Equipment – So I Bought a 600mm Lens …

Equipment – So I Bought a 600mm Lens …

I felt it was time to take my Wildlife Photography to another level so I bought a 600mm lens and WOW, what a difference!

Bird Photography - White-winged Fairy-wren, Mindarie, Perth, Western Australia - Photographic Art
White-winged Fairy-wren, Mindarie, Perth, Western Australia

Until recently I have focused more on Landscape than Wildlife Photography, I can’t exactly explain why as I have always loved animals but that’s just the way it happened. I have always had a 70-200mm lens which I would use to photograph wildlife when the opportunity presented itself but as a rule, I had my wide-angle zoom attached to my camera when I was out and about.

However, over the past few years, I have spent more & more time looking for and photographing wildlife. I guess the turning point was when we talked to Native Animal Rescue here in Perth about photographing some of their permanent residents with a view to helping promote the work that organisations such as NAR do to help protect & preserve our native wildlife.

Red-Tailed Black Cockatoo, Native Animal Rescue, Perth, Western Australia - Photographic Art
Red-Tailed Black Cockatoo, Native Animal Rescue, Perth, Western Australia

I now have the Wildlife Photography bug, my wide-angle lens is on temporary leave & I have been doing my best to get wildlife photos using my trusty 70-200mm lens. Needless to say the more I did the more frustrated I became, getting close to wildlife is not easy and having to crop your images too heavily can cause quite a loss of quality, even for my incredibly sharp 70-200mm.

So I started looking at alternative lenses to give me that longer reach. Obviously the Canon 100-400mm L II was an option but I wasn’t convinced that 400mm would make enough of a difference so I started researching what long time pro Wildlife Photographers were using. Guess what, they were all using 600mm fixed length primes costing a tidy $18,000+ and weighing in at over 3kg 😲
I’m not quite brave enough to ask my wife to let me spend that sort of cash on a lens just yet 😱

After more research, I also discovered that Sigma & Tamron had started to introduce longer & longer zoom lenses culminating with their flagship 150-600mm models. What’s more these lenses were getting incredibly good reviews for image quality & being at a much more reasonable price point they were an ideal entry into the 600mm club.

Bird Photography - Silver Gull, Neil Hawkins Park, Perth, Western Australia - Photographic Art
Silver Gull, Neil Hawkins Park, Perth, Western Australia

Choosing the Right Lens

Both Sigma & Tamron have 2 lenses in the 150-600mm category with varying price points & features, although they all share a lot in common: f/5-6.3 / Stabilisation / Zoom Lock / Quiet AF Drive / Tripod Mount …
Here they are in price order:

My criteria for choosing one of these lenses:
  1. Weight: I want to be able to use the lens with or without a tripod and these lenses are not light so weight is very important.
  2. Image Quality: Obviously I want the best image quality I can get.
  3. Build Quality: I also want a lens that feels sturdy and well built.
  4. Features: Lens functionality is an important factor especially regarding Stabilisation & Auto Focus.
  5. Accessories: Not a big factor but something to throw into the mix.
  6. Support: I prefer to buy a brand that is known for good customer service.
Bird Photography - Pied Cormorant, Mindarie, Perth, Western Australia - Photographic Art
Pied Cormorant, Mindarie, Perth, Western Australia
After much research, reading reviews, watching reviews on youtube & deliberation I decided to go with the SIGMA 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary lens.
Here are my reasons based on my criteria above:
  1. Weight: The Sigma Contemporary was one of the two lightest lenses at 1.95kg
  2. Image Quality: The Tamron G1 (the other lightest lens) consistently came out at slightly lower quality while the other 3 all seemed very similar.
  3. Build Quality: All 4 lenses seemed to have good build quality with the Sigma Contemporary lacking in the weather sealing.
  4. Features: The Tamron G1 lacks a dedicated panning mode which is the biggest problem I could see.
  5. Accessories: Both Sigma lenses come with carry cases & straps, the Tamrons have neither which I would have a problem with.
  6. Support: From what I have read Sigma appears to come out top in the customer service area.
Bird Photography - New Holland Honeyeater, Gidgegannup, Perth, Western Australia - Photographic Art
New Holland Honeyeater, Gidgegannup, Perth, Western Australia

This is not intended to be a review of these lenses in any way, simply my subjective opinion based on the research I have done.
There is a lot of information about these lenses on the internet, some of it very conflicting, but the one consistent opinion I came away with was that you would not regret buying any of them and the differences are minimal.

All 4 of these lenses are amazing at what they do, especially when considering the price point and the image quality they produce for lenses with a 600mm reach.

I decided early on that I would most likely get one of the Sigmas due to their better reputation for customer service & the fact that they came with a case & strap (a more important criteria than I initially realised). Nothing I read about the Tamron’s was enough to change my mind, which in no way says Tamron are bad Sigma just seemed to suit me better.

In the end, it was the weight that swayed me towards the Contemporary model over the Sport which is almost 1kg heavier and really not suitable for hand-holding for any period of time. I would have liked to have the weather sealing but you can’t have it all ways and I don’t plan on going out in thunderstorms or traveling through the desert just yet.

Overall I think the Sigma Contemporary model is the best value for money for anyone who wants to get into some serious Wildlife Photography on a budget.

Bird Photography - Silver Gull, Neil Hawkins Park, Perth, Western Australia - Photographic Art
Silver Gull, Neil Hawkins Park, Perth, Western Australia

Initial Thoughts on Using a 150-600mm Lens

I’ve had my new Sigma 150-600mm Contemporary Lens for a few weeks now and you can see some of the results I’ve been getting on this page.

Learning to get the best from a lens like this is a journey, you don’t simply buy a 2kg 600mm lens and get perfect results straight up. There’s a bit of a learning curve on how to use these monsters and I’m definitely still learning a lot.

Little things like changing how you carry your camera & transport it are all new. I’m so glad this lens came with a strap & case which allowed me to start using it practically straight away.

So far I’ve got some amazing images that I could never have taken with my 70-200mm but I’ve also got a lot of duds. Managing shutter speed, aperture & ISO create a whole new challenge with a 2kg 600mm lens so I’m now watching a whole new set of youtube videos on the best approach to handling & using these beasts.

I hope to be posting some more articles about my journey with this lens so keep an eye out and feel free to ask any questions you may have 👍

Bird Photography - New Holland Honeyeater, Gidgegannup, Perth, Western Australia - Photographic Art
New Holland Honeyeater, Gidgegannup, Perth, Western Australia
Bird Photography - New Holland Honeyeater, Gidgegannup, Perth, Western Australia - Photographic Art
New Holland Honeyeater, Gidgegannup, Perth, Western Australia
Bird Photography - Pied Cormorant, Mindarie, Perth, Western Australia - Photographic Art
Pied Cormorant, Mindarie, Perth, Western Australia
Bird Photography - Silver Gull, Neil Hawkins Park, Perth, Western Australia - Photographic Art
Silver Gull, Neil Hawkins Park, Perth, Western Australia

Post Processing

These images were processed using a combination of Adobe Lightroom Classic CC, Adobe Photoshop CC 2019 & ON1 Photo RAW 2019.

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Photos – Chasing Ducks in Yanchep National Park

Photos – Chasing Ducks in Yanchep National Park

We heard that there are some baby Swans around Lake Wagardu in Yanchep National Park so we took a trip out there for our daily walk, sadly the Swans were a no-show but we did get to see a lot of other bird life around the Lake.

Abundant Bird Life, Yanchep National Park, Perth, Wester Australia

Abundant Bird Life, Yanchep National Park, Perth, Wester Australia

If you look closely at the above image you can see a Pelican and numerous other wading birds and ducks going about their daily business. The Park really is a natural wonder 🙂

Hungry Duck, Yanchep National Park, Perth, Western Australia

Hungry Duck, Yanchep National Park, Perth, Western Australia

One thing Yanchep National park has in abundance is Ducks!

When we sat on a park bench to eat our lunch three Pacific Black Ducks waddled on over to see if they could get some crumbs. One was immediately chased off by the other two, obviously he wasn’t part of the “In-Crowd”!

Luckily for the Ducks we know more about what is good for them than they do so they weren’t very lucky in the food department. It is really important not to feed Ducks or any other wild animals as it can upset the balance of nature as well as causing serious health problems according to the Department of Parks & Wildlife.

The first couple of Duck shots weren’t quite so sharp, something to do with having a shutter speed of 1/40th sec I suspect 😳 However, you can get some interesting shots of animals with slow shutter speeds sometimes, the first 2 photos I took looked like the Duck was shaking and nodding his head …

Duck Says No, Yanchep National Park, Perth, Western Australia

Duck Says No, Yanchep National Park, Perth, Western Australia

Duck Says Yes, Yanchep National Park, Perth, Western Australia

Duck Says Yes, Yanchep National Park, Perth, Western Australia

Maybe he was just going Quackers  :mrgreen:

Being Spring there were also a lot of incredibly cute Ducklings around this extended family of Australian Wood Ducks were gorgeous …

Duckling Creche, Yanchep National Park, Perth, Western Australia

Duckling Creche, Yanchep National Park, Perth, Western Australia

Spring Ducklings, Yanchep National Park, Perth, Western Australia

Spring Ducklings, Yanchep National Park, Perth, Western Australia

Ducklings On Watch, Yanchep National Park, Perth, Western Australia

Ducklings On Watch, Yanchep National Park, Perth, Western Australia

These two Pacific Black Ducklings cuddled up by the Lake were pretty damn cute too …

Twin Ducklings, Yanchep National Park, Perth, Western Australia

Twin Ducklings, Yanchep National Park, Perth, Western Australia

While on our walk around the lake I spotted this awesome carving on one of the tree stumps, no idea who did it but it looked cool.

Kangaroo Carving, Yanchep National Park, Perth, Western Australia

Kangaroo Carving, Yanchep National Park, Perth, Western Australia

Hopefully we’ll spot the Swan’s Cygnets on our next trip to the Park.

All of these images were processed in Lightroom CC & ON1 Photo 10 & Photoshop CC. You can download free trials of these programs or purchase them from the links below:

Cheers,
Dave

Photos – Twenty-Eight Parrot in the Daisies at Whiteman Park

Photos – Twenty-Eight Parrot in the Daisies at Whiteman Park

We went for a bush walk in Whiteman Park last week and spotted these two Twenty-Eight Parrots having lunch while being cleverly camouflaged by the yellow Daisies.

Twenty-Eight Having Lunch in the Daisies, Whiteman Park, Perth, Western Australia

Twenty-Eight Having Lunch in the Daisies, Whiteman Park, Perth, Western Australia

Twenty-Eight Standing Tall in the Daisies, Whiteman Park, Perth, Western Australia

Twenty-Eight Standing Tall in the Daisies, Whiteman Park, Perth, Western Australia

Whilst only found in Australia these guys are not considered endangered though they do compete for nesting space in the south west with the introduced Rainbow Lorikeets.

According to noongarculture.org.au the Twenty-Eight Parrot or darlmoorluk is the ‘guardian or protector of the camps’, not that that stopped them from being eaten when the need was high 🙂

You can read more about our Whiteman Park walk in Maggies blog post on MADAboutWA.com.au

Cheers,
Dave

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