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12-01-2013, 08:18 AM   #1
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Long lens for Alaska tour

We are considering an Alaska tour next summer (mostly land-based) and I am also considering a Black Friday weekend lens purchase for the K-5ii/K-5iis. The two contenders are the Pentax 60-250 and the Pentax 300, both expensive but both reduced by a few hundred for another day. Obviously, the 60-250 would be more flexible, but how much would I miss on the long end? Or, in pretty good light conditions, would the 55-300 suffice?

My other camera is a current m4/3 camera that could come along with the Panasonic 100-300 lens (600mm equivalent in 35mm), which is pretty good, but I would think either of the Pentax lenses would be noticeably better. Is that so?

12-01-2013, 08:39 AM   #2
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There's not much difference between the 250 to 300 as far as zoom goes. If your'e strictly going for IQ on the long end my money is on the 300. Pick up a sale price DA 35 or 50 for under $200 and you've got 2 fantastic lenses for your trip.

My next long zoom purchase will be the 300. No question.
12-01-2013, 09:40 AM   #3
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Personally I would go longer than 300mm, but that's just me

I like something at least 400-500mm but you might also consider a Q plus something in the 200-300mm range


Distance is deceiving
12-01-2013, 10:34 AM   #4
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For travel you need the flexibility of a zoom. You don't want to be swapping lenses all the time and in inconvenient conditions.

So unless you travel with two or three bodies with primes attached, go for the 60-250mm zoom. The step from 250mm to 300 mm is hardly noticable, and you can always crop a bit.

The much cheaper option is the 18-270mm, which also will serve well for wide angle landscape shots. But image quality isn't even close to the 60-250, of course. But it may still be good enough unless you intend to do large prints.

Take a look at our sample photo database to help you decide.

12-01-2013, 10:36 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by kpevav Quote
We are considering an Alaska tour next summer (mostly land-based) and I am also considering a Black Friday weekend lens purchase for the K-5ii/K-5iis. The two contenders are the Pentax 60-250 and the Pentax 300, both expensive but both reduced by a few hundred for another day. Obviously, the 60-250 would be more flexible, but how much would I miss on the long end? Or, in pretty good light conditions, would the 55-300 suffice?

My other camera is a current m4/3 camera that could come along with the Panasonic 100-300 lens (600mm equivalent in 35mm), which is pretty good, but I would think either of the Pentax lenses would be noticeably better. Is that so?
It probably depends on what you're going to do with the long lens. Alaska means landscapes to some photographers (even those using long lenses), birds to some, large non-airborne wildlife to others. Probably the K5 wouldn't the first choice for fast autofocus, if that's a consideration.

I don't know anything about the Panasonic but you do have to consider how much you want to carry and how much equipment you'll practically be able to access quickly on a tour. If it's the kind of tour I'm familiar with it's not like you're driving around in your own car with all your equipment spread out ready for quick access. Sometimes you barely have time to change lenses or position, so a fixed lens like the 300 might be less useful than if you were just out photographing on your own.
12-01-2013, 11:28 AM - 1 Like   #6
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I have or had all three lenses you list, but I've never been on a trip like that! Here's my 2 cents worth.....

If you already have the Panasonic 100-300 that makes a difference as far as cost is concerned with buying other lenses. What m4/3 body do you have? I've heard the new GH3 and G6 are a bit better than the older models. I briefely tried a Panasonic GH2 with 100-300 a couple years ago. Very nice setup and a great reach. But.....after being used to my Pentax APS-C cameras and DA* lenses, the end result of IQ and rendering just weren't there for me. With that said however, I don't think you could find a better combination if size and weight is a major concern.

Between the DA* 60-250 and DA* 300, I think I would go with the 60-250 - it is my most used lens. I feel the DA* 300 is more of a specialty lens being fixed which I use for specific uses like wildlife shooting. What was said above is correct in that you can easily crop from the image from the 60-250 @250mm to the size the 300mm will give you. I also feel on a trip like that the zoom is very important. At 60mm you should be able to get some nice scenic/landscape shots.

My vote is the K-5IIs with the DA* 60-250 - a killer combination with IQ to die for along with the versatility of the zoom.
12-01-2013, 11:48 AM   #7
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this is NOT the inexpensive solution, but if this is THE trip of a lifetime to Alaska, you're going to seriously regret MISSING shots because of focal length.

remember this, nothing can fix IQ.

so with that said, here's a few options:

Buy the 60-250 and rent a BIGMA 50-500
buy the 60-250, buy the 300 AND buy a 1.4/1.7 and/or a 2.0 TC to attach to the 300. the pentax 1.7 with 300 gives you a 510mm lens that still has very good IQ (based on many forum gallery postings) and you will notice the diff between 250 cropped and 510. is the 300+TC better IQ than the Bigma? others can debate that if the want. I think it's really close

I have a Sigma 100-300 and a 1.4+2.0 TC because I prefer the lighter weight and I think the 300+2x IQ compares pretty well to the Bigma at 500. And it's better than essentially a 100% crop. Just be aware of the shutter speed requirements of such long focal lengths.

But my bottom line is you need some way somehow to get 500mm because you just wont get close enough to the larger fauna. Numerous trips to rocky mountain national park and Yellowstone have taught me some hard lessons about trying to shoot wildlife and it begins with "you can never have a big enough lens"
12-01-2013, 01:05 PM   #8
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Thanks for the replies, all good points.

Stormtech, the 100-300 has served me well on two different m4/3 cameras, especially on a Panasonic G3 when I was in Yellowstone two summers ago. I was able to get very good shots of coyote and (of course) bison, and pretty good bears, too. The handheld aspect was critical in those cases, but for others I could have used a longer lens (than 600mm equivalent, or a crop) on a tripod.

I'm thinking of either going for the 60-250, which would be far more useful going forward, rather than the 300. Or, just hold off, and maybe go for a used manual focus 300 or 400 lens to use for the trip in the meantime. I usually only print to 13x19, and so far the m4/3 quality has been pretty good. Of course, great shots that one might get with a better combination would dictate some larger prints, too.

12-01-2013, 01:23 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by kpevav Quote
Long lens for Alaska tour
I guess a lot depends on how close do really want to be to those polar bears.
12-01-2013, 01:59 PM   #10
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Is this a photo tour, or just a tour? My choice would be different depending on the answer. During a regular tour you just don't have the ability to take advantage of a huge variety of equipment. If it's a small group with everybody hauling out pairs of huge tripods and 600mm f4 canikons, that's different than a large group stopping for 15 minutes where 10 of those is spent getting everybody on and off the bus.
12-01-2013, 06:05 PM   #11
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On our Alaska trip, I took the 60-250 and AFA 1.7x for - combined 425mm for whale watching, 18-135, 16-50. The 60-250 combo worked great and enabled me to leave the Bigma at home. I also have the DA 300 but felt that the zoom was more versatile for a trip like this.

Good luck with your decision.
12-01-2013, 07:29 PM   #12
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The tour will be a small one but not dedicated to photography. The zoom looks like a better accommodation in most respects, and also a more useful approach for day-to-day photography here in the sunshine state.
12-02-2013, 05:52 AM   #13
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I think you will find the 60-250 to be a keeper lens. Its IQ is about the best you can get in that focal range if you don't mind carrying it.
12-02-2013, 06:21 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ole Quote
For travel you need the flexibility of a zoom. You don't want to be swapping lenses all the time and in inconvenient conditions.

So unless you travel with two or three bodies with primes attached, go for the 60-250mm zoom. The step from 250mm to 300 mm is hardly noticable, and you can always crop a bit.
What he said. The convenience of the zoom is really important, especially on that range.

I frequently use my three primes (21, 40, 100) when shooting. But on the tele range, the zoom is so useful. Getting from 60 (an important aspect of that lens) to 250 gives you a flexibility that a prime can't match. Of course it all depends on your shooting style but changes are that you will want to change the field of view often on such a trip. Switching cameras or lenses in the field is hardly convenient, especially since it might get a bit cold...
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