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08-28-2013, 12:04 PM   #1
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Sports on the cheap..Need a affordable lens for XC.

So my kid is running cross country for High school and they have a great team this year.

Naturally I'd like to shoot some of the meets and realized I really have NO AF Zoom lenses in the 55-300 range....I mostly shoot wide manual primes....

I really dont want to spend much as this lens will not see much use besides a few sports events a year. I'd rather blow my lens budget on more primes.

So I was thinking of these lenses:

Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di LD Macro Lens for Pentax AF

Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 APO DG Macro Autofocus Lens 508109 B&H

Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG Macro Lens for Pentax AF 509109 B&H

Pentax SMC Pentax DA 50-200mm f/4-5.6 ED WR Zoom Lens 21870 B&H

Thoughts?

Thanks

08-28-2013, 12:21 PM   #2
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How about a DA L 55-300mm for $180? Almost can't go wrong there!

https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/photographic-equipment-sale/234831-sale-f...40xs-more.html

For $200 more there's also the version with a metal mount and quick shift...

Pentax SMCP-DA 55-300mm f/4-5.8 ED Autofocus Lens 21720 B&H

Adam
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08-28-2013, 12:31 PM   #3
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I used to be a cross country coach many moons ago. Shot Minolta back then. Unless things have changed meets are either after school and in the woods and not a lot of light or at the larger state and district meets they in the early morning on weekends. Light tends to be pretty low for those as well. I have had a couple of the lenses you mention and while perfectly fine on nice sunny days they will not cut it in the woods in the later afternoon when the light is poor at its very best. I would prioritize getting a faster lens over getting a longer lens. If it were me I would pick up a used FA 50 1.4. and wait until the runners get in close. If your budget allows for it a DA 50-135 would be a great choice as well. Have a great season!
08-28-2013, 01:25 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by mflagg Quote
I used to be a cross country coach many moons ago. Shot Minolta back then. Unless things have changed meets are either after school and in the woods and not a lot of light or at the larger state and district meets they in the early morning on weekends. Light tends to be pretty low for those as well. I have had a couple of the lenses you mention and while perfectly fine on nice sunny days they will not cut it in the woods in the later afternoon when the light is poor at its very best. I would prioritize getting a faster lens over getting a longer lens. If it were me I would pick up a used FA 50 1.4. and wait until the runners get in close. If your budget allows for it a DA 50-135 would be a great choice as well. Have a great season!
Thanks man.

Around here most meets are in areas with not much forest at all. Anything from open roads to cornfields.

Courses are around schools, parks, Uni's and such.

I have a 18-55WR for close up work but I really could benefit from more reach.

08-28-2013, 01:37 PM   #5
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I'm going to go a bit with mflagg here, but if you're looking for low budget, a 70-200/70-210 f/4 wouldn't be too bad.

If you can afford it, go for a used 70-200/70-210 f/2.8. They can be had for $300-ish on eBay or on the individual used market. Often more, sometimes less.

If you want to go REALLY cheap, stick with your manual primes. Get a 200/3.5 or 300/4 and use Catch In Focus or multi-shot mode (either way, prefocus on the spot they will arrive in before they get there).
08-28-2013, 01:43 PM - 1 Like   #6
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I use the Tamron 70-300 you mentioned above Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di LD Macro Lens for Pentax AF for kids sporting events.

Pros- focuses really quick on my K-5 (faster than the DA55-300 when I compared them), renders sharp images, zoom is fast and easy to use, lightweight, cheap so not afraid to take it anywhere.

Cons- purple fringe is common in high contrast situation, but can be tamed with PP (easy work in LR4)
08-28-2013, 02:12 PM   #7
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I shot XC last season.

Don't bother with a zoom. Blow your money on a prime, because you'll need it. You'll probably be shooting the runners as they approach you, so if you don't like the framing just wait a couple of seconds and it will change! Even when I tried a zoom I found I usually didn't have time to adjust it once the runners started coming.

The key is getting fast AF. Fortunately, it appears you already have a K-5 II, which is the best you can do. Here's what I use (with one lens on my K-5 and one on the IIs):

FA*85
FA135
F*300


The DA*50-135 is an excellent lens, but it just doesn't focus fast enough for sports - especially XC. The FA (and also the F, I presume) 135 works really well. I think the DA*300 is slightly slower than the F or FA* 300, but according to other sports photographers here it's fast enough. If you really want a zoom the latest model Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 (EX DG APO OS HSM for Pentax) is the only one that repeatedly gets recommended for fast AF, but I don't like the IQ as much.

You don't want to go any wider than ~70mm. I tried the FA43 and I couldn't get any good shots because the runners had to be too close (and were literally past me a second later). I sold the FA77 before I got the FA*85, and I've had trouble getting good information on whether it or the DA70 focus quickly enough, but they might. Also, the FA*200 will likely do well, but absolutely NOT the DA*200 (I tried it - a nice lens, but for some reason way slower in AF than the DA*300).


If you were already thinking of buying any of these primes now's the time. The FA135 is the cheapest, and its wonderfully small size and IF means no one pays any attention to you in any setting. Also, order a BG now since you'll probably be doing 80%+ portrait, and your arms will get more tired otherwise (after the first meet I immediately plunked down $175!) - even this one is good enough if you don't need WR (I got it for my second body): Battery Grip For Pentax K7 K-7 DSRL D-BG4 - Newegg.com


Here are some shots from last year. You can also see the basic EXIF information if you need:

Highlights - Orange County Championships 2012 - Digital Studio - RaceTime Photos
Highlights - CIF Finals 2012 - Digital Studio - RaceTime Photos

Naturally you'll want to position yourself on the course according to the lighting you want. Sometimes only a few spots on the course work well (and these spots may change as the day moves on). I've got a lot of room to improve, but already I like my shots better than 75% of the photographers at these meets. Get at least one good lens (which you'll use after the season anyway), open the lens fairly wide, take some care in shooting and you'll have a few shots you (and others) really like by the end of the season.

Last edited by DSims; 08-28-2013 at 02:48 PM.
08-28-2013, 02:58 PM   #8
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I have the Tamron 70-300 macro, but use it on an older K200. Focus is very slow for me doing sports. It might be better with a modern body. With mine I have missed quite a few shots at baseball games I would have gotten with a faster focusing lens. It has a lot of focus hunting in high contrast or low light situations, only does acceptable in my opinion in full sun. I think using your catch in focus feature on a legacy prime would be best for occasional use. I have shot XC and found the most used focal length was about 85 to 140mm so a lens in that range would be good. Since you have a 16 mp camera, you could go with a 70 to 85 length prime and crop later, you should have enough resolution to do some cropping.

I also have the original Pentax DA 50-200. It focuses very fast compared to the Tamron. I did a sharpness test with all my lenses, and overall the Tamron was actually slightly sharper than the Pentax 50-200. In fact I have lots of older lenses and the only lens softer than the 50-200 was the Pentax 18-55 first edition or whatever its called. It was actually the only one where there were parts of the chart unreadable. But who shoots charts, right?


Last edited by KGH; 08-28-2013 at 03:34 PM.
08-28-2013, 03:20 PM   #9
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DSims- Great shots with the K200 and 300mm lens. I used the Tamron 70-300 the OP had asked about to shoot the Bo Jackson bicycle charity ride last year for tornado victims in North Alabama. I used it on my K200. Come to think of it, I had to leave and pick up the son from school, so my wife shot it. I think she did very good, I can brag since it is not me.https://www.facebook.com/pages/Kelly-Hawthorne-Photography/132976616773976

But your XC shots are very good close up. I have a tendency to shoot loose and crop because I am too disappointed when I miss part of the subject in action shots. I think it looks great when you get it right, but I am too conservative of a shooter to shoot too tight. Over the last twenty some odd years I have lost too many good action shots to my late or off camera work. I know everyone has them, that's why most shoot on burst. I started with a Pentax Super Program at the newspaper with a Motor Drive, but they only gave out so much film, so I rarely switched the drive off S (single) and learned to try to anticipate the action instead of shoot through it. This habit is hard to unlearn
08-28-2013, 03:21 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by KGH Quote
I have the Tamron 70-300 macro, but use it on an older K200. Focus is very slow for me doing sports. It might be better with a modern body. With mine I have missed quite a few shots at baseball games I would have gotten with a faster focusing lens. It has a lot of focus hunting in high contrast or low light situations, only does acceptable in my opinion in full sun.
There are quite a few versions of the Tamron 70-300.
I know that an older version I had was quite a dog and not sharp at the longer end.
The specific one ID'd here is the LD Di version, model #A17, and it works great with my K-5.
08-28-2013, 04:08 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by crewl1 Quote
There are quite a few versions of the Tamron 70-300..
Yes, you have a newer one than me. Mine was a throw in when I ordered my *ist DS in 2006 to go with my 18-55 kit lens. It is of the LD 572D model variety. I "upgraded" to a Pentax 50-200, if you can call it that. Focus is faster with the DA but image quality not any better overall, maybe a little more contrast, little less sharpness. I think a few more primes will be best for what I do. Although a wide zoom like Sigma's 18-35 could find a home in my kit.
08-28-2013, 04:16 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by KGH Quote
Yes, you have a newer one than me. Mine was a throw in when I ordered my *ist DS in 2006 to go with my 18-55 kit lens. It is of the LD 572D model variety. I "upgraded" to a Pentax 50-200, if you can call it that. Focus is faster with the DA but image quality not any better overall, maybe a little more contrast, little less sharpness. I think a few more primes will be best for what I do. Although a wide zoom like Sigma's 18-35 could find a home in my kit.
crewl1, Looked at your photostream..loved your wildlife shots with your Q and 300 lens. I have seen results from Q, but your results with the 300 adapted are beyond what I would have guessed that little sensor would do. Fantastic really.
08-28-2013, 04:26 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by KGH Quote
DSims- Great shots with the K200 and 300mm lens. I used the Tamron 70-300 the OP had asked about to shoot the Bo Jackson bicycle charity ride last year for tornado victims in North Alabama. I used it on my K200. Come to think of it, I had to leave and pick up the son from school, so my wife shot it. I think she did very good, I can brag since it is not me.https://www.facebook.com/pages/Kelly-Hawthorne-Photography/132976616773976

But your XC shots are very good close up. I have a tendency to shoot loose and crop because I am too disappointed when I miss part of the subject in action shots. I think it looks great when you get it right, but I am too conservative of a shooter to shoot too tight. Over the last twenty some odd years I have lost too many good action shots to my late or off camera work. I know everyone has them, that's why most shoot on burst. I started with a Pentax Super Program at the newspaper with a Motor Drive, but they only gave out so much film, so I rarely switched the drive off S (single) and learned to try to anticipate the action instead of shoot through it. This habit is hard to unlearn
You've got some beautiful portraits and landscapes on the facebook page.

As you hinted at, framing is my biggest concern with these photos. 99% of the photos you see are as they came out of the camera. Last year I decided I'd post all of the photos right away, and then sort out the better ones after the meet (usually shortly afterward). I may do it differently this year, but I think taking the risk forced me to learn quickly, and I think it gave me some good experience. I'd much rather have a few good photos than a bunch of mediocre ones. One of the things I refused to do was use the center AF point. When I start looking at XC photos from a typical amateur photographer I'll think they're pretty good at first, but by about the fifth or sixth picture (all shot wide frame, center focus) I can't stand to look at any more. The tragedy is most of them are using Canon L glass and could get excellent photos, but they don't (or won't) do what it takes to get them.

And despite my technical flaws, I feel I capture the emotion of the race in at least a few of my photos. Perhaps the fact that I ran for one of these same teams years ago helps, and perhaps that's also a reason I get so close.

Thanks for your advice - I've had this (the cropping) on my mind ever since I had an instructor evaluate my photos in a sports photography class about 8 months ago.


The K200D can take excellent photos (even for sports) as long as you have the right lens. I did use AF-C (rather than S), but I didn't use continuous shooting, and I didn't shoot just whenever I felt like it. Rather, the camera would refocus a few times as a runner approached, and that's when I'd click the shutter (this was especially true with the K200D). And of course, as with most good photography, I knew which subject I was focusing on (even though I didn't shoot for a specific team) so camera-auto-selection of the AF point was completely out. I made a quick decision which side I wanted the AF point on as the runners approached, and then I went with it. But I did cut off way too many feet, for example, so I may frame a little wider this year.


Anyhow, in relation to the OPs question, it seems the lenses with good AF performance are almost all primes, and most of them are screw-drive AF as well. Based on my experience last year, I think I'd use a prime even if I were shooting Canon, but with Pentax you have little choice - so get the tool that works and make the most of it.

Last edited by DSims; 08-28-2013 at 04:42 PM.
08-28-2013, 04:53 PM   #14
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I might just go for something with a max of 200mm instead, I like the compact size of those.

Like the Tamron 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 XR Di-II Macro Lens AF014P-700 B&H
08-28-2013, 05:17 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Adam Quote
How about a DA L 55-300mm for $180? Almost can't go wrong there!

https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/photographic-equipment-sale/234831-sale-f...40xs-more.html

For $200 more there's also the version with a metal mount and quick shift...

Pentax SMCP-DA 55-300mm f/4-5.8 ED Autofocus Lens 21720 B&H
I second Adam's advice here, the DA (or DAL) 55-300 is perfect for what you need it for and very affordable.
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