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03-23-2009, 11:41 AM   #1
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Manual tele-lens choices over 300mm

I need help in researching into lens choice in 300mm prime. I recently use a lot of my 200mm in learning to shoot birds in the wild. I quickly found that even with a TC in 1.7x or 2.0x, I am a bit too far from the birds. Ideally when I think I can afford one, I plan to get the Pentax DA* 300mm f/4.0. But for now, I am looking for inexpensive manual focus choices. My rough criteria:
  • I prefer lens that is hand-holdable, roughly < 3 lbs
  • less CA in working with tree branches in high contrast
  • good manual focus throw for precision and ease of focusing
  • good IQ when used with Pentax F-1.7x AF TC
  • lens with tripod collar when I need it

I have looked into several options:
  • Pentax Super-Takumar 300mm f/4.0 --- roughly $150 to $250
    Which version is the best one to look at, the tele-takumar, the smc one, or the multi-coated one?
  • Pentax A* 300mm f/4.0 -- don't know the price, I would imagine north of $400
  • Tamron SP 300mm f/2.8 adaptall-2, this is way expensive when I look for them in ebay, it can go as high as the cost for Pentax DA* 30mm f/4.0
  • Pentacon/Zeiss Sonnar 300mm f/4.0 -- this can range from $150 to $450, some are in Pentacon 6 medium format mount that can be changed to M42 mount with the right adapter
  • Pentax 300mm f/4.0 -- roughly $250 to $350. I should have kept my copy that I bought from R. Fortson
  • Tokina SD 400mm f/5.6

And I currently have the following:
  • Pentax F-1.7x AF TC
  • Kiron 2x doubler in M42 mount
  • Tamron Pz-AF 1.4x TC
  • Soligor 200mm f/2.8 in M42
  • Vivitar 200mm f/3.4 in K mount from Komine
  • Tamron 70-300mm Di LD f/4.5-5.6

Thanks,
Hin


Last edited by hinman; 04-21-2009 at 03:57 PM.
03-23-2009, 01:08 PM   #2
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Hin,

I noted you regret letting go of your K 300/4 in your post. I think it is the best value in manual focus 300mm lenses to be found on the used market. Granted it is prone to PF and CAs but it is a 30 year old lens and not APO so this isn’t unexpected. On the other hand it is very sharp and the price is hard to beat. In the right circumstances it can deliver stellar images.



It also benefits greatly from purchasing or having a tripod collar made for it. The pros/cons of this lens are pretty well covered in the lens review database.


Pentax Lens Review Database - 300mm F4

For wildlife you might consider something longer as 300mm is entry level in this area. 400/500 or even six hundred mm is much better if you can afford it. There is no substitute for that extra reach. I picked up an M 400/5.6 recently and that extra 100mm makes a difference.



Good luck with your lens hunt.

Tom G

Last edited by 8540tomg; 03-23-2009 at 02:38 PM. Reason: typo
03-23-2009, 01:13 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by hinman Quote
I have looked into several options:
[*] Pentax Super-Takumar 300mm f/4.0 --- roughly $150 to $250
Which version is the best one to look at, the tele-takumar, the smc one, or the multi-coated one?[*] Pentax A* 300mm f/4.0 -- don't know the price, I would imagine north of $400
I have the A* and it is a nice lens. Though I would think, it is too expensive, if you already plan to substitute it with the DA 300.

QuoteOriginally posted by hinman Quote
[*] Tamron SP 300mm f/2.8 adaptall-2, this is way expensive when I look for them in ebay, it can go as high as the cost for Pentax DA* 30mm f/4.0
The Tamron (I have one) is an altogther different beast, well worth the price. Whereas the A* is tiny and lightweight, the Tammy is comparetively big and bulky. CAs are not that bad, even wide open - but that is sure a matter of personal acceptance level. Otherwise sharpness and contrast are fine and I have used it with very good results with the Pentax 1.4x-L and 2x-L converters - never tried it with the 1.7 AF-converter, though.

It is the only lens, on which I really use a 2x tc, as a 600/5.6 is still acceptably fast.

QuoteOriginally posted by hinman Quote
[*] Pentacon 300mm f/4.0 -- this can range from $150 to $400, some are in Pentacon mount that can be changed to M42 mount with the right adapter
The Pentacon is a very nice lens, considering its age. I certainly find it useful for medium format (I have one). But I would not use it for 35mm or APS-C. The lens is simply very big, bulky, heavy and slow to use, as the focus is much stiffer than usual and has along throw. The lens has the exchangeable tube at the back, one for Pentacon Six mount and the other one for M42. Make sure you get the M42, as otherwise buying adapters can get expensive.

QuoteOriginally posted by hinman Quote
[*] Pentax 300mm f/4.0 -- roughly $250 to $350. I should have kept my copy that I bought from R. Fortson
I think the SMC K 300/4 (I still have on, too) would probably be the best compromise as an interim solution, as it is not too expensive and quality-wise not too bad. Especially in terms of sharpness it is still a good choice. Certainly much more useable, than the Pentacon.

Ben
03-23-2009, 01:16 PM   #4
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Tom was posting his answer, while I was still typing my first reply. He is certainly correct, putting 300mm at the very low end for bird shots. This is the application, where you can't have enough focal length. So on top of his M 400/5.6 I would highly recommend the A 400/5.6 It is not a "*" lens, but image quality is stunning. It outperforms even the A* 300 in terms of sharpness and contrast. And it is still handholdable.

Ben

03-23-2009, 01:27 PM   #5
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It is worthwhile having a look into the lens review database on this forum. Many of these lenses - but not all of them - have been reviewed there. I have scribbled a few lines about my old faithfull Tamron 300/2,8.
03-23-2009, 01:40 PM   #6
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@Tom, thank you so much for the input. I had the Pentax 300mm f/4.0 for a short time. At the time, I find myself seldom going long and hence the mistake in selling it way too early. It is quite sharp when I test it for long distance. A tripod collar for that lens would be nice.

But until recently I got an inexpensive Soligor 200mm f/2.8 in M42 mount. But the Soligor seems to fall short in IQ in any aperture bigger than f/4.0. Though, not ideal, I find the combination of the 200mm with a F 1.7x somewhat usable for birds in close distance. So I would imagine a good 400mm will be great, and it will be great if I can still can hand-hold without a tripod.

Some samples on the inexpensive Soligor 200mm f/2.8 in M42 when used with Pentax F-1.7x


Perhaps some detail are lost with the TC and the pictures get worse when the distance are farther as in the wild on a taller tree. And a lot of user mistakes on my part in focusing on the tiny birds. And Tom, I need to learn to shoot birds from you. And when I use the same setting in hiking in picturing birds farther away, I find the longer distance very taxing on the quality on sharpness.

Last edited by hinman; 03-24-2009 at 06:53 PM.
03-23-2009, 01:45 PM   #7
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@Ben,

Thanks you so much for the valuable assessment on each of the lens. I should have kept my Pentax 300mm f/4.0.
03-23-2009, 01:48 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ben_Edict Quote
Tom was posting his answer, while I was still typing my first reply. He is certainly correct, putting 300mm at the very low end for bird shots. This is the application, where you can't have enough focal length. So on top of his M 400/5.6 I would highly recommend the A 400/5.6 It is not a "*" lens, but image quality is stunning. It outperforms even the A* 300 in terms of sharpness and contrast. And it is still handholdable.

Ben
Both the A*, M* in 300mm and M 400mm appeal to me for the smaller sizes. But I would think they are all expensive over $500 range. What would be a reasonable price to expect from these lens.

03-23-2009, 01:53 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by PePe Quote
It is worthwhile having a look into the lens review database on this forum. Many of these lenses - but not all of them - have been reviewed there. I have scribbled a few lines about my old faithfull Tamron 300/2,8.
Thank you for the inputs. I have the Tamron adaptall-2 pk/a adapter. I wonder if anyone can offer inputs as to the range of cost to expect from the Tamron SP 300mm f/2.8.

Thanks,
Hin
03-23-2009, 02:08 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by hinman Quote
I wonder if anyone can offer inputs as to the range of cost to expect from the Tamron SP 300mm f/2.8.

Thanks,
Hin
For some reason they seem to be a bit below the prices of many other 300/2,8 lenses. Optically this Tamron is definitely not inferior to similar Sigmas and other makes. I sold mine about a year ago. I have seen them offered in the USD 500 to 1000 range. Being a rather old lens, the condition may vary significantly.
03-23-2009, 02:18 PM   #11
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Hey Hin,

I'm just curious: Is there a reason why you don't list Sigma or Tokina 400mm f/5.6? There are several MF versions that are not terribly expensive.
03-23-2009, 02:26 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by SOldBear Quote
Hey Hin,

I'm just curious: Is there a reason why you don't list Sigma or Tokina 400mm f/5.6? There are several MF versions that are not terribly expensive.
No particular reason other than I have not studied them. Which one would be better to get between Sigma 400mm and Tokina 400mm in f/5.6. What is the price range for those?
03-23-2009, 02:56 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by hinman Quote
Both the A*, M* in 300mm and M 400mm appeal to me for the smaller sizes. But I would think they are all expensive over $500 range. What would be a reasonable price to expect from these lens.
Hin,

Those shots from the Soligor looked pretty good to me.

I recently picked up a very nice M 400/5.6 with case for $430 US. I suppose you could hand hold this one but I wouldn't recommend it. Ben's A 400/5.6 would command a higher price due to the A setting which would be nice to have.

Tom G
03-23-2009, 03:56 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by hinman Quote
No particular reason other than I have not studied them. Which one would be better to get between Sigma 400mm and Tokina 400mm in f/5.6. What is the price range for those?
I have a Sigma APO 400mm f/5.6, manual focus, PKa mount, no macro. I paid $105 for it, but have not had a chance to test it yet. I know Sigma has at least 3 different MF versions of this lens: non-APO, APO, and APO + macro. There is also AF versions.

Last week I lost a deal of a Tokina 400mm f/5.6, PKa mount. The lady on the phone agreed to sell it, with an MX body, for $125, then at the last minute told me she'd changed her mind not to sell it any more!

There is a Tokina 80-400mm F/4-5.6 for $500 listed in the "for sale" forum.
03-23-2009, 09:25 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by SOldBear Quote
Hey Hin,

I'm just curious: Is there a reason why you don't list Sigma or Tokina 400mm f/5.6? There are several MF versions that are not terribly expensive.
I have a Tokina 400mm f5.6, probably the oldest version. There are later versions with fancier glass, coatings and also KA mount. The later versions has a red line on them. They go from dirt cheap (like mine) to moderately priced. They are compact with a built in hood and I think they perform well for its price. Mind you I rarely shoot birds, but sometimes I cannot resist bringing this lens out to document some of the birds visiting our garden. In this example a common red start (?) kid was practising starting and landing between furnitures and bushes in our garden, while its mother watched (worried or proud?).







I've turned up the contrast a bit, cropped them and applied a little bit of sharpening. They aren't good enough to blow up large, but a 10x15cm copy will be OK. A later version of the lens might have better contrast by itself.

Have you considered the 500mm mirror lenses? The Tamron SP is probably the best 3rd part.
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