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03-18-2014, 06:44 PM   #1
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Telephoto Indecision - DA*200 f2.8, DA*300 f4, DA*60-250 f4?

Hi all. First post! What a great resource this forum is. I've been doing tons of research on upgrading my kit with a telephoto and need some more advice and suggestions for this purchase/investment. A little background first…

2 years ago I purchased a K5 with 18-55mm kit lens, followed by 50-200mm 4-5.6, then I found a Pentax A 50mm 1.4. I use my camera mostly outdoors shooting sports (cycling, skiing, snowboarding), cottage life (water skiing etc), city life, weddings here and there but I want to focus on skiing and snowboarding and other cottage outdoor activities.

While skiing/snowboarding I carry the K5 on my chest with the LowePro 55AW with the 50-200mm attached. Subjects are anywhere from 20ft-150ft and looking through my photos most are shot in between 75-200mm but majority of those in the upper range. Some I don’t crop but when I do it’s at about 25-50%.

Problem/Issues:

• Softness in images
• AF hunts like crazy

For skiing I typically have enough light to shoot 1/1000, 5.6, 200mm but I feel like the lens is holding me back. In the summer, on the water there is tons of light too and I get okay images and at 200mm and with someone on the tube they will fill the frame 2/3. However, I’m getting really frustrated with this lens shooting fast action.

I’ve been considering the lenses listed below and right now I’m leaning towards one of the two primes but I’ve read so many good things about the DA*60-250mm.

DA* 60-250mm f4 – a friend (a former pro studio photog shooting Nikon) had pointed out that this might end up being soft at either end and image quality less (I’ve seen good sample photos though) given the huge range compared to a 70-200mm….that Pentax doesn’t appear to make WR(?). The point was that a lens has to calculate that much more with this range when shooting action sports.

DA* 200mm f2.8 - The 200mm is tempting with the 2.8 and would be nice if I started shooting indoors. Then I was thinking in the future after I recover from the initial lens purchase, I could get the DA AF 1.4 Rear Converter to satisfy the “need” for longer range.

DA* 300mm f4 - Or, I could keep the 50-200mm and get the 300mm prime (might be too much length for water skiing with 50-75ft rope though?) that would be good for most outdoor activities but restricting indoors.

Anyway, in your experience is there a lens (or combinations of lenses given what I have) that would make more sense for my photography aspirations? Any advice would be much appreciated, thanks!


Last edited by Alpiner; 03-23-2014 at 07:02 PM. Reason: incorrect aperture value
03-18-2014, 06:59 PM   #2
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Ever consider the HD DA 55-300? Worlds ahead in quality over the 50-200.

The 60-250 is even further ahead than the 55-300. I wouldn't call the 60-250 soft at either end, I suggest looking at the examples posted around the forum.

as for the primes, if you don't need the zoom, then they would be the way to go. Even owning both the 60-250 and the 300 is reasonable, both have different uses.
03-18-2014, 06:59 PM   #3
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The DA* 60-250 is weather sealed as are all DA* lenses. The image quality is excellent, also at the ends. It has silent and accurate autofocus, although not the fastest. Nevertheless, it did well for me at a recent air show even with the DA 1.4x rear converter, images here. This zoom is somewhat big and heavy being a fixed F4 throughout its range.

The DA* 300mm is F4, not F2.8 as you have it.

Your experience range-wise with the 50-200mm should help you decide if you need a zoom, or if the 200 or 300mm prime would do.
03-18-2014, 07:20 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by calculator01 Quote
Ever consider the HD DA 55-300? Worlds ahead in quality over the 50-200.
I looked at it but WR is very important to me given the elements I've shot in the last couple years. This reason, in addition to image quality has been my primary reasons for looking at the DA* lineup.

@ole: I'll edit the post to change the 300mm to f4 once I get privileges (ie 2 posts in)...thanks for catching that!

You mention the slower autofocus of the 60-250. Would either primes be faster?

03-18-2014, 07:40 PM   #5
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I own both the DA* 60-250 and DA* 300. First off, the 60-250 is not soft at either end - don't know where that is coming from....

While the DA* 300 is a tad (just a tad) sharper than the 60-250, I am usually hard pressed to tell the difference in IQ. I think for you it would come down to needing a zoom or prime. From how you explain your shooting, I feel the zoom would be a better fit.

I see no difference in AF speed between the two.
03-18-2014, 07:43 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Alpiner Quote
I looked at it but WR is very important to me given the elements I've shot in the last couple years. This reason, in addition to image quality has been my primary reasons for looking at the DA* lineup.

@ole: I'll edit the post to change the 300mm to f4 once I get privileges (ie 2 posts in)...thanks for catching that!

You mention the slower autofocus of the 60-250. Would either primes be faster?
DA*200 is slow focusing. DA*300 is reasonable focusing speed.

If you need WR then the DA*60-250 is your best bet.

Otherwise if indoor sports was your primary task I would recommend the Sigma 70-200 2.8 OS, it has quick focus speed.
03-18-2014, 07:53 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Alpiner Quote
I looked at it but WR is very important to me given the elements I've shot in the last couple years. This reason, in addition to image quality has been my primary reasons for looking at the DA* lineup.
The HD 55-300 is WR to the same extent as the other WR series. I.e. 18-55, 18-135, 50-200
03-18-2014, 08:08 PM   #8
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I have DA 60-250. It's IQ is great all the way to 250 mm (you get what you pay for). But it's heavy. I also have the DA 55-300, which I've used successfully for soccer, and which now comes in a WR version. The 55-300 is much lighter and still gives very nice IQ. I'd be extremely surprised if you could ski/snowboard successfully and safely with the DA 60-250 on your chest. I'd look seriously at the 55-300 WR - you'll find it focuses faster than the 60-250.

But before blaming your lens you should check your K-5 AF. I have the K-5II, which I upgraded to from the K-5. The K-5II has much more reliable phase detect AF than the K-5. An easy way to check whether it's your lens or you camera's AF that is to blame for your soft images - use LV and compare them with similar images taken through the view finder (phase detect). LV (contrast detect) is slower but much more accurate when it achieves focus lock on the K-5. Are your LV images still soft? If so, then it's your lens. If not, keep your 50-200 and look at getting at least a K-5II or K5-IIs or K-3. There are some good deals around on the K-5II/s. I upgraded from the K-5 and hardly ever get obviously soft or out of focus images.

Here's a recent discussion on the K-5's AF issues: https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/6-pentax-dslr-discussion/251495-d-rn-k-5-you.html

Remember too that there is an art to accurate AF - very often the camera will focus on the background behind your subject if the background has higher contrast. But I may be telling you something you already know.

I'd start with the K-5 AF check before changing lenses.

03-18-2014, 08:25 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Alpiner Quote
• Softness in images
• AF hunts like crazy

For skiing I typically have enough light to shoot 1/1000, 5.6, 200mm but I feel like the lens is holding me back. In the summer, on the water there is tons of light too and I get okay images and at 200mm and with someone on the tube they will fill the frame 2/3. However, I’m getting really frustrated with this lens shooting fast action.

I’ve been considering the lenses listed below and right now I’m leaning towards one of the two primes but I’ve read so many good things about the DA*60-250mm.

DA* 60-250mm f4 – a friend (a former pro studio photog shooting Nikon) had pointed out that this might end up being soft at either end and image quality less (I’ve seen good sample photos though) given the huge range compared to a 70-200mm….that Pentax doesn’t appear to make WR(?). The point was that a lens has to calculate that much more with this range when shooting action sports.

DA* 200mm f2.8 - The 200mm is tempting with the 2.8 and would be nice if I started shooting indoors. Then I was thinking in the future after I recover from the initial lens purchase, I could get the DA AF 1.4 Rear Converter to satisfy the “need” for longer range.

DA* 300mm f2.8 - Or, I could keep the 50-200mm and get the 300mm prime (might be too much length for water skiing with 50-75ft rope though?) that would be good for most outdoor activities but restricting indoors.

Anyway, in your experience is there a lens (or combinations of lenses given what I have) that would make more sense for my photography aspirations? Any advice would be much appreciated, thanks!
QuoteOriginally posted by crewl1 Quote
DA*200 is slow focusing. DA*300 is reasonable focusing speed.

If you need WR then the DA*60-250 is your best bet.

Otherwise if indoor sports was your primary task I would recommend the Sigma 70-200 2.8 OS, it has quick focus speed.

As Crewl1 said, the DA*200 is out. But the FA*200 is in. Same IQ, but should focus much faster. I sold my DA*200 after only 2 weeks. The IQ was fine but the AF was way too slow for fast moving sports.

The DA*300, FA*300, and F*300 (I have the latter) are all good too. So is the F or FA135/2.8 (best bargain for fast AF if it's long enough for you).



I think primes are probably a better choice here. But the DA*60-250 is still a consideration, as is the Sigma 70-200/2.8 (but you want the latest version). I'll probably get a chance to try Crewl1's Sigma this weekend (I've never used that lens before), so I'm looking forward to it. I generally don't like the way Sigma renders images as much as the Pentax glass, but it's possibly the fastest focusing available in a long lens if you want zoom, so it'll be interesting. Maybe even as fast as the primes - I don't know yet.


My gut reaction is that if you're already going to 200 a lot of the time, you should get one of the *300 lenses. I think the F and FA focus a little faster, but the DA is reported to be adequate, and it has WR. There are small differences in IQ (which is why I chose the F*) but they're all very good. The *300 and *200 lenses also have a little better IQ than the DA*60-250, IMO (with the *300s being the best).



Eventually you may want to upgrade your camera too (because the K-5 II/IIs and K-3 have even faster AF), but you definitely need the lens first. The right lens will still do very well on a K-5.

Last edited by DSims; 03-18-2014 at 08:36 PM.
03-19-2014, 01:13 AM   #10
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If you want the best possible image quality, that would be the DA* 300mm. The 60-250 is not far behind and offers a lot of added convenience. The DA* 200mm is good but not quite as great as the other who IMO.

You might want to check out our in-depth reviews to help make your decision easier


Pentax-DA* 200mm F2.8 Review - Introduction - PentaxForums.com
Pentax-DA* 300mm F4 Review - Introduction - PentaxForums.com
Pentax DA* 60-250mm F4 Review - Introduction - PentaxForums.com
HD Pentax-DA 55-300mm F4-5.8 ED WR Review - Introduction - PentaxForums.com

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03-19-2014, 01:22 AM   #11
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I don't know about the DA* 200, but I have the DA* 60-250 and the DA* 300.

The 60-250 is not soft at either end - a very good, sharp and versatile lens. Not blazingly fast AF, but still quick enough for most sports action, and with good light it works well with my 1.4 teleconverter.

The 300 is really sharp. I can't see myself ever selling it. The 60-250 is not far behind.

I think if you want the versatility of a zoom, the you won't go far wrong with the 60-250. If you want the ultimate in sharpness, then the 300. Better still, get both

As others have said, the Sigma 70-200 F2.8 is also pretty good. Not WR, bigger and heavier, a bit softer at both ends of the zoom range and needs to be stopped down a bit for best image quality (unlike the Pentax lenses above which are pretty good at all settings) but a cheaper and faster lens, faster auto focus, and still capable of pretty good sharpness.
03-19-2014, 01:24 AM   #12
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I think the best lens would be the DA*60-250 going on the research I have done and the reviews from the Forum and speaking to people who have used the lens, it has the best flexibility of the telephoto lenses and is DA* quality and weather sealed.
03-19-2014, 02:33 AM   #13
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Thought about the DA* 50-135? Ok, I know it doesn't have the reach, but it's f2.8 and sharp throughout the zoom range, WR, and high IQ, so you could shoot at the long end and crop? Also, although heavier than the 55-300, it's lighter than all your other options.

That said, can be slow in AF.
03-19-2014, 02:43 AM   #14
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I've owned all three (still have the 200 and 60-250) and they are all superb lenses (as you'd expect for the DA* range).

It sounds to me as though the DA*60-250 would be the best choice for you. It is a bit heavier but it is very well balanced so it's not awkwardly heavy (i.e. not front heavy). It's not f2.8 but is totally usable at f4. The range is just that bit better than some of the competitors (70-200 being pretty common).

Hope another view helps
03-19-2014, 04:21 AM   #15
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Your range of subject distance suggests a zoom, so even though the 300/4 is likely the best lens of all discussed, you are limited because it is a fixed focal length.

WR while a nice to have is not a necessity unless you predominantly shoot during hard snowfalls. I shoot all the time in light rain and snow with non WR lenses, and it is not an issue. (Note I have shot for 30 years so WR lenses did not exist when I started)

If you are also an active participant, you may also want to consider weight and volume. A 200/2.8 or 300/4 will be 77 mm in diameter, and Wei a kilo or so.

Except for shutter lag, a good bridge camera with electriconic eye level viewfinder would be the best bet
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