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03-22-2015, 09:41 PM   #1
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Help: Speed vs Reach

I'm torn and I hate tradeoffs...
I've had a 55-200 (f4-5.6) for some time now, and am ready to get a USED prime lens with a longer reach for those times when I want to get wildlife and mountain shots in my area...and my kids at sport and concert events.
I'm guessing that my ideal focal length would be a 400mm prime, but anything affordable seems to be f5.6 or slower.
I've seen some 300mm options in the f2.8 or f4 (great for sports and concerts...but not as long a reach)

My latest thinking was get a fast 300mm (f2.8) and throw a 1.4x teleconverter on it when I want the added reach (giving me a ~500mm f3.5)

My Questions:
- Does a 300mm with a TC, render worse IQ that a natural 400mm?
- How does a TC affect bokeh?
- Will I be disappointed with a 400mm (f5.6)--even with the extra reach--when it can't really perform catching action or indoor events like a 300mm 2.8?
-Will I fall in love with the relative lighter weight of the slower 400/5.6 over the 300/2.8...and not really notice the slowness if I use a monopod?
-Will I fall in love with the faster 300/2.8 lens--despite the weight--and not really notice the additional 100mm reach of the 400/5.6?

Just looking for advice from others who have crossed these bridges before me.
(A slap to the first person that says "it depends...") I want answers and to be told what to do

03-22-2015, 10:23 PM   #2
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Get the DA* 300mm F4 and a 1.4x teleconverter for when you really need more reach than 300mm.

I use an ultralight tripod and a Manfrotto joystick a lot with the 300mm. The monopod doesn't get so much love, although maybe I need to practice with it more.
03-23-2015, 04:51 AM   #3
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A couple of points here just to help you out.

First, a 300/2.8 plus 1.4x TC is F4 not F3.5

Second, beyond the equivelent of 400/5.6(300/5 or 200/2.8) which has typically a front filter diameter of 77mm, you can expect to pay a lot of money.

I too am sitting on the fence between a sigma 500/4.5 and a 300/2.8 plus teleconverters.

I have shot for years with a 400/5.6 but want something longer and faster, The issue that has come up, specifically since my K5 is with the high ISO preformance of cameras these days is the big glass worth the extra weight?

One last point to consider, beyond 300mm what is more important, an extra 100-200mm or improving your skills to get perhaps 25-40%closer to the subject? Getting closer costs you nothing, except time and patience
03-23-2015, 05:32 AM - 1 Like   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by jdg239 Quote
I've had a 55-200 (f4-5.6) for some time now, and am ready to get a
Have you tried the Pentax 300mm prime? It is in a whole other league than the DA 55-200mm.. Very sharp, contrasty, silent AF, but it is also big and expensive (its not very overpriced, but compared to the 55-200mm..). The difference between 300 and 400 is not as big as you might think and you can always shoot raw and crop the photos. This is what most people on this forum that are into telephoto do, I think. 300mm + TC + cropping. Keep in mind you are already using a crop sensor, so you get an advantage in that regard. Some people buy one of those 500mm Sigma zooms, others get the prime, but those are all even bigger and more costly. At the tele end, you will notice that every additional mm, f-number will cause a big jump in size and cost. The DA* 300mm is well-placed in a sort of sweet spot, where it is still very tele, very fast, and doesn't cost an arm and a leg (see DA 560mm)
Anyway, I would suggest you get the DA 300mm first, just rent it out or something, to see how it performs and if it gives you what you want. Oh, and I think there are already some threads about DA* 300mm with TC, feel free to look for them, as they might give you comparisons and example photos

03-23-2015, 08:53 AM - 1 Like   #5
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You say you need it to be affordable. That means different things to different people.

the da* 300/4 or da* 200/2.8 are something like 650 used vs 1000 new.
The DAL 55-300 goes as low as $150 or lower used and is generally considered vastly superior to the 50-200.

the HD teleconverter is about $500. (couldn't find a used one in a quick search)
The kenko pz-af 1.5x teleconverter is about $120-150 (supports SDM/DC AF as well as screw drive, and doesn't ruin the image quality)

There are lots of manual focus primes of varying quality as well, which will generally be considerably less expensive.

Another option is a mirror lens. Those would be much lighter, probably much cheaper,and could give you 500mm without a teleconverter, at the expense of a fixed aperture and occasionally odd shaped bokeh.
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/130-lens-sample-photo-archive/274865-case...3-samples.html

And another thing to consider -- a flash extender. That might help make up for the slower aperture. A normal flash won't reach the bird that a 300mm will in a very meaningful way, but these concentrate the beam. Better Beamer Flash Extender Support - RPPhoto.com
03-23-2015, 12:50 PM   #6
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I doubt you'll find a 300mm f2.8 lens that fits the "affordable" category, unless your definition is a lot different than mine. The DA 300mm f4 plus 1.4 teleconverter is an excellent combination for birding and relatively slow-moving critters, but it'll be f5.6 with the tele, and autofocus is not fast enough for fast action. I've heard the F 300mm f4.5 is faster to focus, but a little slower than the DA. I'd probably go for either of these rather than the 400mm, if for no other reason than it gives you a little more flexibility. BTW, the other consideration is size. 300mm f2.8 will be a bit bigger and heavier than any of the others.
03-23-2015, 02:04 PM - 1 Like   #7
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Buy the Pentax DA 300 f4. If you are uncertain, rent it first. You can optionally add the new 1.4 teleconverter, either now or when budget allows, for 420 f5.6. My logic follows:

I checked your post history and think you have a K-3. That's a very modern sensor with good high ISO performance, making f2.8 less essential than with older cameras. f4 is a more compact and less expensive lens.

You mentioned wildlife. 420 f5.6 with the teleconverter is fast enough for outdoor shooting during the day, even on overcast days.

You also mentioned kids sports and concert events. 300mm is probably enough reach for that, and you have the option to go to 420 with the TC if there's enough light. I think you'll find 420 a novelty for kids events,though, because you'll be too close.
03-23-2015, 03:29 PM - 1 Like   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by jdg239 Quote
- Will I be disappointed with a 400mm (f5.6)--even with the extra reach--when it can't really perform catching action or indoor events like a 300mm 2.8?
-Will I fall in love with the relative lighter weight of the slower 400/5.6 over the 300/2.8...and not really notice the slowness if I use a monopod?
You want a long lens for two different purposes.

Short answer. For wildlife, 400 f5.6 is a very good choice. For indoor sports, no.

DA*300 f4 would be a good compromise.

03-23-2015, 06:09 PM - 1 Like   #9
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How much do you want to spend? A DA*300 f4 is very nice, and some are having very nice results with the 1.4TC, although it isn't unanimous. A 300 2.8 Sigma is more expensive than that, and a TC will give you a nice setup. But you are getting close to a 500 f4.5 Sigma which will give you much better results than any of the above. Once you are there, the Pentax 560 f5.6 is within reach, and there have been very nice shots posted from that lens. For around $1k the best bang for your buck and length is the Sigma 150-500, which is reasonably sharp if stopped down. The new 150-450 is going to be released soon, and the price is around what the Sigma 300 f2.8 is and we will see how it looks.

Look at the 300+ lens club and see what people are posting. It is very active, and there is a broad range of lenses represented showing the strengths and weaknesses of them all.
03-23-2015, 09:07 PM - 1 Like   #10
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I've found that using a TC doesn't really give much better results than using a high quality lens and just cropping, especially if you are shooting anything that moves. Your best bet is to go with the DA*300 and forget the TC. The options for the TC are not particularly great: the Pentax HD one is overpriced at $500-600 and the Tamron ones of yesterday greatly reduce the effectiveness of shake reduction because they transmit the focal length unmodified. For the price of the Pentax TC, you can get 70% of the DA*300 f/4.

In addition, because the TC costs you a stop, you can pull a much better shutter speed without raising the ISO. Consider the following:

Setting #1: f/4, ISO640, 1/250
Setting #2: f/5.6, ISO1250, 1/250
Setting #3: f/5.6, ISO640, 1/125

If you have to push past ISO640, the noise starts to increase rather quickly--there's a big difference between ISO1000 and ISO2000. Or you have to go to undesirable shutter speeds for the lens length and moving subject.

I'm also not sure you realize just how much zoom a 300mm is. You need to be pretty far away. I shot these:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/madmathmind/sets/72157649539349942/

For the hockey shots, I was in the last row of the minor league arena at about center ice. There's maybe 15 or 20 rows in front of me? As you can see, not many action shots because I could only get what I wanted when the players were at the other end of the ice--just too much zoom otherwise. For the animals, I had to step really far back for anything larger than birds.

Last edited by MadMathMind; 03-23-2015 at 09:12 PM.
03-23-2015, 09:29 PM - 1 Like   #11
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Using TC with your primes can be a good thing, I've seen excellent shots taken with the DA* 300 + 1.4x tc.
Here's some shots of my hipster goat ( i apologize for the poor subject choice and horrible lighting) taken with the K3, Sigma 300mm f2.8 and few different teleconverters (I don't own the Pentax 1.4x yet) to give a glimpse of image degradation

Sigma 300mm f2.8 @ f7.1


Sigma 300mm f2.8 + Tamron 1.4x @ f7,1


Sigma 300mm f2.8 + Sigma 1.4x @ f7,1


Sigma 300mm f2.8 + Sigma 2x @ f7,1



Sigma 300mm f2.8 + Kenko 3x @ f7,1 (Kenko 300 pro plus)
03-25-2015, 01:01 AM   #12
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Fabulous, thoughtful responses everyone! What a great community of helpful users. Thank you.
03-25-2015, 01:24 AM   #13
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Everything is a trade-off.
Fast + Reach = Big + Expensive

My trade-off was the DA*300 (I refuse to buy a lens which won't fit in my current shoulder bag) and the new DA1.4xTC
420/5.6 isn't bad and gives good results wide open.



Very low light:



On the Q (so roughly 2300mm FF equivalent), hand held and uncropped



Wide open in better light



Stopped down to f/8.0

03-25-2015, 05:19 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by jdg239 Quote
I'm torn and I hate tradeoffs...
Photography is all about tradeoffs - aperture, shutter speed, ISO. You might want to reevaluate that position . . .
03-25-2015, 05:48 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by jdg239 Quote
I'm torn and I hate tradeoffs...
I've had a 55-200 (f4-5.6) for some time now, and am ready to get a USED prime lens with a longer reach for those times when I want to get wildlife and mountain shots in my area...and my kids at sport and concert events.
I'm guessing that my ideal focal length would be a 400mm prime, but anything affordable seems to be f5.6 or slower.
I've seen some 300mm options in the f2.8 or f4 (great for sports and concerts...but not as long a reach)

My latest thinking was get a fast 300mm (f2.8) and throw a 1.4x teleconverter on it when I want the added reach (giving me a ~500mm f3.5)

My Questions:
- Does a 300mm with a TC, render worse IQ that a natural 400mm?
- How does a TC affect bokeh?
- Will I be disappointed with a 400mm (f5.6)--even with the extra reach--when it can't really perform catching action or indoor events like a 300mm 2.8?
-Will I fall in love with the relative lighter weight of the slower 400/5.6 over the 300/2.8...and not really notice the slowness if I use a monopod?
-Will I fall in love with the faster 300/2.8 lens--despite the weight--and not really notice the additional 100mm reach of the 400/5.6?

Just looking for advice from others who have crossed these bridges before me.
(A slap to the first person that says "it depends...") I want answers and to be told what to do
For me you post is kind of strange. You start from one of the worst tele today in resolution (but still able of great images if you don't crop). Want to upgrade and this of things like a 300 f/2.8 that cost something like 3000$ !

For me you have no clue what you want/need and thus speeding too much money on this should be really avoided. You also kind of think that a given lense might cover all your cases while bird typically require very long focal length that are very slow while for a concert you might need more a much shorter focal length and would appreciate more light gathering. Many would simply get 2 separate lenses for the job like a 70-200 on one side and a 150-500 on the other side.

A few things to know for me. If you have a good body with high resolution (like a K3) you can crop/reframe your image a lot in post processing provided your lenses are sharp enough.

So just a classical tamron 70-200 f/2.8 doesn't look like much more impressive than your 55-200 when reading the number but:
- f/2.8 would be invaluable for sports
- because the lense is really sharp, you can crop/reframe to 400mm without much issue.
- the range of focal is interresting.

That's for me an approach: get a sharp 70-200, you have price from 500$ used to 2000$+ for the most expensive ones. Crop when you need more reach.

Another option is to just take an affordable 55-300 (150$ used, there no much difference in picture quality between the HD/DA and DAL version) and benefit of 300mm for a bargain.

If you really need the reach, I would advice against a 300 f/2.8. Very expensive, heavy and specialized. As other mentionned. Try either a 50-500 or 150-500 zoom or a DA*300 f/4 + eventually the TC. That's half the price overall and lighter I think.

As it seem it is your first experience in the area you'll see after 1-2 year with your new gear if you really want/need heavier/bigger/more expensive.
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