As many of you know, my favorite subject to photograph is the horse. Horses, being such large animals, are best photographed with a telephoto lens (at least 100mm) to avoid distortion. Personally, I like to go to at least 150mm. This means getting back a bit (and some curious horses make this very difficult!) but it’s well worth it for the improved quality of photos.
The first lens I got that was truly suitable for equine photography was my Canon 70-200mm F4 L IS USM. I’d considered the f/2.8 version, but couldn’t justify the extra cost and weight for how I shoot. Now, there are two versions of the f/4 - one with image stabilization (IS) and one without. Obviously, the one without is cheaper, but I like to shoot action shots, and I’m not really into using a tripod unless I absolutely have to, so I opted for the more expensive image stabilization option.
The lens is awesome. Canon is proud of their lenses, as the price tag shows, but you definitely get what you pay for. It’s tack sharp at every aperture, including f/4, which is where I shoot most of the time. It’s very quick to focus as well. The IS is amazing (giving you an additional 4 stops!) and I’m so happy I went with it (I can’t imagine trying to shoot handheld without it at these focal lengths anyway)!
If you’re looking for creamy smooth bokeh, this lens will give it to you. Just check out the photos below:
All in all, the Canon 70-200mm F4 L IS USM is a solid lens, well made, and well worth it’s price, and perfect for horse photography (and dogs, and people, and well, a lot of different subjects, really).
The next lens is probably (no, definitely) my most used lens. I don’t know how I went so long without it, honestly. It’s the Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD.
Tamron makes this lens for Canon, Nikon, and some Sony cameras. I use it with a Canon, but from what I’ve read, it’s equally good with the other cameras as well. There’s also a newer version, the G2, but I don’t have that one, so I’ll stick with reviewing the first version.
Originally, I bought this lens because I wanted to photograph birds, and Canon’s most comparable lens was far outside of my budget. This lens is great for birds. It’s also great to take to the zoo (although it gets a lot of looks due to its size...) and it’s a tad heavy to carry around all day, but you can really reach to the back of an exhibit with it zoomed to 600mm.
I discovered, almost by accident, that this lens is awesome for photographing horses. You can really get some reach when the horses are not all that close (great for camera shy horses) and zoom back out to 150mm when they’re a bit closer, and still avoid lens distortion.
It’s not quite as fast to focus as the Canon lenses, and the image stabilization is a bit noisy (but that really only matters if you shoot video, and I don’t). However, that noisy image stabilization is also excellent, and has saved many handheld shots for me. The images are impressively sharp as well.
The main downside to any lens like this is that it requires a lot of light to reach a fast shutter speed. So if you want to use it handheld (like I do), and shoot in the morning or evening when the light is low (like I do), that usually requires you to bump up the ISO in your camera to get sharp shots. Fortunately, my camera (the Canon 5D Mark III) is good at handling high ISO, so I don’t worry about it much. Alternatively, you can use a tripod and avoid having to bump up the ISO too much.
And the bokeh. The bokeh might not be quite as smooth as the Canon lenses (and that’s being really really nitpicky). It’s still beautifully smooth. I don’t think you could do better without spending a whole lot more money. See for yourself:
Overall, the Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD is a very solid lens and is my go-to for a huge variety of subjects.