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Old Oct 2, 2008, 9:35 PM   #1
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Okay, the 55-300mm f/4-5.8 Pentax lens has received rave reviews. And it's quite possible I will buy one. But f/5.8 at the long end is a bit slow if you wind up in heavily wooded areas or want to shoot just before sunset, etc.

So my question is, what are the best alternatives? Pentax offers a very nice, high-quality 300mm non-zoom lens. But it's priced in excess of $1000. With the 55-300mm going for roughly $350, are there options that might, say, split the difference and offer high quality and great results for $600-$700? Yes, I can just look at the catalogues from Sigma, Tamron, etc. But I want to know what other Pentaxians are using.

For those who don't know me, I'm currently operating with a K200D and my other lenses are the DA* 16-50mm f/2.8 and the DA* 50-135mm f/2.8. I want a long lens for both nature photos and sporting events. But I'm not so daft as to think I can get an f/2.8 lens at 300mm in the price range I'm talking about. And a variable-aperture zoom is fine as well. Sigma used to make a 135-400mm lens. It's now listed as discontinued. I wonder how good that was.

Oh yes. One last non-related question. Has anyone had experience with both the Pentax FA 35mm f/2.0 lens and the Pentax Limited 31mm f/1.8 lens? I'd love to pick up that 31mm Limited. But at $800+, I might have to settle for the 35mm. Price aside, is the real-world difference between these lenses all that much? And do the FA lenses that were designed in the film days offer full metering and auto focus?

Steve
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Old Oct 2, 2008, 10:12 PM   #2
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One alternative that would be a little cheaper than the Pentax 300mm f4, and give you more flexibility, would be the Sigma 70-200 f2.8 DG Macro HSM II with the 1.4X APO teleconverter. The upside of this combo would be that it would give you f4 at 280mm and would give you a very good f2.8 sports lens without the teleconverter. The downside is that you would not save a lot of money over the Pentax 300mm. The Sigma 70-200 is about $ 800 and the teleconverter about $ 200, so you'd save about $ 125 over the Pentax 300.

The Sigma is a new version of a classic lens. I got mine last week and so far have been very impressed although I'll know more about it as a sports lens after I shoot football with it tomorrow night. Performance wise, it compares very favorably with the DA*50-135, although some of the shots I took in a terribly lit gym Tuesday were better than I usually get with the 50-135.



I have not yet used it with the 1.4X, but I'll try to shoot some tomorrow to make sure that the two mate well.

Paul
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Old Oct 2, 2008, 10:17 PM   #3
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Thanks, Paul. I'll be looking forward to the results of your experiment.

Steve
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Old Oct 3, 2008, 4:59 AM   #4
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Hm, I am using a Tammy 70-300 for 300mm at the moment and got an offer for a 300/4.5 Rikenon lense, but the weight (1050g) cured my LBA very fast. OK, it's all metal/glass... but as I am looking for a travellers/non tripod solution this is really really heavy. Still I am not sure if I should grab it...

A Pentax 300/4 would be nice, true.
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Old Oct 3, 2008, 3:29 PM   #5
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My solution for 300mm was to buy a used A*300/f4 (only a good solution if you don't mind manual focus). It's small and relatively light for a 300mm prime, it fits in my slingshot 200 bag relatively well. The downside of this lens is that it's closest focusing distance is about 12 feet - not exactly good for macros! When I bought mine, they were going for between $500-800, pre-DA*300 days. I haven't checked the price recently to see if they've dropped any.

I've been thinking about getting the 55-300 because I really need something around 200mm. However, Paul's idea of the Sigma 70-200 with APO teleconverter might be a betteroption, though I'd rather have a TC that isn't limited as far as which lenses it can be used on. I may just continue to think about it all until Pentax comes out with their TC (next year?) and then decide, throwing the DA*200 as another option.
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Old Oct 3, 2008, 3:57 PM   #6
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The only fly in the ointment with Paul's solution - as he pointed out himself - is the price: only $125 less than the DA* 300 f/4. Still, it does offermore flexibility. I'll think about this a bit. But if the fall outdoor photography season in the Northeast makes me impatient, I may just go for the 55-300mm f/4-5.8 to hold me over until an ideal solution comes along. Plus, it would be nice to have something that covers the range between135 and 300mm. I'lljust have toshoot during good light.

Steve




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Old Oct 3, 2008, 4:23 PM   #7
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mtngal wrote:
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However, Paul's idea of the Sigma 70-200 with APO teleconverter might be a betteroption, though I'd rather have a TC that isn't limited as far as which lenses it can be used on. I may just continue to think about it all until Pentax comes out with their TC (next year?) and then decide, throwing the DA*200 as another option.
Harriet, your point is a valid one. Let me explain why I decided to go this way. Because I have the Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 and the DA*50-135, adding the 70-200 gave me f/2.8 coverage from 18-200. I first added the 2X teleconverter, allowing me to have a f/5.6 400mm (before my first 70-200 was stolen). But, in the back of my mind was the fact that I planned to purchase a Bigma and buy the 1.4X at the same time, knowing I could also use it with both Sigma lenses.

Now that I have the full set, I can cover up through 280mm at f/4.0 and can go all the way up to 700mm with the Bigma and 1.4X, and 1000mm with the Bigma and 2X. Because the APO converters are matched to the lenses, sharpness is maximized. (Obviously, both of the long lengths are for good light only.)

A Pentax 1.4X with the 50-135 could give you the 200mm you need, but it would be at f/4.0....not fast enough for my night sports shooting.

Paul
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Old Oct 3, 2008, 11:00 PM   #8
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Hi Steve,

Considering the lenses you already own, I'm going to assume that you want quality, so my answer is kinda based on that.

You state that you cannot expect to get an f2.8 300mm for under $600-700 USD. This is not totally true -- you'd have to give up Auto Focus, but Tamron SP 300 f2.8 LD (IF)s in Adaptall 2 mount are usually available in that range and a little above it. This is a solid lens (both build wise and optically) and is by far the best deal in this class of lens. You will have to find a PK/A Adaptall 2 mount (or a much more available and inexpensive PK if you don't mind not having exposure automation). This lens was often originally sold with the Tamron SP 140F 1.4x Adaptall TC, and you'll find this excellent TC included in many of the SP300/2.8 listings. This gives you a very good 420mm f4 as a throw in. At over 5 lbs, this lens is not your everyday carryaround lens (though I find myself carrying my K20 with a 300/2.8 on it most of the time).

Some of my examples with this lens and TCs can be found in these links. Assume the lens alone to be better. . .but not really that much:

With stacked 1.4x and 1.7x TCs (714mm) on a DS
http://forums.steves-digicams.com/fo...68&forum_id=80
and
http://forums.steves-digicams.com/fo...20&forum_id=80

With the stacked TCs on a K20
http://forums.steves-digicams.com/fo...55&forum_id=80

There's a caveat here -- I might just have a freakishly good match between components -- I've really yet to see many others who share my penchant for stacking TCs. . .

That being said, the Pentax A*300 f4 as Harriet suggested, might also be found in your price range, Same for the M*300/4 which is essentially the same lens without the AE capability, and both are excellent. I happened to stumble into a used FA*300/4.5 at a bit over the low end of your range a couple of years ago when they were more commonly offered at over $1100 because there was nothing else around, and now with the DA*300/4 readily available, there might be other deals out there on the F* and FA* models (I haven't looked recently). There are some F* and FA* owners who want to upgrade to an SDM, weathersealed, slightly faster (and some say a little sharper) medium fast 300.

Another couple of lenses that come to mind are the Tokina 100-300 f4 AT-X SD (manual focus), the AF version 100-300 f4 AT-X Pro SD AF (very rare), the Sigma EX 100-300 f4 AF, the Tokina 300 f4 AT-X AF (pretty rare). All are highly rated, but all usually command pretty good money, but you never know. . . The Sigma is very well known, but the Tokinas aren't and sometimes slip by.

The A* and FA* 300/2.8s Pentaxes are as good as you can buy, but I doubt that you'd ever see either offered for under @ $3000 USD.

The AF Sigma 300/2.8 APO EX and the AF Tokina 300/2.8 AT-X Pro AF (very rare) are pretty close to the Pentax FA* (to my not too discerning eye), but you're looking at used price tags that will probably be over twice what you're seeking to spend. If you chose to go that route, I can personally recommend the Sigma, but know the Tokina only by reputation.

The Pentax K 300/4s are also very good, but IMO, not quite in the M*/A*300/4 class, and is both bigger and heavier than the later models and usually available at significantly lower cost.

The Sigma 135-400 is a good lens, as is the Tokina 80-400 AT-X f4-5.6. Neither is as good at the long end as the FA*300/4.5 and a good 1.4x TC,IMO. I chose the Tokina 80-400 AT-X Pro, and while it's a great compact wide-ranged ultra tele zoom, I don't think it seriously competes with the premium 100-400 zooms mentioned, nor any of the top primes when it comes to IQ.

One other thing, especially if you tend to shoot more telephoto than wide, is the Pentax F 1.7x Auto Focusing Adapter (AFA). This is my most used lens accessory, and it gives you Auto Focusing capability with Manual Focus lenses. The current cost is pretty high since they're discontinued and highly sought (the last I saw was @$300 USD), but the returns it delivers in savings for quality teles can be pretty impressive. If your shooting requires some reasonably fast long telephotos, this is a very nice piece to have. Paired with a premium MF tele, you get some pretty neat AF lenses.

With this TC, I have a very sharp, very compact AF 305mm f4.25 with the Tamron SP 180/2.5 A2, a very sharp 105-340mm f4.8 (with the Tamron SP 70-200/2.8 LD A2), and a very sharp and relatively compact and light (if you can call a 5 lb lens with a 115mm front element compact and light. . .) 510mm f4.8 with the Tamron SP300/2.8 LD [IF]-- not to mention a very good 714mm f6.8 with stacked TCs. Fast AF teles and long tele zooms are very expensive. The three lenses mentioned cost me a total of @ $1200 USD (I did take advantage of a couple of unbelievable deals).

Corresponding AF primes (all admittedly better in IQ than the lens/TC combos I have -- but the differences are ones I can easily live with) would cost close to $6000 USD either new or used -- add the 714mm f6.8 which has no real prime analog, and you're easily on the plus side of 10 or 12 grand.

Just offering some food for thought. . .

Scott
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Old Oct 4, 2008, 12:53 AM   #9
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Hi Scott

You mention the 1.7 AF Adapter as your most used lens accessory, I am expecting mine to arrive in a few days meanwhile can you tell me please if it is usable with manual lenses such as the M42 screw mount Takumar 300/4 which I use with a pentax mount adapter? My camera is ist* DS, thanks.

I have a number of manual telephoto lenses which are all used with M42 mount adapter except a Sigma APO 400/5.6 which has a KA mount.
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Old Oct 4, 2008, 6:55 AM   #10
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John Hill wrote:
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Hi Scott

You mention the 1.7 AF Adapter as your most used lens accessory, I am expecting mine to arrive in a few days meanwhile can you tell me please if it is usable with manual lenses such as the M42 screw mount Takumar 300/4 which I use with a pentax mount adapter? My camera is ist* DS, thanks.

I have a number of manual telephoto lenses which are all used with M42 mount adapter except a Sigma APO 400/5.6 which has a KA mount.
yes

roy
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