shots, but not so much for the faster action.

Ibis In The Tree

Little Blue Heron

Soakin Up The Rays

Gator

This lens doesn’t quite match the resolution output of a Canon prime, but like the Sigma 50-500, it’s an affordable option. Since my credit scores are not quite to the point that I could attempt to take out a loan for the Canon 600mm, this Tamron 150-600 (when the focus problems hopefully get ironed out) will be a great alternative.

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Filed under birds, Brazos Bend State Park, Canon, Equipment, nature, Parks, Photography, Tamron 150-600

A (Unscientific) Review of the Sigma 50-500mm at the 500mm Focal Length

Blue-Winged Teal

Blue-winged teal (I think) at Brazos Bend State Park, Texas

As of late, I’ve been suffering a little cabin fever on the weekends. I want to do something photographically (other than edit archived images), but don’t know what. My part of southeast Texas is not the most photogenic for landscape imagery, but it is definitely a treasure trove for bird photography; Brazos Bend State Park, a number of wildlife refuges including Brazoria and Aransas NWRs, the wetlands parallel to the Gulf Coast and Padre Island National Seashore are all within a 30-minute to 4-hour drive away.

I go out to the nearby state park and Brazoria NWR often, but the birds tend to be skittish and are generally too distant for the reach of my Canon 100-400mm lens, thus requiring some degree of image cropping during the editing stage. After seeing others with their big honkin’ primes out at these places, I always suffer a little angst over the fact that I don’t own a super-telephoto, myself. So for yucks and giggles, I reserved a number of super-telephoto lenses with Lensrentals.com to try out over the next couple of months: The Sigma 50-500mm, Tamron’s new 150-600mm lens, Canon’s 800mm prime and I even decided to try out (for the fun of it) the Nikon D800 camera and Nikkor 600mm lens.

This particular post is about my thoughts (with samples) of the Sigma 50-500mm lens at its longest focal length (because I only want the long length for birds – I’m not interested in any of the shorter focal lengths since I already own that aforementioned Canon 100-400mm which I love…well, except for that damned push-pull zoom mechanism).

This is a TOTALLY unscientific review. Everything written here is my opinion only. I’m going to try not to be much of a “pixel-peeper”, either, but I do have high standards that I expect from my full-frame Canons and a good lens.

The photos in this post are relatively low-res;  if you want to see a higher-res shot, just click on the photo and it will take you to that image that I’ve uploaded to my photography website.

My thoughts:

A Canon 1DX and this lens are a little bit heavier for my small hands than my 1DX and 100-400. But then I had no intention of hand-holding this lens as I planned on attaching it to the Wimberley gimbal tripod head I recently won off of eBay (saved myself $200 and it works like a charm).

Canon and Sigma

The Sigma 50-500 at it’s 500mm length, attached to my Canon 1DX on a Wimberley gimbal head and Induro tripod legs

I like Sigma’s focus ring (unlike that stupid push-pull of the Canon 100-400 – what the hell was this company thinking at the time it did that??).

I also like the easy lock switch (My Canon 100-400 has a ring that you have to turn to get the lens to lock at a certain focal length – to get it to stay locked, you need to make sure that ring is turned clockwise as tight as possible).

I’d read in other reviews of this lens that one needed to set the f-stop to at least 8 for optimal sharpness. So all of my images taken at Brazos Bend State Park and the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge were between f8 and f10. Because the weekend has been warm but cloudy and overcast with some rain (and a little bit of sun here and there), and to offset the small amount of light getting in through the aperture because of the f-stop settings, the ISO ranged between 400 to 2000 depending upon the outdoor lighting conditions at any particular moment.

Goldfinch

A goldfinch (I think) at Brazos Bend State Park, Texas

Sigma’s OS (analogous to Canon’s IS and Nikon’s VR – image stabilization) is really odd and I don’t like it at all. It was as if the lens took on a life of its own whenever I switched from non-OS to OS. I’d look through the viewfinder and try to focus on a subject only to have the lens actually jump to a slightly different point in the composition. I had to keep moving the lens back to where I wanted the center focal point to be and then quickly snapping the shutter button. I don’t have that issue with my Canon 100-400 or 70-200. As a result, I only snapped a few shots with the OS turned on.

I captured a few images from my car window (cars make good blinds). I did this because had I gotten out of the car (heck, had I even opened the car door), my subject would have flown away. With my 100-400 lens, I don’t need a bean bag for stabilization and it’s easy to hand-hold. With this Sigma lens, I wished I had a bean bag. I’d anticipated this issue, though, so I used a pillow I’d brought from home on which I rested the camera and Sigma lens for stabilization. The bean bag is going to be a near-future purchase.

Hawk

A hawk on a fencepost at the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge, Texas – taken from my car window

I had pretty much figured this lens just wasn’t going to cut it for me. I’d read too many reviews about Sigma’s inconsistent QC issues, but I figured Lensrentals would have tested the lenses before putting them out for rent (and this lens was inexpensive to rent for a few days).  Nonetheless, I would magnify the view of an image on my camera LCD and what I saw caused me some consternation. So imagine my total (and very pleasant) surprise when I got home and saw the day’s photos after they’d been downloaded to my computer. Ok, some of the shots were a little grainy because of the high ISO, but at an f-stop of at least 8, and on a tripod, my images turned out quite nice! Moral of this story: don’t base your judgment solely by what you see on your camera’s magnified LCD screen.

Conclusion:

I know I only had this Sigma 50-500mm for a couple of days.  So, this review is not in-depth.  That being said, I totally agree with the comment of  one of my Facebook Fans:

This lens will never take the place of a Canon or Nikon prime, but it’s definitely an affordable substitute.

Migrating Geese

Migrating geese making a stopover at Cross Trails Pond, Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge, Texas

Next weekend (hopefully), I’ll see how the newly-released Tamron 150-600mm measures up.

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Filed under Brazoria NWR, Brazos Bend State Park, Canon, Equipment, Parks, Photography, Sigma lens, Texas, Wildlife Refuge

Aw C’mon Baby, Just One More Kiss

Cmon Baby Just One Little Kiss

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under birds, Brazos Bend State Park, nature, Parks, Photography

A Mid-Winter Photographic Visit to Brazos Bend State Park, Texas

As a rule, Texas enjoys nice, mild winters that are warm enough to encourage many bird varieties to stick around.  So on a nice, sunny Saturday morning, I took my Canon 1DX and 5D Mk III along with my 100-400mm and 24-70mm lenses for a morning  visit to a nearby state park.

Early Harginber of Spring

A Warmer-Weather Harbinger

Lovely Morning On Creekfield Lake

Early Morning on Creekfield Lake

Watching And Waiting

Watching and Waiting

Balancing Act

Balanced

Quite A Mouthful

Quite A Mouthful

Cmon Baby Just One Little Kiss

Aw Cmon, Baby, Just One More Kiss

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A Little Starburst Fun at Brazos Bend State Park, Texas

Evening At Creekfield Lake

For the first time ever, I think, in the 15+ years I have lived here in Texas, I drove over to Brazos Bend State Park in the late afternoon.  Being the morning person that I am, I usually visit this park during the slightly-post-dawn hours before anybody else arrives.

The day was clear and cool and I thought it would be a nice time to try for some evening photos.  Plus, it gave me the opportunity to practice my starburst skills on the lowering sun.

How is this accomplished?

Set your aperture to f22.  It’s as easy as that!

Of course, you’ll need to work with your shutter speed and ISO  to assure you aren’t getting a totally under-exposed image in your quest for a starburst effect.  An aperture of f22 means not much light is getting through to the sensor via that route.

I played around with the ISO so some of these mages are at 320 while others are at  400.

My shutter speeds ranged from between 1/20 to 1/13 of a second.

Needless to say, this was all done on a tripod.

Evening At Creekfield Lake1

Evening At Creekfield Lake2

Note, the longer the shutter speed, the larger and more pronounced the starburst effect.  These images were shot using my Canon 5D Mk III and 16-35mm lens set at 16mm.

Evening At Creekfield Lake3

Now that you see how easy it is to get a starburst effect, go on out, yourself, and have some fun with your camera and lens setup and f22 your way to a neat starburst.

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Filed under Brazos Bend State Park, Equipment, Parks, Photography, starbursts, Texas

Fun With A Big Honkin’ Lens

Becky And The Lens

I’m going to be traveling to the Katmai Peninsula in Alaska later this year to photograph the brown bears (aka grizzly bears) during the salmon spawning season. You’ve seen those photos of the bears standing in the waterfalls while the fish literally jump into their open mouths, right? Well, that’s where I’m going. Needless to say, I am totally stoked (and near broke after paying for the entire trip). Which is why I will be renting (not buying) a 500mm lens to take with me.

Oh, I’ll be taking other lenses too, but that 500mm is going to be special for me. It’s 100mm longer than my 100-400mm lens, and it’s a prime. Prime lenses (aka fixed-focus lenses) on the whole, tend to be sharper than zoom lenses (not always true, but for the most part, yes). This lens that I am renting is going to be a little on the weighty size and –well – it’s gonna be a big honkin’ lens that requires a special tripod head called a gimbal head.

I figured I should perhaps get used to working with such a lens, so I went to my favorite online lens rental outfit and plunked down the money for a 3-day rental of the Canon 500mm f4L lens. Now, this is not the lens I will be taking with me on my Alaska trip. That lens will be the Mk II version of this lens. However, even the rental price for the Mk II version for a 3-day jaunt was more than I wanted to spend at this particular point in time – I’d just paid for my Alaska trip, including airfare – which is why I also did not opt for renting the 600mm lens. Instead, I stuck with the original version of the 500 (which has since been discontinued but you can still rent it).

I wish now I would have measured the lens (with its lens hood) so I could add this to the description, but I was so excited when I received the rental package that I never once thought about anything other than attaching it to the gimbal head and taking it out for a spin.

What’s a gimbal head? Well, it’s a tripod head (just like a ballhead or a panhead) that screws onto your tripod legs. A gimbal head not only accepts the weight of a large and heavy camera/lens combo, but it allows one to move such a combo up and down and around with the lightest of movements. The thing about a gimbal head, though, is that – unlike a ballhead, which allows you to move your camera over all angles in order to get a level position even if the tripod legs are not level – you must get that tripod level to begin with, because the gimbal head itself is not moveable like a ballhead. Oh, I can pan the camera up and down and left and right, but I can’t make the minute sideways or oblique adjustments to get it level on a gimbal if the tripod legs are not already level. You’ll see what I mean from the following photos.

Yeah, so did I mention that the lens is heavy? It weighs 8.5 lbs. I attached it to my Canon 1-DX which weighs about 3.5 lbs. This combination is far too heavy to carry around my neck while walking along a path, so I did what I have seen other photographers do. I carried this combo on the tripod, which I hefted over my shoulder.

Becky Hefting The Lens

Carrying The Tripod

Yeah, I’m smiling for the camera in these photos.  In reality, the only time I was smiling while carrying this behemoth setup was inwardly at all the neat photos I planned on capturing.

After my three days were up, I noticed that my left shoulder and arm had quite a number of bruises on them, which were from traipsing around with this setup. I was also pretty sore from the shoulders down to the waist (I am 5’2” and not a bodybuilder). The weight issue was so worth it, though. So how am I going to be packing this for my Alaska trip? That will be a blog post for the future.

I probably would have never rented this lens for the three days except that I live so close to Brazos Bend State Park and the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge. So, guess what kind of images I captured?

Bird On A Wire CROP

Bird on a wire.  Looks like a red-tailed hawk.  Maybe  juvenile.  Not sure.

Black Bellied Whistling Ducks and American Coots

Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks and American Coots

Killdeer On The Road

Killdeer

Little Yellow Mystery Bird

A Meadowlark, I think…

Turtle

Turtle

Sunning

Sunning.  The day before, there were several alligators near each other and their mouths were open and they were emitting this deep, reverberating rumbling noise to warn each other off. They also rumbled whenever a big bird got too close, and they always rumble whenever a human gets too close.  In this image, though, this guy’s mouth was open to help regulate its temperature (yes, alligators do that).  Apparently, those three reptiles were in accord for the moment.

Lets Rumble

Now this alligator was definitely rumbling at the other alligators.  And it’s the kind of rumble that you can hear quite a distance away, yet it sounds like it’s right next to you.   A bit unnerving unless one is standing high above the gator that is doing the rumbling.

Tree Shrooms

Tree ‘shrooms

Yawn

A yellow-crowned night heron yawning (well, that’s what it appeared to be doing since it wasn’t making any noise when it opened its beak).

Crawfish Lunch

An egret and a crawfish lunch.

Light Snack For A Little Blue Heron

A little blue heron with a crawfish almost as large as the bird!

The local “lunch stop” that is catty-corner to the observation tower on 40-Acre Lake in Brazos Bend State Park is a plethora of different birds.  Egrets and herons are quiet and stealthy and then suddenly, they lunge into the water and bring out some morsel of food.

Three Ibis And A Frog

Three ibis and a frog.  Ibis are not stealthy like egrets and herons.  They constantly move about the water as they poke their long beaks around in the water until they find something – like this frog (Nature:  eat or be eaten).  I was tickled with this image not only because of the frog catch, but also because I have a white ibis in three stages of feather pattern.  The ibis on the far left is a juvenile.  The ibis with the frog is in its summer moult, and the ibis on the right is an adult.

Quite A Mouthful

Quite a mouthful.  This crawfish was ready to do battle with the ibis.

Grebe

Grebe

Grebes

Harbinger

Redbird

Cardinals – harbingers of spring.  My mother calls them “redbirds”.

Walking Away From Me

The only great blue heron I saw that day…..walking away from me….

Blowing In The Breeze

Jeweled Webbery

Natures Jewelry

Web In The Wind

Natures Jewelry

Natures jewelry:  raindrop bedecked orb weaver’s webs gently blowing in the wind.  I saw lots of these on the road leaving Brazos Bend State Park.

After processing the images from this lens, I must say I am impressed with the resolution quality. No, I don’t think the 500mm f4L original version is quite as sharp as, say, my 70-200mm f2.8L Mk II, but it’s pretty sweet nonetheless. And, if I am this impressed with the original version of this lens, I can only imagine how it will be with the Mk II version that I’ll be taking with me to Alaska.

Becky And The Lens_U9A9764-2

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Filed under Brazoria NWR, Brazos Bend State Park, Equipment, Photography, telephoto lens, Wildlife Refuge

An 80-Degree Winter at Brazos Bend State Park

You wouldn’t think it’s winter down here in southeast Texas.   It’s been in the upper 70’s (Fahrenheit) for the past few days.  Foggy in the morning, sunny and bright by mid-morning lasting into the evening.  Yesterday, it was 80 degrees.

I get every other Friday off.  During those Fridays, I generally don’t like to go anywhere (except on vacation, that is).  However, I’d scheduled a bone density test for this particular Friday off, so I decided I’d take along my cameras and spend time after the appointment at a state park to which I’d never been.

Well, I’ve still never been to that state park, and probably won’t ever get there.  You see, Google Map’s directions are not always spot-on.  I managed to get lost and spent the remainder of the morning never finding the park. But, I did see a lot of new area around the outskirts of Houston which I’d never seen before.  I’ve read that seeing new places helps your brain’s neurons (or whatever) create new pathways, which in turn keeps you from getting age-related dementia too soon.  So I guess the morning wasn’t a total waste.

By the time I finally found a highway that would take me home, I decided I might as well drive out to familiar ground instead of going back to my apartment.  So I found myself showing the park ranger my annual Texas State Park pass and I spent a few hours at 40-Acre Lake in Brazos Bend State Park.

H5T1290_Ibis

H5T1377_Turtles Reflection

H5T1418_Great Egret - Vertical

H5T1467_Leading Lines

H5T1549_Friday Afternoon Fishing

The weather was unbelievable.  For  a winter’s day, people were out in shorts and t-shirts.  There still wasn’t much bird life, but the American alligators were sunning themselves in numbers.

H5T1385_Sunning

H5T1403_Alligator Face

Becky was out sunning herself too.  Oh, and I was also testing my new Giga Pro T II wireless remote by Hahnel.

U9A7631_Becky at Brazos Bend

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