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01-18-2013, 07:33 AM   #1
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Confused by Telephoto Options

Ok, this is my first post so forgive any rookie errors. I'm reaching out for some help and opinions with a telephoto lens. I went through a recent financial struggle and to see me through some tough times I off-loaded all of my Canon gear. I've slowly got back on my feet and desperately wanted a camera back in my hands and so, with not much to spare, I plumped for a K-30 but I'm beginning to have some regrets. Don't get me wrong: I love the camera, especially using the Catch-In-Focus feature and Focus Peaking. These have been invaluable because the first lenses I could afford to get for the body have been (the obligatory) Pentax-M 50mm 1.7 and a 135mm 3.5. Everything I had been told about these lenses was true and I've had some great results from them. It was nice, on a low budget, to get such great glass for only 30 or 40 each. Nonetheless, my passion has always been hauling my camera with me for wildlife shots when I'm out walking the dog and with the Spring approaching it has been my aim to get a decent telephoto again.

So, I started to look at my options and, with some cost-cutting, starvation and keeping the heating off I've concluded I can perhaps afford 1000 around April. My first port of call was to get a 300 DA*. The IQ looks fantastic and, although a little short for small birds, I was happy to hear that Pentax are releasing a 1.4x teleconverter which would give me 420mm 5.6 (just about sufficient for what I want to do.) But I want my lenses to be future-proof and if Pentax start with the full frames in coming years I'd like to head in that direction but it seems I'll be left with a 1100 lens that Is designed for APS-C. So then I thought about the Sigma 50-500 OS. So, I get the focal length I want and I can transfer it to a full frame at a later date but I lose IQ, have to shoot at f.6.3 (it's dark here..... a lot !) and lose WR. But then I look at so many forums my eyes bleed and see that virtually nobody can decide if the 150-500 or 50-500 has better IQ. To add to the confusion I start to note that the 120-400 has its fans (who prefer it to the other two), plus its HALF the price of the DA* and the 50-500.

I know you can't have everything in life but when I had my Canon gear I had a 400mm f5.6 L Prime. Perfect for what I wanted to do with amazing IQ and I tend to compare everything to that. But I much prefer the Pentax camera and would like to stick with the K-30, possibly move to the K-5 IIs next year and look forward to the full frame options when they eventually arrive. At the moment I'm stuck with a Sigma APO 70-300 (which I hate) but I don't want to end up regretting my next lens when I have invested so heavily what, for me, is a fortune. I have to be rigid with the budget I have and would love to spend less but basically I would like to end up with an AF 400mm at f5.6 with IQ comparable to the Canon L for about a grand (which I think is about 1600 US dollars.) I hope someone here can help me with this decision. Thanks

01-18-2013, 09:46 AM   #2
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I'm not quite sure why you want to go FF if you're interested in getting telephoto reach without spending a huge amount of money. In any case, the DA* 300 was originally patented as an FF lens, and apparently comes pretty close to covering the FF circle (with just a bit of vignetting wide open). If using it for wildlife on FF, you would probably end up cropping as if you were using an APS-C camera in any case.

While the Canon 400/5.6 is a great choice for those who want the most high quality reach at the best price, the DA* 300 is not without advantages. It is capable of producing tack sharp images even at 100% resolution, is a stop faster, is stabilized (thanks to Pentax's IBIS), and features stunning microcontrast, color rendition, and overall rendering.
01-18-2013, 09:58 AM   #3
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One of the areas Pentax is currently weak in is long fast glass. You might get good some good ideas by going over and hanging out in the 300mm Plus club for a bit and see what they are using. Look here: https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/lens-clubs/55946-300mm-plus-lens-club-dis...ng-lenses.html

I have the Sigma 50-500mm, the older screw drive model, not the newer HSM one. I like it just fine for what I do and the flexibility is unmatched. But image quality is not always as good as I would like. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining, but looking at images from Sigma 500mm f/4.5 there is no comparison in IQ (or in price of course).

In your price range I think you have only the DA*300, or Sigma 50-500, 120-400, or 150-500 if you are buying new, if you look at used the options increase but even so 400mm f/5.6 is going to be out of your price range.
01-18-2013, 10:05 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by jatrax Quote
One of the areas Pentax is currently weak in is long fast glass. You might get good some good ideas by going over and hanging out in the 300mm Plus club for a bit and see what they are using. Look here: https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/lens-clubs/55946-300mm-plus-lens-club-dis...ng-lenses.html

I have the Sigma 50-500mm, the older screw drive model, not the newer HSM one. I like it just fine for what I do and the flexibility is unmatched. But image quality is not always as good as I would like. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining, but looking at images from Sigma 500mm f/4.5 there is no comparison in IQ (or in price of course).

In your price range I think you have only the DA*300, or Sigma 50-500, 120-400, or 150-500 if you are buying new, if you look at used the options increase but even so 400mm f/5.6 is going to be out of your price range.
I suppose that's the frustrating part is knowing that for my money I could buy a brand new 400 5.6 L, but wanting to stick with the Pentax camera. (Cake and Eat It perhaps ?) If I'm going to spend 400 5.6 L money then I'd feel cheated not getting (at least very close to) that type of IQ. I know there is a 1.4x in the pipeline at the moment but who knows the extent to which it will degrade the incredible quality of the DA*.

01-18-2013, 10:11 AM   #5
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First of all, there is no such thing as future proof, so you should dispel that notion right now.

As for your needs, and the desire to go full frame, that is somewhat counter intuitive for wildlife, especially for small birds. I find now, even using either my 70-200/2.8 plus 2x TC, which can focus to about 2 meters, or my 200-500/5.6 which can focus to 2.5 meters, that I still cannot fill the frame of an APS-C sensor, so unless you are considering something in the 1000mm range, filling the frame of a FF camera is unrealistic, so for me, shooting wildlife with a crop sensor DSLR is the best way forward.

Considering lenses, there are also a ton of good MF lenses out the, and when shooting birds especially, I fins AF is not liable 100% of the time especially when focusing through branches. You can also consider although lower cost, getting a MF 300mm/4 or 300/2.8 and adding the Pentax 1.7x AF converter.

Check out the lens sample archive for shots I have posted with this pairing, and also the birder's social club

There are lots of great shots with older Pentax lenses on the forum, as well as great shots with the sigma tele zooms and the 500/4.5 as well

The 300mm plus lens club is also a fat place to see long lens options.
01-18-2013, 10:12 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by northcoastgreg Quote
I'm not quite sure why you want to go FF if you're interested in getting telephoto reach without spending a huge amount of money. In any case, the DA* 300 was originally patented as an FF lens, and apparently comes pretty close to covering the FF circle (with just a bit of vignetting wide open). If using it for wildlife on FF, you would probably end up cropping as if you were using an APS-C camera in any case.

While the Canon 400/5.6 is a great choice for those who want the most high quality reach at the best price, the DA* 300 is not without advantages. It is capable of producing tack sharp images even at 100% resolution, is a stop faster, is stabilized (thanks to Pentax's IBIS), and features stunning microcontrast, color rendition, and overall rendering.
I know that on a full frame I'll lose some focal distance but perhaps by then I'll be able to make up for that with other lenses. I just didn't want to think that lenses I'm investing heavily in at the moment will become redundant or shelved in the future if I upgrade my camera. I'm just very tempted to return to the 400 5.6 L but it seems such a shame because having used the K-30 and spent a week with the K-5 II S , I am so impressed with the Pentax cameras but I just feel that in the range and budget I have then I would have better luck heading back to Canon body (very regrettably, I might add !)
01-18-2013, 10:26 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Lowell Goudge Quote
First of all, there is no such thing as future proof, so you should dispel that notion right now.

As for your needs, and the desire to go full frame, that is somewhat counter intuitive for wildlife, especially for small birds. I find now, even using either my 70-200/2.8 plus 2x TC, which can focus to about 2 meters, or my 200-500/5.6 which can focus to 2.5 meters, that I still cannot fill the frame of an APS-C sensor, so unless you are considering something in the 1000mm range, filling the frame of a FF camera is unrealistic, so for me, shooting wildlife with a crop sensor DSLR is the best way forward.

Considering lenses, there are also a ton of good MF lenses out the, and when shooting birds especially, I fins AF is not liable 100% of the time especially when focusing through branches. You can also consider although lower cost, getting a MF 300mm/4 or 300/2.8 and adding the Pentax 1.7x AF converter.

Check out the lens sample archive for shots I have posted with this pairing, and also the birder's social club

There are lots of great shots with older Pentax lenses on the forum, as well as great shots with the sigma tele zooms and the 500/4.5 as well

The 300mm plus lens club is also a fat place to see long lens options.
When I say future proof I just mean that I consider lenses to be something I'll own, perhaps a lifetime. I have some 40 year old lenses and with light use and decent maintenance I hope to have any that I will buy in the future for a long time to come. I guess, comng from a Canon background I've just got used to not worrying if a lens is APC-C or not. Maybe, like you say, something I'll have to adapt to. The FA* 300mm (although I'd love it) is way beyond my price range at the moment and I'm not sure if Sigma make their version for Pentax. I'm interested in what you have mentioned about the 70-200 2.8 with 2x. I've read so many conflicting reports of teleconverters. If you know of any images using the 70-200 and 1.7x I'd love t see them. Do you have a good recommendation for a 1.7x ? AF still work ? Thanks for your reply. Gives me a new avenue to look down.
01-18-2013, 10:59 AM   #8
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Tokina atx-pro 828. Gets you FF compatibility, is F2.8 so you could use even a 2x converter on it and still be pretty fast and get 160-400. Not a bad idea. My Sigma 150-500 is also quite nice and is FF compatible. The tokina is screw drive and my Sigma is SDM and I do prefer the SDM for the noise. The screw drives torque moving all of the glass in the Tokina is quite impressive though. I'm sure there are images with the converters on the forum somewhere...

Best of luck

01-18-2013, 11:07 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Kaymex Quote
When I say future proof I just mean that I consider lenses to be something I'll own, perhaps a lifetime. I have some 40 year old lenses and with light use and decent maintenance I hope to have any that I will buy in the future for a long time to come. I guess, comng from a Canon background I've just got used to not worrying if a lens is APC-C or not. Maybe, like you say, something I'll have to adapt to. The FA* 300mm (although I'd love it) is way beyond my price range at the moment and I'm not sure if Sigma make their version for Pentax. I'm interested in what you have mentioned about the 70-200 2.8 with 2x. I've read so many conflicting reports of teleconverters. If you know of any images using the 70-200 and 1.7x I'd love t see them. Do you have a good recommendation for a 1.7x ? AF still work ? Thanks for your reply. Gives me a new avenue to look down.
Ok, just a few things here, first of all, while for the moment Pentax has been very good about using legacy lenses, and by this I mean every lens they ever made can be either mounted directly or with an adaptor, and the camera is capable of metering in some form, so that you can shoot, the other guys (canon mostly, but also Nikon to a lesser extent) don't do this.

Canon has changed lens mounts twice in the last 40 years abandoning their users totally each time, with no solutn to even mount the lenses. Nikon, while improving, only offers some models of cameras that will meter on current cameras,

Pentax is the only company that has offered every DSLR made with the capability to meter using legacy lenses.

Now, with respect to tele converters, i do a lot of wildlife shooting, and have several long lens options. I shoot using the Sigma APO 70-200F2.8 EX. (No DG or macro designation on the lens) this is the oldest version of this lens, there have been others since (5-6 versions I think considering changes in coatings for use on digital, adding macro features, HSM focusing motors, and optical stabilization along the way) but this "old lens" is arguably the sharpest at 200mm and also wide open, of all but the latest version. This lens works with the screw drive sigma 2x tele converter, and I have made lots of posts using this pairing. Check the birding forum, or the sample image archive for examples. This lens is full AF and can operate in all modes on the camera. Note however that the tele converter does not make information corrections for focal length or aperture, so P-TTL flash needs a little adjustment to fet exposure right, and shake reduction is not optimal because it is not fully compensated

I also use a K300/4 with the 1.7x AF TC and this pairing gives me 510mm at about F6.9. The pairing works very well, and the advantage of this lens is that you manually focus to get close, then the AF converter does the rest. As the AF converter has very small elements to move for final focusing the AF is very fast, but only works over the range of several feet or tens of feet when used with a 300mm lens. This is good for birding though, because it avoids trying to focus on distant sunjects or twigs that are not in the focus range. Again check the sample image archive, or the birding forum

The best lens is the SMC-A 300/4 because with an A lens you get all exposure modes fully supported.
01-18-2013, 11:11 AM   #10
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Sometimes you can just over-think these things. Make your own mind up by trying the kit (try SRS in Watford - they do lens hire). Who cares what other people might think - it's youir money after all.

Who knows if Pentax will bring out FF, andf if they do, whether you'll like their offering?

The DA* 300 is a great lens and would be 450 equivalent with your old FF Canon.

Enjoy your photography NOW; who knows what tomorrow brings?
01-18-2013, 11:42 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Lowell Goudge Quote
Ok, just a few things here, first of all, while for the moment Pentax has been very good about using legacy lenses, and by this I mean every lens they ever made can be either mounted directly or with an adaptor, and the camera is capable of metering in some form, so that you can shoot, the other guys (canon mostly, but also Nikon to a lesser extent) don't do this.

Canon has changed lens mounts twice in the last 40 years abandoning their users totally each time, with no solutn to even mount the lenses. Nikon, while improving, only offers some models of cameras that will meter on current cameras,

Pentax is the only company that has offered every DSLR made with the capability to meter using legacy lenses.

Now, with respect to tele converters, i do a lot of wildlife shooting, and have several long lens options. I shoot using the Sigma APO 70-200F2.8 EX. (No DG or macro designation on the lens) this is the oldest version of this lens, there have been others since (5-6 versions I think considering changes in coatings for use on digital, adding macro features, HSM focusing motors, and optical stabilization along the way) but this "old lens" is arguably the sharpest at 200mm and also wide open, of all but the latest version. This lens works with the screw drive sigma 2x tele converter, and I have made lots of posts using this pairing. Check the birding forum, or the sample image archive for examples. This lens is full AF and can operate in all modes on the camera. Note however that the tele converter does not make information corrections for focal length or aperture, so P-TTL flash needs a little adjustment to fet exposure right, and shake reduction is not optimal because it is not fully compensated

I also use a K300/4 with the 1.7x AF TC and this pairing gives me 510mm at about F6.9. The pairing works very well, and the advantage of this lens is that you manually focus to get close, then the AF converter does the rest. As the AF converter has very small elements to move for final focusing the AF is very fast, but only works over the range of several feet or tens of feet when used with a 300mm lens. This is good for birding though, because it avoids trying to focus on distant sunjects or twigs that are not in the focus range. Again check the sample image archive, or the birding forum

The best lens is the SMC-A 300/4 because with an A lens you get all exposure modes fully supported.
Thanks for taking the time to help me out with a few options I hadn't considered. The AF converter seems to do a lot more than the converters I've used in the past. Normally I have a tendency to ride manual lenses a little beyond the confirm point but this overcomes that issue and I can see why it commands the price it does. The sigma with this AF brings me under budget with a seemingly decent IQ. I guess the AF TC also breathes a bit of new life into my existing lenses. It seems like a good option and one I am definitely going to explore. Thanks so much for your help.
01-18-2013, 11:44 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by JohnX Quote
Sometimes you can just over-think these things. Make your own mind up by trying the kit (try SRS in Watford - they do lens hire). Who cares what other people might think - it's youir money after all.

Who knows if Pentax will bring out FF, andf if they do, whether you'll like their offering?

The DA* 300 is a great lens and would be 450 equivalent with your old FF Canon.

Enjoy your photography NOW; who knows what tomorrow brings?
I am overthinking it a little. A bad habit from buying into poor lenses in the past. From the advice I've got here I have at least got a few options to consider and feel a little better about the 300DA* I'm going to check out SRS now. Thanks.
01-18-2013, 11:59 AM   #13
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See here for some info on the DA* 300mm F4
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/317890-post29.html
It describes the compatibility of this lens when used on a full frame camera.

Another telephoto option becoming more apparent for some shooters is to get the Q, the K to Q lens adapter, and you've got a 5.5x crop factor. Really excellent quality primes in the order of 100mm can be had for relatively few $ - in your case - and your 135mm effectively becomes a 740mm lens. But I will stress that to even consider this option, the lens needs to be top shelf quality. Any imperfections are exacerbated by the extreme crop factor. See here for some info and potential results: The Pentax Q - a real World user review

It might be inexpensive, but it may not suit you...
01-18-2013, 12:20 PM   #14
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I bought a Sigma 150-500 HSM OS, but was not sharp enough at the long end for me. The Bigma is somewhat sharper from anything I've seen, and the 120-400 less sharp. The Lenstip testing is a good indicator of the performance of these lenses. Here's the 150-500 test, the rest are worth reading if you're interested in a long zoom: Sigma 50-150 mm f/2.8 APO EX DC HSM review - Introduction - Lenstip.com

After I returned the Sigma I bought a Pentax A*300 which I used alone or with a Kenko PZ 1.5X TC. It was sharp enough, and very small for the reach. The only down sides were lack of AF and some fringing in high contrast shooting, especially with the TC attached.

I now have a DA*300, which I sometimes use with the Kenko. While it's true that a TC affects IQ, I don't have any concerns with this combo. The DA*300 is so sharp and PF is so well controlled that I don't worry about cropping images to 100%. I kept the A*300 because it's so small and IQ is way above my 55-300mm.

Even if Pentax offered a 400mm f5.6, I would still prefer the DA*300 for its faster aperture. I can have 300mm f4, or I can get to 400 f5.6 with a TC. I like that flexibility. There are many occasions in a forest or at sunset when I need that extra stop, and visibility is limited anyway. The Kenko PZ TC allows AF with SDM lenses, but it has a tendency to hunt, and sometimes misses focus. As Lowell mentioned, AF is often a handicap with birds anyway, so I use MF or the dodgy AF, as the situation warrants.When Pentax releases their 1.4X TC I will jump on it, for improved AF and because the Shake Reduction will work properly with the TC (with the A*300 I can enter 450mm focal length, with the DA*300, the FL says 300mm and can't be changed). I expect it will be an expensive TC and the IQ will be worth every penny.
01-18-2013, 01:30 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Kaymex Quote
I am overthinking it a little. A bad habit from buying into poor lenses in the past. From the advice I've got here I have at least got a few options to consider and feel a little better about the 300DA* I'm going to check out SRS now. Thanks.
just so you know the SMC-F 1.7x AF Converter is not cheap, but when used with a good quality manual focus lens, and by this i really mean either 70-200/2.7 or a 300/4 or faster, it can produce good results.

Lenses slower than F4 are a risk, with respect to having AF function due to minimum light and contrast constraints with the AF system, but my K300/4 works well. As I said, try for a KA mount lens to get all the auto functions, as opposed to working with green button metering
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