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06-03-2011, 10:56 AM   #1
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Looking at budget 400mm+ lenses

What I want and what I can afford have brought me to this crossroad....

I'd love to get the Sigma 150-500, but just can't afford it.

So, I've been looking at 2 alternatives:

Tamron 55BB 500mm f8 Mirror w/2X Tamron Teleconverter for ~$275
Pentax K series 400mm f5.6 for ~$300

I've been hesitating on both being my eyes are getting older and don't trust myself so much with manual focus. But...for the money, I thought I would give either one a try.

I've done a lot of research on the Tamron Mirror, but I hesitate. The mirror is a bit slower than the K 400, plus I just don't like that donut brokeh. I know that whenever I would use it I would be concentrating too much on the background to try to avoid that.

So, I look harder at the K400 - if it was an A400 for that price I wouldn't hesitate, but the A400 seems to be selling for more than the Sigma 150-500 new.

While the Tamron setup would be a blast at 500mm or 1000mm, I am still hesitant.

Weight/length of lens is not an issue, and both would be primarily used on a tripod.

Any help or other suggestions on what I should be looking at for under $500?

06-03-2011, 11:10 AM   #2
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I have something, that depending on luck will come in at just around your price or perhaps a few dollars more.


Beware in advance, the forum members are split in their opinion on the lens itself, somewhat of a love hate relationship.

I am talking about the SMC 300/4 plus SMC-F 1.7x AF TC I have a lot of fun with it, and it is an easy way to get to 500mm, and the AF adaptor is very fast to focus.

One thing to note about the K400/5.6 is that it is a fully manual aperture, meaning you need to stop it down to shoot. That has pro's and con's with todays cameras

Here are samples taken with the suggested combo.

*istD with flash



or a 100% crop (about 5-10% of a K 7 frame at 1/40 hand held (SR really does work)


or 50% of a K7 Frame

06-03-2011, 11:14 AM   #3
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as an additional note look in the 300mm+ lens club thread (in the lens club forum) there are a lot of others posting great shots also.

You can see the whole range of long lens options there.
06-03-2011, 11:21 AM   #4
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It seems that you have answered all of your questions... You don't like the physical limitations of the mirror lenses, strike it off your list. A400 is too expensive, strike this off your list as well, and you are left with a K400. One other to consider is to buy a fast 200mm lens and a 2x TC, there will be some loss in the IQ but it might be a cheaper way to get to 400mm focal length. The donut OOF area, I don't give it a thought when I shoot with the 55B, it's either get the shot or none. The donuts appear in certain situations, and not in others. If I could control it, I will make an attempt. If not, at least I got the shot.

I am looking for conventional lenses of the focal lengths you've mentioned as well, but I will use what I have until such a time when an opportunity arise for me to obtain one.

Thanks,

06-03-2011, 11:22 AM   #5
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I would go with the Pentax K 400; that will give you the most IQ bang for your buck in that focal range.

Another option is to try to hunt down a Pentax 500/4.5. Demand for this lens has increased in the last year, so you may have difficult finding the K-mount version under $500. But it might still be possible to get a Tak version for under $500.

BTW, the SMC-F 1.7x teleconverter, is fine at it may be, can itself be rather pricey. I've seen copies sell for over $400 on ebay.
06-03-2011, 11:52 AM   #6
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Thanks for the opinions so far -

I am familiar with using an M lens with my K20D using the green button for stop down metering - seemed to work fine with my M100 f4.

I am assuming I would use the same process with the K400 - am I right in assuming I would do the same with the 55BB mirror?

Just to be clear, the 55BB I am looking at is an M42 that would come with an adptall-2 K mount adapter plus the SP 2X Tamron teleconverter.

And yes, the K500 would be even better, but seem harder to find. Took a quick look on ebay and they seem to go for over $500. If I go that far, I would be happier with saving up for the Sigma 150-500.

I've been through the entire "mirror lens club" thread and I see very many super-sharp photos there without the donut brokeh.
06-03-2011, 12:03 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by stormtech Quote
Thanks for the opinions so far -

I am familiar with using an M lens with my K20D using the green button for stop down metering - seemed to work fine with my M100 f4.

I am assuming I would use the same process with the K400 - am I right in assuming I would do the same with the 55BB mirror?
not quite, the K400 like the K500/4.5 are manual apertures, meaning yuu open the lens up to focus and stop down to shoot. You would probably be best at using it in Av mode, like an M42 lens
QuoteQuote:
Just to be clear, the 55BB I am looking at is an M42 that would come with an adptall-2 K mount adapter plus the SP 2X Tamron teleconverter.
these can go pretty cheap, the mirror is a fixed F8 aperture I believe, so put it in Av mode unless you want to shoot manual
QuoteQuote:
And yes, the K500 would be even better, but seem harder to find. Took a quick look on ebay and they seem to go for over $500. If I go that far, I would be happier with saving up for the Sigma 150-500.
I agree, also note the K500/4.5 also has a minimum focus of 35 feet. In hind sight, something to look at for the K400, as well, I think it is over 20 feet. this can be a problem with little birds, because you can easily get inside the MFD
QuoteQuote:
I've been through the entire "mirror lens club" thread and I see very many super-sharp photos there without the donut brokeh.
yes they can be sharp i think the donuts are only really an issue for points that are not fully out of focus. If you can avoid bright highlights in the background you should be OK/ Mirrors also focus quite close compared to other lenses.
06-03-2011, 12:07 PM   #8
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The 55BB is fixed aperture of f8.0 or f16 with the 2x TC. Leave the camera in P mode and the camera will shoot in Av mode by default. The price you've mentioned includes a PK/M mount and a 2x TC, these two alone is worth about $75.00, making the lens price quite reasonable imo.

Thanks,

06-03-2011, 12:11 PM   #9
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I'm pretty much a cheap bastard, but occasionally I go overboard. My longer lenses are, sorted by cost (including shipping):

* Sakar 500/8 mirror (T2, 470g) -- US$13
* Tamron 60-300/4-5.6 (KAR, 620g) - $13
* Spiratone 400/6.3 (M42, 770g) -- US$15
* Alpa-Chinon 300/5.6 (M42, 610g) -- US$27
* Pentax 100-300/4.7-5.8 (KAF, 380g) -- $121
* Rubinar Makpo 1000/10 (M42, 1760g) -- $227
* Lil'Bigma 170-500/5-6.3 (KAF, 1270g) -- don't ask!

The huge Rubinar mirror needs considerable support, like sandbags as well as a sturdy tripod. My Sakar mirror is quite compact and sharp, and I take care with backgrounds. The Lil'Bigma is surprisingly agile, and can now be found used for ~US$500. It, the Sakar, the Alpa-Chinon, and the Pentax are the sharpest of this lot.

Because of weight, I'll most likely carry the Pentax or the Sakar. If varied reach is important, I use the Lil'Bigma, usually handheld. It and the Spiratone (long tube) can be intimidating in populated areas. The physically shorter lenses are just easier to use. (I've mentioned the 300's here mostly to contrast them with the longer lenses.)

My recommendation for going long: A used Lil'Bigma (Sigma APO DGL Zoom) at ~US$500.
06-03-2011, 12:51 PM   #10
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QuoteQuote:
I agree, also note the K500/4.5 also has a minimum focus of 35 feet. In hind sight, something to look at for the K400, as well, I think it is over 20 feet. this can be a problem with little birds, because you can easily get inside the MFD
Thanks for that info - this is why I am so glad I ask these questions before I buy something.

I didn't know that the K400 minimum focus would be 20' - this may be the decision maker.

I am going to search now to find the minimum focus for the 55BB.

My main objective for the reach is to try to capture some wildlife in and near the river we live along. The Great Blue Heron is so flighty I can never get anywhere near close enough with 300mm to get a decent shot.

I have reviewed the "mirror lens club" thread again - and now with the info about the minimum focus I am leaning toward the mirror. One of the other uses will be for the small birds and my wife's bird feeders where I would be closer than 20' at times. Also, going from 300mm to 400mm isn't going to make that much of a difference to get those Herons - this is where the 500mm or 1000mm really appeals to me.
06-03-2011, 01:12 PM   #11
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Stormtech,

I've been following the price of the Pentax A 400/5.6 and M 400/5.6 on EBAY for a while. In my watch list the last A 400/5.6 sold for USD 355.00. The last M 400/5.6 went for USD 213.59. Either of these should meet your needs. I use the M 400/5.6 all the time with my K10D. Check the lens review section of the forum for various opinions on this lens.

Here's one of my M 400/5.6 shots:



Don't discount the 400mm as it is a big leap over the 300mm as a birding lens. You will also find no lens is long enough when it comes to birding. I use mine al the time for wildlife and birding. It works well for me but its not so hot for bird in flight shots.

Cheers

Tom G

Last edited by 8540tomg; 06-03-2011 at 01:20 PM.
06-03-2011, 01:36 PM   #12
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Tom G - thanks for your input -

If I could find an A-400 5.6 for that price it would be done. I am going by some listings here on the forum - there is an A-400 5.6 for sale right now for $1400.

But...I am kind of short in the patience department to wait and see if one comes up then only to be out bid.

But, your thoughts on 400mm being a big step up from 300mm has me considering the k-400 once again -

decisions.....decisions....it's one of those things where I think "be careful what you wish for" and "you get what you pay for".

The mirror setup which you bring me 1000mm is so appealing for the price......but from what I have been reading, it would be very difficult to focus even on a good tripod.

Now if the decision was just the 500mm mirror alone vs. the K400mm, I feel I would lean toward the K400.

Last edited by stormtech; 06-03-2011 at 01:56 PM.
06-03-2011, 04:36 PM   #13
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What I have is a Tokina SD 400mm f5.6, KA manual focus lens. I saw it for less than $200 and figured it was worth that. Construction is excellent, with a nice integral hood. The KA mount is great. Focus is internal so it maintains the same length. Optically, it has some purple fringing wide open, less of a problem with software that can remove it. Contrast is average. It is better than the RMC version, worse than the later AF version. It's perfect if you use 400mm occasionally. I'd want something better if I was out every weekend hunting birds.

The Tamron 55BB is pretty good if you can avoid/overlook donut bokeh. It's light enough so an OK tripod is fine, even with the 01F 2X TC.
06-03-2011, 05:28 PM   #14
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Man.....why do I do this to myself...??

If I was sure I could resell either one without loosing any money, I would buy both right now and try them out then sell one.

I have this problem with anything photo related as there are no camera shops anywhere within 100's of miles from me.
06-03-2011, 11:57 PM   #15
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The minimum focus of 55B, 55BB is 1.7m and can give you 1:3 macro or 1:1.5 with the 01F 2x TC. I have shot with 55B + 01F TC, you will definitely need a split prism screen and a viewfinder magnifier to achieve good focus @1000mm, f16. I usually shoot this combination mounted on a monopod and/or bracing myself around a tree or a boulder.

Thanks,
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