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Old Aug 28, 2010, 1:04 PM   #1
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Default 600mm options

I know there have been a number of posts here on long lenses but I don't remember seeing one on this subject. Shooting birds I've found that the longer is better and 400mm just doesn't seem like enough much of the time. To that end I have a 600mm and 800mm setup ising my Tokina SD 400mm 5.6 with either a 1.5 Kenko TC or a 2x Tokina 7E tc. I prefer the first just because the lens isn't quite as slow. But the Tokina can have horrible PF issues, especially with light reflections on water. So what are some other options? Don't want to go with a mirror, at least not for a primary option. Old school 600mm would be fine but the focus distance is a bit much, if I have to 30' away form a small bird it's going to need more than 600mm.

So are there better 400mm options to couple with the TC? I'd buy a Tamron SP 400/4 in a heartbeat but they are rare and would be a bit harder to shoot handheld. Anyone have luck with the Tamron 300/2.8 and the matched 2x TC? Would be faster than my setup but again heavier.

I'm open to suggestions, keeping in mind that I'm not expecting razor sharp pictures and I'm not going to spend a few thousand, I prefer low budget photography. Thanks.

John
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Old Aug 28, 2010, 3:25 PM   #2
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Hi John,

If you need relatively close focusing at 500mm or longer, and less than about $1000, and handhold-ability, there aren't too many choices.

You would probably get a bit better optical performance from a Sigma 400 APO Macro than your Tokina 400 SD, plus you'd get AF, but with a TC, the AF advantage would probably go away since you're effective max aperture would be f8 with the 1.5x TC.

If you could find one at a reasonable price, an FA* 400/5.6 would also probably give you an optical performance bump, but the last I've seen offered were @ $2000. . .which is considerably more than I'd consider paying.

I use an FA*300/4.5 + P F 1.7x Auto Focusing Adapter as my weapon of choice for handheld birding. At 510mm and f7.7 it appears too slow on paper to give good AF performance, but it works well enough in all but the darkest overcast conditions. This lens (and the combo) focuses to @ 8 ft.

These were both handheld, in fact I have yet to use this combo on a tripod.

K20, FA*300/4.5 + F1.7x AFA f10 (f5.8 on the lens), 1/60, ISO 500


The CA/PF for this lens is well controlled -- there is some, but it's pretty easily taken care of in PP.

K100 DS, FA*300/4.5 + F 1.7x AFA, F8 (lens wide open), 1/400, ISO 200


This lens combo focuses very quickly, even with the relatively slow focusing K100DS. Baltimore Orioles don't usually give you much time to shoot.

For less money, you could get an M*300/4 or an A*300/4 (both share the same optical formula, but the A* gives you Auto Exposure. These lenses don't control CA/PF as well, and the min focusing distance is @ 13 ft. With the AFA, either would give you a very competent 510mm f6.3 AF lens.

If you're really into birding on a relative budget, then your most versatile lens would be the Tamron 300/2.8 LD (IF), IMO. The extra speed and optical quality allows stacking of TCs for extra reach. My personal favorite TC is the Pentax F 1.7x AFA, and with this, you get a very competent 510mm f4.8 AF lens. I would also stack the 140F 1.4x Adaptall 2 TC on the 1.7x AFA to get a 714mm f6.7 AF lens. Your Kenko 1.5x would probably work just as well. There's some CA/PF, but I'm guessing it would be a bit better controlled than with your Tokina.

This lens is about the limit for me in handhold-ability, and I can only do this for very short periods of time. My best handheld results came from leaning against trees or my car or using a bean bag. A tripod is really needed to get the best from this lens on a consistent basis. It will focus to about 8 ft.

You could conceivably get a shooter grade SP300/2.8 for as little as $350, and a nice one for @700-800. A PK/A adapter will probably cost @ $100, an F 1.7x AFA will cost @ $325, and you already have your 2 TCs. For $800-1400, depending on the deal, you could have a MF 300/2.8, MF 450/4.2, MF 600/5.6, and AF 510/4.8, AF 765 f7.1. Not necessarily cheap, especially when you add the tripod and a good head (a gimbal especially), but I doubt that even with all the available glass that's always mentioned, you could do better with either Canon or Nikon for the money.

Considering that any other AF 500/4.5 will cost at least $3000,, and I don't even know what they'd get for a 700-750mm f7 lens. . .

Easily my best handheld shot at 714mm was this one. I was in my car, and this was shot braced against the window frame. This was with the DS, so no SR advantage. . . a good measure of luck was involved, though I did get a few more shots that were almost as good.

DS, Tamron SP 300/2.8 + 140F 1.4x TC + P F 1.7x AFA, 1/250, f7.1 in exif = @f4.2 at the lens and an actual @f10 effective, ISO 400


and a 100% crop near the center of the frame


You can see a trace of the PF on the feathers. In the full shot, there was some PF on the branches, but I corrected in PP.

Here's an example of the kind of results I could consistently get with this stacked TC combo with this lens from a tripod. This is a vertical 8x10 crop from a landscape framed shot, so figure it's close to 1/2 frame.

K20, Tamron 300/2.8, stacked 1.4x + 1.7x AFA, 1/100, f13 (f7.6 at the lens), ISO 320


I liked the results I got from this combo so well that I subsequently obtained a Sigma EX 300/2.8 APO and the ultimate, an FA*300/2.8. In my estimation, these were more worthwhile than getting a Sigma EX 500/4.5 since just by adding the AFA, I could get the reach and speed without having to lug an additional 7 lb lens around.

Tokina also made a 150-500 f5.6 SD and there are Tamron SP 200-500 f5.6 lenses out there for affordable prices, but these lenses are really too bulky to consider handholdable, at least for me. . . I have the Tokina 150-500, and in my estimation, it's not as sharp as the Tamron +AFA combo, not as fast, and not nearly as easy to handle physically.

I'd really consider obtaining a 1.7x AFA. It may seem pricey, but the excellent optics plus the ability to extend AF capability to MF lenses makes it very worthwhile, IMO. It doesn't only make AF possible, it enhances AF by making it much faster, while adding a very easy to adjust focus limiter. This is absolutely the best accessory for anyone who wants to shoot long with Pentax, IMO.

Scott

Last edited by snostorm; Aug 28, 2010 at 3:35 PM.
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Old Aug 28, 2010, 4:34 PM   #3
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Hi John,

I just wanted to add that there are some other options, but they don't really fit into your criteria.

There are both K and m42 versions of the Pentax 500/4.5, a very good lens, but they're really big and heavy, and MFD is @ 30 ft. For birding, I at least want AE in a lens, so all I have to worry about is focus and shoot.

There are also the high rent class of lenses, all very good, and all very expensive.

Sigma EX 500 f4.5 APO -- @ $4000, but can be gotten for as little as $3200 new. Focuses to about 13 ft a bit over 7 lbs.

Sigma EX 500 f4.5 APO MF -- I recently passed on one of these for $1000 in EX condition from Kendrick James, Pentax's foremost Pro nature photographer. Focuses to @ 13 ft, @ 7 lbs 11 oz. This is the only example of this lens I've seen in 5 year of searching for long K mount lenses.

Pentax FA*250-600 f5.6 -- exemplary ultra tele zoom -- only available used, @ 13 lbs so handholding is not even a consideration. @ $4000+ but from what I've seen from this lens, it's worth the price.

Pentax FA* 600 f4 -- another astoundingly good lens, possibly still available new on special order, but also 13 lbs, and last list price I saw was $4800.

Pentax A*600 f5.6 -- a great lens, but very rare. @ 7.2 lbs, so it wouldn't be handholdable for me. Focuses to @ 18 ft. This is one of the few lenses that's still on my LBA list, but it'd have to be a really good deal for me to spring for it.

A*400 f2.8. Another 13 lb lens. This is a very good one, but the extra weight is just not manageable for me. I've not watched the price because of this, but I'd have to guess that it would be at least $2000.

Sigma EX 300 f2.8 APO DG. New for $3200, used pre DG models occasionally available for $1500-2000. A very good lens with VG PF/CA control. quick AF and a removeable tripod collar which makes it about the best for handholding in this class of lens.

Pentax FA* 300 f2.8 ED (IF). Only available used, the most common are EX or better grade @ $3200-3500, but user grade with good optics can be rarely found for $2500-3000. This is the best 300/2.8 alternative, but it's the biggest and heaviest of the AF alternatives.

A* 300 f2.8. This one's even heavier than the FA* by about a lb, rarely offered, and almost a lock to be over $2000

Scott
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Old Aug 28, 2010, 4:37 PM   #4
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Many thanks Scott for all the info. I'm impressed with the results you get from the Tamron though i shouldn't be surprised. I use the 80-200/2.8 as my primary lens now and even with the 140F it's as sharp as I ever need. I can't use the AFA since i shoot with an Olympus body and my old PK cameras are all MF.

I've thought about the Tamron 200-500 but I figure for the money the 300/2.8 is a better deal. I'd probaly never use the zoom at less than 400 anyway.

Thanks again. Think it's time to save up some money for the Tamron. The Tokina will work in the meantime.

John
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Old Aug 28, 2010, 9:09 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by snostorm View Post

Pentax FA*250-600 f5.6 -- exemplary ultra tele zoom -- only available used, @ 13 lbs so handholding is not even a consideration. @ $4000+ but from what I've seen from this lens, it's worth the price.

Pentax FA* 600 f4 -- another astoundingly good lens, possibly still available new on special order, but also 13 lbs, and last list price I saw was $4800.

Pentax A*600 f5.6 -- a great lens, but very rare. @ 7.2 lbs, so it wouldn't be handholdable for me. Focuses to @ 18 ft. This is one of the few lenses that's still on my LBA list, but it'd have to be a really good deal for me to spring for it.
Hi Scott, hope you are doing well?

Agreed on the FA* 250-600/5.6 - it's a brilliant lens. Sharp wide open throughout the focal length. I did want to clarify that I bought the FA* 250-600/5.6 vs. the FA* 600/4 because it's 2lbs lighter (13lbs vs. 15lbs). For travel, that can be an important consideration when you start adding gear up and you want that lens in your carry on luggage via a Pelican 1510 case. I can attest first hand that hand holding at 13lb lens is not recommended. Prior to buying mine, I had a couple of discussions on the FA* 600/4 with Mark Dimalanta (a pro surfing photographer) and he agreed that the Sigma 500/4.5 EX DG or the FA* 250-600/5.6 were the better choices for my needs, based on weight alone. However, if you don't travel, then the weight issue is not so critical. Unlike Scott, I'm more the tripod/gimbal head kind of guy...

The other big attraction on the FA* 250-600/5.6 was the MFD: it's only 11.5 feet, even at 600mm - no other modern AF lens by any manufacturer is even close - you start at 15 feet and beyond. From my perspective, that's a big deal for working in a blind. A Nikon photographer I know, using an older 600/4 with his D3, had more than a few opportunities be missed because it's 18 or 19 feet for MFD.

The last excellent condition FA* 205-600/5.6 sold on Ebay for $7650, which very in line with MSRP when it was in production.

John: I also own the FA* 300/2.8 and it's incredibly good too. I originally bought this lens for it's lighter weight (5.5lbs) and used a TC (1.7x AF or 1.4x Tamron) for ~ 510/4.8, which is pretty useful for my needs. I've been very fortunate to buy most of my rarer FA* lenses prior to the release of the K10D, so pricing in almost every case was very reasonable. I've seen some excellent shots from the Tamron 300/2.8 that Scott mentions.

Anyway, not my intent to crash the party, just giving some thoughts and I hope they might be useful.

Take care, both of you!

Cheers,
Marc
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Old Aug 28, 2010, 11:36 PM   #6
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Hi Marc-

No worries about crashing the party, I love to read what people have to say about different long lenses. Who knows, maybe someday I'll come into some money and be able to indulge in one of the big pieces of glass

John
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Old Aug 29, 2010, 10:56 AM   #7
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Hi John,

Side note on the lens weight advertised by the manufacturer of super telephoto lenses: that is the correct weight for the lens. This does not include the tripod collar.

Therefore the FA* 250-600/5.6 will show an advertised weight of 5400 grams or 11.89 lbs for the lens - that is correct since I've weighed it. Add the tripod collar and it's true weight is 5800 grams or 12.78lbs. Still a fair bit lighter than the advertised weight of 6800 grams for the FA* 600/4. They share the same tripod collar design.

See here for specs on both lenses:

FA*600/4

FA*250-600/5.6

This information came to light after speaking with the owner of both lenses - he brought this to my attention. Apparently all manufacturers advertise their super telephotos this way. Of course, being the curious type, I did my own testing: I weighed the FA* 250-600/5.6 lens with and without the tripod collar on an Ultimate Scale - sure enough the lens was 5400 grams without the tripod collar!

This scale is often used for weighing racing bikes at national & international events and it's accurate to 10 grams, max. load of 55lbs or 25kg. I often use it to weigh by travel luggage to ensure I am not exceeding any weight limits for checked or carry on luggage. Normally if it's a smaller item, they'll not even ask you about weighing it.

Best,
Marc
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Old Aug 29, 2010, 1:26 PM   #8
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Interesting info. I could see how this would make sense on a lens like my Sigma 135-400 which I shoot handheld so could remove the collar if I wanted. But on a 12lb lens, who is going to be shooting it w/o the collar? Yikes.

John
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Old Aug 29, 2010, 1:29 PM   #9
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Quick question on the Tamoron SP 300/2.8 IF. Is there a significant difference in image quality between the 60B and the 360B? Most of the ones I see on ebay are the older 60B which would be similar to my 80-200/2.8 in image quality but the adaptall-2.org site states that the 360B is slightly better. Does it make sense to try and find one of them instead of the older one? Thanks.

John
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Old Aug 30, 2010, 7:17 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by jelow1966 View Post
Quick question on the Tamoron SP 300/2.8 IF. Is there a significant difference in image quality between the 60B and the 360B? Most of the ones I see on ebay are the older 60B which would be similar to my 80-200/2.8 in image quality but the adaptall-2.org site states that the 360B is slightly better. Does it make sense to try and find one of them instead of the older one? Thanks.
Hi John,

According to Adaptall-2.org's description:

"Tamron SP 300mm F/2.8 LD-IF Model 360B: This lens, compared to the earlier model 60B, features a very slightly revised optical design and adds a floating element system to the internal focusing system. The overall optical layout, including the two low dispersion (LD) elements (shown in green in the above optical layout) and the spherical aberration compensator group, is nearly identical to the earlier model 60B. This cosmetically redesigned model 360B features a new lens hood which attaches via two screws instead of the bayonet-on lens hood found on the earler model. Thanks to the new floating element internal focusing system, optical performance is slightly improved over the earlier model, particularly off-axis and at closer focusing distances. Overall optical performance is "best in class" when compared to other similarly priced 300mm F/2.8 lenses."

emphasis is mine --

Better off-axis optical performance means that edge and corner sharpness and resolution are slightly improved. For crop sensored cameras, these areas are not even included in the image circle, so especially for your m4/3, this should not be a consideration. The 60B has resolution to burn in the center.

Since it appears that they didn't change the big LD elements, I'd guess that CA/PF performance did not change to any degree.

The 360B is usually offered for higher prices, mainly because of their relative rarity. No real sense to pay a collector's premium for a working lens, IMO.

Scott
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