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04-04-2008, 07:49 AM   #1
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Super Tele Lens Choice

Hi all, I am new to the forum ( and digital photography as well) I need some advice on a tele lens for my Pentax KD10. I am going to Kenya on safari in September and have been looking at 3 lenses: the Sigma, Tamron and Pentax 18-250mm super teles. They all seem to be in the same price range with the same features, so which one is the best bet as far as quality of build and optics.

Thank you

GS

04-04-2008, 08:38 AM   #2
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Pentax is based on the Tamron design. so they should be equivalent. They both have very good reviews so you can't go wrong with either.

I don't think the Sigma superzoom is as popular
04-04-2008, 08:49 AM   #3
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The Tamron/Pentax 18-250 is a great travel lens. The Tamron comes with a 6 year warranty in the US, so that may be a factor for you.

For a safari, I'm not sure 250mm will be long enough though. Another lens to consider would be the Sigma 50-500, though it's twice the cost of the Tamron/Pentax 18-250, and probably 3 times the size. It's a great lens as well (very versatile with that wide range, though not nearly wide enough for all situations).

Ask someone who's been to the places you plan to go, and see what they took. It may be that the animals get closer than I think and 250mm is fine. Other than that potential drawback, I highly recommend the 18-250 (I bought the Tamron since it came out a few months before the Pentax version).
04-04-2008, 11:51 AM   #4
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Thanks for the input. That Sigma 50-500 lens is nice, but it weighs 4lbs and costs close to a grand. I don't know how close we get to the animals, but we will be in a car and I understand that some of the animals get pretty close.

04-04-2008, 12:20 PM   #5
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Probably worth holding out a few months to see how the Pentax 50-300mm works out IQ and price wise.
04-04-2008, 03:18 PM   #6
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Here is a link to the website of a husband & wife that recently returned from Tanzania..Her name is Brenda Fogg, & his is Chris Wiggins..She took antique cameras, while he took modern digital cameras & lenses..Their photos, a lot of commentary, as well as the equipment that they took with them are on the site..His parents are living in Tanzania, & they were able to arrange a first-class guide & driver for them..

Beautiful Bokeh: The Safari

I have read many posts on traveling to Africa & photographing the land, people, & wildlife..The two things that stand out are:

#1-- To take the longest telephoto lens that you can..This is especially true if you are going to have to share a vehicle with other people..A fast 300mm f2.8 with both 1.4x & 2x converters would be the minimum for such a trip..The Sigma 500mm f4.5 in Pentax mount with both converters would be even better..

#2--If it is at all possible to do so, then to hire a private vehicle so that the maximum number of photographers sharing the vehicle is two..Both photographers need to be more or less on the same page as far as sharing the same goals in what they want to photograph..A private vehicle, driver, & guide will free you up to go places & do / photograph things that tours do not allow..

What I got out of reading about their trip was that the private vehicle, guide/driver was the number one thing that made their trip pleasurable & successful from a photography standpoint..

Good luck,

Bruce
04-04-2008, 05:12 PM   #7
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Bruce,
Great information; thank you so much, it really helps me in my search for the perfect lens

GS
04-05-2008, 04:34 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Gerrys Quote
Hi all, I am new to the forum ( and digital photography as well) I need some advice on a tele lens for my Pentax KD10. I am going to Kenya on safari in September and have been looking at 3 lenses: the Sigma, Tamron and Pentax 18-250mm super teles. They all seem to be in the same price range with the same features, so which one is the best bet as far as quality of build and optics.
Thank you
GS
Hi there,

Scary times. Wish you the best.

I went to Tanzania last fall. Three parks. Tarangire, Ngorongoro Crater, and Serengeti. The animals were quite close in Tarangire. So my 300mm f/2.8 + 1.4x TC was good there.

However, when the animals got further away in Ngorongoro and especially the Serengeti, I needed the 2x TC, making for 600mm. At times when the animals were at the roadside I was only able to fit part of them / part of their heads in frame, however otherwise 600mm was the right focal length.

The absolute best would have been a 120-300mm f/2.8 zoom, with a 2x TC. However that isn't made for Pentax mount. The Sigma 120-300 f/4 with 1.4x may do. You can use the 2x TC but Sigma states you will loose auto-focus (only f/8's worth of light passing through to the sensor when wide open). The Sigma 50-500mm might be your best bet unless you have deep pockets for a 300mm f/2.8 + TCs.

See here: Tanzania 2007 | m8o | Fotki.com
Other than landscape images and pictures of people and villages, my Sigma 300mm was used for all. All images in Tarangire were with the 1.4x TC (420mm). The remainder were with the 2x (600mm), to let you understand the sizes of the animals you will get for a focal length. I have about 1500 images I still have to convert from RAW to JPG unfortunately!

04-05-2008, 07:33 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Gerrys Quote
I am going to Kenya on safari in September and have been looking at 3 lenses: the Sigma, Tamron and Pentax 18-250mm super teles.
You must be joking! A zoom with a 250mm maximum focal length is no super-tele, especially with a f/6.3 maximum aperture prohibiting the use of teleconverters!

Below $1000, your best choices IMHO are a Sigma 50-500/4-6.3 zoom ($1000), an old Takumar 500/4.5 ($400-500) or a Tamron Adaptall 300/2.8 ($500) with a Pentax 1.7X AF teleconverter ($400).

The Sigma is a compact autofocus zoom with good image quality but it is not very fast.

The Takumar is fast but it is a huge beast and a manual focus prime lens, so you lose the versatility of the zoom and the fast operation of the autofocus.

The Tamron is my preferred option: a fast lens with very good image quality, which is not as big as the takumar, and very versatile with the help of some teleconverters. I use it as a 300/2.8, a 420/4 (with the 1.4X Tamron teleconverter), an autofocus 510/4.5 (with the Pentax 1.7X AF adapter), a 600/5.6 (with the Pentax 2X-S Rear Converter) or even a 900/8 super-tele (with the Kenko 3X converter). Some people also use stacked teleconverters on this lens with good results.

Cheers!

Abbazz
04-05-2008, 07:54 PM   #10
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One factor that seems to have been left out of the discussion so far is this:

Sharper pictures taken with a 250 or maybe 300mm lens, using Shake Reduction, and then cropped later, MAY - and I stress "may" - just give you a better picture than a huge super-tele from a moving car, or handheld, and with the car sometimes being unstable if there are other people in it moving around.

The sharpness of a good 250 or 300, maybe even using a monopod or beanbag, and Shake Reduction, seems to crop nicely. I've got several lenses, including the Bigma (Sigma 50-500). But I've actually had better results in SOME circumstances, by using the shorter lens then cropping.

Obviously, if you have the time and means to set up a tripod with a super-tele on the camera, then you will get great shots. But a lot of shots in wild nature photography are "grabshots" taken as an opportunity presents itself.

Just a factor to take into consideration.... perhaps
04-05-2008, 09:13 PM   #11
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If you already have a wide-normal lens, the Sigma 70-300 APO DG macro may be an option. It has decent IQ (better if you bump up the contrast I have found), and is 1/2 the price of any of your other options, and slightly faster.
04-05-2008, 09:20 PM   #12
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Derridale, i know you said "may" a lot but I guess you didn't look @ my link?... If Gerrys is going on a real safari I can assure you of one thing (well a few, but covering just one right now). When there are animals to view or anything worth looking @, the vehicle will immediately be stopped, and engine turned off, with many minutes spent watching the animal... and in almost all instance slow to hardly if at all moving animals... One really shouldn't make plans that center around taking pictures while in a moving vehicle, as it won't happen. If not an actual professional safari however, all bets are off!

Gerrys, get as long and fast a lens as you can for the money, probably for more than your willing to spend right now, and take a monopod. This is likely to be a once in a lifetime trip so you'll want to have something that's usable for 1/2 the day's outings in the mornings while the sky is overcast, as it was for us every morning for 10 days until near or after noon; sometimes in the afternoon too.... i.e. something fast. If you're using a slow lens and only reaching 250mm, that's further somewhat soft @ that length (as most economy zooms end up being) I hate to say, you will probably have disappointing results.

Derridale reminds me that I should have stated I used a monopod for most all shots. If you choose not though, most Land Rovers are equipped with pop-up roofs (hope yours will too), and they carry a few bean bags with them that work great on the top rim of the roof opening. To be safe tho, bring your own bean bag(s) sans beans, and fill with beans or even just sand when there.

Last edited by m8o; 04-05-2008 at 09:28 PM.
04-05-2008, 09:21 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by SpecialK Quote
If you already have a wide-normal lens, the Sigma 70-300 APO DG macro may be an option. It has decent IQ (better if you bump up the contrast I have found), and is 1/2 the price of any of your other options, and slightly faster.
And the Tamron... There is a Tamron 70-300 (75-300?) appreciation thread kicking around recently that maked me sorry for selling mine w/o ever trying it...

Last edited by m8o; 04-05-2008 at 09:29 PM.
04-05-2008, 09:37 PM   #14
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Hi m80 Yes, of course under good circumstances, a longer lens will be better. It really does depend, as you correctly point out, on what type of safari he will be on. If there is a very good driver who understands the needs of photographers, then the car will stop and be a good stable foundation for a long lens.

I was merely making the point that a good, sharp pic taken at 250 or 300 is likely to crop and blow up better than a pic taken at 500 that's a bit blurry. Horses for courses...

I have a friend who went on a safari to the Serengetti and to Ngorongoro Crater, but he had a problem with:

(a) poorly maintained old Land Rovers with bad suspension,

(b) 6 people in the vehicle apart from the driver, so they were all jostling to get good views and the vehicle moved around quite a bit, and

(c) they drove right past several good photo opportunities that he was able to grab with his Tamron 18-250 (which he keeps on one K10D body) and would have missed completely if he had been relying on his other K10D with the Sigma 170-500 on it. The results were more than acceptable when cropped and blown up.

So yes, you're right. It depends on the type of safari, the driver, the vehicles, and the person's budget. And I certainly agree re the monopod and/or beanbag. If all else fails, I've used a sock stuffed with sand and tied off - worked just fine But be sure to use a clean sock, as it will be right under your nose.....
04-07-2008, 11:09 AM   #15
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Derridale and m80 et al...Thanks you all for your input and suggestions. The info is very valuable to me although now I must admit i am more confused about all the choices. If I had the$$$$ , I would buy them all. I will be on a tour with 2 other couples ( six folks ) , two of whom I know, so I could push them out of the way if need be.

I guess I am leaning to the 28-250 lenses right now, only because the Sigma is a monster. I will continue my research re: the other lenses mentioned as I still have 6 months before the trip.

Thanks again to all
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