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Old Nov 30, 2008, 12:06 PM   #1
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after seeing Mr. Dawg's comparison and trying some stuff with my own lenses I am somewhat in the process of making up my mind regarding the tele end of my lens collection. What I am after are recommendations, hints, personal experiences, advises etc. in that area. The goal is to replace some of my lenses and sell most of the ones I use way too rarely.

The current situation: in my photo-bag (small/medium travelling) I carry some prime lenses:
- Pentax-A 50/1.7
- Pentax-M 85/2
- Pentax-K 135/2.5
- Pentax-M 200/4

Then there is a Vivitar 2x Macro TC, some cleaning utilities, SD cards, rechargeables, some filters etc.

I usually mount a walkaround lens on the camera depending on situation, e.g. the kit lens for wide angle or a Vivitar 28-105.

For sports/action/zoo and the like I replace some of the lenses with either Vivitar 70-210/2.8-4 or Kiron 70-200/4, and sometimes I use my Tammy 70-300 - if I feel there is enough light.

My complaints:
- I miss a good wide angle lens (but that's not the issue in this post)
- I somewhat miss a good and FAST tele lens, that is still lightweight and affordable

To set the rules:
- I am fine with "M" lenses, IF they are sharp (in the means of details) wide open.
- prime lenses are ok - although I love the ability to zoom the image quality is more important than the zoom. Sidenote: having said that, I wouldn't mind using a 200-300mm f/4 lens (if there was such a thing), but still IQ is more important than zoom
- I need lenses that are good for roaming around, dig them out of the bag when needed, hand-hold them with the camera, probably with some natural support (trees, walls, whatever - *maybe* a monopod)
- I DO NOT NEED lenses to observe animals over a long period of time, compete with the real wildlife shooting pro's etc.
- PK mount preferred, if the price and lens is really good I'd go for M42 or Adaptall etc.

Question #1 - which 200mm lens to keep?
- Pentax M 200/4 --> small, lightweight (405g), integrated sunshade, good IQ, "M" lens
-Kiron (M) 70-200/4 --> medium weight (655g with caps and UV filter),"M" lens, ok IQ
- Vivitar Series 1 70-210/2.8-4 --> heavy (860g!!), ok IQ, "A" mode

I'll do a shootout to test image quality, but they are close IQ-wise iirc. - differences are mostlyin CA, bokeh, color rendering and such things.

- a Pentax A 70-210/4 (680g) is quite sharp wide open... maybe replace the 3 with that one?
- Pentax A 200/4 (405g) would add "A" setting

Now I know, that there are several other 200mm (I wouldn't mind a 180mm, if IQ is good) lenses, i.e. Tamron, Vivitar, whatever - preferrable faster than f/4. What would you recommend?

Question #2 - 300mm or a tad better)
Now here are some possible solutions:
- have a (very) good 200mm lens and use a 1.4 TC --> 280mm
- 300mm prime (i.e. Pentax 300/4 or from some other manufacturer)
- stay at my Tammy 70-300 (slow AF, leightweight, already needs a lot of light)

I don't think I can go below f/4 here given my rule for something that I can (and am willing to) carry around. What are the contendors here?

I only have a small budget, but I hope you've got some nice ideas as it doesn't have to be the newest DA & AF lenses.

I don't need a quick solution, this is something to start a conversation and to see what ideas we can share.

Best regards,
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Old Nov 30, 2008, 4:11 PM   #2
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As far as something that's 300mm, I love my Pentax A*300 f4. Fast enough, reasonable weight, relatively small for a 300mm prime. Cost is normally less than the FA or DA version of the lens which are both heavier and larger. I understand the FA is better balanced and therefore easier to use but I don't have any trouble hand-holding mine. It doesn't have a way to attach a tripod mount, so you have to mount the camera on a tripod. It fits in the 200 Slingshot bag very nicely. Main disadvantage is that its minimum focus distance is something like 11 feet (maybe a bit more) so is not good if you are looking for a macro lens. The DA*300 focuses much closer.
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Old Nov 30, 2008, 4:17 PM   #3
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Almost all 300mm f/4 primes are going to weigh a good bit but I'd go for one of those..But then again I don't mind hand holding a 2000+ gram lens. A takumar or super takumar will weigh between 900g-1500g. Most other brands will be in that range .


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Old Nov 30, 2008, 8:31 PM   #4
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Obviously I can only speak to the lenses I have tried. If you are looking at a prime, and macro capability is important, the Tamron Adaptall SP 300mm f/5.6 might be one to look at. I find the macro to be better than the 70-300mm Sigma I also have in the arsenal and it it quite lightweight for a metal manual focus lens. I have seen them go on ebay in the $100 range.

For a zoom covering that same territory, I love my Tokina AT-X 100-300mm f/4. It is a sharper lens than the Tamron above and a stop faster. It is heavier, but it is no problem to handhold it. I have seen these going in the $250 range, which is a quarter of the price of a new Sigma 100-300mm f/4.

Both lenses are manual focus. My Tokina is an A lens, the Tamron can be an A if you spring for a KA adaptall mount. If I had to choose to get rid of one of them the Tamron would go first, I have other macro choices and the Tokina is very competitive with the much heavier and more expensive Tamron 300mm f/2.8.

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Old Dec 1, 2008, 2:25 PM   #5
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Hi Th,

I tried answering this earlier, but somehow managed to close the tab without sending, so here goes again -- probably more information than you wanted, but thats's my normal mode anyway. . .

First, I think that the A 70-210/4 would very ably replace the lenses that you listed, but I haven't used all of the ones you have, so I'm just going by reputation on this -- and experience with the A 70-210. It is one of the two zooms in this range whose IQ and max aperture stands up to use with the 1.7x AFA. The other is the Tamron SP 80-200 f2.8 Adaptall 2(model 30A).

The A 70-210/4 is attractive from a number of standpoints. It's readily available, relatively inexpensive (@ $100 USD), and built like a tank. The Tamron is a bit sharper, but being an f2.8 constant, is much bigger and heavier, and the Adaptall 2 PK/A adaptor has become rare and expensive. Since you're not adverse to manual exposure, the PK adaptor is still reasonably available at more reasonable cost though. My Tamron SP80-200/2.8 was downgraded to "bargain" at KEH because it was missing the original hood, so it was truly a bargain at @$200 USD -- I was able to find an OEM hood online for less than $10, so I bought it.

Other xx-200 class lenses that are at the top of the heap in IQ would be the Komine (v3) Vivitar Series 1 (pretty rare, and usually "collector" expensive), the Tamron SP 70-210 f3.5 (19AH)-- pretty rare, but not very well known, so you might be able to pick up a deal, and in AF, the F 70-210 f4-5.6 ED -- one of the best IQ consumer zooms ever made (but I've seen and heard about these lenses breaking more often than I'd expect). I had an otherwise mint F70-210 that broke at the zoom helicoid, and parts were not available. I also have a Vivitar S1 (Cosina mfg -- v4), and it's not a very good lens.

For other recommendations, I'd first look at current lenses. Advances in optics and design have made a few of these very desireable. The DA 50-200 ED and Pentax/Tamron 55-300s are, I think, worthy of consideration. I know that you specified fast, but with reasonable high ISO IQ at 400 and 800, you can get equivalent shutter speeds to an f2.8 lens at ISO 100 and 200 respectively. Add SR for static subjects, and size and weight (235g for the 50-200, and 440g for the 55-300) as factors, and the argument is pretty compelling.

With f5.6 and f5.8 as the max apertures at the long ends, these lenses will not work well with TCs because of the light loss, but if you're only going to be using the reach occasionally, and handheld at that, I'd think that the IQ/size&weight ratio would be nothing but practical. Of course, with the 55-300, the 50-200 would be redundant, so the extra expense of the longer zoom might be justifiable, as it could possibly eliminate the need for any other tele lenses. With two xx-200/2.8s, I still have and use the DA50-200, and if I had the 55-300, I'd have numerous situations where I'd rather carry this than one of my much bigger and heavier premium 300s.

In 200mm MF primes, the Pentaxes are IMO, the top of the heap. I have the A*200/2.8, and it's an outstanding lens in every way, and is on a level above ANY of the xx-200 zooms, IMO -- even the legendary FA*80-200/2.8, as are the newer FA* and DA*s. I also have a Tamron SP 180 f2.5 which is a stellar lens also, but IMO, not as good as the A*200. Both of these lenses are probably not in the budget, but I was able to obtain the SP 180 at less than $200 USD ($350-500 is pretty standard) by taking a chance on an auction that listed it as having internal dust, but when I got it, the back of the lens had an even coating of dust on the outside of the element, and there was no internal dust, so a careful standard cleaning was all it needed. I've had good luck in the past finding "damaged" gems, but it is really a matter of luck, so YMMV.

In the 300mm class, again the Pentax primes are the best bet for IQ, IMO, but there are differences in the models. The K 300/4 is very good, but is bigger and heavier than the later models, and not quite as sharp from reports. The M* and A* 300/4s share the same improved optics over the K, and have the same downside as the K of a relatively long minimum focusing distance as Harriet noted. The F* and FA* are improved with ED elements which improve CA and PF control to the point of almost eliminating them, and improve the sharpness just a tad (it would be hard to improve it much more). They are also a 1/3 stop slower at f4.5, but balance better with a 67mm front element as opposed to the 77mm front of the earlier models. They feature AF, of course, and focus down to @ 2m instead of the @ 4m for the previous models. The DA*, in my estimation from a quick play, is back to f4, a smidgeon sharper, and a bit bigger and heavier than the F* or FA*. With Quick Shift focusing, SDM, weatherproofing, close focusing down to 1.4m, and optimization for digital, not to mention easy availability, this is the best choice for a premium 300 prime, though I've chosen to stand pat with my FA*300/4.5. I realize that these are probably not an option because of price, but I thought it worth mentioning.

Sigma and Tokina have apparently offered limited runs of their AF 300/4s, but I've personally never seen any, either in use, or for sale. The Sigma EX 100-300 f4 is very highly regarded, but pretty expensive at @ $1000 USD. Tokina's 100-300 f4 AT-X SD MF lens has tested as being very sharp, but my copy is apparently not up to this standard (some day, I'll take it to a good lens tech and see if something can be done). I would still take a chance on one of these on reputation alone though, if offered for a good price. I've heard that there were limited numbers of the AF version of this lens, that they are very good, but are very rare. I've only seen one of these for sale in 4 years. I'll assume they would be pricey.

I know that the 300/2.8s are out of the question, but what the . . .:-) Three years ago, I said that I'd never use a huge, heavy lens like a 300/2.8, so it would be a waste of money to buy such and expensive lens and let it sit at home because it was just too big to practically use. Two years ago, In search of more reach with TCs, and with the AFAs ability to convert MF lenses to AF assisted, I picked up a used Tamron SP 300 f2.8 LD (IF) Adaptall 2.

I was so pleased with the results from this lens, always with the 1.7x AFA (510mm/4.8), and sometimes with the AFA stacked on the SP140F 1.4x TC (714mm/6.7), that I found myself looking for a deal on a used Sigma EX 300 f2.8 APO. I picked up one of these this past summer, so I'd have AF alternatives at 300/2.8 and 420/4. I thought about this for a very long time since it seemed like a very large investment for such a small gain in versatility and convenience, but it's been worth it for me and what I like to shoot. So some paradigms change -- I went from thinking "never" 3 years ago to my current practice of always having at least one of these lenses with me wherever I go. Who woulda thunk it. . .:-)

In the meantime, I've discovered that Tamron, despite many references to the contrary, has made a small number of their SP 300/2.8 AF lenses in Pentax KAF mount. Good thing I didn't know this, or I probably would have wasted good time looking for one of these rarities, instead of just getting the Sigma.

As I said, probably more info than was wanted, but I tend to get a little carried away. . .:shock: Hopefully someone will get some ideas from this. . .

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Old Dec 2, 2008, 1:31 PM   #6
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for 20bucks pick up a vivitar 200/3.5 M42..
it's one of best bang for the $$ you'll find. it's a tank tho..
i've had 7 or eight all made by komine.
here's a shot with mine at f3.5

the M200/4 is also a great lens at 1/2 the weight and 1/2 a stop slower.

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Old Dec 2, 2008, 5:28 PM   #7
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@mtngal and BigDawg
Yeah - I've heard good things about the 300/4 primes in general and I do understand that such a lens has to be a bit on the heavy side or at least weight more than the average "consumer (zoom) lens". The macro thingie is something I have to think about, how close is close enough is the big question...

Same goes here for the Tamron you suggested... I have to think about my macro needs with 300mm lenses.On a first thought I'd say "I need no macro" - but I think it's wiser to think this over as other people brought up that question, too. I haven't really used the 1:2 macro mode onmy 70-300Tammy lens... but a close focussing range is worth something.

I'll keep an eye on that Tokina lens you mentioned, thanks.

What a pity, thatthe forum "ate" your posting - whenever this happens to me, I think twice before I write a longer posting again :roll:- so thanks for the double effort!

Other xx-200 class lenses that are at the top of the heap in IQ would be the Komine (v3) Vivitar Series 1 (pretty rare, and usually "collector" expensive)
Do you really think it is that good? Mine is a v3 (serial number starts with 28, which according to this website: http://www.robertstech.com/vivitar.htmmeans it was produced by Komine) and it gave me nice pictures so far, bokeh is "Vivitar-like" a bit harsher than from a good Pentax lens and colors are a tad cooler... but I didn't really made a "shootout". I always found it's already kinda heavy and that's what I am complaining about mostly to be honest.

SR (shake reduction) is my weak point, as my DL2 doesn't have this feature. My plan was to first get a feeling for that dSLR stuff, stay with a cheap body and rather learn about lenses, my preferences and such and later upgrade to a better body, when I sorted the lens stuff a bit. The other side are moving objects (I know, better with AF and such) where SR doesn't really help. Maybe I am asking for too much here, especially for my budget...

The A*200/2.8 (or the like) is a more radical choice. On one hand I like the idea, on the other I'm just not man enough to do that move. That lens and a good TC (or even different ones... maybe even a 1.7 AFA) would give a wonderful 200mm lens PLUS a 280/4 - 400/5.6 lens depending on TC. Tempting - to say the least.

Ah! I saw those now and then (mind you - I am looking for stuff available at a good overall cost, and postage from the US to Germany isn't really cheap plus I have to pay customs duty on top when the price hits a certain value :sad:. So in most cases I just have to let go those "bargains".

The bokeh in your shot looks great (I haven't had detail/sharpness issues with good Vivitars so far, only the bokeh is somewhat harsh at times), so I'll keep and eye on those, thanks.

Thanks for your advises, opinion and comments! I think I'll have to do a shootout between my 200mm lenses and really sell some, when I settled on a favourite. In the meantime I'll make up my mind on the prime vs. zoom and the 200mm + TC decisions.

Best regards,
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Old Dec 2, 2008, 6:40 PM   #8
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Th...post that shoot out here please. It can be a big help for others out there with the same dilemma.

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