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08-16-2013, 05:39 PM   #1
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Best lens for rainforest birding

Hey everyone,

Im looking for the best birding lens for under $1000 thats suitable for rainforest use. I dont mind if its weather resistent or not because ill have a water proof camera bag. I was looking at the sigma 150-500 but an apature of 6.3 is quite large. Would that be ok with a k5 because of its good iso? Also i would like the focus length to be over 300mm.

Ps i have been looking at the 300mm pluse lens club but most of those lenses are out of my price range.. 500 f4.5....


Last edited by Reptilezz; 08-16-2013 at 05:44 PM.
08-16-2013, 08:24 PM   #2
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How about a used DA* 300 f/4? You can pick one up at KEH right now for $889. You could put the rest towards a TC, though maybe you should save for a bit and buy a really good one.
08-16-2013, 08:28 PM   #3
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I also think a prime might be a better choice. Indeed, the aperture is much faster while the lens is much lighter than most quality zooms. This can make a significant difference when you're hand-holding it. You'll nearly always get better image quality with a prime as well.

The F*, FA*, and DA* 300 are some of the best lenses Pentax has ever made, IMO. And they're all around the $1000 price mark. The F*300 is one of my best and most important lenses, although I'm not birding.
08-16-2013, 09:26 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Reptilezz Quote
Hey everyone,

Im looking for the best birding lens for under $1000 thats suitable for rainforest use. I dont mind if its weather resistent or not because ill have a water proof camera bag. I was looking at the sigma 150-500 but an apature of 6.3 is quite large. Would that be ok with a k5 because of its good iso? Also i would like the focus length to be over 300mm.

Ps i have been looking at the 300mm pluse lens club but most of those lenses are out of my price range.. 500 f4.5....
I have the Sigma 150-500 and I have no problems with it at all. It's pretty good on my K5, and pretty sharp too. I've even taken night shots of the moon and stars with it.Of course if you pull it out where it is wet you're going to want some type of rain cover.

08-16-2013, 10:25 PM   #5
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If WR is not a concern then you have a number of options depending on price and weight. You should also think about your potential sight lines and potential targets. How far away can you realistically see in the forest? I'm not familiar with your particular rainforest but in mine it is dark and not easy to see more than 100 feet most of the time because of the tree branches and moss. The size of the bird is also important, there is a huge difference in shooting raptors or sparrows.

One of the best is the Sigma 500mm f/4.5 but I think that can be discounted as it is too pricy and maybe more than you want carry into the rainforest.
Next you have the Sigma 150-500 or 50-500 and the several variants. These can be heavy, are not as sharp as the prime lenses but can be very versatile because of the zoom. They can be had for around $1,000.

Then you have the 300mm lenses such as the F*, FA*, and DA* all in f/4.5 or f/4 and these can all be had, used, for around $1,000 if you shop carefully. The DA* is WR if that has any value.

A cheaper, lighter option that can do good work if there is enough light is the DA 55-300.
08-16-2013, 10:43 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by jatrax Quote
If WR is not a concern then you have a number of options depending on price and weight. You should also think about your potential sight lines and potential targets. How far away can you realistically see in the forest? I'm not familiar with your particular rainforest but in mine it is dark and not easy to see more than 100 feet most of the time because of the tree branches and moss. The size of the bird is also important, there is a huge difference in shooting raptors or sparrows.

One of the best is the Sigma 500mm f/4.5 but I think that can be discounted as it is too pricy and maybe more than you want carry into the rainforest.
Next you have the Sigma 150-500 or 50-500 and the several variants. These can be heavy, are not as sharp as the prime lenses but can be very versatile because of the zoom. They can be had for around $1,000.

Then you have the 300mm lenses such as the F*, FA*, and DA* all in f/4.5 or f/4 and these can all be had, used, for around $1,000 if you shop carefully. The DA* is WR if that has any value.

A cheaper, lighter option that can do good work if there is enough light is the DA 55-300.
Thanks Jatrax. I forgot too look at all the F* and DA* lenses.

Would TCs degrade the IQ that much? Or is it a very subtle difference?
08-16-2013, 10:52 PM   #7
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Tc`s do degrade the image. How much? That is much harder to say. Each TC and lens combo may have different results.
I have the Pentax AFA 1.7x which is not exactly the same as a TC. On my da 60-250 results were ok, on the Sigma 50-500 not so much.

A fast 300mm f/2.8 plus a top quality TC will work. But both of those are hard to find. Check out the 300mm plus thread for lots pictures using different lenses and TCs.
08-16-2013, 11:25 PM   #8
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Rianforest = crap light. My bigma required a heavy duty flash to get Ok bird photos in rainforest. I suspect the pentax 300 will be a little sharper than the bigma at 500 even though it has zoomed in further. Auto focus in the rainforest is more miss than hit given that most times you have around 3 sec to get your photo it is very challenging.
What ever lens you decide on you will find using a flash on full manual (I have all settings on manual except autofocus) will produce the best results. Don't mess around with auto flash you really need to take control of whatever is available. (I even find a manual adjusted flash with my new sigma 500 4.5 brings out a lot more detail)

Unless you are great doing manual focus forget the TC.

Where is the rainforest you are going to take bird photos? The easy bird shots in Australia are usually on the edge of the rainforest.

best of luck and I hope you have fun

08-16-2013, 11:33 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Bob from Aus Quote
Rianforest = crap light. My bigma required a heavy duty flash to get Ok bird photos in rainforest. I suspect the pentax 300 will be a little sharper than the bigma at 500 even though it has zoomed in further. Auto focus in the rainforest is more miss than hit given that most times you have around 3 sec to get your photo it is very challenging.
What ever lens you decide on you will find using a flash on full manual (I have all settings on manual except autofocus) will produce the best results. Don't mess around with auto flash you really need to take control of whatever is available. (I even find a manual adjusted flash with my new sigma 500 4.5 brings out a lot more detail)

Unless you are great doing manual focus forget the TC.

Where is the rainforest you are going to take bird photos? The easy bird shots in Australia are usually on the edge of the rainforest.

best of luck and I hope you have fun
Thanks bob, i usually go to mt tamborine, and have been a couple of times to O'Reilys so i just wanted a lens that is good for low light and has good reach. Also what would be better between a 60-250 and a DA 300?
08-16-2013, 11:48 PM   #10
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I have the 60-250 lens and it is brilliant. But I use it in conjunction with my sigma 500. So my needs are different.

My thought is that the pentax 300 is about as good as a lens just over$1000 is going to be. I would go for the 300, but then the 60-250 is brilliantly flexible. As an example I was using my 60-250 to take some really spectacular photos in the Desert Park nocturnal House in Alice a couple of weeks ago. Look for Desert park on photo gallery Educating Options for a Sustainable Future

Those two locations you mentioned were amazing for rainforest birds hopping around in the open before they stopped people feeding them. Even so the rainforest edges have the highest biodiversity including birds. Probably worth staying a couple of nights in the camp ground although I managed to break the drought up there about 10 years ago.
08-16-2013, 11:50 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Bob from Aus Quote
I have the 60-250 lens and it is brilliant. But I use it in conjunction with my sigma 500. So my needs are different.

My thought is that the pentax 300 is about as good as a lens just over$1000 is going to be. I would go for the 300, but then the 60-250 is brilliantly flexible. As an example I was using my 60-250 to take some really spectacular photos in the Desert Park nocturnal House in Alice a couple of weeks ago. Look for Desert park on photo gallery Educating Options for a Sustainable Future

Those two locations you mentioned were amazing for rainforest birds hopping around in the open before they stopped people feeding them. Even so the rainforest edges have the highest biodiversity including birds. Probably worth staying a couple of nights in the camp ground although I managed to break the drought up there about 10 years ago.
I dont have any other lenses becuase i havent got my k5 yet. If the DA*300 was my only lens for a couple of months would that be a problem? Could i maybe get a da 50-200 for the shorter lengths?

Last edited by Reptilezz; 08-17-2013 at 12:14 AM.
08-17-2013, 07:23 AM   #12
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You would definitely want something shorter than that as a companion lens.
08-17-2013, 09:37 AM   #13
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Certain TCs are optimized for certain optical formulas and focal lengths. In particular the rear element plays and important role in how well a TC will pair with a given lens, but I'm no expert on the subjects. The K5 should be able to autofocus with an f/8 combo I think, but maybe a K5 owner can verify. So that would be up to a 2X TC with an f/4 lens, or a 1.4X TC with a f/5.6 lens, or a 1.7X TC with a f/4.5 lens. I would start by picking a lens, and then see which TC folks have successfully used with it.

Last edited by maxfield_photo; 08-17-2013 at 09:57 AM.
08-17-2013, 10:55 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by maxfield_photo Quote
Certain TCs are optimized for certain optical formulas and focal lengths. In particular the rear element plays and important role in how well a TC will pair with a given lens, but I'm no expert on the subjects. The K5 should be able to autofocus with an f/8 combo I think, but maybe a K5 owner can verify. So that would be up to a 2X TC with an f/4 lens, or a 1.4X TC with a f/5.6 lens, or a 1.7X TC with a f/4.5 lens. I would start by picking a lens, and then see which TC folks have successfully used with it.
Don't think so. In low light my k5 has trouble with the 300 f4. Under the canopy in a forest it is dark. A bigma will be too slow.

Get as fast a lens as you can afford. Learn to manual focus, you will need it. Unless you spend $5k plus you won't be getting any birds in flight anyways, so consider a manual focus fast prime which you can get for under $1k. If you consider a flash, consider the learning curve, which is steep.

You will be fighting for every stop, so consider a tripod or monopod.

One of my best shots was with a manual 400 f4 at 1/60 on a tripod.
08-17-2013, 01:21 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by derekkite Quote
Don't think so. In low light my k5 has trouble with the 300 f4. Under the canopy in a forest it is dark. A bigma will be too slow.

Get as fast a lens as you can afford. Learn to manual focus, you will need it. Unless you spend $5k plus you won't be getting any birds in flight anyways, so consider a manual focus fast prime which you can get for under $1k. If you consider a flash, consider the learning curve, which is steep.

You will be fighting for every stop, so consider a tripod or monopod.

One of my best shots was with a manual 400 f4 at 1/60 on a tripod.
What about the sigma 400 f5.6 manual focus lens? I can get one for $400. Also how do you carry your tripod? Mines pretty heavy because its from when my dad did portrait work a couple of decades ago. Thanks
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