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11-10-2007, 09:37 AM   #1
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Sigma's DG 135-400 "Li'l Bigma" for my K100D...

Dear Fellow Pentaxians:

The PIPE Here once more...unfornuately, the Pentax FA 80-320 lens I recently tried out from an Internet vendor that specializes in Pentax gear didn't work out as hoped, from its "ratchety" manual focus...I was able to get my purchase price back in full from the vendor, earlier this month, for that lens.

I've been thinking of another, currently avalable lens for "really getting 'out there' " with my K100D to grab nice, detailed images of Radio Control model and full sized aircraft in flight, and from my quarter century duration of experience with my K1000SE film Pentax, and starting this year with the K100D, a maximum focal length of 300-to-400mm would be best for the models, and 200-to-300mm is best for full scale aircraft.

The Vivitar Series One original production 70-210mm manual K-mount all manual lens that I acquired some time ago from, and used a whole lot with the K1000SE for many, many years, has been tried out successfully on static test shots outdoors at home with my K100D, and it COULD be a usable lens in a pinch on my K100D DSLR (with an effective focal length range of about 105-310mm on my K100D) to get nice fly-by and other action shots of aircraft in flight with....that "AE-L" button on the K100D (same functionality as the "green button" on the K10D for this need) allows me to get that stopped-down preview, to help select a good set of aperture and shutter speeds to use in all-manual mode on my K100D (almost ALL my aviation shooting is done in all manual mode with the K100D...hard to beat!)

But the ease of use of my DA 50-200 Pentax digital autofocus lens this year, at times, just could not be beat, and I'm wondering if the lens that could end up being called the "Li'l Bigma" in Sigma's lineup for K-mount needs...their DG series f/4.5-5.6 135-400mm autofocus lens, shown at their site at Sigma - Lenses , might be a decent choice for aviation photography with my K100D.

I do have a question or two, for ANYONE here that might have used that lens on any of the Pentax digitals, be they K-digitals or the earlier "Star-ist" series DSLRs...the MOST important ones are...

1: The 135-400 lens has a handle under the barrel, apparently like the 50-500 "Bigma" unit...has this been a help or a hindrance?

2: From the appearance of the lens in photos of it, it DOES have a dedicated aperture ring on it...does this lens even HAVE an "A"-style automatic aperture setting on it in any way to allow the camera body (like my K100D does) to set the aperture, or would I have to use the AE-L button all the time with it, to get usable aperture settings to shoot in all-manual mode?

3: How smoothly does the manual focus operate on this Sigma lens when the lens is on the it smooth, or somewhat "ratchety" from the autofocus drive mechanism?

It's going to be later next summer before I'll have the money to get one of them...a decent priced site with it was found at Sigma Zoom Telephoto 135 400mm f/4.5 5.6 APO DG Aspherical Autofocus Lens For Pentax from one of the NYC-located online vendors...but I'd thought I'd ask here first to see if anyone else might be able to pass along their experiences with a Pentax DSLR, be it "Star-ist" or K-Series, and that particular Sigma DG-series 135-400 zoom tele lens I've mentioned here.

Hope to see some answers "over time" I stated earlier, I'm not in a big rush to get it just yet!

Thanks in advance and Yours Sincerely,

The PIPE....!

Last edited by The PIPE; 11-10-2007 at 09:43 AM.
11-10-2007, 09:55 AM   #2
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Hey The PIPE,
I have that very lens... (well, the slightly older, non-DG version) here's some answers for you.

1: it's not a handle, it's a tripod mount. You can remove it if you want. You twist the knob and pull it up and the whole thing comes off if you're doing hand-held.

2: it does have a dedicated aperture ring, and it does have a button and an A- automatic aperture setting.

3: If you've got good light it's pretty smooth. Unfortunately at the long end you have such a narrow field of view that if you shift just a little bit while it's focusing, your focus point will be something like the blue sky or anything else you don't really care about. I was trying to have it autofocus on a passing goose formation a few weeks back and it was having a hard time. I switched it to manual focus and had much better luck.

Good luck.

Last edited by khardur; 11-10-2007 at 08:25 PM. Reason: my grammar stinks!
11-10-2007, 10:07 AM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by The PIPE Quote
Dear Fellow Pentaxians:

But the ease of use of my DA 50-200 Pentax digital autofocus lens this year, at times, just could not be beat,

Thanks in advance and Yours Sincerely,

The PIPE....!
I may be mis-reading you, but wouldn't buying a lens converter and adding your lens to it be a better route? I know this may result in a slow lens but seeing as you are shooting toward the sky it shouldn't be a problem.

One of these, or something similar.
2X TELE LENS CONVERTER FOR PENTAX SLR CAMERA K100D K10D - (eBay item 130171519542 end time Nov-13-07 18:37:05 PST)

Just a thought,
11-10-2007, 07:55 PM   #4
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Iagree with the TC suggestion. However, I feel that 2X can create a bit of a problem.
I have a 1.4X & 2X. 1.4 is great, I use it with a 135-400 to great effect.
But the 2X tends to need VERY good light and wide aperture to operate in Auto, otherwise it tends to wander a lot and fails to focus at all.
Have not tried 1.7X Pentax but sure would like to. A bit on the pricey side at the moment. if you can find one.

Am very happy with the 135-400 I purchased recently. Can be hand held at a pinch and does give satisfactory results (for my needs anyway!)

11-11-2007, 06:45 AM   #5
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I am also considering this lens as my next purchase (unless Pentax brings out a DA* in similar [well 300 would be fine for me] focal length before I save up the money)

And for those of you who have it, if shot at the narrower end (well ok not all the way out to 400) on a tripod how sharp is it? I understand hand holding a lens this long is asking for blurry photos (heck I blur a lot at 135) but it would be the perfect next lens as it would give me unbroken coverage from 18 to 400 (sigma 18-50, pentax 50-135, sigma 135-400) Could someone point me to, or post some samples from this lens?


11-12-2007, 02:40 AM   #6
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I'll take the lens out for a whirl later on and post some examples in a day or two, with some 100% crops so you can see the sharpness... Mine might not be a true good example though, because I bought the lens as a bargain and it has some slight fungus on it.

I can tell you that even on a tripod, if it's very windy it's very difficult to keep it stable when it's zoomed out. But I suppose that would be true for most long lenses if you've got very windy conditions and longer exposures (2-4 seconds)

11-13-2007, 08:26 PM   #7
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I have been thinking of this lens as well, I have the sig 24-135mm so this would be a nice compliment. Then maybe the 10-20mm to complete the range. I know the 10-20mm is a winner, but I am curious about the 135-400mm image quality.

Pictures please!

11-13-2007, 09:35 PM   #8
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Just a quick thought about this lens and using a Teleconverter. Because of a design issue, you should not use this lens with a sigma APO TC. sigma says it's not compatable. Since this lens does not have a TC Lock like its big brother does, the lens elements may collide.
11-14-2007, 08:39 AM   #9
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I certainly like the focal range ...equates to 200-600 with the 1.5X factor, and a real nice compliment to my 50-135. However, bit concerned about the IQ from what I have read. I now own a Sigma EX 100-300 f4 and think I will simply aquire a 1.4 teleconverter to use untill Pentax have some of their longer focal length DA* lenses available.

11-18-2007, 09:41 AM   #10
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Original Poster
Found some GOOD sample aviation photos from a "Li'l Bigma"...

Dear Fellow Pentaxians:

The PIPE Here once more...and doing a Google search with the terms "Sigma 135-400mm sample picture" came up with some NICE aviation photos on's website, specifically at Sigma 135-400mm f/4.5-5.6 Aspherical Lens Sample Photos and Specifications .... Andy Dunn, apparently a UK resident, took the numerous shots over the last few years with his (GASP !!!) Nikon D70 DSLR (it has the same 6 MP resolution as my K100D) and there are a NUMBER of very nice...and VERY DETAILED photos...of restored and FLYING examples of World War II Allied aircraft as seen in flight, at British airshows over the last few years, among the nearly 1500 photos that are at, that were specifically shot with the Sigma 135-400mm lens.

Two of my friends (one at my job, and my aviation-loving German Email buddy) are confirmed Canon users (both with Rebel XTi SLRs) and another fellow Radio Control model flier acquaintance of mine IS a confirmed "Nikonian" digital fan in New York State (perhaps he listened to Paul Simon's song "Kodachrome" a few too many times, long, long ago-"that" camera brand IS prominently mentioned in that song)...but where in most reviews of 6 MP digital SLR cameras (likely including the Nikon D70, the camera that took the mentioned Sigma 135-400 sample photos at PBase) the Pentax K100D just "kept on rising to the top of the pack" from my viewpoint, in overall quality, usability and affordability, I just felt late last Spring that my great old film burner K1000SE might "object" if I got anything other than a true Pentax DSLR, and "that it wouldn't ever forgive me" for making my first digital SLR choice anything but a the K100D was the natural choice !

After the holidays I'll be starting to save up for my own "Li'l Bigma"...that most recent posting from Mike Perham in Canada reminded me that the "full frame" status of the Sigma DG series lenses gives me a "real" focal length of 200-600mm with the Li'l Bigma on my K100D...and that the 135-400 lens should be able to capture just about ANY aviation "action" image I could imagine waiting to see in my K100D's viewfinder...and since the entire Sigma DG series ARE "full frame" lenses, a future "hoped-for-by-many-of-us" Pentax full frame DSLR, or even my veteran K1000SE, can use it as well.

Now, if I could only get a chance to HANDLE an example of the "Li'l Bigma" in person, for my own enlightenment, at one of the Boston area camera shops, within the next few weeks...I'd appreciate it a BIT more...I might be calling around to see if any stores has it in stock for an in-store personal check out!!!

Please, keep the answers coming...those photos from Andy Dunn at just got my shutter finger wanting to hit the K100D's button with a 135-400 Li'l Bigma up front...!!!

Yours Sincerely,


"I believe that pipe smoking contributes to a somewhat calm and objective judgment in all human affairs." -- Albert Einstein, 1950

Last edited by The PIPE; 11-19-2007 at 06:02 PM.

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