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Old Aug 9, 2009, 3:08 PM   #1
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Default SIGMA 70-200mm f/2.8 II EX DG APO Macro HSM Lens for PENTAX:To buy or not to buy?

I wanted to get a telephoto lens that I could use for indoor high school volleyball with my Pentax K20D camera. I am planning to purchase the lens this week. Initially I was going to get the Pentax SMC DA Series 50-135mm f/2.8 but after some reading and thinking I thought I might appreciate the extra reach of the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 II APO HSM lens.

As of late, however, I have discovered several people who have commented on poor performance at 2.8 and a high failure rate of the HSM motor on the Sigma. And also at least one person who sent back two lenses for some alleged actual glass defects. I know that Tamron makes a similar lens which from all accounts is optically better than the Sigma but the Tamron autofocus appears to be too slow for sports. In all fairness to Sigma I will say that most of the negative posts seem to be older as in the tail end of 2008 and some in the spring of this year. After that feedback, both positive and negative, seems to trail off for some reason.

So with volleyball season starting in 2 weeks and only enough $$$ to do this once I am looking for some opinions as to whether to should go for the Sigma or get the Pentax lens and live with a little less reach. Thanks!
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Old Aug 9, 2009, 3:24 PM   #2
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Hi and welcome to Steve's.

I'm not a Pentax shooter but have used the Sigma on both Sony/Konica Minolta and Canon Mounts. I didn't ever have a problem with the motor and I've not see anything where this has been raised as an issue.

Have you been shooting volleyball previously with the K20? What lens did you use for this and what sort of settings were you using? The reason for these questions is to confirm if you are (as I expect) throwing money away with a f2.8 lens in this environment with a K20. Many gyms are not bright enough to use a f2.8 lens with anything less than ISO 6400. Most people will need to use a prime lens with f2 or wider glass to get worthwhile shots.

You mention reach etc, what access do you have to the court as this will make a difference to the option that you need.
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Old Aug 9, 2009, 6:13 PM   #3
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To be honest this will be my first time shooting volleyball with the K20. My previous camera was a poor little Fuji s8000fd. With that camera I had to sit in the first row of the bleachers and shoot wide open and crop (and usually brighten) the images. I was able to get some so/so to decent shots with that depending on which school we were at and how far away the players were from me. So I had hoped that with the improved camera and a 2.8 lens I would be able to do much better. I do understand what your saying about 2.8 not being enough sometimes. I have seen much debate about that in my quest to learn about these lenses. Some people seem to make to with the 2.8 for indoor sports and some wouldn't takre the gift of a 2.8 lens. As far as access to the court goes in our part of the world I really only have access to one end of the court and the side along the bleachers. Sitting in the very first row isn't always much fun either so I was hoping to be able to go up in the stands to get a different perspective on the action. The home gym isn't very well it of course. Some of the away schools have tolerable lighting and others have lighting so bad (as far as the camera is concerned) it isn't funny. And the distance to the court as well as the height of the bleachers varies quite a bit from school to school. For what its worth perhaps I should also mention that my budget will be maxed out at the current going rates of either the Sigma lens or the Pentax lens. They both seem to be in the same ball park price wise.

Last edited by thelittlecar; Aug 9, 2009 at 6:19 PM.
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Old Aug 9, 2009, 6:26 PM   #4
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It's going to be difficult if we are being honest to get a fast enough shutter speed to justify what you would be spending on the lens. It will depend on your expectations but I think you will disappointed but the slow shutter speed you will probably still get even at the highest ISO setting.
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Old Aug 10, 2009, 12:38 PM   #5
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Mark thank you for the input and the welcome!
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Old Aug 10, 2009, 1:19 PM   #6
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Yep, tough situation. When I shoot volleyball at f2.8 I am between ISO 3200 and 6400. In good lighting, expect to use 3200. You'd have to decide for yourself if the K20 produces clean enough images at 3200 for your tastes.

What adds to your challenge is the fact you have to shoot from the stands. With something like a 70-200 that isn't much of an issue with volleyball. Volleyball is one of those rare sports that doesn't look to bad shot from above (since players faces are often looking up). But, if you go the prime route you're in a bit of a pickle. I'm not sure what Pentax has available beyond their 85mm (1.4???). An 85mm lens is good for about 25 feet. That's not long enough if you're stuck up in the stands. You really need to be right by the court (at which point it's a pain because strikers on your side are framed much too tightly). Adding to the difficulty is most venues will not allow flash photography for volleyball.

So, IMO you need to solve one of your problems: either ensure you get access near the floor (at least for home matches) and go with something like the 85mm OR make the switch to the new K-7 which should give usable 3200 and acceptable 6400 and much better focus performance to boot. That would allow you to use the sigma 70-200 2.8
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Old Aug 10, 2009, 5:14 PM   #7
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John thank you for the input as well. I'm sure that its clear that I am new to photography but I certainly understand the pain of using a high ISO with possibly little to nothing to show for it without a prime lens and possibly a flash.

That being said I have decided to get the Pentax 50-135 2.8 and I will hope for the best. I am very aware that I might be very disappointed with it (and maybe the K20D also) as far as volleyball goes but its a risk I am going to take. After reading so much about the Sigma lens I am just not comfortable making the purchase. I know there are no guarantees with the Pentax glass but I feel more comfortable about it. And even if it doesn't work out for volleyball the lens will have many other applications and with what I can spend right now (and for the foreseeable future) I am more comfortable going with the telephoto lens rather than a prime. I happened to have an unexpected face or face run in with a local pro freelance photographer and told him the 2 lenses I was looking at. Initially I never indicated that I was worried about quality issues. I only asked what he used to shoot indoor sports and so on. He agreed with Mark that if I didn't use a flash I would probably be disappointed and I told him I was well aware of that. Then he volunteered that he has a colleague who had several mechanical issues with his Sigma glass so he said if I was going to get one of the two he would recommend the Pentax. That is the direction I was leaning and that clinched it for me. Right or wrong its the direction I am going.

Perhaps in the future I will get brave with the flash and/or a remote flash but for now I don't want to rock the boat with the coach. And it is after all my niece's senior year. I don't want to be "the guy" who ruins a match with a well intended but poorly executed newbie camera flash.

Going forward if I am unhappy with the photos this season I am fully aware I will have no one to blame but myself. I'll make the best of it. But either way I appreciate the input very much. Thanks!
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Old Aug 10, 2009, 10:47 PM   #8
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I know you say you have made your decision, and I think you made the right one considering the limitation of shooting from the stands without flash. However, I'll agree with both John and Mark in noting that you should temper your expectations. Neither the Pentax DA*50-135 nor the Sigma 70-200mm will give you optimum results.

I own both lenses and have shot them with both the K10 and K20. Last week I took delivery on a K-7 but I haven't had the opportunity to shoot in a gym with it. For volleyball, I have been shooting the FA 50mm f/1.4 on the K20, shooting from the floor next to the referee. This situation has its own limitations. I'm looking forward to seeing what I can do in volleyball season with the K-7 and its improved high ISO and AF capabilities. (and I'll start my experiments with the 50-135)

That being said, I think you will be extremely pleased with the 50-135 for overall shooting. I consider it, matched with the K20, to be my very best lens in terms of IQ, focusing, etc. I use it heavily for weddings, for nature photography, just about anything--wonderful results. In sufficient lighting it is an excellent sports lens (the best basketball I've ever shot was with the 50-135 in an exceptionally well lit arena) , however, most high school gyms do not have good lighting.

There are a few things you can do to maximize the performance of your system. If you have not done so already, go into your custom setting menu on your K20 and switch to 1/3 stops setting for EV and ISO and extend your ISO to 6400. Check your manual on specific details on how. You can boost your ISO to 5000 to extend your possibilities.

However, with ISO 5000 your noise levels on the K20 are not going to be acceptable. Therefore, you just have to assume you'll use a noise reduction program such as Noiseware, etc. in post-production to clean up your photos. This will cost you some sharpness, but the noise reduction is more than an equal trade-off.

I've had good performance from the Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, but it has found a specialty niche in my kit--shooting outdoor sports under the lights. It's just not nearly so versatile a lens as the 50-135.

Given your situation, I think you made a very good buying choice. The DA*50-135 is an exceptional lens, and I've made the statement in this forum before: "I just get the feeling that the DA*50-135 and the K20 were literally designed to be a perfect match."

Paul

BTW....a point not to be discarded...the 50-135 is a weather-sealed lens. Coupled with your K20's weather-sealed body, this can allow you a great deal of peace of mind in situations where you get caught in a rain, or at a beach, etc.
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Old Aug 11, 2009, 4:17 AM   #9
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I think you have done a good buy but i recommended you before the volleyball season start to pratice a lot in manual mode because the AF Pentax prior the k7d is really poor in bad light and very slow.

While i have read the k7d have a AF similar at the big concurrent while the only problem are the lens (even the sdm lens) with a motor a little slow.
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Old Aug 11, 2009, 6:30 AM   #10
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I'd like to clarify something:

DO NOT PLAN ON USING FLASH FOR VOLLEYBALL

It is almost always prohibited. I know you said you don't want to be "that guy". You're right to think that way - for volleyball, flash is almost always prohibited.
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