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10-24-2012, 08:39 PM   #1
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Which Pentax lens is best for birds in flight?

I am not looking for advice on how to take BIF pictures, I am searching for Pentax lens information.
I just received my new K5II/s, which is also my first Pentax. I switched to gain a weather proofing and better low light performance, a must for animal photography.
I am leaving Canon after 20 plus years, to shoot BIF I used a 300 2.8 and 100-400 L series lenses. With Canon you really need the 400 2.8 to get the best possible chance at shooting absolutely sharp BIF pictures, the problem is the $10,500 price tag. They are ready available in the rental market, just a pain to work that way.
With Pentax I was hoping to start off with the DA 300 f4, using a bit higher ISO to get to the 500 and higher shutter speeds and then hopefully getting a 560.

Has anyone shot the older 400mm and 600mm Pentax and did you have any luck with them?
Does the Sensor Shake Reduction turn off at higher shutter speeds as it is probably useless by then?
Is autofocus of those older lenses fast enough? I've mainly shot fast moving targets with autofocus and would be terrible at trying to manual focus those subjects.
Is Sigma really the only legitimate option?

10-24-2012, 08:47 PM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by guidoc Quote
Does the Sensor Shake Reduction turn off at higher shutter speeds as it is probably useless by then?
I don't think it turns itself off, but you're right, it won't make much of a difference anyway.

QuoteOriginally posted by guidoc Quote
Is Sigma really the only legitimate option?
If you're looking to buy new lenses, then yes. I'd suggest getting the Sigma 70-200mm, as the AF is really fast, and you get F2.8 of course.
Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM for Pentax 589109 B&H

Many Sigma lenses are better than their Pentax counterparts- I recommend you take a look at the reviews on our homepage for more details.

The AF of older premium lenses is usually just as good as that of new lenses, and it's certainly faster than Pentax's SDM, just noisier. If you manage to find a Pentax FA* 300mm F2.8 or a F/FA* 250-600mm F5.6, you'll be in business if you're serious about birding. The 300mm goes for $3000-4000, the F* zoom for $3000-5000, and the FA* zoom for $5000-7000.
SMC Pentax-FA* 300mm F2.8 ED [IF] Reviews - FA Prime Lenses - Pentax Lens Reviews & Lens Database
SMC Pentax-F* 250-600mm F5.6 ED [IF] Reviews - F Zoom Lenses - Pentax Lens Reviews & Lens Database

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10-24-2012, 09:01 PM   #3
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Good to know about the speed of the autofocus, I would have thought the older the slower.
While I would lose the zoom, I am thinking of the new 560 as it is weather proofed.
If the 250-600 was significantly cheaper it would make sense but if they are close in price I would probably rather take a chance on new technology.

Interesting about the FA*300. What is a better market place, ebay or forums?
10-25-2012, 12:55 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by guidoc Quote
Interesting about the FA*300. What is a better market place, ebay or forums?
eBay is more risky if buying from a private party - you have a higher chance of getting fungus or some other problem. If buying from an established eBay camera seller (many are in asia) you're probably relatively safe.

Many are skeptical of how the 560 will turn out to be, but I'm optimistic. My biggest worry is whether it will actually be available as soon as expected, or whether it will be delayed.

The DA*300/4 should be a good way to start. You may even begin with a F* or FA*300/4.5. I personally have the F*300. I don't shoot BIF, but currently I'm using it for action shots (runners). So far it seems to focus faster than the DA*200/2.8 I just got, but I've only tried the 200 once so far, and it may improve on the K-5 IIs (which I'm scheduled to get next week). What I'm trying to say is you may get faster focusing on the F* or FA* 300/4.5, but they're not Weather Resistant like the DA* is. Also, some forum members are very successful using the DA*300 for sports.

But any of the 300/4 or 4.5 lenses are generally easier to come by than the 300/2.8, and they're light enough to hand-hold if you wish.


Last edited by DSims; 10-25-2012 at 01:05 AM.
10-25-2012, 01:48 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by guidoc Quote
Good to know about the speed of the autofocus, I would have thought the older the slower.
While I would lose the zoom, I am thinking of the new 560 as it is weather proofed.
If the 250-600 was significantly cheaper it would make sense but if they are close in price I would probably rather take a chance on new technology.

Interesting about the FA*300. What is a better market place, ebay or forums?
Since you are coming from Canon, you may not realize that most of the AF lenses for Pentax use the in-camera motor to drive the autofocus. Therefore, 2 lenses of similar mass with similar focus-throw will have similar focusing speeds regardless of the age of the lens. The exception would be the Pentax SDM/DC lenses which use a motor or the Sigma HSM lenses which also use a motor. My only SDM lens is no faster than my screwdrive lenses and perhaps slower.
10-25-2012, 02:01 PM   #6
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I own DA*200, DA*300 and FA*600.
For BIF DA*300 is too slow, and it has no focus limiter, so it can take a loooong time if you miss the focus because it will go down to 1.5 meters before going up again.
The FA*600 is too heavy and it is really difficult to find the bird in the viewfinder, even if the AF is quick (but noisy due to the screw drive AF); this lens also has a focus limiter.
I got the best results with a DA*200; AF is really quick to catch BIF; 200 on APS-C is equivalent of 300 on FF.
Here is a decent example (a seagull attacking)
10-25-2012, 02:05 PM   #7
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Thank you Greg.
I tested the continuous autofocus today and my new K5II/s froze. It was not a buffer issue, I waited quite a while.
10-25-2012, 05:55 PM - 2 Likes   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by goubejp Quote
For BIF DA*300 is too slow, and it has no focus limiter, so it can take a loooong time if you miss the focus because it will go down to 1.5 meters before going up again.
Quick-shift beats a focus limiter IMO. You just have to get used to grabbing that focus ring when a Pentax lens misses focus. You don't always have to use it to find focus, just twist it to beyond the target and let the AF take over again.

I went with the DA*300 for its WR, silent AF and great IQ. I will pair it with the expected 1.4X TC when that's available next year. In the meantime I have a Kenko 1.5X that struggles with SDM but does work, though not ideal. I like having f/4 available for lower light conditions, common in my part of the world, and in forests everywhere.

10-25-2012, 08:04 PM   #9
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its good news that you like the DA*300, I am looking at it also.
does your continuous focus track well with it?
and lastly, if you had a choice, would you go for the Sigma 300 2.8? It seems faster but I do loose the WR, and like you said that is a pretty cool feature.
10-25-2012, 08:37 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by guidoc Quote
its good news that you like the DA*300, I am looking at it also.
does your continuous focus track well with it?
and lastly, if you had a choice, would you go for the Sigma 300 2.8? It seems faster but I do loose the WR, and like you said that is a pretty cool feature.
I've only just received the DA*300, so I can't say how it tracks. I did not investigate the Sigma 300 2.8 or the the lovely 400mm f/4.5, due to price. I had a Sigma 150-500mm HSM OS but it was not sharp enough at the long end so I returned it.
10-29-2012, 10:16 AM   #11
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Sigma 500 mm

I am thinking about the Sigma 500, has anyone tried it out?
10-29-2012, 12:37 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by guidoc Quote
its good news that you like the DA*300, I am looking at it also.
does your continuous focus track well with it?
and lastly, if you had a choice, would you go for the Sigma 300 2.8? It seems faster but I do loose the WR, and like you said that is a pretty cool feature.
I love the DA*300 too, but for BIF it may not be the best choice; as Dan said, you have to pre-focus at hand and then let the AF do its job. Would be better if the AF system go straight to its target, isn't it ?
Its a pity that Pentax discontinued the excellent FA*300 f2.8
10-29-2012, 01:06 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by guidoc Quote
I am thinking about the Sigma 500, has anyone tried it out?
From the many samples posted here and elsewhere, the Sigma 500 is a fabulous lens. But tracking a BIF with a 500mm lens on an APS-C camera doesn't sound like an easy task!
10-29-2012, 01:08 PM - 1 Like   #14
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Thought I would share this BIF taken with the new K5II/s and a loner DA* 60-250

10-29-2012, 01:30 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by goubejp Quote
I love the DA*300 too, but for BIF it may not be the best choice; as Dan said, you have to pre-focus at hand and then let the AF do its job. Would be better if the AF system go straight to its target, isn't it ?
Its a pity that Pentax discontinued the excellent FA*300 f2.8
Hmm, that's not what I was trying to say. I've found that Pentax cameras almost always look for focus by reducing the focal distance. Therefore, I always reset my tele lens to infinity before the shot, and I will quickly grab the focus ring to bring it back to the target if it misses.
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