Go Back   Steve's Digicams Forums > Digital SLR and Interchangeable Lens Cameras > Pentax Lenses

Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old Aug 2, 2010, 12:46 PM   #1
Senior Member
 
Biro's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 835
Default Wildlife Lenses?

Inspired by some shots of red foxes I got the other day, I'm thinking of spending some time and effort photographing wildlife... beyond the casual shots I occasionally get now. This could be birds, rabbits, deer, you name it. I suppose in time I could decide to specialize.

But my question has to do with lenses for this task. The longest lens I have now is my DA 55-300... which is the full-frame equivalent of 450mm at the long end. Looking at successful wildlife photos from others, it seems I might want to get something more in the range of a 600mm equivalent.

Of course, I know about the Bigma. But I might be able to get by with a 400mm lens. And I suspect a zoom makes more sense because animal behavior is erratic. Given my middle-aged eyes, I would really like to retain auto focus. Any suggestions without breaking the bank?
Biro is offline   Reply With Quote
Sponsored Links
Old Aug 2, 2010, 2:44 PM   #2
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Dallas, Texas USA
Posts: 6,483
Default

What about the Sigma 120-400mm? I know a lot of Olympus shooters who'd die for this lens in 4/3rd's mount.

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc..._6_DG_HSM.html

That's get you there for under a grand, and it has an HSM motor, which is almost a must for fast AF with wildlife. Read the three user mini-reviews on the attached B&H link. They sound good.

Last edited by Greg Chappell; Aug 2, 2010 at 2:48 PM.
Greg Chappell is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Aug 2, 2010, 9:28 PM   #3
Senior Member
 
Biro's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 835
Default

That does sound like a nice lens, doesn't it? There used to be quite a few options in this general range. But most are out of production now - at least anything that would work on a Pentax. The Sigma may be my only real option.
Biro is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Aug 2, 2010, 9:37 PM   #4
Senior Member
 
shoturtle's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Frankfurt AM
Posts: 11,348
Default

bigma 50-500 maybe
__________________
Super Frequent Flyer, no joke. Ex Patriot and loving it.
Canon Eos 60D, T1i/500D, Eos1, Eos 630, Olympus EPL-1, and a part time Pentax K-X shooter.
shoturtle is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Aug 2, 2010, 9:38 PM   #5
Senior Member
 
shoturtle's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Frankfurt AM
Posts: 11,348
Default

so if you mount it to your epl-1 that is 1000mm of reach.
__________________
Super Frequent Flyer, no joke. Ex Patriot and loving it.
Canon Eos 60D, T1i/500D, Eos1, Eos 630, Olympus EPL-1, and a part time Pentax K-X shooter.
shoturtle is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Aug 2, 2010, 11:46 PM   #6
Senior Member
 
bigdawg's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Thach Alabama
Posts: 14,981
Default

Bigma gets my vote. After quite a while now using it I love it and highly recommend it.
__________________
Big Dawg
bigdawg is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Aug 3, 2010, 10:10 AM   #7
Senior Member
 
Biro's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 835
Default

I was waiting for you to weigh in on this, Dawg. In terms of absolute reach, I can't disagree. How often do you use the Bigma handheld (if at all)? Size and weight wwere two reasons I was leaning toward the 120-400 (not that one can call it light, but I envision doing a fair amount of handheld work). I'll also have to check around for pricing on a nice, used example... as a grand is a bit steep for me these days.
Biro is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Aug 3, 2010, 3:41 PM   #8
Senior Member
 
snostorm's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: Chicago Suburb, IL, USA
Posts: 2,770
Default

Hi Biro,

To get light weight (under 3 lbs), relatively low cost, @500mm reach, VG-EX reaolution, and AF, your best alternative is a good 300/4(4.5) + P F 1.7x Auto Focusing Adapter, IMO.

The AFA is not the usual TC. It was originally designed to allow AF with the most common MF lenses when Pentax trasitioned to AF bodies, so it was essentially set up to adapt the normal 50mm lens to AF. With a 50mm, the user just needed to set the focus on the lens to infinity, and the AFA would allow AF throughout the full focusing distance range of the lens. It acts as a TC because of the additional distance added to the back of the lens. The thickness of the AFA was determined by the amount of movement that was needed to get full range AF with a 50mm lens, and this turned out to be close to 1.7x, so they settled on this to get a relatively easy conversion in aperture value (@ 1.5 stops).

Because it was set up for the 50, when used on a longer lens, the focusing range is more limited, and the user needs to manually prefocus to get the lens within the AFA's range, but you can actuate AF before prefocusing, and the AFA will automatically take over when the lens gets within range, so the operation is easy. This gives the shooter two major advantages.

1. AF is extremely quick, once you get within range. The focus throw of the AFA is very short compared to any lens, and the AF elements are small and light.
2. Since the AFA has a limited focusing range, it acts as a focus limiter, and since the focusing range is relatively short, full range hunts only take a fraction of a second, and reacquiring the focus is easier since the subject usually doesn't go to a total blur. Ever have a lens constantly go past focus both ways -- you can see it approach, miss, and go past the focus point, and it's virtually impossible to stop the AF so it is close enough to be able to zero in on the focus point? The best way to get a focus lock is to manually focus the lens so it's as close as possible, then let AF do the rest. The limited range of the AFA usually doesn't allow this much of a miss unless the light is so low that the AF system is incapable of getting a lock. It's like having Quick Shift focusing with every lens.

The most obvious negatives to the AFA are availability and price. If one is really looking, deals still can be found. I found my latest one at KEH within the last year, in EX cond, for $218 shipped. I'm sure it had been posted within minutes of when I found it, and I didn't hesitate a second to put it in the basket. A Chinese dealer recently had quite a few new issues for sale on ebay. Apparently these were either NOS, or a special run was made either assembling leftover parts, or a new limited run was produced. The 1.7x mag factor slows the max aperture 1.5 stops, so for good AF performance, you need to use it with a lens with at least an f4.5 max aperture.

The limited focusing range also makes AF for BIF shots tricky, but 300mm/5.6 is really closer to the sweet spot for this type of shooting, so your DA 55-300 would be a better lens for this anyway. Most of the pro birders using 135 SLRs considered 400/5.6 lenses as their weapon of choice for BIF.

Another caveat with the AFA is that it doesn't play well with Sigma AF lenses without some modification. The mods needed are simple -- you need to insulate different combinations of contacts on the AFA to get proper exposure (especially with P-TTL flash) and reasonably accurate exif data. A lot of experimentation needs to be done as there are no clear rules to which contacts need to be insulated for each lens. Once you have the correct combination of contacts, the insulation is simply accomplished with thin strips of Scotch Magic tape, and the mods are easily reversed by removing the tape.

For me, the cost is justified. It's a quality piece, and has saved me literally thousands of $$$ in long glass.

Consider this, assuming the AFA @ $350:

Add a good K300/4 (@$300) - you get an 1155g (@2.5 lbs) AF 510mm/6.3, manual exposure, 4m Min Focusing distance, not well controlled for CA/PF.

Add a good M*300/4 (@$400) - you get a 960g (2.1 lbs) AF 510mm/6.3, manual exposure, 4m MFD, not well controlled for CA/PF, but sharper than the K.

Add a good A*300/4 ($550-650) - you get a 1015g (2.2 lbs) AF 510mm/6.3, Auto exposure, 4m MFD, identical optically to the M*.

There are other medium fast 300mm MF lenses out there from 3rd party mfgs. Dawg is a much better source for info on these. . . It just needs to be sharp and faster than f4.5. "A" series lenses with the electrical contacts are preferable, but pre "A" lenses are alright if you don't mind the manual exposure part.

These will be your least expensive 500mm+ alternatives with AF.

If you want good CA/PF control, the F*300/4.5, optically identical FA*, and the even sharper and faster DA* can all be used effectively with the AFA. The entry price is higher, but with the F* and FA*, you also get AF at 300mm, and the ability to mate with a Sigma, Kenko, or Tamron AF 1.4x TC to get AF 420mm/6.3. The DA*300/4 might AF acceptably with the Kenko PZ 1.5x or the Tamron PZ 1.4x, but the compatibility is a little questionable, IMO. It will AF reliably with the AFA though.

Now consider if you might want to go longer. . .

Get a Tamron SP300/2.8 LD (IF) Adaptall 2 MF lens (many come with the SP 140 1.4x TC) at $400-800. Add the AFA and you have an AF 510/4.8, 2231 g (4.93 lbs), excellent sharpness, moderate CA/PF control, 8 ft MFD.

Add a good 1.4x (the 140 Adaptall 2 TC is a very good one) and add the AFA, and you have a 714/6.7, 2300g (5.1 lbs), excellent sharpness, moderate CA/PF control, 8ft MFD. These are handholdable, but just barely, with good technique, and not for extended periods.

Consider that the only alternatives at this FL and spec are the K500/4.5 at 3370g (7.4 lbs), 33ft MFD, ME, MF. and the Sigma EX 500/4.5 at 3100g (6.85 lbs) 13ft MFD, a great lens, but it's also @ $4000.

Again to get the added versatility of AF at 300mm and 420, and to get better CA/PF control, you need to go to AF lenses of this spec, and the only ones that are really available are the Pentax FA* 300/2.8 ($2700-4000 used only) and the Sigma EX 300/2.8 APO (@$1700-2300 used only) or the Sigma EX 300/2.8 APO DG ($3000 new, or $2000- 2500 used).

Directly opposed to the conventional wisdom that says that Pentax is the weakest mfg for really long glass, the AFA makes it the most economical mfg for AF long glass. . .by a long shot -- if you're willing to put up with some compromises.

If you look up past posts originated by me, you'll find a lot of samples, mostly with the FA* 300/4.5, FA* 300/2.8, and most recently with the Sigma EX 180/3.5 Macro. Further back, you'll find some with the Tamron SP 300/2.8.

If you're not willing to go with the AFA, then the Bigma and Sigma 170-500 are good choices, but they're heavier and longer than the AFA/300 combos. Make sure that you get a look at these when extended to 500mm to get an idea of how the lens in use would be for you.

The discontinued Tokina 80-400/4.5-5.6, and Sigma 135-400 4.5-5.6 would give you marginally longer reach, but each are often criticized for some softness longer than 300mm. I believe the same applies to the new 120-400 Sigma. Considering your current lens lineup, I don't know if you'd be satisfied with the performance of these lenses, at least wide open -- stopped down they're fine. With your K200, you're limited to how much you can compensate with higher ISO.

The Sigma EX 400/5.6 APO is a good lens, but the newer APO Macro is consistently considered better. These lenses aren't much better than one of the AF Pentax 300/4/4.5 primes + 1.4x AF TC, and aren't suitable for TC use because of max aperture, so I've never considered them a reasonable purchase. The same is true of the FA* 400/5.6, which at about $2000 used is way out of line, IMO.

I imagine that's more than you wanted to know. . .

Scott
snostorm is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Aug 3, 2010, 4:00 PM   #9
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: Western Canada
Posts: 3,076
Default

I've thought of the Bigma...stretches out to 500 mm....and then whatever the 35 mm equivalent is.

I thought about the DA 300...but it gives no more reach then my 55-300 and I find my 55-300...even at 300mm is very sharp.

What Pentax needs to do is bring out something like the Canon L 400 mm, F 5.6.
lesmore49 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Aug 3, 2010, 9:20 PM   #10
Senior Member
 
Biro's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 835
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by snostorm View Post
Hi Biro,

To get light weight (under 3 lbs), relatively low cost, @500mm reach, VG-EX reaolution, and AF, your best alternative is a good 300/4(4.5) + P F 1.7x Auto Focusing Adapter, IMO...

...I imagine that's more than you wanted to know. . .

Scott
Actually, Scott, that was quite interesting and helpful. It would be one thing if you offered all that information to a person you just met a a party. But we're all members of a photography forum, right? And I asked for input. And I thank you for it. Outside-of-the-box thinking is good.
Biro is offline   Reply With Quote
 
Reply


Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off



All times are GMT -5. The time now is 2:45 PM.