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03-25-2009, 03:01 PM   #31
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QuoteOriginally posted by hinman Quote
@Douglas, thank you for the sample. I also consider Tamron SP 500mm f/8.0 but my previous attempt with Vivitar 500mm f/8.0 has not shown good results. It is okay but definitely not as sharp as the combination of a 300mm + TC. Will a good mirror lens do well for birds?
I don't really know. I don't have the Tamron SP 500 or any other mirror lins, but it is on my shopping list. Advantages include: small size/ inexpensive / with training ans SR it appears that one can learn to shoot hand held / good macro possibilities as well. Dissadvantages include: not the sharpest nor the best contrast conpared to good refractive lenses / bad bokeh (donut patterns in hard light). Some people appears to hate them, others to love them.

Some research has braught me to believe that the Tamron SP 500 is the best one, with the possible exception of some old Minolta, Konica or Canon lenses that are not available in K mount. Verdict appears to be that among the thrid party mirror lenses, the Tamron SP is the best (in sharpness and contrast), better than the Vivitar (old and later Viv's are not the same) and Tokinas, which are better than the Soligors and Sigmas, which are better than the rest. There are new (Korean?) lenses that are not up to the old Tamrons or even Viv's or Tokina. There are some russian mirrors also that are good if you get a good copy, but heavier (?).

Here is an interresting link where the SP 500 does very well against an expensive refrective modern AF Canon 500mm lens.

If you dissregard the Minolta lenses here are info on some tele lenses from Sigma, Tokina, Tamron etc incuding the older and never (red line = SD glass) Tokina 400mm and the Tamron SP 500.

Some pro anc con discussions on mirror lenses and even some bird shots.

03-25-2009, 04:44 PM   #32
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Douglas, thank you so much for the links. They are quite useful to gather for the mirror lens. I previously tried Vivitar 500mm f/8.0 mirror lens from Korea. I generally have to do a lot of post processing on contrast and sharpness. My copy of the Vivitar 500mm is too lightweight to use hand-held as I find myself not stable in hand-holding the lens. I would need to look into the Tamron SP 500mm closely. And I saw good results from Nick with Tokina 500mm f/8.0 and I think those two are better ones when compared to other mirror lens.

Last edited by hinman; 03-25-2009 at 04:51 PM.
03-25-2009, 05:01 PM   #33
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QuoteOriginally posted by Just1MoreDave Quote
I have the Tokina SD 400mm f5.6, MF in PK-A mount. It is 1010g with original caps and its tripod mount. The tripod mount is detachable but not that much extra weight or size. Filter size is 72mm and it's 8-7/8 inches long (sorry, no metric measuring tape). It doesn't change length when focused and it has a very nice light focus ring. Minimum focus distance is 4 meters. It has a nice slide-out hood.

It has some CA wide open but improves a lot by f8. I often use it for moon photos, alone or with the Vivitar Macro Focusing Teleconverter. The TC shots are pretty good for TC shots. Most of my usage is on a tripod. I paid $175 three years ago. I have read that the AF version has improved optics.

Here is a handheld shot at f6.7, 1/250s:

I don't usually look for birds but I agree with others that 400mm helps a lot - or really big birds. I also like the idea of a fast 300mm + TC, but the right combination is expensive. (I'd like the A*300mm f4 + 1.7x AF Adapter.) I bought an old Vivitar T4 300mm f5.5 prime recently but don't have any photos yet.
Dave, thanks for the sample. I also receive decent sample from another Dave using the AF version. I see some manual focus versions of the tokina under $200 but unfortunately, that is for minolta mount. I love lens with pk/A mount, very sweet to have that lens. It is still heavy but not as heavy as some other lens closer to 5 lbs.

A separate note to Dave, what is the difference between T4 and TX lens mount, are they similar that you can change them to K or M42 with a TX or T4 adapter?

Also, I love the combination of A* 300 f/4.0 + 1.7x TC, that will be a powerful combination with 'A' setting and partial AF. And the A*/M* 300mm is in the 850g/825g range which is propably lightest of the tele-lens that I look at.

Last edited by hinman; 03-25-2009 at 05:25 PM.
03-25-2009, 09:03 PM   #34
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QuoteOriginally posted by hinman Quote
A separate note to Dave, what is the difference between T4 and TX lens mount, are they similar that you can change them to K or M42 with a TX or T4 adapter?
I am not 100% sure how it is supposed to work. I have a TX to K adapter, a T4 to M42 adapter, and a modified TX to M42 adapter. All adapters physically fit both TX and T4 lenses. The TX to K adapter only seems to work on TX lenses; on T4 lenses the aperture ring is locked wide open. The M42 adapters seem to work the same on either T4 or TX lenses. I'm not sure how the M to A switches are supposed to work but I can't get them to stay in M. That's why I modified one, just removing all the internal mechanism to make it permanently M. I will probably further modify this adapter with a permanent M42 to K adapter and a locking pin hole.

They are interesting lenses, probably not spectacular. They can often be found cheap because the seller has no idea that the Miranda mount or whatever can easily be exchanged for something useful. You'll end up with a pile of weird adapters. The K adapters are difficult to find. The T4 system was used by Soligor and Vivitar, and the TX is all Vivitar. I think all the lenses are built by Tokina.

Also, I love the combination of A* 300 f/4.0 + 1.7x TC, that will be a powerful combination with 'A' setting and partial AF. And the A*/M* 300mm is in the 850g/825g range which is probably lightest of the tele-lens that I look at.
The combination can be hard to find and not cheap but I think very flexible. The ED elements in the A*300 should help with CA which is a common flaw in cheaper lenses.

03-25-2009, 10:32 PM   #35
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MF 400mm

Just took this today while comparing two MF 300 & 400 lenses.

K200D / 6 MP JPG / CA correction in PSP X2 and cropped.

Lens is a Vivitar (Tokina?) 400mm/5.6 in PK mount.

Shot at about 100 yds, 1/350th & F8.

Paid about $120 USD a year ago.

This lens has marginally better sharpness than a Pentax Super Takumar 300/4.0 but it has more CA which cleans up easily in PP.

Attached Images
03-25-2009, 11:43 PM   #36
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You may also want to consider the manual focus Tamron SP 300mm f5.6 (Adaptall2). Lens is light and easy to hand hold. Seems to get good reviews overall. I haven't had a chance to test this lens yet - just waiting for better weather.
03-26-2009, 03:11 AM   #37

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Hi Hin,

If CA/PF control is important, the M*/A* 300/4s would probably disappoint. AFAIK, they do NOT have ED elements in their design as that started with the F*/FA* in the 300mms. Another spec that might disappoint with the MF *300s (as well as the earlier Pentax 300/4s) is the minimum focusing distance of 4m (13ft). The F*/FA* designs focus to 2m (6ft), and the DA* 300/4 goes to 1.4m -- it makes a big difference for my use. I have an FA* 300/4.5.

An often overlooked lens is the Tamron SP 300/5.6. Too slow to work with the AFA, but it's very sharp and pretty compact and comparatively lightweight.

Two alternatives that most wouldn't think about would be the A* 200/2.8 ED and the Tamron SP 80-200/2.8 LD Adaptall2. Both are sharp enough, even wide open, to stand up to stacked TCs, IMO. If you'd consider trying this, you might be surprised. You'd also get ED/LD glass to control CA/PF better than the M*/A* 300s, and the stacked TCs would give you 476mm f6.7 which will AF with the AFA, and be very handholdable. The A* 200/2.8 is still a bit pricey (say, about $400 USD for a nice one), but worth it. The SP 80-200/2.8 is more commonly available, and a nice one could probably be picked up for under $300 USD. I got mine without the hood for @ $200 USD from KEH, and I found a mint OEM hood for $10. I can confirm that both will AF with the stacked TCs, as I've just tried them -- a bit slow at night indoors, but they should work fine on anything but the darkest overcast days.

The Tamron SP 500/8 Cat is a pretty good lens. Contrary to a previous post, there is a detachable tripod foot that screws into a rotating collar, but there are no positional detents, and the collar is so close to the lens mount that some larger QR mounts might make it impractical to use. The DOF is very thin, so handholding and nailing the focus can be challenging, especially since the lens is so light and the view in the VF is so dark. The speed, for me, is the main problem with this lens, but it is fun to play with -- and the deal that I got was too good to pass ($110 WITH a PK/A adaptor included). One of the nice things about mirror lenses is that in most designs, there is no CA/PF since the magnification is accomplished by reflection rather than refraction. Bokeh is a different story. . .

One last alternative that noone mentioned is a Tokina 100-300 f4 AT-X SD (MF) It's been rated as close-to-prime sharp, and has gone largely unnoticed in the past, so could be available at a good price if you can find one.

Good luck in your search -- for me, that's part of the fun in owning Pentax DSLRs.

03-26-2009, 08:14 PM   #38
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Thank you all so much for the valuable inputs and advice

@pacerr, I look everywhere, those manaul focus primes are hard to come by. Thanks you for the inputs

@kami, I will take a good look at the Tamron as I do have the adaptall-2 pk/a adapter

@snostorm, thank you so much on the PF information. I saw a bin on Tamron SP 80-200mm f/2.8 for $175.00 BIN, I killed myself the next day in reacting slowly. I hesitated because of the weight. I would look into A* 200mm f/2.8 as well as DA* 200mm f/2.8.

I wish I can find the Tokina 400mm f/5.6 easily or the ATX Tokina 80-400mm f/5.6. There is one in marketplace but $500 is over my budget.

05-06-2009, 07:58 PM   #39
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Thanks to everyone's help, my quest to long lens ended up with three lens for wildlife, mostly birds at the moment.
  1. Photosniper Tair-3 PhS 300mm f/4.5 in M42 mount
    -- excellent bokeh and color
    -- difficult to use hand-held
    -- 16 blades
    -- unlike anything else that I have used
    -- this lens is not for everyone -- I love it and I hate it
    -- Initial Test
    -- I tried it on humming birds
    -- I tired it on Pentax-F 1.7x AFA
  2. Pentax F* 300mm f/4.5
    -- expensive to get
    -- my most favorite for wildlife and bird shots
    -- great IQ and best in ease of use
    -- very much hand-holdable and will do better in tripod
    -- I tried it for BIF Practice
    -- I tired it for Humming Birds
  3. Tokina SD 400mm f/5.6 with 'A'
    -- an inexpensive manual focus lens with 'A' setting
    -- I find it hand-holdable
    -- will do better with tripod
    -- quite sharp when stopped down to f/7.1 and f/8.0
    -- a great addition to my tele-lens

with Photosniper

With Pentax F* 300mm f/4.5

with Tokina SD 400mm f/5.6


Last edited by hinman; 05-06-2009 at 08:08 PM.
05-06-2009, 08:32 PM   #40
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You might want to check the Vivitat 400/5.6 images in my recent "fungus comparison" thread as an example of economy teles including TC's.

05-07-2009, 04:36 AM   #41
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vivitar 400mm F5.6 you say?

since the vivitar 400-F5.6 is mentioned above, here is the PK version which does not have IF, but is a multi coated lens

05-07-2009, 01:54 PM   #42
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I would think the Tokina SD 400mm f/5.6 may have a better handle regard to PF/CA area. The SD glass in Tokina is for better CA control. But for this lens, when pushed to the high contrast, PF/CA can be seen as moderate, I think. Though I have only used it in two shootings, I tried test shots against tree branches in f/7.1 and f/8.0 and the lens seems quite good in the handling with PF/CA. Wide open shots are yet to be tested. I will try best to avoid PF as wildlife shots have a lot of tree branches in them and high contrast in wings, beaks and feathers are unavoidable at times. I would think good control of PF/CA is critical.

Though I can't use it easily on BIF shots, I have reasonable pictures on still shots. It would take me some time to get the best of it with manual focusing. My copy has the 'A' setting and it saves the extra step compared to M lenses.

I saw 5 goosling yesterday
Today, I saw only 4

Taken in a hazy afternoon

Initial Impressions & Notes
  • though a long lens, I find it very much hand-holdable
  • The lens does internal focus and the lens is not extending upon focusing, very nice
  • the 'A' setting is critical to me for this lens compared to M lenses
  • Focus throw is short though, around 1/4 to 1/2 turn, it is well damped but it will take me some time to get used to
  • Initial test shows promising on reasonable control on PF/CA, the SD glass is for that purpose, wide open shots are yet to be tested.
  • difficult for BIF shots as I need to work on my manual focusing skill and the 400mm will fill the bird bigger in the frame than a 300mm lens and it is harder to pan the bird while keeping the bird in frame

Last edited by hinman; 05-07-2009 at 05:49 PM.

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