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07-27-2016, 04:34 AM   #1
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To prime 200mm or zoom to 200mm?

I am a newcomer to the Pentax system and since I am an avid birder / wildlife enthusiast, I figured it is best that I first focus on fast telephoto lenses - for that is what I will take the camera out on most occasions. Decision on which other (~non-telephoto) lenses to buy (and whether prime or zoom) can be taken next after considering the remaining budget.

Two Pentax lenses that fit the bill are
HD Pentax-D FA* 70-200mm F2.8 ED DC AW and SMC Pentax-DA* 200mm F2.8 ED [IF] SDM. Both are rated excellent and though my current interests are in APSC, it is an added advantage that both these lenses will be up to the task if/when I move to FF.

I have unsuccessfully searched the internet (and PF) for comparisons between these two lenses. Can someone pitch in on the following questions:
  1. While the zoom is new (better coatings, DC motor and AW sealing) and also F2.8, as a thumb rule it is considered that primes are better optically. Is this true between these two lenses also? All the reviews of the zoom lens give glowing feedback on the zoom’s optical characteristics, hence the specific question. Details will be helpful.
  2. Other than the advantage of lesser weight (and cost), is there any other advantage in getting the prime?
  3. One of the main reasons I am not considering SMC Pentax-DA* 300mm F4 ED [IF] SDM is because of the availability of teleconverter HD Pentax-DA 1.4x AW AF Rear Converter. I have the following specific questions:
    1. Will it support both the prime and the zoom with the max aperture getting restricted to F4?
    2. The teleconverter is rated for Screw and SDM motors. However the zoom has DC motor. Is there anything I should be concerned about here?
    3. Is there any other reason I should consider SMC Pentax-DA* 300mm F4 ED [IF] SDM instead of the combination of either 200mm (prime / zoom) with the teleconverter?
Thanks for your time!

07-27-2016, 05:25 AM   #2
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I can answer the teleconverter one at least. It will work with a zoom, with DC, SDM, and screw drive, and will work with f/4. In fact it works even at f/5.6 on the long end of my DFA 150-450 giving me a total of 630mm and f/8.
07-27-2016, 05:31 AM   #3
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As a birder, I believe 200mm will often fall short. Please consider the DA-300mm f4 which is light, wicked sharp and also fills the full frame of the Pentax K1. I expect that the IQ of a 200mm with a teleconverter will be less than the uncropped 300mm

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07-27-2016, 05:31 AM   #4
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id prime it. The DA* 200mm is going for around $600ish used which is amazing and less than half the price of the zoom

07-27-2016, 05:51 AM   #5
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My viewpoint on this.

> 70-200 on 1.5x crop
> 100-300 on FF

> 100-300 on 1.5x crop
> 200-400 on FF

> 400mm on 1.5x crop
> 600mm on FF

200mm prime is ok for wildlife with or without TC depending on distance and size of subject.
300mm is odd ball, most people using the 300mm for birding use it with a TC.

For FF kit, I'd get a 70-200 + TC and a supertele such as the DA560.
For use on apsc, I'd get a 70-200 and a 300+TC.
Or DFA150450 used in FF mode with wildlife and crop mode for birding.

Last edited by biz-engineer; 07-27-2016 at 06:03 AM.
07-27-2016, 05:54 AM   #6
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If you have the budget for tue 70-200 2.8, then I would give the 150-450 a good long hard look. I think it would suit your needs as a bird photographer a lot more.

You buy the 200/2.8, 300/4, and a telecoverter used for about the same price as just the 70-200/2.8.

You could also give a used FA* 400/5.6 a look. But i think they are over priced in the used market at the moment.

So while the 70-200 is a great lens, I really thino this is the wrong application.
07-27-2016, 06:38 AM   #7
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3rd party zooms (Tamron & Sigma) are more economical options in the 70-200/2.8 range.
There is the Sigma 100-300/4 that could be found used if a slower lens could be considered.

Seb, who prefer primes in general
07-27-2016, 06:56 AM   #8
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IQ wise I would go for the D FA* 70-200, but it is pricey and heavier The DA* 200 is a pretty old design and it's rendering doesn't make my heart beat faster like the DA* 300mm does. A combination of the 200 with the TC won't do it much good I guess. What I have seen form the D FA* 70-200 is very good. There probably will be a new D FA 200mm f2.8 this or next year. Also consider the Tamron 70-200. it is a loud screw driven design, but it is sharp and also renders quite well. By the way. Pentax says the 1.4 rear convector is not Full frame compatible. I don't know if anybody can testify to that.

07-27-2016, 07:04 AM   #9
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Excellent question.

I have both the DA* 200mm lens and a 300mm F*300 lens which is possibly the best 300mm lens that Pentax makes. I also have a Tamron 1.4 teleconverter that works flawlessly with the F*300 making effectively a 420mm lens. For birding I find the 200mm lens way too short. I use it for indoor sporting events. The F*300 makes for an excellent birding lens especially when combined with the Tamron 1.4 teleconverter. I have $975 wrapped up in my F*300 and about $120 in the teleconverter. So for roughly $1,100 I have probably the best TC combo 300mm lens available from Pentax.
07-27-2016, 07:08 AM   #10

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There are bird pictures that are close-up views of small shy birds taken from a distance -- often necessitating a lens longer than 200mm -- and there are pictures of birds or groups of birds in their habitat where 200mm might be more than adequate. There are bird pictures that must be taken from a blind where the photographer cannot back up if the bird one wishes to photograph comes much closer than planned, to the extent that a prime telephoto lens wouldn't let one frame the picture one wants, when a zoom might. You might have to think about what kind of bird pictures, or range of bird pictures, you are interested in making in order to decide the questions of focal length and prime-or-zoom.

Another issue is whether you want the lens to occasionally serve other purposes, like taking close-ups of wildflowers on the walk to the birding location. Earlier this spring I got a 300mm lens and had a lot of fun playing around with it, but a recurring frustration was its lack of any close-focus ability. I found myself unexpectedly shopping for a lens of that length with much better close-focusing. The particular lenses I'm referring to are old manual ones, but the question of whether you want close-focusing, too, could be an issue of comparison you want to look at in your lens decision.
07-27-2016, 07:37 AM - 2 Likes   #11
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My final verdict, after spending some money after making the decision, as opposed to speculating on what I might have done was the DA*200.

The reasons for... it can be used in a 2 lens combo with my 18-135.
It's lighter than any competing zoom, by a considerable margin.
ƒ2.8 is ƒ2.8, and an ƒ2.8 lens has an advantage over an ƒ4 lens for low light focusing, and it can be considerable.

The DA*200 2.8 is 280mm ƒ4 with the 1.4 TC, almost identical to the 300 ƒ4, but the 300 ƒ4 can never be ƒ2.8.

With the stacked HD DA 1.4 TC and F 1.7x AF adapter acting as an focus limiter, the DA*200 is 476 mm, ƒ6.3 and very quick focusing.

Some DA*200 images... @200mm ƒ2.8

DA*200 images....slideshow.

DA*200 and HD DA 1.4 TC @280mm ƒ4

DA*200 and HD DA 1.4 TC slideshow

DA*200 and ƒ1.7x AF adapter. @ 340mm ƒ4.5

DA*200 ƒ2.8 with F 1.7x AF Adapter slideshow

DA *200 with stacked 1.4 TC and F 1.7x AF adapter @ 476mm ƒ6.3

DA*200 and stacked TCs slideshow

This combo simply gives you more bang for your buck, in a much lighter, easier to carry and use package.

I couldn't happier. I waffled for a year over this decision, which means I did without it for a year too long.

Last edited by normhead; 07-27-2016 at 06:44 PM.
07-27-2016, 07:40 AM - 1 Like   #12
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Dear AmaZing

Given the fact that most of the people buy a 70-200 for using it at 200, is it really useful to carry a big zoom ? If you are a birder, I guess you are also in this category (to which I belong).
The DFA* 70-200 is more than twice the mass and 70mm longer than the DA*200. Think of your future use. Will you really want to add a 1.7kg lens in your bag, particularly for hiking ?
For me, the DA* 200 has an incredible quality for a super compact format. It fits in my small bag, with a 17-50 2.8, a 100 macro and my precious 10-17 fish-eye.
I made great portraits with my DA*200 on my K-5 because I can be out of the field of vision of the people that I photograph. So their attitude is very natural.
Another advantage is that the minimum focusing distance of this lens is only 1.2m, good for proxi-photo.

For birding, the DA*200 is probably too short on APS-C, but it is a great companion for an inexpensive Q (1120mm equivalent focal) or Q7 (900mm equivalent) body.

The DA*300 is probably a tiny bit better in term of image quality because the DA*200 may be prone to blooming.
Pentax SMC DA* 200mm f/2.8 ED [IF] SDM - Review / Test Report - Analysis
But the DA*300 is a big beast and the DA*200+1.4x converter provides a more flexible solution.

Now it is up to you to think of your need.
Hope it helps

07-27-2016, 11:06 AM   #13
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Oh yea I forgot Norm uses the DA*200 and a TC for birding and his pictures look great!
07-27-2016, 11:20 AM - 1 Like   #14
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I like your choice. I like your reasoning. And, I like your photos.
07-27-2016, 02:18 PM   #15
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Hopefully I'm not veering to far from the original intent ....but thanks to Amazing for starting this conversation and thanks to Normhead for the great advice. I have the DA*200 and have also been pondering the choice between adding either the DA*300 or the HD DA 1.4 TC. The reasons and the evidence that Normhead presented now make it clear to me that ....for my needs...the TC is the way to go ...and if I ever do spring for the 300 the TC will just be an additional bonus.
Many thanks!

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