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02-21-2019, 12:39 PM - 2 Likes   #1
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Birds on a Budget

I know. I know! There is no such things as a budget birding set up. I'm also aware there are other threads on this subject but none specific to my situation

After trying a couple telephoto zooms with my K3-II (Tamron 70-300, Pentax FA 100-300 F4.5-5.6 and Pentax FA 100-300 F4.7-58) my go to lens is the FA 100-300 4.7-5.8. It is way sharper than the Tamron at 300 and somewhat sharper than its cousin. I recently took it on a birding trip to the Jersey shore and was quite pleased with the pictures I got. But a friend of mine shooting with a 400mm Canon prime did even better still.

As far as my next steps: I am hoping to make my next purchase the HD 1.4 teleconverter to give me a little more reach. The idea being to use that with the 100-300 and then maybe some day my ship will come in and I'll pair it with the DA* 300. I also eye the HD DA 55-300 but really - the only metric I care about is performance at 300mm so unless it is significantly better at 300, I don't really care about the weather sealing and such. The FA 80-320 is also on my radar, as it would give me a little bit more reach.

Am I barking up the right tree? What would you do in my shoes?

Attached are two photos from the trip to Jersey I mentioned!

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02-21-2019, 12:55 PM   #2
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I think you'd be happier with the Sigma 120-400 or 150-500. If you aren't pairing the 1.4 with the DA/FA* 300 or 150-450 it just isn't worth it.
02-21-2019, 01:37 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by Saxtonine Quote
As far as my next steps: I am hoping to make my next purchase the HD 1.4 teleconverter to give me a little more reach. The idea being to use that with the 100-300 and then maybe some day my ship will come in and I'll pair it with the DA* 300. I also eye the HD DA 55-300 but really - the only metric I care about is performance at 300mm so unless it is significantly better at 300, I don't really care about the weather sealing and such. The FA 80-320 is also on my radar, as it would give me a little bit more reach.Am I barking up the right tree? What would you do in my shoes?
A 1.4x TC costs 1 stop of light, so used with the zoom at 300mm f5.8 your effective aperture wide open would be upwards of f8. AF is marginal in those circumstances. And with these consumer zooms you usually need to stop down one or two stops for better resolution. I doubt the results with the K-3ii would be better than cropping. TCs are really designed for use with faster sharper lenses like the DA*300 f4 that produce very good resolution wide open.

What's more, the HD 1.4x is not cheap (about $US400 at B&H). You'd be better to put that money towards another lens, whether one of the Sigma zooms like those that Boriscleto mentioned or a 300mm or 400mm prime. Personally, I'd suggest the latter. You might find an F*300 f4.5 or FA*300 f4.5 for around $650 or so. Either of those can be paired with a more affordable but still decent third-party TC like the Kenko or Tamron pz models. And the lens alone will be much better than the zoom. You will get more resolution and better images generally with the prime wide open than with the zoom at f8. The F* and FA* are very fine lenses.

The budget end of the long lens market in K mount is kept artificially high by the paucity of options. For example, a secondhand Bigma (Sigma 50-500) in K mount costs a lot more than its Nikon or Canon counterpart. (Because there are so many other options - such as the Tamron or Sigma 150-600 - that aren't available in K mount.) Even the premium telephotos lenses in Nikon or Canon are a lot more affordable than their Pentax counterparts. Painful as it is to say, to get 400mm+ you might be better off getting something like this:
- Canon EOS 7D (mark 1) $300 + 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 (mark 1) $600
- Nikon D7100 $350 + Nikkor 80-400 f4.5-5.6 (non-VR) $500

Last edited by Des; 02-21-2019 at 01:58 PM.
02-21-2019, 01:55 PM - 4 Likes   #4
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Before you invest in a different lens, try shooting your FA100-300/4.7-5.8 at a slightly shorter focal length - say, between 200-250mm. You're likely to get noticeably better performance than you would at the 300mm extreme. Then, crop your photos to size in post-processing. Your K-3II has 24MP of densely-packed pixels to play with, and unless you're looking to print large, you have plenty of scope to crop.

I'm not saying you wouldn't benefit from a better lens, but please consider trying the above. It's almost always better to shoot a zoom lens backed off somewhat from the focal length limit, and I think you might see a tangible improvement

02-21-2019, 02:04 PM   #5
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The DA*300 in my opinion is what you should look for. You didn’t give a budget price so don’t know how much you have to spend but you can find them for $600 often.

I used to shoot with the Sigma 150-500 then the da560 and also the da*300 and the 300 was by far the best for images. I would keep a eye out at B&H and KEH for a used copy.
02-21-2019, 03:00 PM   #6
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I would try to find a DA* 300 over the expensive teleconverter which will be questionable if it work with your lens.
02-21-2019, 04:20 PM - 3 Likes   #7
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Coincidently with the OP's trip to "the Jersey shore" I live in the "original" Jersey ... 45 square miles of paradise in the English Channel (or so the brochures would have you believe


I'm also an enthusiastic "birder" with a Pentax camera, a K-70, albeit currently fitted with a Sigma 150-500mm which I'm very happy with

Total cost of setup, about 900 (UK) with tax, 450 + tax etc for a new body (promotional offer with spare battery and card) and 350 + tax etc. for a s/h lens.

Taken this morning at a range of about 110 yards, ... more or less maximum for a "medium sized" bird, in this case a Sandwich Tern, first as a partial-frame crop resized for posting and secondly as a "pixel-for-pixel" crop.
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02-21-2019, 04:20 PM - 3 Likes   #8
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I think for budget birding with Pentax you can't go past the DA 55-300, If you make sure the AF adjustment is correct at 300mm it's sharp enough provided you can get close enough, sure I'd like more reach but for me the fun of birding is developing skills & techniques to get close enough, there are some situations where you are not in the picture (pardon the pun) but you can still get some good shots (as well as miss some shots due to slow or hunting auto focus.)



02-21-2019, 06:50 PM   #9
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Thanks for the replies, everyone.

QuoteQuote:
f you aren't pairing the 1.4 with the DA/FA* 300 or 150-450 it just isn't worth it.
Because you don't always want to be shooting at f/8 or... ?

QuoteQuote:
You're likely to get noticeably better performance than you would at the 300mm extreme.
This... hasn't really been my experience? At least with the FA 100-300. My Tamron 70-300 is actually kinda nice at 70mm for portraits but gets fuzzy at 300. The FA is surprisingly sharp at 300, or at least it surprises me, who doesn't have a lot of experience with telephoto zooms. In any case, I already do a fair bit of cropping at 300, probably because I am often birding with my kids who are none too quiet.

QuoteQuote:
I think for budget birding with Pentax you can't go past the DA 55-300
Nice picture of a bird I don't recognize! Have you used any other K-mount zooms?

---------- Post added 02-21-19 at 06:51 PM ----------

Follow up question: More important to have an all around quality lens or the added reach of something like the Bigma? Or is that a very individual, case by case basis sort of question?
02-21-2019, 07:38 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Saxtonine Quote
Thanks for the replies, everyone.



Because you don't always want to be shooting at f/8 or... ?
Because it's $500...If you want to go the TC route look for the Vivitar Series 1 1.4x or the Kenko 1.5x (they are the same thing). The Tamron 1.4x PZ-AF MC4, same optical design as the other 2 but with PZ contacts.

Kenko (?Promaster et al..) AF/Pz-AF 1.4x/1.5x Teleplus.... Lens Reviews - Miscellaneous Lenses - Pentax Lens Review Database

Tamron-F 1.4X Pz-AF MC4 Lens Reviews - Miscellaneous Lenses - Pentax Lens Review Database
02-21-2019, 07:58 PM - 2 Likes   #11
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I can't recommend the 1.4 TC on anything slower than ƒ4.
The DA 55-300 PLM was awesome and can withstand heavy cropping. A TC, not so much.

Search: DA 55-300 PLM | Flickr
02-21-2019, 08:55 PM   #12
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I have the FA 100-300mm in the black version and the silver version and found both to be soft at 300mm. With the f number being slower than f4, I would never attempt to put a TC on them, they would hunt too much trying to focus at 300mm.
02-21-2019, 08:55 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Saxtonine Quote
Nice picture of a bird I don't recognize! Have you used any other K-mount zooms?
the bird is a New Holland Honey Eater ( Australian ), about 12 cm tip of beak to tip of tail, shot @300mm from about 2 meters and a slight crop .
Like you my budget doesn't stretch to the more expensive lens but I've tried the Sigma / Tamron 70-300 and Sigma 70-300 APO and for quite a while was using an old Sigma 70-300 DL Macro with a push pull zoom.

I think DA55-300 is better than Sigma 70-300 although APO version is close.


The main weakness (IMO) of the DA55-300 is that while you can shoot at f8 (for best performance) and can trade ISO for higher shutter speeds to get better sharpness, there's still no getting around the slow wide open aperture and what effect that has on auto focus particularly in low ambient light. Perhaps the PLM version is better in this regard (I would expect so) but I have no experience with it.

edit: sorry I made a mistake with the distance with this shot, It should read " from about 5 meters "

Last edited by Cee Cee; 02-22-2019 at 05:07 PM. Reason: typo:
02-21-2019, 09:14 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Saxtonine Quote
my go to lens is the FA 100-300 4.7-5.8
I agree with your assessment, I think it's sharpness is underrated.

QuoteOriginally posted by Saxtonine Quote
I am hoping to make my next purchase the HD 1.4 teleconverter to give me a little more reach. The idea being to use that with the 100-300
QuoteOriginally posted by ramseybuckeye Quote
I would try to find a DA* 300 over the expensive teleconverter which will be questionable if it work with your lens.
I just tried my Tamron-F 1.4 TC on the FA 100-300 4.7-5.8 and AF doesn't work even in bright sunlight.

QuoteOriginally posted by normhead Quote
I can't recommend the 1.4 TC on anything slower than ƒ4.
I have to agree, F4 seems to be the limit.

QuoteOriginally posted by Saxtonine Quote
Follow up question: More important to have an all around quality lens or the added reach of something like the Bigma? Or is that a very individual, case by case basis sort of question?
I use the Tamron-F 1.4 TC on my DA*300 almost all the time, this combination is still sharper than my early Sigma 50-500 (Bigma) (@500) when cropped to the same final size.
It's also a lot lighter.

I would say enjoy your FA 100-300 4.7-5.8 and put money away for a DA*300 or a HD PENTAX-D FA 150-450mm later.
02-21-2019, 09:28 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by alfa75ts Quote
I just tried my Tamron-F 1.4 TC on the FA 100-300 4.7-5.8 and AF doesn't work even in bright sunlight.
The Vivitar always got along with my DA L 55-300...The 55-300 wouldn't focus at longer focal lengths with the 2x...
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