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Old Oct 30, 2012, 10:41 PM   #1
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Default Which lens for Birds

Now I'm here in Bundaberg there is huge variety of bird life but a lot wilder then back home where they were used to people.

So I wish to upgrade my Pentax DA 55 - 300 ED as after 200mm it gets to soft and 200 is no where near enough.

I can't decide between the Pentax 300 prime or go for the slightly cheaper Sigma 150-500mm F/5-6.3 DG APO OS with more reach.

All the Birding sites say go Canon and use their 400mm prime as 400mm is the sweet spot but alas there is no 400mm prime for Pentax, my budget is probably maxed at the $1300 for the Pentax SMCP-DA300mm f/4 ED (IF) SDM

I don't wont to sacrifice reach for quality.

Any and all suggestions are welcome, I value you your opinions, one of the reasons I wont to stay in the Pentax family.

Rodney
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Last edited by Rodney9; Oct 30, 2012 at 10:44 PM.
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Old Oct 30, 2012, 11:00 PM   #2
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A tough choice in someways. The DA300 is a brilliant lens, one of my favorites. The DA 55-300 is a very useful lens but doesn't hold a candle to the DA*. On the other hand, I've been seriously thinking about the Sigma, there are times I'd really like the extra reach. However, it may be beyond my capability to handle it so I keep hesitating. One of these days I'll rent one and see. You might want to go out with the 55-300 and use it exclusively at 300 to see if its long enough. I found the 55-300 at 300 to be a bit short compared to the DA*, but at least you'd have a better idea if it would belong enough.
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Old Oct 31, 2012, 6:52 PM   #3
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Go for the 300 prime. Someone I knew had a saying "Always buy the best and you cannot be disappointed."

If you're concerned with a birding lens, youre going to push that 55-300 at the end, as you are the Bigma.

I think the mentality to take is not what you're missing outside of your range, because that will always be the case no matter what lens you're using, but rather what you can capture right around you at magnificent quality that you will be proud of.

With a stellar sharp prime, you will have that ability to put on a nice TC like a 1.4, 1.5, or 1.7 TC (certain ones) without really noticing an IQ drop and still maintain higher IQ than the zoom lenses.

I had a 55-300 and honestly used it for one outing and was just disappointed at the quality at 300mm, which is where I took 100% of my shots. I think my next purchase was a crappy 300mm prime manual m42 lens for like 80 bucks before I settled on the Tammy 300 sp. Even with the offbrand m42 300, I noticed a quality increase and better results from my outings.

Hope that helps.


P.s. I took these a week ago with the Tamron 300 sp 2.8 and a 1.7x afa teleconverter.

http://forums.steves-digicams.com/pe...-afa-1-7x.html

Both the lens and the TC cost me well under 1300 and its a great standalone birding lens at 300 2.8 and a stellar 510mm 4.6 lens... Also about $6,000 less than the new pentax lens.

Snostorm pretty much inspired me to get this combo after seeing his pics. Search for tamron 300 afa and you can see some really remarkable results coming from him.

It's been getting way too dark early as of late for me to get more example shots but here are some shots that I took with the Tamron 300 sp and a 6 MP *ist.

http://forums.steves-digicams.com/pe...best-ever.html

Last edited by NMRecording; Oct 31, 2012 at 6:59 PM.
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Old Oct 31, 2012, 6:58 PM   #4
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Rodney -

Am DEFINITELY not an expert, but have made enough mistakes to have formed some opinions!

With shy birds, long lens is helpful, but so is "stalking" technique. Move slowly, wear dull-colored clothes, and avoid eye contact. A blind would help (I'm not patient enough to wait in one for long!!). And if any of your birds eat seed, a bird feeder is a great way to get close.

Even with the longest lenses, the closer you can get, the better the photo. Fast shutter speeds are also very helpful - even when the bird is very still, air currents move the feathers a bit.

I have gotten some sharp, clear photos with an old A 70-210 lens. 210mm is not very long, but long enough to get to bird feeder visitors.

Have found my A* 300 F4 to be a great little lens for birds, again, only when I was able to "stalk in" fairly close.

Although there are no current 400mm lenses for Pentax, there are a number of "legacy" lenses. I purchased a used Tokina 400mm recently. As long as there is enough light to stop down to F 7.1 or smaller, this one takes great photos, and is small enough to be hand held. There are several other better 400mm lenses out there.

My longest lens is the SMC 135-600. It is much too heavy for hand holding, requires a very sturdy tripod and a lot of careful planning to get a good shot, but the results are sometimes very good.

Another option you might consider is a teleconverter, paired with a 300mm.

I hope Scott ("Snostorm") will weigh in on this question - he is a much better bird photographer than me, and has more experience with a variety of equipment.
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Old Oct 31, 2012, 8:24 PM   #5
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I have both and if you look at my flickr account you can see lots of examples.. I enjoy both lenses but ill only use f8 on the sigma, but could not imaging birding with just the da *300..Im about to buy the sigma 500mm f 4.5 ,so Ill probally sell my 150-500mm..
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Old Nov 1, 2012, 11:56 AM   #6
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I don't have a lot to add but i think which lens depends in part on how you want to shoot. If you want to do everything handheld than you need to look for lightweight options. The Tamron 300/2.8 with AFA is a great combo but not the best for handholding all day. Same goes for a lens like my Tamron 200-500/5.6. It's an excellent birding lens but weighs about 9 lbs and needs to be on a tripod so I don't use it as much as I should in the field. If you plan on just sitting and waiting then either of those options would be a way to go. For hand held stuff the 300 with a TC is you best bet. I like using a 400mm with a TC but the image quality suffers with the Tokina lens I have. You'll need to find a really sharp 400/5.6 and even then need lots of light.

Anyway, gist of it all is-decide how you want to shoot before you buy something. It is as important as what you buy. No sense in having a lens that doesn't work with your shooting style.

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Old Nov 6, 2012, 8:58 PM   #7
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Rodney, if you are still thinking about a 400mm lens for birding, I thought you might like to see a few sample shots. These were taken with a Tokina 400mm ATX AF f5.6, probably the smallest 400mm K mount lens. Gives nice sharp results at f8 or smaller, and is much easier to hand-hold than some of the bigger and better 400mm lenses. Both these sample shots were handheld, taken earlier today (a gray, drizzly day), at relatively slow shutter speeds (GB Heron at 1/160, Mockingbird at 1/125). These are not cropped, and only minor PP.
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Old Nov 6, 2012, 9:06 PM   #8
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Thanks Mole that would be perfect, your shots show that.
Is the Tokina 400mm ATX AF f5.6 only for Canon or is there a Pentax version ?
I see a Canon one for $600 is that a reasonable price and what converter would I need.

Also saw Nikon and canon for $420

Rodney
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Last edited by Rodney9; Nov 6, 2012 at 9:50 PM. Reason: Seen more
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Old Nov 6, 2012, 10:03 PM   #9
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Rodney - The Pentax version is no longer made, but often available in the used market. I just sent you a PM with a few more details.

Perhaps the Canon version could be modified to use on Pentax - Scott/Snostorm did a modification on a Canon lens to make it work on Pentax...

As for the price, mine cost $400 in very good, but used condition.
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Old Feb 25, 2013, 7:38 PM   #10
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Consider the Sigma 50-500mm OS. It is sharper than the 150-500 and at 300mm it is almost as sharp as the DA300mm
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