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04-26-2012, 05:32 PM   #1
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Best birding lens that won't cost a small country's GDP?

It's migration season down here on the Texas coast, and birders are flocking (rimshot) to our area with their massive lenses that cost the equivalent of a used car. I'd like to have more reach than my crappy Tamron and SIgma 70-300's have gotten me (also, better image quality) for birds.

I don't have that kind of cash to throw around, but can swing something up to about $1500, though I'd much, much rather spend less. I'd prefer new, but if there's something quality used, I'd consider it.

So far the options I've gleaned from other older threads are:

1) Pentax 300mm DA*, with or without a 1.4 or 2x TC
2) Bigma
3) Sigma 120-400mm
3) some lesser 500mm zoom like a sigma 150-500, old sigma 170-500, etc.

Is this pretty much what I'm choosing between for this price range? I'm not super excitedabout any of them so far, reading ratings and comments here. Anything I'm missing?

04-26-2012, 05:50 PM   #2
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I had the older version of Bigma (EX DG), I couldn't really complain, it was a nice lens and for a lens that covers from 50-500, I was pleasantly surprised at the results I had, especially in the 150-350ish range, they were quite nice. On the other hand, I wasn't a big fan of the 50mm end, but that is the reason why I have a 50 1.4 and 55 1.4 prime. The newer HSN version costs quite a bit more, but looking at reviews, there seem to be improvements over the EX DG version. This version of the Bigma, however, was the only lens I've owned that covers this focal length so I really don't have any other lens to compare it too.

I think I would personally feel a little limited having a DA* 300 for birding. Not that I don't like primes, but I had FA* 200 Macro and even felt a little limited if shooting birds or moving subjects.
04-26-2012, 05:55 PM   #3
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Well, your best bet is the DA*300 with a 1.4TC (note that SDM probably won't work with the 1.4, but MF will) and that will keep you within the $1,500 budget. The *300 and for instance the Vivitar 1.4 AF TC would give you 420mm and better IQ than any other lenses you have listed there. (and thats better IQ with the 1.4tc on the DA* and without it on the others)

The second best option is the Bigma 50~500 OS, but that will put you over budget by $100+/-, the others there tend to lose quite a bit of IQ at around 350'ish mm+.
04-26-2012, 06:10 PM   #4
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Good advices so far. There is off course the on-going debat of zoom vs prime.

I would suggest to add the FA*300mm f4.5 to your list. It is cheaper than the DA*300mm, lighter and no SDM (all 3 major advantages IMHO), and it has outstanding IQ.

I used mine successfull with a Tamron 2x TC, but the IQ is degraded. I expect that it would work well with 1.4x TC.

Hope that the comment may help.

04-26-2012, 06:12 PM   #5
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There is a tokina 400mm/5.6 in the market.
04-26-2012, 06:13 PM   #6
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If I shot birds I'd use my Lil'Bigma DG 170-500 more. It can be found for about US$500 (SOB!! I PAID A GRAND!!) and carrying it will be good physical exercise.
04-26-2012, 06:56 PM   #7
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If you plan to use a TC that has all the electrical contacts, keep in mind that the reported focal length in the camera will be the original of the lens and not the one multiplied by the TC. The SR system will not be optimum and most likely will degrade the IQ.

If you use a manual one, you can enter the real focal length but then you lose all the auto exposure modes other than Av wide open.
04-26-2012, 07:03 PM   #8
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I have 3 setups, 2 walk around and one tripod bound

the walk around sets are a Sigma APO 70-200F2.8 EX (non DG non Macro) with 1.4x and 2X TCs, and the SMC (K) 300/4 with SMC-F 1.7x AF TC the AF TC works very well with F4 lenses, and is fast, plus since it is only a focus adjust, works over a small range so the lens does not hunt.

My tripod bound lens is a tamron adaptall II 200-500F5,6

The tamron is a fine lnes but weighs in at 6 pounds, compared to about 2.5 pounds for the K300 plus TC, thats 3 1/2 pounds more for a half stop

04-26-2012, 07:09 PM   #9
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I was going to suggest something similar to Lowell, the Pentax-F 1.7X AFA used with a manual 300. I have a XR Rikenon 300mm f/4.5 and that worked quite well on the AF TC. But I don't really "bird" so your mileage may vary.
04-26-2012, 07:28 PM   #10
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I have the Sigma 400 5.6 telemacro and I am quite please with it for the $500 I paid. Although according to your gear list you may want something a little faster due to the ISO restrictions on the K100d. This lens also puts a bit of pressure on the AF system in the camera too as its only a 5.6, so I have found that my K-7 tends to hunt a fair bit.
04-26-2012, 07:33 PM   #11
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I'm not a birder but I will second a couple of thoughts:

1) The Pentax 1.7x AF TC is pretty good

2) Tokina has a few interesting long lenses, if you look at some of the examples on the web


Despite #1 above, your best bet with a TC (IQ-wise) is going to be any lens that fits with one of the Pentax Rear Converter-A L models. But then you will be stuck with MF. As I said, my 1.7x AF TC is fairly good, but not nearly as good as the A L models (which I wish I could use instead).

Last edited by DSims; 04-26-2012 at 07:41 PM.
04-26-2012, 08:02 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by jmbower Quote
It's migration season down here on the Texas coast, and birders are flocking (rimshot) to our area with their massive lenses that cost the equivalent of a used car. I'd like to have more reach than my crappy Tamron and SIgma 70-300's have gotten me (also, better image quality) for birds.

I don't have that kind of cash to throw around, but can swing something up to about $1500, though I'd much, much rather spend less. I'd prefer new, but if there's something quality used, I'd consider it.

So far the options I've gleaned from other older threads are:

1) Pentax 300mm DA*, with or without a 1.4 or 2x TC
2) Bigma
3) Sigma 120-400mm
3) some lesser 500mm zoom like a sigma 150-500, old sigma 170-500, etc.

Is this pretty much what I'm choosing between for this price range? I'm not super excitedabout any of them so far, reading ratings and comments here. Anything I'm missing?
All good suggestions up here, but be warned that any TC will degrade the IQ, some more, some less.

JP
04-26-2012, 08:06 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by demp10 Quote
If you plan to use a TC that has all the electrical contacts, keep in mind that the reported focal length in the camera will be the original of the lens and not the one multiplied by the TC. The SR system will not be optimum and most likely will degrade the IQ.

If you use a manual one, you can enter the real focal length but then you lose all the auto exposure modes other than Av wide open.
Confusing explanation ... !

I take for example my DA*300/4:
I attach the A-FA 1.7X Pentax adapter.
Total FL = 510mm
The camera "asks" what focal length to enter.
I this case I would enter "500" (close enought to 510)

Now, does that mean that the IQ will degrade with those parameters or is it the other way around?

JP
04-26-2012, 08:10 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by jpzk Quote
Now, does that mean that the IQ will degrade with those parameters or is it the other way around?
Absolutely not - unless you are shooting handheld with slow shutter speeds you may have a few issues, but at 500+ you should be shooting on a tripod anyways at which point your SR system would also be turned off, so you wouldn't have to worry about the SR system not working properly if it is off.
04-26-2012, 08:38 PM   #15
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Based on feed back here I got the Pentax 300mm DA* just over a week ago and so far I have been out almost every day. The lens has way more resolution then my sigma 70-300 and I am able to crop a fair bit.
Here are a few pics from last weekend I was about 20 or and the last one of the black head gull was maybe 50 and I did a crop.

One thing I notice is your using a k100 you may not be able to crop very much because you not have the pixels.







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