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04-20-2009, 09:18 AM   #1
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Lens suggestions for wildife photography

I am mostly into wildlife and nature photography and I really need some good lens(es). I was using 35mm film until recently and now I got myself K20D so I am new to digital. The lenses that I have are:

Ricoh Rikenon F2 50mm
Ozunon MC Auto Zoom 1:3.5-4.8 35-75mm
Image Auto Zoom F4.5 80-200mm
Cosina MC F4 200mm
Albinar-ADG Auto 2x Tele-Converter
So 80-200mm F4.5 and 200mm F/4 are so-so lenses considering IQ (not really sharp if I use teleconverter and pretty slow) and they are all manual.

I have my wish list of lenses that I want to have but they are pretty expensive and I don't know which to buy first, I hope one day to have them all.

smc PENTAX D FA 100mm F2.8 Macro
smc PENTAX DA Star 16-50mm F2.8 ED AL (IF) SDM
smc PENTAX DA Star 50-135mm F2.8 ED (IF) SDM
smc PENTAX DA Star 200mm F2.8 ED (IF) SDM (don't know do I really need this one)

Those are not really for birds and such, and finally something bigger

Sigma 300mm F2.8 EX DG IF HSM APO (I think this one would be better than DA star 300mm F4)
Sigma 500mm F4.5 EX DG IF HSM APO

The last 2 are chosen considering lens specifications, I never really have seen any of them or pictures made with them.
I know there are some other options with zoom lenses (like sigma 50-500mm or such, but again I wan't the best I can get). I think that is better option to go with telephoto than with zoom, and of course more expensive.

This is just my idea for now, I hope there is somebody here that has some more experience with some of the lenses that I mentioned

04-20-2009, 11:04 AM   #2
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questions, questions and more questions

These questions pertain to your present film shooting, not digital

1) are you happy with the focal lengths you have now?
2) are you happy with the speed (i.e. F4 at 200mm and F8 at 400mm using hte TC)?
3) are you happy with the image quality you have from your present lenses?

I ask this because none of your present lenses is really what I would consider good for wildlife.

you show possibly the DA*200 this would be , in my view a minimum requirement, along with an excellent quality TC

I use 2 different setups

sigma APO 70-200F2.8 EX with sigma 1.4x and 2x TCs
SMC-Pentax 300mm F4 with SMC-F 1.7x AF TC

if you have a K20 you have good enough quality at high ISO that a 300 F2.8 or 500F4.5 lens may not be needed.

trade better High ISO for lens. BUT concentrate on something eventually with at least a 77mm front filter.
04-20-2009, 11:45 AM   #3
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Nelepl, many of us stood i front of the same mountain of decisions and still some do again frequently.

The point is: long lenses of decent quality do not come cheap. If money is tight, forget about lenses like the 300/2.8 or 500/4.5.

Lowell, who sure will find this thread and give his informed optinion will sure recommend a Sigma 70-200/2.8 + the 1.4x tc and the 2x tc. A choice I would also recommend. For wildlife you need the extra reach ther tcs provide and the faster the lens to start with, the better.

A good compromise lens is the Sigma 50-500, though it can be slow and hard to use, if the light is dim. I use it happily (as I do the above mentioned 70-200), but I wouldn't use it say in a wood, rainforest or at dusk/dawn.

The Pentax DA 200/2.8 you mention is a sensible choice and I would add at least a 1.4x tc, so you get near 300mm, which I personally would recognize to be the minimum focal length for wildlife.

If you want to explore this wildlife photography, before you invest really heavily, I would recommend to buy some secondhand gear, like older manual lenses, The Pentax A 400/5.6 (non AF, but otherwise all electronic functions) is wonderful. The old Pentax K (or M42 via adapter) 500/4.5 is quite cheap and very capable, though ofcourse slower than a modern AF lens, to work with.

A good, versatile choice are the old Novoflex rapid focus lenses (400/5.6 or 600/8), which we are discussing in some recent threads.

Also of interest might be the Tokina ATX AF 80-400 zooms, which are gnerally highly regarded, though a rare find on ebay, as the production in Pentax mount ceased long ago.
There are quite a few advocates of the different Tamron and Sigma 70-300 lenses, which are fairly cheap, but I cannot comment on these, as I don't have one. Another good quality entry level lens would be the Pentax 55-300, which seems to be quite good, according to what I have seen.

These are very general comments from my side. it would be helpful, if you could be more specific with your questions in two wasy: firstly "Nature and wildlife" is a very wide field - have you got some special interest here? And secondly, which budget are you willing/able to spend? If you can already answer this, you will get clearer infos here.

Ben

EDIT: You see, while I was writing my longish answer, Lowell already was here...
04-20-2009, 02:19 PM   #4
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I use a Pentax 55-300 mm on my K10D for wildlife photography. I've been very happy with the pix...the clarity of the lens...the fast focus.

04-20-2009, 03:55 PM   #5
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Original Poster
QuoteQuote:
1) are you happy with the focal lengths you have now?
2) are you happy with the speed (i.e. F4 at 200mm and F8 at 400mm using hte TC)?
3) are you happy with the image quality you have from your present lenses?
1 Not really, it is kind of short
2 Not really, it is too slow to freeze the action
3 IQ is ok as long as I don't use teleconverter


QuoteQuote:
A good compromise lens is the Sigma 50-500, though it can be slow and hard to use, if the light is dim. I use it happily (as I do the above mentioned 70-200), but I wouldn't use it say in a wood, rainforest or at dusk/dawn.
I have seen pictures with this lens and I am not impressed

I was thinking about Sigma 300mm F2.8 EX DG IF HSM APO because it's fast and if I use teleconverter on it I would still get quite good speed with it.

QuoteQuote:
Another good quality entry level lens would be the Pentax 55-300, which seems to be quite good, according to what I have seen.
I was also thinking about this and then decided to buy just the body and wait with the lens until I find what I really want.
04-20-2009, 05:22 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Nelepl Quote

I was thinking about Sigma 300mm F2.8 EX DG IF HSM APO because it's fast and if I use teleconverter on it I would still get quite good speed with it.
If you can afford it, go for it. add a 1.5 or 2xtc and you are in business
04-20-2009, 05:51 PM   #7
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I'll second that - my 300/2.8 plus some TC's is a flexible setup for wildlife work if you can afford that lens. As Lowell indicated, using a 70-200/2.8 with a TC is also very useful and a good starter setup without breaking the bank. Using techniques to get in close to your subjects with shorter focal lengths can be successfully done.

However, I sometimes do require longer focal lengths...

Regards,
Marc
04-20-2009, 06:06 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Nelepl Quote
I am mostly into wildlife and nature photography and I really need some good lens(es). I was using 35mm film until recently and now I got myself K20D so I am new to digital. The lenses that I have are:

Ricoh Rikenon F2 50mm
Ozunon MC Auto Zoom 1:3.5-4.8 35-75mm
Image Auto Zoom F4.5 80-200mm
Cosina MC F4 200mm
Albinar-ADG Auto 2x Tele-Converter
So 80-200mm F4.5 and 200mm F/4 are so-so lenses considering IQ (not really sharp if I use teleconverter and pretty slow) and they are all manual.
I notice you are into manual focus lenses. That's a good point for wildlife photography to have some experience in focusing by hand, because there are many cases where it faster or more accurate to use manual focus, like for example photographing a bird in dense foliage.

QuoteOriginally posted by Nelepl Quote
I have my wish list of lenses that I want to have but they are pretty expensive and I don't know which to buy first, I hope one day to have them all.

smc PENTAX D FA 100mm F2.8 Macro
smc PENTAX DA Star 16-50mm F2.8 ED AL (IF) SDM
smc PENTAX DA Star 50-135mm F2.8 ED (IF) SDM
smc PENTAX DA Star 200mm F2.8 ED (IF) SDM (don't know do I really need this one)
As already suggested by others, I would recommend the Pentax 55-300. It seems to be a good lens and it won't hurt too badly your wallet. The maximum aperture is F/4.5 at 200mm, which is quite OK for a consumer grade zoom. There might be better zooms than the DA 55-300 in this range, but they are all much more expensive and much bigger. It's better to save your money to buy a long telephoto, because this is where you will need the big bucks to get good quality. The Pentax DA 55-300 may be usable at 300mm in a pinch -- a lot of long zooms are not -- but I think for focal lengths above 250mm it is important to have a good quality prime telephoto, which will be able to deliver top notch pictures supporting large enlargements or heavy cropping. A good prime lens will also be much more usable with a teleconverter.

Instead of the 55-300, if you have some cash surplus (and if you can find one), you could also look for a Voigtländer APO Lanthar 125/2.5, which is a stunning lens which can also do macro up to 1:1 magnification. It's only manual focus, but you are used to it. Also, it's not a zoom but, with a 50mm, a 125mm and a 300mm telephoto, who needs a zoom?

QuoteOriginally posted by Nelepl Quote
Those are not really for birds and such, and finally something bigger

Sigma 300mm F2.8 EX DG IF HSM APO (I think this one would be better than DA star 300mm F4)
Sigma 500mm F4.5 EX DG IF HSM APO
It all depends on what you plan to do with your lenses. If you plan to wander quite far from your vehicle, don't buy a 300/2.8 or a 500/4.5 lens. These are very good for shooting from your backyard on a tripod, or a few hundred meters from your car on a monopod, but they are too heavy and bulky to carry all day long on your back. And you will never take them in your hand carry luggage on a plane. I have both a 300/2.8 and a 500/4.5 and I must say that most of the time they stay at home. So, which lens does get carried when I go trekking?

It's my marvelous Pentax F* 300/4.5. It is so small and light that I always take it with me on the plane when I go for a vacation -- and sometimes even for business trips. I can handhold it much easily thanks to its featherlight weight, so I also save the bulk of the tripod. I guess the newer DA* 300/4 is at least as good, so this would be the lens I would be after if I had to buy a long telephoto today. Of course this lens is not cheap, but good long glass has always been expensive and it's still much cheaper than a 300/2.8. With the great Pentax 1.7x AF teleconverter, I get a good F/7.7 510mm lens, perfectly usable wide open for those birds perched on the highest branch. Image quality is a degree of magnitude over my Tamron 500/8 mirror lens and the 300/4.5 with the teleconverter is more than a stop faster than the Tamron lens. Don't forget that those mirror lenses are about one full stop slower than their nominal F stop number, because of the central obstruction.

You should be able to shoot almost everything with a 300mm (450mm FOV equivalent on a small sensor DSLR), especially with the fantastic cropping ability of the K20D. Of course, a 600mm would be better for birding, but have you ever tried to carry one of these beasts during a whole day of shooting? With a good technique (use a blind), a 300mm can be a very powerful weapon in the right hands.

Cheers!

Abbazz

04-20-2009, 06:22 PM   #9
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Okay, Abbazz. I'm going to give this a shot in English:

"Il n'y a rien dans le monde qui n'ait son moment décisif, et le chef-d'œuvre de la bonne conduite est de connaître et de prendre ce moment."

"There isn't something in the world that isn't a decisive moment, and the first chef of good conduct knows to cook Spaghetti-O's and is thinking of this moment."

Something tells me I'm not even close, and that my 4 years of high school French was a total waste of time.
04-20-2009, 07:18 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ira Quote
Okay, Abbazz. I'm going to give this a shot in English:

"Il n'y a rien dans le monde qui n'ait son moment décisif, et le chef-d'œuvre de la bonne conduite est de connaître et de prendre ce moment."

"There isn't something in the world that isn't a decisive moment, and the first chef of good conduct knows to cook Spaghetti-O's and is thinking of this moment."

Something tells me I'm not even close, and that my 4 years of high school French was a total waste of time.
In fact, you're quite close to the actual meaning, just forget about the Spaghetti-O's:
"There isn't something in the world that hasn't its decisive moment, and the masterpiece of good conduct is to recognize and to capture this moment."

The stunning part is that this sentence was written by Jean François Paul de Gondi, cardinal de Retz some 150 years before the invention of photography and some 275 years before Henri Cartier-Bresson published his famous "The Decisive Moment" book which, strangely, was titled "Images à la Sauvette" (Stolen images) in its French original edition.

Oh, by the way, learning a foreign language is never a waste of time

Cheers!

Abbazz
04-20-2009, 07:34 PM   #11
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It is amazing:

I took French for 4 years in Junior High School (7 thru 9 in New York)) and a year in High School (10th grade). Every single year, every test, I scored 85s and way above--high B or A. I was literally close to almost being considered an honor student in French.

Fast forward to 11th grade, just one year and 1,894 joints later (1973), and I swear to God--I couldn't speak a word. I watched a French movie and EVERYTHING I learned was right out the window.

Met my wife in Caracas in 1988 (she was a native there), and we buy a dictionary to communicate because neither of us speaks the other language. I get back to NY, start to drink beers with Colombians, and I'm fluent in Spanish in 3 months--and have been ever since.

Se tiene que usar la idioma o usted pierda la idioma.

You have to use the language or you LOSE the language.
04-20-2009, 09:41 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Nelepl Quote
I was thinking about Sigma 300mm F2.8 EX DG IF HSM APO because it's fast and if I use teleconverter on it I would still get quite good speed with it.
Good luck finding a teleconverter that works with HSM/SDM.
04-21-2009, 03:00 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Nelepl Quote
1 Not really, it is kind of short
2 Not really, it is too slow to freeze the action
3 IQ is ok as long as I don't use teleconverter
I can understand your problems with your equipment easily. It is not up to the job, to be honest. Even the old and humble Pentax A 70-200/4 will blow away the lenses you have in terms of image quality.

QuoteOriginally posted by Nelepl Quote
I have seen pictures with this lens and I am not impressed
The Sigma 50-500 is a demanding lens and I have also seen some crappy shots with it. But if you use it rightly, it can be a stunning performer. If my shots turn out crappy the fault lies usually with myself: not using a tripod or at least monopod, too long shutter speeds, aperture not stopped down enough to get more depth of field etc. - the usual shortcomings.

But you will experience all these faults with all longer focal length lenses. Initially the shots will be disappointing. There is a learning curve involved when using lenses of and above 300mm - including the 300/2.8 (I have a Tamron of this spec.)

QuoteOriginally posted by Nelepl Quote
I was thinking about Sigma 300mm F2.8 EX DG IF HSM APO because it's fast and if I use teleconverter on it I would still get quite good speed with it.
The 300/2.8 lenses are all usually quite good and very versatile, as they are usable with 1.4x and 2x tcs. Currently you won't find any Sigma tc that supports HSM, though, and nobody knows, when the announced Pentax SDM tc will be available. Your only current choices are the Tamron 1.4x and the Kenko 1.5x tcs - no 2x tc on the horizon.

QuoteOriginally posted by Nelepl Quote
I was also thinking about this and then decided to buy just the body and wait with the lens until I find what I really want.
That is a good idea. You just have to answer the question, whether you are prepared to shell out literally thousands for a 300/2.8 or the 500/4.5. If that is only a distant prospect I would buy a good zoom lens and start taking pictures with it and learn how to work with long lenses.

Ben
04-21-2009, 04:45 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Nelepl Quote
1 Not really, it is kind of short
2 Not really, it is too slow to freeze the action
3 IQ is ok as long as I don't use teleconverter
start with a body, K20D and see how you like the performance at higher ISO
QuoteQuote:
I have seen pictures with this lens and I am not impressed
the BIGMA is a big lens, hard to hand hold, and results are reported a little soft at the long end, but I have seen many excellent posts here
QuoteQuote:
I was thinking about Sigma 300mm F2.8 EX DG IF HSM APO because it's fast and if I use teleconverter on it I would still get quite good speed with it.
I would love one also, but this at a price level above what I am willing to spend. it is also not really hand holdable, as it is a big lens.

QuoteQuote:
I was also thinking about this and then decided to buy just the body and wait with the lens until I find what I really want.
there are some excellent intermediate lenses, like the 70-200 mm F2.8 from sigma and the 120-400mm range zooms as well as 400mm primes, that although slow, can work very well even on a K10D and better on a K20D with its high ISO performance. you can have a first generation sigma 70-200 f2.8 for about $600-700, add a 2x TC from sigma, and you have a winning combo, while you wait for other options to appear.
04-21-2009, 05:32 AM   #15
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Have you considered the DA 55-300? IQ is incredible for a lens in that focal range at that price point (about $300 new):





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