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10-30-2011, 08:20 AM   #1
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Wildlife lens selection help!

Hello folks,
I am looking to get into the super telephoto lens group for doing wildlife photos. My current setup is a K7 with a Sigma 70-200 F2.8 HSM, which isnít bad Ė however I feel I need more reach to get close to the cats (Bobcat and Lynx). Other uses for the lens I am looking to pick up include minimal birding (perhaps when they are perched on a branch or swimming, but no in flight), and moderate off road rally racing/hill climbs (about 6-12 events per year).


I am ashamed to say, I have no experience with MF lenses, so there certainly would be a learning curve if I went that route. Also my only experience with a prime is the DA 40, which I havenít used much and am likely going to sell.


Having said that, here is what I believe my needs are in order of importance:
Wildlife: Great IQ, Fast Aperture, Reach 300mm+
Auto racing: Great IQ, Fast AF, Zoom 200-400mm+, (IF/IZ helps to limit dust exposure)
Birding: Great IQ, Reach 200mm+, Fast Aperture


I realize that one lens may not fit all categories Ė my main focus at this point is wildlife as I can make my 70-200 work for auto racing (just got to be creative on where I stand) I almost purchased a 100-300 on the forum here, but my wife put the hold on the purchase and I started thinking about alternatives that would be similarly priced and perhaps more appropriate for my uses.


My budget cannot stretch much more than $1500 for this purchase and that price should include a TC if I would be limited to a 300mm prime. Here are the options I have come across so far:


Tokina AT-X 300mm F2.8 (TC: 1.4/1.7/2x Ė one with a built in small af system)
Seems like an excellent lens, but is not AF. I have read that there are some TCís out there that have a limited AF capability, so that almost certainly would have to be an option to explore.


Tamron Adaptall SP-2 300mm F2.8 (60b) (TC: 1.4/1.7/2x Ė one with a built in small af system)
Tamron Adaptall SP-2 300mm F2.8 (360b) (TC: 1.4/1.7/2x Ė one with a built in small af system)

Seems like an excellent lens, but is not AF. I have read that there are some TCís out there that have a limited AF capability, so that almost certainly would have to be an option to explore. Also a PK adaptor is needed for this lens, I have read that some of these can be a bit flimsy creating a sloppy fit.

Tamron Adaptall SP-2 400mm F4 (65b) (TC: 1.4 one with a built in small af system)
Seems like an excellent lens, but is not AF. I have read that there are some TCís out there that have a limited AF capability, so that almost certainly would have to be an option to explore. Also a PK adaptor is needed for this lens, I have read that some of these can be a bit flimsy creating a sloppy fit.


Sigma 100-300 F4 EX DG APO AF (TC: Sigma 1.4x APO EX DG)
Concerns here are the max reach of 420mm @ F5.6 Ė I donít know if that would give me enough light, however I have read that IQ is great at max aperture, so I probably wouldnít have to stop down much.

Sigma 50-500 F4-6.3 EX DG AF


Sigma 120-400 F4.5-5.6 APO DG HSM OS

Sigma 150-500 F5-6.3 APO DG HSM OS

Pentax FA* 300mm F4.5 ED [IF] (TC: 1.4x)

Pentax F* 300mm F4.5 ED [IF] (TC: 1.4x)

Pentax DA* 300mm F4 ED [IF] SDM (TC: any work for Pentax and SDM/HSM yet?)

Notes on Sigma lenses: Iíve read they have to be stopped down to f7-9ish for optimum IQ (makes sense as thatís how most lenses operate) Also, the 120-400 apparently is soft at 300mm+, and the 150-500/50-500 seem to reach their max aperture early on (I think I read around 200-250mm f5.6 and 300mm+ f6.3?) Ideally I would purchase a Sigma 120-300mm F2.8, however that is just way out of the question right now (and not available yet).

Notes on the Pentax lenses: The F/FA lenses seem great, but I worry that they are a bit slow. However with prime quality, I am sure their images would be fine with a 1.4x TC wide open. I love the fact that the DA* is WR, but worry that there isnít a good TC for it to give me a bit more reach Ė is this true?


Thank you for reading through this huge post, I appreciate any and all feedback (including alternative lens suggestions or experience with listed lenses).
Greg

10-30-2011, 09:07 AM   #2
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I have 3 separate possibilities. Note all of them will have you on the used market

I have in full AF the sigma APO 70-200F2.8 EX (non DG non macro) which I use with sigma screw drive 1.4x and 2x TCs
I have the SMC 300F4(K300) and SMF-F 1.7x AF TC
I have a Tamron 200-500F5.6

The Tamron is full MF, the K300/4 with the TC is a semi AF whee you focus manually close and let the AF TC do the fine focus, and the sigma is full AF. The sigma lens I have is the first of the series of 70-200F2.8 lenses and lacks the rear element coating for digital, although it does not matter, it is also reputed to be the sharpest of the sigmas.

The nice thing about the sigma lens is that being a full AF and auto aperture lens you can do flash shots with it, the K300 is not an auto aperture lens and therefore is only useable for flash with the *istD bodies, bit it is very light for a 500mm lens when used with the TC. The Tamron is a tripod bound monster but surprisingly sharp

Last edited by Lowell Goudge; 10-30-2011 at 09:26 AM.
10-30-2011, 09:10 AM   #3
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I think you are going to get a lot of feedback based on what most people have used and what works for them. There really is not an answer to say that one of the options is better than the other. From the options I see on your list and what I have read on the forum here the sigma superzooms seem like the weakest link, others might disagree. The tamron adaptall 2 you mentioned are excellent optically. I read somewhere not long ago that there are no bad 300mm f2.8 lens so the tokina may be a contender as well and it does allow some room for growth with TC and maybe anything that is f4.5 or faster you can at least get away with a 1.4-1.5X TC without losing too much light. The Pentax glass is supposed to be amazing. I would love to have the FA* or F* star you mentioned there buts its out of my price range. I believe you can use the Pentax f 1.7X AFA adapter with the DA* 300mm and get great images, currently there is one in the marketplace for sale unless its already spoken for.
If I'm way off base I'm sure someone here will correct me but that is what I think based on what you mentioned. Also, based on some of the uses you have mentioned the lens is only going to be part of the equation, your technique with the lens may make more of a difference in what results you achieve.

If you haven't already check out this club to see what people are shooting with:
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/lens-clubs/55946-300mm-plus-lens-club-dis...ng-lenses.html
Also, there have been other threads started on this topic, research those and you may find some other possibilities there.
10-30-2011, 11:54 AM   #4
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I use the DA*300 with Pentax's AFA x1.7 (this is MF but becomes a semi-AF if you like, because it focuses (fast) when close to focus. Though in reality it could easily be classified as fully AF because once you reach infinity the AFA has taken over focusing completely). The AFA can still be bought new in Japan and thence from different suppliers / private sellers. The AFA is of astounding quality with virtually no degradation of the image quality. It is also the most expensive TC on the market. No need to say anything about the DA*300's superlative IQ and I have been surprised at the speed of it's AF on the K5 - using it for fast moving sport and BIF.

10-31-2011, 10:19 AM   #5
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I've been watching the Tamron Adaptall 300mm f2.8 on E-bay, I would jump on bidding if it had an 'A' setting on the aperture dial... does the lack of the setting make much of a difference? I would suspect to get the most light and a faster shutter speed while maintaining a sharp image I would be shooting around 4 or 5.6,most of the time, but like the idea of easily being able to change my aperture via a dial instead of the lens manually.
10-31-2011, 10:32 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by RallyDriver96 Quote
I've been watching the Tamron Adaptall 300mm f2.8 on E-bay, I would jump on bidding if it had an 'A' setting on the aperture dial... does the lack of the setting make much of a difference? I would suspect to get the most light and a faster shutter speed while maintaining a sharp image I would be shooting around 4 or 5.6,most of the time, but like the idea of easily being able to change my aperture via a dial instead of the lens manually.
the tamron Adaptall does not have an A on the aperture ring, but, when you get the KA mount for it, F32 becomes the A position. It is the mount adaptor not the lens that gives you the A setting.

There are at least 4 pentax compatible mounts for adaptall II lenses.

There is an M42 which is like the Auto takumar lenses, no A/M switch, but automatic aperture. these need a small spacer put in place or a M42-K mount that presses the aperture pin

There is an M42 MOunt for the Spotmatic F and ES II that has aperture coupling

There is a K mount that has autoaperture like all K mounts, works in manual mode only

there is a KA mount that has the aperture coding pins and can work in AV mode
10-31-2011, 10:44 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Lowell Goudge Quote
the tamron Adaptall does not have an A on the aperture ring, but, when you get the KA mount for it, F32 becomes the A position. It is the mount adaptor not the lens that gives you the A setting.

there is a KA mount that has the aperture coding pins and can work in AV mode
That's good to hear! Does that also mean that the lens will work in TAv and manual mode? Sorry for the noobish questions, I am still very new to photography, let alone lenses that might even be older than me!

Thanks,
Greg
10-31-2011, 10:56 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by RallyDriver96 Quote
That's good to hear! Does that also mean that the lens will work in TAv and manual mode? Sorry for the noobish questions, I am still very new to photography, let alone lenses that might even be older than me!

Thanks,
Greg
with the KA Adaptor the 300/2.8 will work in every possible mode (excluding AF of course)

One note, however.

When you attach the 2x TC the adaptor cannot correct for the change in aperture, so it gets reported wrong to the camera. this is not too big an issue except in 2 cases.

1) the K10D and K20D are very dependant upon knowing the maximum aperture of the lens, and need to compensate exposure readings knowing this, as a result, when using the 2X on the K10D or K20D there may be a constant exposure error based upon the difference between the reported to the camera aperture and the true aperture (considering the TC) the K7 and K5 are much better in this regard.

2) when using flash plus the lens (which I do a lot on wild life shots, the error in aperture has an impact on exposure. you may need to compensate for this (except on the *istD which can support TTL flash and may correct this error in TTL mode)

10-31-2011, 11:21 AM   #9
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Thanks for all of your help so far, just trying to wrap my mind around it all now. If I purchased this lens, I would also need the KA adapter that we spoke about. Now could I also use a TC that sports an AF function such as this one? I think that's what frogfish and you talked about in previous posts - this would give the lens an AF function to refine my manual focusing?

Thanks again!
Greg
10-31-2011, 11:29 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by RallyDriver96 Quote
Thanks for all of your help so far, just trying to wrap my mind around it all now. If I purchased this lens, I would also need the KA adapter that we spoke about. Now could I also use a TC that sports an AF function such as this one? I think that's what frogfish and you talked about in previous posts - this would give the lens an AF function to refine my manual focusing?

Thanks again!
Greg
in terms of AF that is the only way to achieve it.

The result will be a 510mm F4.5 lens.

AF will not be 100% af but rather a narrow range of AF witrhin the MF full range. Note that the adaptor only has teh equivelent of about +/-3 mm of movement on the focusing helix, for a lens that would need about 20mm of movement to go from infinity to min focus.

You can also use for manual focus, sigma's 1.4x and 2x teleconverters, as the resulting lens opening on this lens is, i believe big enough in diameter and deeply recessed so the protruding front element of the Sigma TC will work.

there is also an accompanying 2x TC for the lens.
10-31-2011, 11:56 AM   #11
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Wow thanks a lot for all the information you've provided! I guess the way I imagine this working would be that I can do a rough manual focus on an object, and let the TC fine tune it... since it seems like the AF would represent about 15% of the focus range? That would help bridge the gap for me and my experience for the time being.

Now above you mentioned issues with attaching a 2x TC, would those issues remain if I used a 1.4 or 1.7? I shoot with a K7. I guess I should also mention that I have a Sigma EF DG 610 super that I suppose I could also use (although I have no idea how effectively long distance shots light up with a flash...?) Seems like that may be just a whole different issue entirely.
10-31-2011, 12:07 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by RallyDriver96 Quote
Wow thanks a lot for all the information you've provided! I guess the way I imagine this working would be that I can do a rough manual focus on an object, and let the TC fine tune it... since it seems like the AF would represent about 15% of the focus range? That would help bridge the gap for me and my experience for the time being.
yes, it is kind of a fine tuning. I use the same AF TC on my K300/4 ahd it makes a really light 500mm lens combo
QuoteQuote:
Now above you mentioned issues with attaching a 2x TC, would those issues remain if I used a 1.4 or 1.7? I shoot with a K7. I guess I should also mention that I have a Sigma EF DG 610 super that I suppose I could also use (although I have no idea how effectively long distance shots light up with a flash...?) Seems like that may be just a whole different issue entirely.
the nice thing with the 1.7x AF TC is that it corrects for aperture, so if the lens has the KA mount, then the AF TC will result in a correct aperture shown to the camera, and this eliminates the issue with flash exposure.

Note that "long range flash' is possible, especially with the K7 because you can bump the ISO up to get more distance out of the flash. The AF 540 FGZ is a guide number 54 (meters) at iso 100 and F1. if you use this at let's say F8 (stopped down a little, but at ISO 800, you can reach oout to about 27 meters at F8 and you will get some pretty good shots. I like flash to freeze the image, because with a 500mm lens, any shake is too much, and when shooting wild life, you never get close enough.
10-31-2011, 12:19 PM   #13
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Oh I have so much to learn... haha. I guess I need to learn to crawl before I can walk though first. Got a pretty nice list going now of what I need next...
Lens: Tamron Adaptall 300mm f2.8 (or Tokina AT-x 300mm f2.8)
Adaptor: KA mount (if using the Tamron)
TC: 1.7x AF

I know there will be many situations where I won't have a clear line of sight to utilize the TC, so I will still need to learn how to MF, but I think the above setup will give me the ability to take some great shots with the average light that's available in the dense northern NH forests.

Thanks again for your help!
Greg
10-31-2011, 01:01 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by RallyDriver96 Quote
Oh I have so much to learn... haha. I guess I need to learn to crawl before I can walk though first. Got a pretty nice list going now of what I need next...
Lens: Tamron Adaptall 300mm f2.8 (or Tokina AT-x 300mm f2.8)
Adaptor: KA mount (if using the Tamron)
TC: 1.7x AF

I know there will be many situations where I won't have a clear line of sight to utilize the TC, so I will still need to learn how to MF, but I think the above setup will give me the ability to take some great shots with the average light that's available in the dense northern NH forests.

Thanks again for your help!
Greg
I think this setup will serve you well. I used to shoot with a Tamron 300/2,8 for many years. It is capable of producing excellent results!
You may want to have a look into the lens review section of this forum for further info about both the lens(es) and the TC.
10-31-2011, 02:36 PM   #15
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I think you would get more bang for your buck buying a K-5 and then saving a little more for a sigma 50-500.

Its aperture is limited on the long end but with the k5 its not as much of a concern.

If the k5 is out, I still say try out the bigma.
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