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03-01-2021, 11:54 AM   #1
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Lens upgrade for wildlife photography

I have a K-3 with a DA 55-300 lens that is my primary lens for travel wildlife photography. I do not generally travel with a tripod so while I am generally OK with the 300mm length, I find the speed too slow at that range. I generally shoot at f8.0 as that is the sharpest range for my camera, so the speed is the limiting factor. I upgraded from the K-r to the K-3 to get better performance at higher ISO, so I'm happy with the IQ up to 800 ISO, but it's still not as good as I'd like in dimmer situations.

I am about to take a trip to Costa Rica and am considering upgrading my lens for birds and wildlife. I really don't have more than $1K budget.

So, should I consider the 300 f4 prime? A 200 f2.8 prime with teleconverter? A Sigma 100-300 f4 APO (only available used?)? Sigma 150-500 f5-6.3? Some other lens? Or would a body upgrade be better? Or is there really nothing that would be better for my stated budget?

03-01-2021, 12:05 PM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by leheath8 Quote
I have a K-3 with a DA 55-300 lens that is my primary lens for travel wildlife photography. I do not generally travel with a tripod so while I am generally OK with the 300mm length, I find the speed too slow at that range. I generally shoot at f8.0 as that is the sharpest range for my camera, so the speed is the limiting factor. I upgraded from the K-r to the K-3 to get better performance at higher ISO, so I'm happy with the IQ up to 800 ISO, but it's still not as good as I'd like in dimmer situations.

I am about to take a trip to Costa Rica and am considering upgrading my lens for birds and wildlife. I really don't have more than $1K budget.

So, should I consider the 300 f4 prime? A 200 f2.8 prime with teleconverter? A Sigma 100-300 f4 APO (only available used?)? Sigma 150-500 f5-6.3? Some other lens? Or would a body upgrade be better? Or is there really nothing that would be better for my stated budget?
which 55 - 300 do you have, is it the newest PLM version ?

QuoteQuote:
HD Pentax-DA 55-300mm F4.5-6.3 PLM WR RE
Focusing . . .
Read more at: HD Pentax-DA 55-300mm F4.5-6.3 PLM WR RE Review - Focusing | PentaxForums.com Reviews

another option is the D FA 150-450mm

final suggestion, considering renting

QuoteQuote:
Information on Businesses that offer cameras and lenses for rent
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/137-photographic-industry-professionals/...ml#post4542890

LensRentals had no problem with me taking a rental lens ( 20-40mm Limited ) on a trip to Tanzania
03-01-2021, 12:09 PM - 1 Like   #3
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Hello
I think it would be more convenient to acquire a better lens, the Sigma 100-300 f4 APO is a great lens, sharp and faster than the 55-300 mm and the Sigma 150-500 f5-6.3 is also a good option to have very into account, if you are going to dedicate assiduously to wildlife photography.
The 300 f4 prime is very good, but not very versatile due to its fixed focal length and a fixed lens plus a teleconverter, it is not the most suitable option since it would still have a better 300 mm equivalent than it has now, but at the cost of losing one or two steps of light.
If you can find a sigma 100-300 f / 4 APO, at a good price, it would be a good acquisition not as heavy to carry as the 150-500mm, a good all-rounder.
Greetings
03-01-2021, 12:10 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by aslyfox Quote
which 55 - 300 do you have, is it the newest PLM version ?
No, I have the original/older DA 55-300. It's actually faster at 300mm than the PLM, so I don't think it would really benefit me in any way.

The D FA 150-450mm is double my budget.

My main focus is this kind of photography so renting is not appealing. This trip is just the "trigger" to upgrade, but it is really the first of many more in the future.

03-01-2021, 12:15 PM - 1 Like   #5
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I took my KP and 55-300PLM to Costa Rica(mostly on the Osa peninsula).
I was OK with the 300mm reach, since I didn't want to lug the 150-450 around. But a lot of the shooting I did was in often in dim jungles. I frequently had to crank up the ISO, which is much easier to do while retaining decent quality on the KP than on the K3II.
If I was you, I'd think pretty seriously about the 300 f4.
03-01-2021, 12:16 PM - 1 Like   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by leheath8 Quote
No, I have the original/older DA 55-300. It's actually faster at 300mm than the PLM, so I don't think it would really benefit me in any way.

The D FA 150-450mm is double my budget.

My main focus is this kind of photography so renting is not appealing. This trip is just the "trigger" to upgrade, but it is really the first of many more in the future.
keep an eye on the market place, you may find a 150-450 in your range

renting can be a way to use equipment to determine if you like it and then you can plan on getting it in the future
03-01-2021, 12:24 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Gopersuel Quote
If you can find a sigma 100-300 f / 4 APO, at a good price, it would be a good acquisition not as heavy to carry as the 150-500mm, a good all-rounder.
There is one there now for $775 so that is a strong contender...
03-01-2021, 12:37 PM - 1 Like   #8
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If this is just one trip, and it's not a recurring frustration, I'd rent a lens. In my case, last year i went from k3+55-300 plm to a m43 camera and lens because my priorities were reach and lightweight (so i could bike and hike with the kit)

03-01-2021, 12:45 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by aaacb Quote
If this is just one trip, and it's not a recurring frustration, I'd rent a lens. In my case, last year i went from k3+55-300 plm to a m43 camera and lens because my priorities were reach and lightweight (so i could bike and hike with the kit)
It is a recurring frustration. This trip is just the "trigger" to upgrade! Unfortunately, the 645Z is way out of my price range.
03-01-2021, 12:46 PM - 5 Likes   #10
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The DA*300mm goes well with the K-3, and the 1.4x DA TC is a useful addition as well (takes it to f5.6). I was in Costa Rica a year ago with this outfit. It was easy to take it as a carry - on in a Lowepro backpack with a few other lenses, including my old DA 55-300 that I took as a backup. I used the outfit mostly handheld. My only concern with the DA*300mm is the thin foil electical contacts which can bend and break (happened twice to me over 6 years, hence the backup). In Costa Rica while you get bright sun in open areas during the day light levels can often be low in the early mornings (such as in the valleys in the hilly areas) and in the forests, so I often had to juggle a bit to get the best settings
This was in a low light situation, f6.3, 1/400, ISO 3200 (Emerald Toucanet).

03-01-2021, 12:51 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by leheath8 Quote
I have a K-3 with a DA 55-300 lens that is my primary lens for travel wildlife photography. I do not generally travel with a tripod so while I am generally OK with the 300mm length, I find the speed too slow at that range. I generally shoot at f8.0 as that is the sharpest range for my camera, so the speed is the limiting factor. I upgraded from the K-r to the K-3 to get better performance at higher ISO, so I'm happy with the IQ up to 800 ISO, but it's still not as good as I'd like in dimmer situations.

I am about to take a trip to Costa Rica and am considering upgrading my lens for birds and wildlife. I really don't have more than $1K budget.

So, should I consider the 300 f4 prime? A 200 f2.8 prime with teleconverter? A Sigma 100-300 f4 APO (only available used?)? Sigma 150-500 f5-6.3? Some other lens? Or would a body upgrade be better? Or is there really nothing that would be better for my stated budget?
If noise is your only concern, and you are otherwise happy with your existing lens, then perhaps consider coming at this from a different direction and using a high quality noise reduction software plugin. Here's a recent thread about experience with a Topaz product which looks like it works well:
Interesting experience with Topaz sharpen AI - PentaxForums.com

Food for thought... Certainly a lot less costly than a new lens.
03-01-2021, 12:54 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by jacamar Quote
This was in a low light situation, f6.3, 1/400, ISO 3200 (Emerald Toucanet).
Beautiful shot! Did you find it frustrating to have the fixed length? I have a 18-55mm for landscape but don't want to be constantly changing lenses in a rainforest and don't mind taking the DA 55-300 in luggage in case of catastrophic failure, but don't want to be carrying it while hiking. I'm thinking it is not like Africa, where some big animals are fairly close so having a fixed 300mm would be a problem - Costa Rica seems mostly smaller animals and birds and generally not close up?

---------- Post added 03-01-21 at 12:00 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by Viking42 Quote
If noise is your only concern, and you are otherwise happy with your existing lens, then perhaps consider coming at this from a different direction and using a high quality noise reduction software plugin. Here's a recent thread about experience with a Topaz product which looks like it works well:
Interesting experience with Topaz sharpen AI - PentaxForums.com

Food for thought... Certainly a lot less costly than a new lens.
Interesting - thanks for sharing. I don't tend to do a lot of post processing so had not considered this possiblity.
03-01-2021, 01:13 PM - 1 Like   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by leheath8 Quote
Beautiful shot! Did you find it frustrating to have the fixed length? I have a 18-55mm for landscape but don't want to be constantly changing lenses in a rainforest and don't mind taking the DA 55-300 in luggage in case of catastrophic failure, but don't want to be carrying it while hiking. I'm thinking it is not like Africa, where some big animals are fairly close so having a fixed 300mm would be a problem - Costa Rica seems mostly smaller animals and birds and generally not close up?
I'm used to having the fixed length and the TC gives a bit of flexibility. I generally crop quite a bit anyway and that lens combination gives you a bit of flexibility to do that. Monkeys and snakes and lizards as well as birds but no really big game on our trip except for a crocodile and you wouldn't want to get too close to one of those!

If you are interested in the natural history and don't have it already I strongly recommend "The New Neotropical Companion" by John Kricher, though the print version might be a bit heavy to take with you.

We would like to visit again but COVID is holding us back from travelling for now.
03-01-2021, 01:29 PM - 1 Like   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by leheath8 Quote
I am about to take a trip to Costa Rica and am considering upgrading my lens for birds and wildlife. I really don't have more than $1K budget.So, should I consider the 300 f4 prime?
Sounds like a great trip!

I have been very happy with my DA* 300 f/4, which I use on a K-3 II. The lens has a very high optical quality, and is sharp starting at f/4. Its reach is okay for most of my usage, but I'm not a dedicated birder. It weighs more than double the DA 55-300, and it's not compact.

The K-3 II is a fine camera, and I'm generally satisfied with images at up to ISO 3200. I shoot in RAW and develop/process the files in RawTherapee and Affinity Photo. RawTherapee has several functions for controlling noise, which work quite well.

From what I understand, the Pentax KP offers improved noise performance over the K-3, by at least one stop and probably more at the higher ISO settings. From images I've seen, there's significantly lower noise at ISO 3200 and higher. Here are some examples from the Pentax Forums review:

Pentax KP Review - High ISO Low Light Performance | PentaxForums.com Reviews
Pentax KP Review - High ISO Daylight Performance | PentaxForums.com Reviews


Which brings me to my question: Will you have a decent back-up camera on your trip?

If you were to consider getting a KP, you could use that generally, or at least when you are in lower-light conditions. I think you'd be able to shoot at higher ISOs, say up to 3200, which buys you a couple of stops advantage (aperture or shutter speed) over your ISO 800 threshold. If you combined the KP with image post-processing (there are several good applications available commercially, and several free open-source programs as well), I think you could do very well in the image-quality department while keeping your travel/hiking kit reasonably lightweight.

Your K-3 could serve as your back-up camera.

The KP is available currently for around USD $700.

On the other side of the coin, a DA* 300/4 would provide significantly better optical performance over the DA 55-300, albeit at a fixed focal length.


- Craig
03-01-2021, 01:32 PM - 1 Like   #15
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People have different opinions of what is 'acceptable' ISO noise. Not wishing to go beyond ISO 800 on a K-3 seems overly restrictive to me. I set the auto-ISO on my K-5IIs to top out at 1600, and was usually happy with the results. Currently, my KP is set to top out at 6400, but someone posted a shot here on PF taken at 10,000 that was amazingly good. Both of these cameras are set up to use the default 'auto ISO noise reduction'.


Though I have not yet used it, I'll give a vote for Topaz DeNoise AI. Results seem to be very good. I downloaded a trial version, but haven't installed it yet.

DeNoise AI: photo noise reduction with AI
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