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07-15-2009, 10:58 AM   #1
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Cheap long lens

I've had my K200D for over a year now and feel that I am ready to invest in a telephoto lens for plane spotting and other uses. I'm a bit lost and there seem to be so many options out there like the Pentax DA 50-200 and 55-300 as well as alternatives from Sigma and Tamron. My budget is about $250 but not yet set in stone, obviously I'm not going to get a fast lens for that price but I do want something decent.

The 50-200 is $180 but I feel like it might be a bit short, thee 55-300 looks a bit more reasonable but is quite a bit more expensive. Any suggestions?

07-15-2009, 11:06 AM   #2
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You can't go wrong with either of those lenses. There isn't anything better for the price. There are cheaper lenses to be found but you'll probably find quality to be unsatisfactory. The 55-300 probably suits you best.
07-15-2009, 11:39 AM   #3
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If planes-against-the-sky is something you have interest in, I personally would stay FAR away from the Tamron 70-300mm (aka the "purple monster"). It has a well-earned reputation for rather intense purple fringing in high-contrast conditions, even at apertures all the way through f/8 and f/11.

Specular highlights (i.e., sun glinting off shiny fuselage) will be smeared into large purple-white blobs. You can post-process the purple away to some extent, but what you'll be left with is gray fringing instead, and that's not much better, honestly.

Most, if not all, lenses in this price category -- and some very expensive ones, for that matter -- do suffer from purple fringing to varying degrees. It's just that the Tamron (which is a good lens for the price in practically every other way) does it particularly egregiously.
07-15-2009, 11:45 AM   #4
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If you can cope with a completely manual lens then you can pick up a brgain. I have a Prinz Galaxy 400 f/6.3 which can be obtained very cheep on ebay. They are not highly rated but it is possible to get some reasonable pictures with them if you are willing to work at it (plus they can often be had so cheep that you can still aford to get more lenses to try out...)
I took this photo of a Red Kite with the aformentioned Prinz Galaxy 400mm f/6.3:

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07-15-2009, 12:01 PM   #5
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I would not get the DA 50-200mm for plane spotting, and even 300mm is going to be too short. But if you don't want to go for a manual focus 400mm f/5.6, then either the Sigma 70-300mm or the Pentax DA 55-300mm would be my choices.

Back in the day I bought the Sigma because the DA 55-300mm hadn't been released yet. Today I would go with the Pentax.

If you do consider a 400mm f/5.6, search for the Tokina SD version or the Sigma APO.

Here is a shot with an autofocus Tokina 400mm f/5.6 (which is over your budget, but shows what a 400mm can do). This is a full frame cropped on the side to 4x5 ratio:

07-15-2009, 12:47 PM   #6
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I'll add my vote for the DA 55-300.

Superb for the price. Terrifically sharp for a consumer zoom. I photograph aircraft as much as I can with it on the K10D, and I've been very happy with it indeed.

These, for example, were almost all taken with that lens.

This one in particular is a 100% crop.

The cheaper Tamron 70-300 suffers a lot from purple fringing, by the way, so I'd suggest that it might not be a suitable alternative for subjects against high contrast backgrounds such as aircraft in flight.
07-15-2009, 01:59 PM   #7
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Damn - had a put a sigma 135-400 in my cart at keh - was really milling over the lens. I was going to send you the link (since I decided against it, anyway). Keep an eye on KEH for some good bargains on long glass.
07-15-2009, 04:40 PM   #8
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So I'm not the only Prinz Galaxy owner here then. I can't say my copy has endeared me to the lens.
The DA55-300mm is another matter and a lens I'd gladly reccomend.

07-15-2009, 05:11 PM   #9
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IF you do get the 50-200mm, get the WR version. However, if you go with one of the zooms look at the 55-300mm or the Tammy macro version since you can get used ones in very good shape within your price range. In fact, with the Tammy you could probably afford another lens.

Edit: I forgot about these. I took them last fall when it flew over Tallahassee. I wasn't expecting it and had to shoot the settings I had with the K200d & DA 55-300mm. They are uncropped but down-sized for the web.








Last edited by Blue; 07-15-2009 at 05:33 PM.
07-15-2009, 08:37 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Blue Quote
IF you do get the 50-200mm, get the WR version. However, if you go with one of the zooms look at the 55-300mm or the Tammy macro version since you can get used ones in very good shape within your price range. In fact, with the Tammy you could probably afford another lens.

Edit: I forgot about these. I took them last fall when it flew over Tallahassee. I wasn't expecting it and had to shoot the settings I had with the K200d & DA 55-300mm. They are uncropped but down-sized for the web.







dont you know that spying is an act of treason in the U.S. punishable by death.
07-16-2009, 06:16 AM   #11
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Hmm, I guess I'll push for the 55-300mm then...let's see how much I can sell my old laptop on eBay for.

Thanks for the all the advice, I'd definitely be willing to put up $350 for the 55-300 if it's going to be a good improvement over any of the <$200 Sigma's and Tammy's.
07-16-2009, 10:38 AM   #12
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BTW, another knock against the Tamron 70-300 is that it is slow to AF, and lacks quick shift making it harder to swtich from AF to MF as well. The DA55-300 makes sense to me, but really - 200mm isn't *that* much shorter than 300mm if you're willing to crop. I'd be concerned that 300mm still wouldn't be long enough. There are plenty of older (manual) 400mm lenses out there if you don't mind very large / heavy lenses. You could also consider a mirror lens. But really, I'd consider either of those an occasional supplement, not replacement, for a good basic telephoto zoom like the 50-200 or 55-300.
07-21-2009, 04:16 PM   #13
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Just wanna update you guys, I went ahead and ordered the DA 55-300mm from Amazon.com for $354 one-day shipped, I'll get it on Thursday just before my weekend vacation which is great!

I sold my old laptop on eBay and was able to put together the funds to order it! I'll post my best shots next week!
07-21-2009, 05:34 PM   #14
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I agree that was the right choice. I think you're going to like it a lot.
07-21-2009, 09:22 PM   #15
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YOu done good... I look forward to hearing and seeing how you like it!
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