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05-05-2012, 01:28 AM   #1
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Best zoom lens for nature photography - 500mm???

I am looking for a lens for our k-x camera and we have a few older 200mm & 300mm lenses BUT are looking at a 500mm (+) lens so we can get some great wildlife/nature shots for our upcoming trip to the National Parks of the USA (dont want to get too close to a bear or moose!).

We are clueless so dont quite get the whole camera language so please explain all in "normal" human language

We dont want one thats huge, heavy - we want one that is easy-ish to use and takes a good shot. OR even a magnifier to add onto a zoom lens. No mirror lenses as I have heard they arent very good

We have an M mount adaptor (I dont think this will help). I have seen the Sigma 150-500mm, 50-500mm, 170-500mm, 120-400mm for sale on places like BUT dont want to buy without advice as they arent cheap (and unfortunately we dont have any camera places near us that sell Pentax so I cant test them)

Thanks for any help, we are clueless. I have had 40yrs of using point & shoot cameras so I am learning SLOWLY

05-05-2012, 01:41 AM   #2
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I shoot wildlife with a Sigma 70-300mm APO non DG and have no problems getting tack sharp photos with it. I do have a Samyang 100-500mm, I've used to capture birds that are too far away (500 yards) for the Sigma.
05-05-2012, 02:18 AM   #3
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I think you need to have a read of these reviews by members:

150-500mm
50-500mm
170-500mm #1
170-500mm #2

I also suggest that you have a look for images taken with each of the lenses, as I find they are the best way of getting an understanding of the Image quality they are capable of producing. (flickr google and Pentax Forums Lens sample Photo Archive are all good for this)

I will also note: 500mm Lenses are difficult to use effectively. They almost always require use with some form of support (tripod/mono-pod or other) as they are very susceptible to camera shake (even an issue whilst using support). You will most likely have to use the lens stopped down (reduce the aperture) to around F8-10 to get reasonable quality images as they are not known for producing super sharp images, especially at wide apertures. This will make fast shutter speeds difficult in less than ideal light without increasing the sensitivity (ISO) to really high levels which comes at a cost to image quality due to noise. Noise is the grainy looking colour speckles in an image which is most noticeable in the shadow areas.

I hope this helps a little.
05-05-2012, 02:47 AM   #4
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Thanks for the quick responses!
Is the Sigma 135-400mm a good lens????
Cheers

05-05-2012, 03:08 AM - 1 Like   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by jhoppy01 Quote
Thanks for the quick responses!
Is the Sigma 135-400mm a good lens????
Cheers
Some of the members have reviewed it HERE
I personally have not used it so I can only speculate. Based on what I have read about it and seen in the way of sample shots, It is capable of reasonable shots. Having said that I think that you might want to be looking down the lines of a decent 300mm and using a teleconverter. like at 1.7X or 1.5X. If you don't know what these are, they are an extra bit that goes between lens and camera and multiplies the focal length by the specified amount - you loose image quality and reduce the effective aperture as the trade-off for extra reach.

Also, have a look through the '300mm + lens club' these guys really know their big lenses (or lens + teleconverter combo's)
05-05-2012, 03:42 AM   #6
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A teleconverter sounds like a great idea (as I said - we have no idea!). Any pentax or 3rd party brands in particular (I have a k mount) are recommended? Thanks Chaos_Realm!
05-05-2012, 04:14 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by jhoppy01 Quote
Thanks for the quick responses!
Is the Sigma 135-400mm a good lens????
Cheers
It depends on your definition of good. There is a realistic impartial review at Sigma AF 135-400mm f/4.5-5.6 APO Aspherical RF - Review / Test Report. (BTW, it is the smaller version of the Sigma 150-500).

It sounds like your requirements are for a fairly good lens that won't break the bank. For this purpose, most of the Sigma super zooms would fit the bill, and IMO you could look at any of the 135-400, 170-500, 120-140, 150-500 or 50-500 zoom ranges for wildlife (roughly arranged in order of cost and performance).

As others have said, you need to also be thinking of tripod or mono-pod for these focus lengths, and the Sigma's generally needs to be at f/8 or higher for best results. So you need to have good light or a camera with good high ISO performance. Fortunately the K-x fits the bill on high ISO performance.

Others might suggest that you get a good prime 300mm and a 1.4/1.7x tele-converter. But while this will likely give you a better IQ solution, you might find it to be too long for wildlife sometimes. I find a bit of zoom range is great with bigger animals. (Alternatively, if your target is birds, then generally the longer the better, and high IQ is best).

I have the Sigma 170-500, a bit of an old generation lens now, but still a great performer if used in it's sweet spot. There are much better lenses, but cost/performance ratio goes up a bit exponentially for the very long lenses. For example, the Sigma 500mm f/4.5 goes for about >US$4000.

Hope this helps a bit.
05-05-2012, 04:28 AM - 1 Like   #8
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The new tripod will probably cost you more than the 500 mm zoom lens :-)

05-05-2012, 04:33 AM - 1 Like   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by jhoppy01 Quote
A teleconverter sounds like a great idea (as I said - we have no idea!). Any pentax or 3rd party brands in particular (I have a k mount) are recommended? Thanks Chaos_Realm!
This one is a tough question. The reason this is a tough question is that (from my very limited knowledge) different Teleconverters (TC) perform differently depending on the lens they are combined with. Although I have heard the pentax 1.7x TC is a very good match with most.
05-05-2012, 04:58 AM   #10
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I think there a a couple of points to consider here.

First of all, for any of the sigma 500mm zooms although they are all good quality lenses, none of them are fast enough to permit AF if you add a teleconverter so you would be manually focusing if you add a TC

All of the zooms are still relatively slow at F6.3-6.7 and are not really all that fast kcompared to other options at shorter focal lengths.

Some of the lenses are also reported to be a little soft at 500mm

Just some thoughts, younwill need to do a little research on the best option.

I have 2 other possibilities, look at a DA300/4 and the autofocus img 1.7x TC. For that matter any 300/4. I have thenK300 and it works very well with the AF TC

This might be a better option

You might also wish to look at an older sigma APO70-200F2.8 EX. Non macro plus sigma teleconverters. This gives you length when you need it and speed when length is not needed

Last edited by Lowell Goudge; 05-05-2012 at 05:04 AM.
05-05-2012, 05:01 AM - 1 Like   #11
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Ive owed the sigma 120-400mm and the 150-500mm and have used a 1.5x TC on both and have gotten good results at F8 and above..I have posted bird pictures with both lenses on this forum, if you do a search you will find them..Also check my flickr in my sig.. cheers travis..
05-05-2012, 06:25 AM   #12
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I think 50-500 has the best result @500mm among all the sigmas'.
you may also consider 60-250mm + AF 1.7x
05-05-2012, 09:10 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by jhoppy01 Quote
We dont want one thats huge, heavy - we want one that is easy-ish to use and takes a good shot.
All the 400mm and 500mm are fairly substantial lenses. If you want to keep it small you may be better off with the DA 55-300. 300mm is long enough for many larger mammals, particularly if you can photograph them from your car. There are places in Yellowstone, for example, at certain times of the year where griz congregate near the road, and can be photographed from the safety of your vehicle. There's also the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone, where wolves and griz can be photographed in a safe zoo-like setting.

Another option would be to rent a DA* 300, an exceptional piece of glass capable of professional quality images. At over two pounds, it's a big lens, but it's still hand holdable and long enough for many of the larger animals. That's the lens I'm taking on my trip to Glacier and Yellowstone later this month.
05-05-2012, 09:27 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by northcoastgreg Quote
All the 400mm and 500mm are fairly substantial lenses. If you want to keep it small you may be better off with the DA 55-300. 300mm is long enough for many larger mammals
Greg is right. For traveling, the Pentax DA 55-300 is perfect: compact, light, and easily as sharp as the (much bigger) Sigmas mentioned. I have both the DA55-300 and the Sigma 150-500, and the links in that text go to my reviews of them. I won't part with either lens, but they fulfill very different needs for me. The difference between 300mm & 500mm when shooting large mammals is not as much as you'd think!

Also, when it comes to teleconverters, look for the (older, used) Tamron "PZ-AF" series, as they will autofocus with both the Sigma and DA lenses, and provide not-too-bad quality, even if it slows focusing down a bit.
05-05-2012, 10:14 AM   #15
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I don't want to open the old zoom vs prime debate but why not just get a 400 or 500mm prime lens? You will normally shoot at the longest focal length of the zoom for wildlife in any case. Zooms have come a long way but a good prime lens will always be sharper and often faster than the zoom. The Sigma 500/4.5 some members use looks like a fantastic lens to me. Just a thought.

Tom G
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