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08-22-2017, 03:16 PM   #1
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Looking for 400mm option for K-3

Hello All

I am looking for a 400mm (or more) option for bird photography with my K-3 I am looking for any advise as to what would be the best option. It need not be a zoom. I have the 55-300 PLM so I am covered for zoom up to 300mm. My options being considered are the following:
1. DA* 300mm paired with the DA 1.4X TC which I already have. This appears to be most cost effective option and gives 420mm
2 HD DFA 150-450, this gives longer reach but big, heavy, and more expensive than what I would like
3 Sigma Bigma which I believe goes up to 500mm but again big and expensive
Image quality is top priority, next is weather resistance. Priority 3 would be ability to use handheld or with a monopod. Again a prime is just fine, it does not have to be a zoom but I do want quiet autofocus.
Thoughts and advise welcome!

08-22-2017, 03:21 PM - 1 Like   #2
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The FA* 400mm is nice and compact, sharp, and fairly affordable if you can find one! That would be my recommendation.

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08-22-2017, 03:33 PM   #3
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If you want to shoot action, like birds in flight, I recommend the higher cost 150-450 because if it's faster and more decisive auto focusing when attached to the K-3. If, on the other hand, you're anticipating more static subjects, the 300 + 1.4x is an excellent choice.
08-22-2017, 03:35 PM   #4
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Option #1 is probably your best bet. The Bigma lags in sharpness behind the other two options, is large and frankly probably won't resolve more detail at 500mm than the DA*300/4 + 1.4TC combo will at 420mm. Also the Bigma isn't WR, although you could buy a Lenscoat for it. If you were intending to shoot various large wildlife in addition to (presumably small) birds, I might recommend the DFA 150-450 for the zoomability, but as you pointed out it's costly and probably won't net you a gain in image quality over the DA*300/4 + 1.4TC combo.

08-22-2017, 03:41 PM   #5
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pm sent with info, links and thoughts
08-22-2017, 06:31 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by luftfluss Quote
Option #1 is probably your best bet. The Bigma lags in sharpness behind the other two options, is large and frankly probably won't resolve more detail at 500mm than the DA*300/4 + 1.4TC combo will at 420mm. Also the Bigma isn't WR, although you could buy a Lenscoat for it. If you were intending to shoot various large wildlife in addition to (presumably small) birds, I might recommend the DFA 150-450 for the zoomability, but as you pointed out it's costly and probably won't net you a gain in image quality over the DA*300/4 + 1.4TC combo.
I have the DA*300/4 plus the HD 1.4X TC ... The lens alone is great ... with the TC ... I find it " so so ".
I have tested the D FA 150-450 on my K3 ... very nice!
For me (perhaps I have a lemon TC), the 150-450 beats the 300/4 + TC in terms of IQ.
08-22-2017, 07:01 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by jpzk Quote
I have the DA*300/4 plus the HD 1.4X TC ... The lens alone is great ... with the TC ... I find it " so so ".
I have tested the D FA 150-450 on my K3 ... very nice!
For me (perhaps I have a lemon TC), the 150-450 beats the 300/4 + TC in terms of IQ.
OK. I don't have either lens, so I'm just going by what I've read over the last year or two. There was a gentleman over on DPR - the late, great "brandrx" - who was a bit of a long lens guru, and he felt that the DA*300/4 + 1.4xTC had slightly better IQ than the 150-450, although not enough to make a fuss over. And from what I've read over the years, there just never seemed to be a determination one way or the other. Of course, there's always sample variation to take into account.

Either way, I think both Pentax solutions are better than the Bigma, and the fact that the OP already has the HD 1.4x TC makes the DA*300/4 a likely match, unless of course he wants to go to 630mm...
08-22-2017, 07:37 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by luftfluss Quote
Either way, I think both Pentax solutions are better than the Bigma, and the fact that the OP already has the HD 1.4x TC makes the DA*300/4 a likely match, unless of course he wants to go to 630mm...
I agree with that, having also owned a Sigma 150-500 for a short while, I think the Pentax options are more suitable for the OP's "wants".

08-22-2017, 09:45 PM   #9
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As a recent purchaser of the D-FA 150-450 I would make the following points:

It focusses a lot faster than the DA*300. It has the zoom range limiter. It has supurb image quality.

It has the customisable buttons on the lens itself, which you can use to store a pre-set focus point; or activate AF, or what I find most useful, to de-activate AF. So if you are tracking a moving subject using AF-C, and your subject stops moving and "strikes a pose", you can quickly focus on the subject's eyes for example, then press the lens button to de-activate AF, then re-compose your shot and fire. I know the same can be achieved by using back-button AF exclusively, but I still like to use shutter-half press to AF and find that the lens buttons (4) are very handy.

It is a heavy beast and would need a good tripod or monopod. I used it with the latter recently and it balances very well with the K1.
08-22-2017, 11:45 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by pschlute Quote
It is a heavy beast and would need a good tripod or monopod. I used it with the latter recently and it balances very well with the K1.
This is the nub of it IMO.

The DFA 150-450 and the Bigma or Little Bigma all weigh upwards of 2kgs - 2325g for the DFA with hood and tripod foot. The DA*300 f4 weighs 1070g. Add the TC and you are around 1200g. There's a world of difference between a 1.2kg lens and a 2.3kg lens.

Not to mention that the DFA costs about twice as much too.

From the shots I've seen, they both have superb IQ. You would expect the DFA to have better AF - other users seem to have the same experience as @pschlute

So the big question is whether the extra cost and the extra weight are worth it to you, for the (considerable) extra versatility and slightly greater reach, and for better AF performance.

QuoteOriginally posted by Adam Quote
The FA* 400mm is nice and compact, sharp, and fairly affordable if you can find one! That would be my recommendation.
There's also the Sigma 400mm f5.6 tele macro (the version that takes 77mm filters). Or the Sigma 100-300 f4 + TC. Or (my favourite) the FA*300 f4.5 + TC. But none of these is WR, or has the quiet autofocus that @jddwoods is after.

Last edited by Des; 08-23-2017 at 01:35 PM.
08-23-2017, 01:38 AM - 1 Like   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Des Quote
. . . Not to mention that the DFA costs about twice as much too. . . . .
are you lucky ? ?

my DFA was purchased used, in a like new condition with all of its parts, for a lot less than retail.

I hope others will have similar luck

since the O P is from the United States, I would suggest that the rental companies be checked out. I have used LensRental.com from Tennessee with good success and try out the lens or lenses being considered.

that way, the choice could be narrowed and the bargain hunting started
08-23-2017, 02:47 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by jddwoods Quote
Hello All

I am looking for a 400mm (or more) option for bird photography with my K-3 I am looking for any advise as to what would be the best option. . . . with the DA 1.4X TC which I already have. . . .
Image quality is top priority, next is weather resistance. Priority 3 would be ability to use handheld or with a monopod. . . .
since the OP has the 1.4 rear converter, the reach of the DFA could be extended as well

I have been to Yellowstone once, I mounted my DFA to my 1.4 rear converter. It is doable, even hand held, thanks to SR and the shoulder mounted brace I came up with to use when there wasn't time for a tripod or monopod

( but that is another story. pm me for the details and photo )

and the combo certainly would work with a good tripod or monopod

out there, even with that reach, I came up short at times.
08-23-2017, 12:28 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Aslyfox Quote
I mounted my DFA to my 1.4 rear converter. It is doable, even hand held, thanks to SR and the shoulder mounted brace I came up with to use when there wasn't time for a tripod or monopod
I would be interested to see what this shoulder mounted brace is !
08-23-2017, 02:58 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by jpzk Quote
I would be interested to see what this shoulder mounted brace is !
I went on my first trip to the Gran Tetons and Yellowstone National Park in late May/early June 2017

I took a modified "Stedistock II" shoulder brace with me. It was modified by adding length to it with a cut down shot gun stock fastened to the stedistock II with duct tape. an additional screw attachment was placed into the steadistock so the big lens could be tightened down in two spots.

It was used by sitting it in the foot well of the rented SUV behind the passenger's seat and as I would stop for an unplanned shot, I would pull it out, get out of the vehicle, brace it against my shoulder and take the shot.

If there was time to set up, I would set up a tripod. Unfortunately, the travel tripod I took was not the sturdiest thing and I never trusted it very much.

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08-24-2017, 01:15 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by jddwoods Quote
I am looking for a 400mm (or more) option for bird photography with my K-3 I am looking for any advise as to what would be the best option.
Priority 3 would be ability to use handheld or with a monopod.
Again a prime is just fine, it does not have to be a zoom but I do want quiet autofocus.
  • Pentax FA* 400mm (cheap, lightweight)
  • Pentax FA* 300mm 2.8 with 1.4x TC (fast AF, focus limiter)
  • Pentax HD DA 560mm 5.6 (silent AF, handheld possible)
  • Sigma 500mm 4.5 EX DG
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