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09-16-2023, 10:50 AM   #1
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What is the best 70-200mm 2.8 lens for sports photography on the K3 III

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If money weren't any issue, what 70-200mm 2.8 lens would you purchase? I'd be using this for high school sports - football, soccer, cross country, track and we'll see what else. I currently have the Sigma HSM II and am considering upgrading if the newer Sigma or perhaps the Pentax would be a significant upgrade in autofocusing and image quality. I am shooting with the K3 III. Most soccer and football games are at night under poor stadium lighting. I'm pretty sure I need to stick to an 2.8 lens due to the poor lighting but maybe I'm wrong on that. Football is a lot easier than soccer - I have way more keepers with football than soccer - especially with photos being out of focus. So hoping an upgrade would produce more in-focus shots. Here are some unedited examples.

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09-16-2023, 11:02 AM - 2 Likes   #2
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In Ricoh/Pentax? The D FA* 70-200 - everyone that has owned one has praised it over the past lenses of similar type they have owned. That is a heavy large lens but seems to be worth it.
09-16-2023, 12:43 PM - 2 Likes   #3
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At the end of July I splurged and ordered a Pentax D FA* 1:2.8 70-200mm ED DC AW. Mine is silver, honestly because it was on sale and happened to be $100 cheaper than the black version. It arrived on July 31 and it hasnít been off my K-1 since then. It quite simply takes delightful images. If you take a peak at my recent Flickr stream you will find some of the images I have taken with it. My interest is in nature but they are still often fast moving unpredictable creatures albeit smaller than athletic teenagers. (Stevi D. W. | Flickr)
The cropping ability is wonderful. Iím a disabled photographer so I canít zoom with my feet, but the D FA* 70-200mm lets me zoom when my feet cannot.

I wonít fib this is a hefty lens. When I opened the box and took it out for the first time I wasnít sure if I could actually handle it. It has a nickname - the beast and it really is a beast. However after 6 weeks of daily use (as a Single in Challenge for August and a Daily in Challenge since August 1) I have become quite used it it and all of my images are hand-held some are even hand-held on a moving boat.

Although I havenít really tested it, I have bought a carbon fibre monopod (that has 3 legs) and it beautifully supports my K-1 and Ďthe beastí and it would make taking sports pictures a lot easier.

It has done well in low light conditions but Iíll be honest other than trying to take photos of a my dark coloured cats (black one and grey one) in low light I havenít tested it much.

This is my most expensive lens but I have to admit it is my favourite. My budget is typically very limited but I am very pleased with this purchase. As I get older I realize that sometimes buying cheap gives you a product that is well very underwhelming and disappointing.

If you have any questions Iíll try my best to help out.

A small sampling:

Canada Geese Doing their best impression of 1950s wall decor:


The little deer mouse while small is incredibly fast:


Finally a Hairy Woodpecker in Flight
09-16-2023, 02:25 PM   #4
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ON full frame, the DFA* 70-200 is the obvious choice. It is optically and functionally great across the zoom range. I rarely use it on the K3iii though, since I pack my APS-C kit mainly for travel, with much smaller DA lenses, or wildlife with the DFA 150-450. Nevertheless, if you need f/2.8, then it's the best choice.

09-16-2023, 05:18 PM   #5
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Like the others have said, other than weight, you will be hard pressed to find a better 70-200 than the DFA* 70-200.

Fast focusing, bright, good colors, weather sealed, and built like a tank.

But because it weighs as much as a tank you will want to use a monopod.

Also on apsc this is great for outdoor sports for indoor sports itís a little long, for indoors a 50-135 would be a better range.
However the focus speed of the DA*50-135 is a little lacking.
09-16-2023, 06:43 PM - 1 Like   #6
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I would like to see these pics in a larger size, i would expect better results than what i can see here. What focus mode are you using? Have you checked and adjusted for any front/back focus issues? There are no illusions here, shooting high school sports under the lights is a challenge for sure and there is no magic lens that will change that. I would rather have a noisy focused photo rather than a cleaner out of focus photo, try stopping down the aperture to get an increase in the depth of field. You may find the new DFA 70-200 to be just what you needed, then again you might just find that your technique is where the largest improvement can be made?
09-17-2023, 10:36 AM   #7
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f/2.8 is a good start. Using the Pentax lens on a Pentax camera makes most sense.
More measures may help as well, like a monopod for controlled panning, testing different AF options, accepting that some conditions are not suitable or would require even more sophisticated techniques and even faster gear.
Small pixels collect less light and images look less sharp compared to larger pixels. A fast FF camera could help in the future if you find a fast lens for it.

09-17-2023, 12:46 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by schnur07 Quote
If money weren't any issue, what 70-200mm 2.8 lens would you purchase?
perhaps the Pentax would be a significant upgrade in autofocusing and image quality. I am shooting with the K3 III.
For sure the HD D FA* 70-200 is the best 70-200mm 2.8 lens for Pentax.
D FA 70-200 f2.8 vs FA 80-200 f2.8 football - PentaxForums.com
HD Pentax-D FA* 70-200mm F2.8 ED DC AW Reviews - D FA Zoom Lenses - Pentax Lens Reviews & Lens Database
HD Pentax-D FA* 70-200mm F2.8 ED DC AW Review - Introduction | PentaxForums.com Reviews
09-17-2023, 03:01 PM   #9
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I'm sure I can improve on my technique. Soccer is much more difficult than football. It's so hard tracking soccer since they typically don't posess the ball for very long and it's difficult to anticipate where they are passing it.

I've tried just about every different AF setting on the K3 III but I haven't really been able to notice a drastic difference. I typically use Expanded Area autofocus (small) or select. I've gone back and forth between focus priority and release priority for 1st frame. I typically use FPS-priority for the action setting. I've tried all three settings for AF Point tracking but haven't noticed any difference. I've also adjusted the new Focus Sensitivity option with the firmware update between 1 and 5 and haven't noticed a significant difference. But I might not be very perceptable.

I might need to pick a setting and shoot for ten minutes, then change the setting and shoot for another ten minutes and continue to do that and see I can perceive any changes when I get home and review the photos.

My wrist does hurt a bit at the moment since I shot on 4 consecutive days. I've always thought a monopod might limit my ability to find my targets, but I suppose I could give it a try. I like to be low when I'm shooting - typically on one knee.

I haven't adjusted for any front/back focus. I'll have to research how to do that.

Here a a couple more original photos - no editing or size reductions.

I appreciate all of the comments.
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09-21-2023, 05:38 AM - 1 Like   #10
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I've been shooting youth soccer with Pentax cameras for a decade or so. Lenses certainly matter, but having the K-3 Mark III is really a key to this. Any prior Pentax body isn't going to perform as well. I have a K-30 and a K-3 II and the Mark III is just miles more responsive and the autofocus is a leap forward.

I don't have a 70-200mm f/2.8, although coincidentally I'm renting one this weekend. Almost all of my soccer photos from the past five years have been with the 55-300 PLM. It's a great sports lens if you have even halfway decent light, at least when paired with the Mark III. I see from your sample pictures you're already letting ISO float wherever it needs to go, which is always my first tip for this kind of work. At dusk or night the narrow max aperture of the PLM means you're often going to get in the 20,000+ range. But, the Mark III actually produces usable shots with that kind of astronomical ISO.

So I guess what I'm saying is that if you don't want to spend $1700 on the 70-200, you can get acceptable results from a $375 55-300 PLM when paired with the Mark III. And really good results if the light is good.

I do concur with bschriver11, that there's something a little off with the photos you've posted. I don't know if it's the forum software compressing the jpgs, or if you've heavily cropped, or something else, but I'd expect a little sharper results even in poor lighting.

In any case, yes, the Pentax HD D FA 70-200mm f/2.8 ED DC AW is the choice for an f/2.8 zoom in K mount. Others may be okay, but this is nearly universally praised. I'm very excited to get my hands on one this weekend to try out, and I'm afraid I'm going to have to come up wth $1700 to buy one because I'll like it.

Someone also mentioned the 50-135mm as being good for indoor sports, becuase, yes, 70mm is too long for most indoor sports and you probably don't need 200+. But the 50-135 has slow autofocus and is pretty desperately in need of Pentax updating it to DC or PLM focusing. But who knows if/when that'll happen.
09-21-2023, 06:21 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by ThorSanchez Quote
having the K-3 Mark III is really a key to this. Any prior Pentax body isn't going to perform as well. I have a K-30 and a K-3 II and the Mark III is just miles more responsive and the autofocus is a leap forward.
true!


QuoteOriginally posted by ThorSanchez Quote
In any case, yes, the Pentax HD D FA 70-200mm f/2.8 ED DC AW is the choice for an f/2.8 zoom in K mount.
This is the thing - going for the ★ is the recommendation if someone already owns the K-3 III.


QuoteOriginally posted by ThorSanchez Quote
Someone also mentioned the 50-135mm as being good for indoor sports, becuase, yes, 70mm is too long for most indoor sports and you probably don't need 200+.
But the 50-135 has slow autofocus and is pretty desperately in need of Pentax updating it to DC or PLM focusing. But who knows if/when that'll happen.
The Sigma 50-150mm 2.8 HSM II has the fastest non-PLM autofocus. So a good copy is a good alternative to a DA* 50-135mm.
Sigma EX DC APO HSM II 50-150mm F2.8 Lens Reviews - Sigma Lenses - Pentax Lens Review Database
09-21-2023, 09:04 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by angerdan Quote
The Sigma 50-150mm 2.8 HSM II has the fastest non-PLM autofocus. So a good copy is a good alternative to a DA* 50-135mm.
Sigma EX DC APO HSM II 50-150mm F2.8 Lens Reviews - Sigma Lenses - Pentax Lens Review Database
You know, I've never considered the Sigma 50-150. I've long been holding out hope for an updated PLM version of the Pentax 50-135, but maybe the Sigma is what I need for indoor sports. I'll have to see what a good used copy goes for.
09-23-2023, 08:02 AM   #13
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Either I have the world's best copy of the 55-300 PLM, or the Lensrentals copy of the Pentax HD D FA 70-200mm f/2.8 is not the absolute best. With a storm raging outside I've only been able to take test shots, like with my calibration target, or with pieces of paper with text taped to a wall. But when shooting at the same focal length and aperture I'm really not seeing much, if any, difference between the two lenses. In fact, hand-holding the 50-300 at f/5.6 and 200mm I swear it's about as sharp as the 70-200 with those settings on a tripod.

Of course the 55-300 only goes as wide as f/5.6, and the 70-200 is a f/2.8, so there's a lot the big beast can do that the consumer zoom can't. Maybe things will become more apparent tomorrow if the weather clears and I can shoot some soccer, but for now I'm not seeing the great need to spend $1700 and lug around almost 2 kg of lens.

Postscript: Now, having processed a few files in RawTherapee (see attached) it's become apparent that the 70-200 is a bit back-focused, despite my initial attempts to calibrate it with my Mark III. I'll continue to play with it. Note that the one with the target on the box is the 70-200 because the tripod foot made that easier to line up.
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Last edited by ThorSanchez; 09-23-2023 at 08:11 AM.
09-23-2023, 09:51 AM - 1 Like   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by ThorSanchez Quote
You know, I've never considered the Sigma 50-150. I've long been holding out hope for an updated PLM version of the Pentax 50-135, but maybe the Sigma is what I need for indoor sports.
I'll have to see what a good used copy goes for.
$400-500:
Sigma 50-150 Pentax in Lenses for sale | eBay
09-23-2023, 01:26 PM   #15
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Apparently I picked the wrong weekend to try out the 70-200 f/2.8. Not only were today's soccer games canceled due to tropical storm Ophelia, just got word that tomorrow are, too. I might have to have my boys run around the yard in zigzag patterns to give the lens a workout before I have to send it back.
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