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Old Nov 25, 2009, 5:43 PM   #1
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Default Longer outdoor lens-400 t0 500 mm-suggestions

I have a Pentax 55-300mm. Great lens for the price...but I do wish there was a Pentax lens at about 400-500 mm...a prime...F 4 to F 5.6...primarily for outdoor use...wildlife...with a similar build and performance quality of the F 4 300 mm Pentax lens.

Any rumours out there about Pentax on the verge of bringing out a longer prime then the 300 or maybe even a longer zoom...out to 400/500 as the long tele extreme of the zoom ?

I know the Sigma 50-500 etc. has a Pentax mount but the reviews I've seen weren't too stellar...say compared to the 300 or other smaller range Pentax zooms.

Except, I have noticed a poster who has a Pentax K10D with the 50-500 Sigma and uses it for wildlife photography...it's seems excellent.

So far with my 55-300 I crop and bring the photo 'closer'...but with some attendant loss...small loss...in quality.

I would be willing to pay around $ 1500 + CAD for a 400-500 mm lens...I'm talking new.

Currently the Pentax 300 F 4 goes for $ 1549...CAD.

The Canon 400 F 5.6 goes for $ 1549 CAD....white body lens. I know this is an excellent lens...wish Pentax would bring out something like this lens.

What to do ?

Any suggestions ?
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Old Nov 25, 2009, 6:44 PM   #2
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There are some FA* 400mm f/5.6 lens up for auction from time to time on Ebay and they are very very good lens but you'll find the price "Pricey" indeed. At around $2000-$3000 US. Might find one cheaper to bid on but most Buy Now ones will be in that price range. I own the Bigma and for a Zoom that goes from 50-500mm it is a great lens. A prime would be sharper and give better contrast but you will pay more for those. Just my opinion
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Old Nov 25, 2009, 10:47 PM   #3
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There are several of us who use and like the Sigma 50-500mm. I have used it on the K10d, K20d, and K-7, all with good results. Dawg regularly posts outstanding bird photos taken with it. Lately, I have been trying to polish my technique with it for birds in flight.





A few others I've shot with this lens....most of the wildlife I shoot are birds, but I've put in an armadillo I shot with the lens.





These are just a few I pulled quickly. The killdeer and goose in flight were both taken with the K-7. The others were probably all taken with the K20 (I'd have to go back and check EXIF's).

I like the Sigma. It has good color and is sharp. I'm sure it would not match up to a 500mm prime, but it's far more affordable at a little more than a thousand bucks.

Paul
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Old Nov 26, 2009, 2:23 AM   #4
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Hi Paul. Like that first shot of Plover in flight-very nice!

On 500mm lenses, I am impressed by my 3M-5A mirror lens. Costs about US$100 for a mint copy. One aperture only: F8. Manual focus of course. And I take it with me more often than I do my Bigma.
I highly recommend it.
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Old Nov 26, 2009, 12:57 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trojansoc View Post
There are several of us who use and like the Sigma 50-500mm. I have used it on the K10d, K20d, and K-7, all with good results. Dawg regularly posts outstanding bird photos taken with it. Lately, I have been trying to polish my technique with it for birds in flight.





A few others I've shot with this lens....most of the wildlife I shoot are birds, but I've put in an armadillo I shot with the lens.





These are just a few I pulled quickly. The killdeer and goose in flight were both taken with the K-7. The others were probably all taken with the K20 (I'd have to go back and check EXIF's).

I like the Sigma. It has good color and is sharp. I'm sure it would not match up to a 500mm prime, but it's far more affordable at a little more than a thousand bucks.

Paul
Looks to me like your polishing is all done Paul. That first one is outstanding.
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Old Nov 27, 2009, 5:53 PM   #6
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Hi Les,

I've considered this from about every angle, so my response will be pretty long. Apologies in advance, and I hope that I don't add to any confusion.

My favorite 400mm and 500mm lenses are the FA*300/4.5 and FA*300/2.8 with either the Sigma 1.4x EX APO TC or the Tamron F 1.4x PZ MC4 AF TC for 420mm, and the Pentax F 1.7x AFA for 510mm.

The FA*300/4.5 combos (you could substitute the F* version or the Sigma EX 100-300 APO or APO DG without any real significant difference in IQ) makes for a great handheld long lens, and you have the extra versatility of a faster 300 if light levels drop. Any of these, with the right deals, would possibly fit into your price range with the lens at $800-1200, and the TCs at the current market of $300-400 (add another $50-75 for the Sigma TC) for both. Any of these combos will be less weight than the Bigma (1840 g). The heaviest of these TCs is the Sigma 1.4x at 160 g, so the max weights with a TC would be 1040 g for the F*, 1095 g for the FA*, and 1600 g for the Sigma 100-300. Another lens in this IQ and speed class is reportedly the Tokina 100-300/4 SD. My experience is different, and my copy is not as sharp, but I really think this is a matter of sample variation. These can be found pretty inexpensively ($250-400), but aren't very commonly offered.

The A* or M* 300/4s would be less expensive, lighter weight, and smaller than the AF models, and would offer similar resolution/sharpness, but they also have a much longer minimum focusing distance (13ft as opposed to 6-8), and the lack of ED (APO) lens elements causes more PF and CA effects in high contrast areas. They are also MF lenses (the M* additionally is manual exposure only), so they would lack AF at both 300mm and 420mm with the 1.4x TCs.

A Tamron SP 300/2.8 LD (IF) Adaptall 2 (models 60B or 360B) are probably the only lenes in this speed class that might fit the price range. You'd also need a PK/A adapter, but even with the inflated prices being asked for this and the AFA, it should still fit. Figure $800 for an EX graded lens, $100 for the adapter, then $300-400 for the TCs. These are best tripod mounted, so if you don't have a tripod and head rated for at least @ 7-10 Kg, you'd have to factor in support cost.

There are better lenses in this latter class, but they get expensive quickly since they are all AF and much more rarely offered for the K-mount, and they're really not much sharper than the Tamron. The Sigma EX 300/2.8 APO used can be found from @ $1500-2000 USD, the APO DG model is current, @ $3200 new and probably $2200-2500 used. The FA* 300/2.8 is currently discontinued, pretty rare on the used market, but can be found for $2500-3500 USD used. The last retail price I can remember was $4700 from B&H, and you had to special order it with a 6-8 week wait for it to be made to order. Tamron and Tokina also made AF versions of their 300/2.8s for the K mount, but they are extremely rarely offered, and are usually premium priced if they do appear due to possible collectible status.

Two more possibilities for portable and handholdable 400mm class lenses would be the discontinued Sigma 135-400 f4.5-5.6 and Tokina 80-400 4.5-5.6 at 1240g and 1020 g respectively. There used to be an ongoing argument about which is better, but both are noted to be a bit soft at 400mm, wide open (stopped down, they are both fine). I own the Tokina because it's smaller and lighter, but I've seen some very good 400mm images from both. The f5.6 max apertures and softness wide open limit TC use, but if you have enough light, it's doable in bright light with a 1.4x.

There are two versions of each. The Tokina v 1 and 2, with the second usually preferred for the tripod mount, bayonet hood, and reported slight edge in sharpness. The Sigma was offered in APO and APO DG versions, and I believe that the only difference is the DG coated rear element which cuts reflection glare off the sensor, which I've never really experienced (or noticed). Neither of these lenses equal the 300+TC combos mentioned in IQ, but the zoom versatility and relative compactness are definite benefits, especially if you don't plan to shoot that much long tele.

I've never considered any of the 400/5.6 primes. All are very good (except the Sigma 400 APO -- the APO Macro and APO Macro DG are fine), but with the quality I get with the FA*300 + 1.4x TC, there is no significant advantage to getting another big relatively expensive lens, IMO.

All that being said, I'd go along with Dawg and Paul to say that the Bigma and the new Sigma 150-500/4.5-6.3 HSM are the safest bets for bang for the buck since they can be bought new from reputable dealers, considering the corresponding exchange/warranty benefits. The Sigma 170-500 which has recently been discontinued is lighter than either of these, but is, by reputation, not as sharp as the current lenses. These can also be used with TCs, but this is limited by the f6.3-6.7 max apertures, and AF can be fussy with even the 1 stop light loss with a 1.4x TC from what I've heard.

The best of the long lenses for Pentax all have some problems for me, mostly size and weight, but also in the case of the AF models, price. The K 500/4.5 and K135-600/6.7 are both too heavy for me to lug around and are both MF and ME, which don't suit my shooting style (I choose to not have any lenses without at least "A" capability). The A*600/5.6 would be a consideration if I could find one, but the A*300/2.8 is too big, as is the A*400/2.8, F*/FA* 600/4, F*/FA*250-600/5.6, or the Sigma EX 500/4.5, and these last AF models are all over $4000 USD, so they are also too expensive for me.

One more option is a mirror lens -- I have a Tamron SP 500/8, and it's a great lens for its size, but has very shallow DOF, won't focus reliably with the AFA -- even in bright sunlight and the K-7, fixed aperture, difficult MF because of dark VF, and curious "donut" bokeh. Despite the long list of objections, this is a neat lens -- actually almost to small and light to handhold, even with SR, no chromatic aberrations (since there's no refraction -- at least with this design), the donuts can be avoided with conscientious framing or PP. If you have developed good MF technique, won't be shooting that much at this focal length, and want a very portable long lens, this can be a very inexpensive (mine was @ $115, and came with a PK/A adapter IIRC) alternative.

So, bottom line, the problems with finding the right long tele has, and always will be practical size and weight, price, or both.

Good luck in your search.

Scott

Last edited by snostorm; Nov 27, 2009 at 6:22 PM.
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Old Nov 28, 2009, 11:50 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by snostorm View Post
Hi Les,

I've considered this from about every angle, so my response will be pretty long. Apologies in advance, and I hope that I don't add to any confusion.

My favorite 400mm and 500mm lenses are the FA*300/4.5 and FA*300/2.8 with either the Sigma 1.4x EX APO TC or the Tamron F 1.4x PZ MC4 AF TC for 420mm, and the Pentax F 1.7x AFA for 510mm.

The FA*300/4.5 combos (you could substitute the F* version or the Sigma EX 100-300 APO or APO DG without any real significant difference in IQ) makes for a great handheld long lens, and you have the extra versatility of a faster 300 if light levels drop. Any of these, with the right deals, would possibly fit into your price range with the lens at $800-1200, and the TCs at the current market of $300-400 (add another $50-75 for the Sigma TC) for both. Any of these combos will be less weight than the Bigma (1840 g). The heaviest of these TCs is the Sigma 1.4x at 160 g, so the max weights with a TC would be 1040 g for the F*, 1095 g for the FA*, and 1600 g for the Sigma 100-300. Another lens in this IQ and speed class is reportedly the Tokina 100-300/4 SD. My experience is different, and my copy is not as sharp, but I really think this is a matter of sample variation. These can be found pretty inexpensively ($250-400), but aren't very commonly offered.

The A* or M* 300/4s would be less expensive, lighter weight, and smaller than the AF models, and would offer similar resolution/sharpness, but they also have a much longer minimum focusing distance (13ft as opposed to 6-8), and the lack of ED (APO) lens elements causes more PF and CA effects in high contrast areas. They are also MF lenses (the M* additionally is manual exposure only), so they would lack AF at both 300mm and 420mm with the 1.4x TCs.

A Tamron SP 300/2.8 LD (IF) Adaptall 2 (models 60B or 360B) are probably the only lenes in this speed class that might fit the price range. You'd also need a PK/A adapter, but even with the inflated prices being asked for this and the AFA, it should still fit. Figure $800 for an EX graded lens, $100 for the adapter, then $300-400 for the TCs. These are best tripod mounted, so if you don't have a tripod and head rated for at least @ 7-10 Kg, you'd have to factor in support cost.

There are better lenses in this latter class, but they get expensive quickly since they are all AF and much more rarely offered for the K-mount, and they're really not much sharper than the Tamron. The Sigma EX 300/2.8 APO used can be found from @ $1500-2000 USD, the APO DG model is current, @ $3200 new and probably $2200-2500 used. The FA* 300/2.8 is currently discontinued, pretty rare on the used market, but can be found for $2500-3500 USD used. The last retail price I can remember was $4700 from B&H, and you had to special order it with a 6-8 week wait for it to be made to order. Tamron and Tokina also made AF versions of their 300/2.8s for the K mount, but they are extremely rarely offered, and are usually premium priced if they do appear due to possible collectible status.

Two more possibilities for portable and handholdable 400mm class lenses would be the discontinued Sigma 135-400 f4.5-5.6 and Tokina 80-400 4.5-5.6 at 1240g and 1020 g respectively. There used to be an ongoing argument about which is better, but both are noted to be a bit soft at 400mm, wide open (stopped down, they are both fine). I own the Tokina because it's smaller and lighter, but I've seen some very good 400mm images from both. The f5.6 max apertures and softness wide open limit TC use, but if you have enough light, it's doable in bright light with a 1.4x.

There are two versions of each. The Tokina v 1 and 2, with the second usually preferred for the tripod mount, bayonet hood, and reported slight edge in sharpness. The Sigma was offered in APO and APO DG versions, and I believe that the only difference is the DG coated rear element which cuts reflection glare off the sensor, which I've never really experienced (or noticed). Neither of these lenses equal the 300+TC combos mentioned in IQ, but the zoom versatility and relative compactness are definite benefits, especially if you don't plan to shoot that much long tele.

I've never considered any of the 400/5.6 primes. All are very good (except the Sigma 400 APO -- the APO Macro and APO Macro DG are fine), but with the quality I get with the FA*300 + 1.4x TC, there is no significant advantage to getting another big relatively expensive lens, IMO.

All that being said, I'd go along with Dawg and Paul to say that the Bigma and the new Sigma 150-500/4.5-6.3 HSM are the safest bets for bang for the buck since they can be bought new from reputable dealers, considering the corresponding exchange/warranty benefits. The Sigma 170-500 which has recently been discontinued is lighter than either of these, but is, by reputation, not as sharp as the current lenses. These can also be used with TCs, but this is limited by the f6.3-6.7 max apertures, and AF can be fussy with even the 1 stop light loss with a 1.4x TC from what I've heard.

The best of the long lenses for Pentax all have some problems for me, mostly size and weight, but also in the case of the AF models, price. The K 500/4.5 and K135-600/6.7 are both too heavy for me to lug around and are both MF and ME, which don't suit my shooting style (I choose to not have any lenses without at least "A" capability). The A*600/5.6 would be a consideration if I could find one, but the A*300/2.8 is too big, as is the A*400/2.8, F*/FA* 600/4, F*/FA*250-600/5.6, or the Sigma EX 500/4.5, and these last AF models are all over $4000 USD, so they are also too expensive for me.

One more option is a mirror lens -- I have a Tamron SP 500/8, and it's a great lens for its size, but has very shallow DOF, won't focus reliably with the AFA -- even in bright sunlight and the K-7, fixed aperture, difficult MF because of dark VF, and curious "donut" bokeh. Despite the long list of objections, this is a neat lens -- actually almost to small and light to handhold, even with SR, no chromatic aberrations (since there's no refraction -- at least with this design), the donuts can be avoided with conscientious framing or PP. If you have developed good MF technique, won't be shooting that much at this focal length, and want a very portable long lens, this can be a very inexpensive (mine was @ $115, and came with a PK/A adapter IIRC) alternative.

So, bottom line, the problems with finding the right long tele has, and always will be practical size and weight, price, or both.

Good luck in your search.

Scott
Scott,

Thank you for the very detail account. I have read your post a couple of times, plan to read it some more...lot's of great info there...I need to digest.

The TC issue is something I want to consider. I have a Takumar TC from the '80's...never actually used it so don't know how good it might be. Have thought about trying it on my K10D and 55-300.

Thanks, again.

Les
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Old Nov 28, 2009, 11:54 PM   #8
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There are some FA* 400mm f/5.6 lens up for auction from time to time on Ebay and they are very very good lens but you'll find the price "Pricey" indeed. At around $2000-$3000 US. Might find one cheaper to bid on but most Buy Now ones will be in that price range. I own the Bigma and for a Zoom that goes from 50-500mm it is a great lens. A prime would be sharper and give better contrast but you will pay more for those. Just my opinion
New...the Bigma 50-500 is about $ 1669 CAD up here...the 300 F 4 Pentax prime is $ 1549...then of course a good TC is at least a few hundred...hmmm..food for thought.
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Old Nov 28, 2009, 11:58 PM   #9
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There are several of us who use and like the Sigma 50-500mm. I have used it on the K10d, K20d, and K-7, all with good results. Dawg regularly posts outstanding bird photos taken with it. Lately, I have been trying to polish my technique with it for birds in flight.





A few others I've shot with this lens....most of the wildlife I shoot are birds, but I've put in an armadillo I shot with the lens.





These are just a few I pulled quickly. The killdeer and goose in flight were both taken with the K-7. The others were probably all taken with the K20 (I'd have to go back and check EXIF's).

I like the Sigma. It has good color and is sharp. I'm sure it would not match up to a 500mm prime, but it's far more affordable at a little more than a thousand bucks.

Paul
Paul...some nice shots...handheld I'm guessing as I know I couldn't follow a BIF in flight on a monopod or certainly not a tripod. ...the key I suppose is fast shutter speed, high Iso. US price is a lot better than then CAD..even though exchange isn't that much difference. Never bought a lens, except in Canada...but those price advantages in the US...give me pause.

Thanks for posting your shots, nice to see what can be expected as this lens is always special order here...can't try out firat...les
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Old Nov 28, 2009, 11:59 PM   #10
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Hi Paul. Like that first shot of Plover in flight-very nice!

On 500mm lenses, I am impressed by my 3M-5A mirror lens. Costs about US$100 for a mint copy. One aperture only: F8. Manual focus of course. And I take it with me more often than I do my Bigma.
I highly recommend it.
bb2
Thanks I'll have to check out that mirror lens...Les
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