Thread: Pentax 300/f2.8
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Old May 29, 2009, 1:14 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by jelpee View Post
If I were to look for a Pentax 300mm f/2.8, where would I start? i.e. Is this lens in current production by Pentax in order to get one new? I thought I read some where that it was possible to order one through Pentax to be built to order...but it was on a discussion thread to which I did not attach much credence. Is the second hand market the only place to purchase this lens? I am not keen on an e-bay transaction on such a high $ purchase from a seller who I would not know.
Hi jelpee,

Sorry I didn't see this before. More of these type of lenses are becoming available used. I've been monitoring them off and on for a couple of years. I think that the economic atmosphere is causing people to sell off little used high end teles that were probably sitting around in closets somewhere -- and on the buyer's side, less people are willing to pay super premium prices for them, so they aren't being snapped up as fast as they had in the past (maybe there's still hope to snag an FA*200/4 Macro for reasonable money). I've probably seen more A*, F*, and FA* ultra teles and zooms offered in the last 6 months than in the previous year. There were actually 2 A*400/2.8s available from different sources at the same time, both priced at less than $3000, and an FA*250-600 that went for under $4000, all of which are pretty unheard of. I was tempted, but these are both @ 13 lb lenses -- way too big and heavy for me to lug around. . .

I got mine from KEH. It was listed as a "bargain" grade and only had a standard rear filter instead of including the whole set that originally came with the lens (not a big deal for me). The price was a bit more than 1/2 the last retail price that I'd seen listed ($4700 USD), and I couldn't resist, even tho I'd recently bought a used Sigma EX 300/2.8 APO. The FA*300/2.8 is a legendary lens, and the chances of getting one at under $3000 are few and far between since this class of lens is usually babied and the average condition is EX or EX+. Mine has some scratches on the body and hood, but apparently has never been seriously abused or dropped (if this lens were to be dropped, it's so big that there would be significant damage, even from a short fall).

My thinking about where to buy is that KEH is the best dealer for used lenses. Their grading system is very conservative (from my experience --I've bought a lot of lenses from them, and they've always been at least a half grade better than I expected) , and "bargain" grade lenses in this class are most likely to be perfect optically. They also are usually really fair about prices asked for premium lenses. B&H and Adorama are not as reliable in their grading, but all three of these are very reputable dealers, allowing returns for any reason, and no hassles except for the return shipping which you'd pay for from anyone. PForums marketplace would be another source, but IMO, people listing there are usually asking what the market will bear. If the lens doesn't sell, there can be price drops so you have to keep checking, or you can make an offer. . . I'd feel confident if the seller was a frequent poster or if some other known posters had recommended the seller. . .The thing to remember is that this class of lens is rarely abused -- most people who buy them are careful in the extreme, and the mfgs even usually supply a protective filter for the front element that's part of the optical formula -- both my Sigma EX 300/2.8 and the FA*300/2.8 have them.

I currently have three 300/2.8s! I originally bought a Tamron SP300/2.8 LD (model 60B) Adaptall 2 over 2 years ago. I wanted to see if I'd actually use a lens of this size (over 5 lbs with a 112mm front element), and the Tamron was the least expensive alternative by a long shot. I found that I could handle it, but this is about my limit for practical use, and even tho I started out using it mostly handheld or with a monopod, I eventually realized that a tripod was the best way to get the most from a lens of this size. I used it pretty much exclusively with the 1.7x AFA to get AF (I have to rely on AF a lot because my vision changes a lot during the course of a day). Although this is a great combo, I found myself wanting AF with the speed of a 300/2.8 or a 420/4 (with an AF 1.4x) for overcast days. Since I had to use the 1.7x AFA to get AF, I was "limited" to 510/4.8 or 714/6.7 with the MF Tamron.

Last October, I found an EX grade Sigma EX 300/2.8 APO (first AF model -- they've subsequently released APO DG and then the current APO DG Macro) for under $2000, so I bought it, thinking that I was never going to find the under $3000 FA*300/2.8 that I'd been hoping for. . . This is a nice lens, and I found a nice EX 1.4x APO AF TC to go with it. The Sigma, in addition to giving me AF at 300/2.8 and 420/4 with the TC, adds better CA and PF control and an easily removeable tripod collar.

Then this last January, I found the FA*300/2.8 at KEH. I knew I wanted it, but I'd just bought the Sigma. . . -- so I waited -- figuring that someone would grab this one and put me out of my misery. After a couple of days -- the lens was still listed, so I called, found it was indeed still in stock, and bought it. This is now my most used lens -- in a different class as far as I'm concerned, though objectively only a little sharper than the Sigma or Tamron wide open. The FA* has some features that the Sigma lacks -- strap lugs on the tripod collar and a focus limiter -- both really useful, even if they don't seem like a big deal. . .

I usually don't really care how a lens looks -- but in this case, I REALLY like using the big silver FA*300/2.8 on one body tripod mounted, and having the color and graphics matched FA*300/4.5 on a second body for handheld stuff. The big PENTAX graphics on the hoods makes a statement!!!!!!

Other alternatives (all only on the used market) that are rarely seen are:
Tokina 300/2.8 AT-X SD (MF)
Tokina 300/2.8 AT-X Pro (AF)
Tamron SP 300/2.8 LD (AF)

The best of these is supposed to be the Tokina AT-X Pro (AF) model, which is supposed to be pretty much on par with the Sigma EX 300/2.8 APO DG Macro, which in turn is a bit better than the APO model that I have.

My experience has been that the best way to find a great deal on a rare lens is to buy the next best alternative This always seems to happen to me. . . I found my bargain FA*300/4.5 exactly one month after "settling" for an A*300/4 a couple of years ago. . .

. . . probably more info that you wanted. . .


BTW, as of time of this posting, KEH has an EX+ FA*300/2.8 for $4119 !!!
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